Strike plan: safety, spin and settlement

Even as it tries a last-ditch attempt at a salary settlement with its teachers’ union, the Chico Unified School District is taking a cue from the Boy Scouts: Be prepared.

The district’s Emergency Operations Plan—referred to casually as the “strike plan"—is as much interesting bedside reading as it is depressing.

The plan is taken largely from a school administrators’ organization but adapted to suit the CUSD. Included in the document are checklists by which the district is advised to gauge support of the school board, administrators, public and media.

There’s a form for principals to fill out naming which teachers they saw picketing when, and whether the teachers put their cars in the parking lot and engaged in violence. The plan advises principals not to “personalize the issues” or play favorites with nonstrikers and gives a sample speech should teachers call the principal at home. It also tells principals to anticipate that “strikers will refuse to accept marks given pupils by substitutes for work done” and “pupils will object to make-up time and to extra work.”

There are fill-in-the-blank press releases to announce a strike, with quotes and everything. ("'This is a very fair offer to employees,’ said ________, district spokesperson.")

“What that whole packet is is a guide so that needed information does not slip through,” said Rich Wallace, the district’s public information officer who just retired. The CUSD Board of Trustees was set to consider at its July 18 meeting contracting with Wallace for “public information services.”

Wallace said the district hopes it will never have to implement the elements of the plan, but teachers say they’re willing to strike and the CUSD wants to be ready and keep schools running as smoothly as possible if it does happen.

Meanwhile, advertisements have been placed in newspapers around the state for $275-a-day substitute teachers in the event of a strike. “Strike conditions prevail,” reads the ad, which calls for a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with no teaching experience required.

Dan Sours, president of the Chico Unified Teachers Association, said the union doesn’t have a plan like the district’s; it’s focusing on negotiations set for Aug. 6.

The district, he said, “started off the process way too premature. They should spend as much energy trying to avert the strike as they are preparing for one.”

Mark Leach, bargaining chair for the CUTA, said during a press conference last week that if the teachers do strike, "It could be the first day of school. It could be two weeks into it. It could be whenever they feel it needs to be done."