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‘We’re done’: Teachers union protests outside superintendent event

Updated July 18, 2023 - 8:25 pm

Teachers union members protested Tuesday outside of Superintendent Jesus Jara’s Java with Jara event at the Sambalatte coffee shop on South Rampart Boulevard.

The teachers — many of whom were wearing matching blue Clark County Education Association shirts — gathered in front of the coffeeshop holding signs. Some brought umbrellas to protect against the sun, with temperatures climbing to around 107 degrees.

Protestors chanted things like, “Jara has a failing grade. Send him back to Miami-Dade,” “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Dr. Jara’s got to go” and “Don’t hide it. Don’t fudge it. There’s money in the budget.”

Jara’s Java with Jara events are a series of community events where attendees — who had to register — can talk with the superintendent.

Some cars honked as they drove by and teachers cheered.

After more than hour outside, about 25 educators moved outside near the back door of the coffeeshop waiting to see if Jara would come out.

A spokesperson for the teachers union, which represents more than 18,000 licensed employees in the district, said there were a couple of hundred attendees at the protest.

‘Very, very big tipping point’

Inside, Jara was meeting upstairs with attendees at the event.

Earlier in the day, Jara sent an email to teachers and other licensed employees saying he wanted to clarify questions circulating about pay instead of allowing “false narratives” to persist.

Kindergarten teachers Jessica Jones and Kristan Nigro led the effort to organize the protest. They’re planning to hold protests at every Java with Jara event.

“We’re in a very, very big tipping point,” said Nigro, who teaches at Schorr Elementary.

The union and district are amid contract talks — a process that has sparked tension in recent months. CCEA has publicly called for Jara’s resignation.

Another school year is approaching without a contract, she said. More than 300,000 students return to classes Aug. 7.

“What they want to offer us is garbage,” Nigro said.

She said the protest will make a statement to Jara that “we’re done” and that educators will not go quietly.

‘Still holding back’

Jones, who teaches at Hickey Elementary School, said it’s also concerning Jara is conducting a listening tour in affluent areas of the community.

Instead of Jara and the School Board talking about teacher vacancies, they’re having coffee in Boca Park, Jones said.

Educators are out in hot weather because they can’t get a fair contract, Nigro said.

The district is saying there’s not enough money for raises for all educators, but “we had a very successful (legislative) session specifically to get money for raises and they’re still holding back,” Jones said.

The union wants a salary adjustment for all educators — 10 percent in the first year and 8 percent in the second. But the district says that there’s not enough money to sustain that level of an ongoing pay increase and it wants to implement a new salary schedule instead.

During the recent legislative session, lawmakers appropriated more than $2 billion in new K-12 education funding and $250 million more for teacher raises.

Nigro, who has been teaching in the district for 10 years, said that the protest should speak volumes about how educators are feeling and they want to get back to teaching children.

District spokesman Tod Story said Tuesday that the events are opportunities for the superintendent to meet with members of the community and families, and “focus on our children’s educational success.”

“We will not engage in negotiations in public,” he said. “These bad-faith bullying tactics will not deter us from our duty to educate the children of our community and responsibly spend the taxpayer dollars we have been entrusted with for that purpose.”

After a couple of hours outside, teachers waited for Jara to exit the coffeeshop after the community meeting.

A few Las Vegas police officers arrived toward the end of the protest, but stayed a distance away from protesters. Jara walked out the front doors of the coffeeshop and toward a vehicle as protesters chanted: “Shame.”

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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