Coronado Middle School Choir and Advanced Performing Arts student spotlight presentation at the April school board meeting. Staff photo by Julieta Soto.

The Association of Coronado Teachers (ACT) President Jennifer Landry has told the School Board this year that “highly qualified teachers” are leaving the district for salary increases and smaller class sizes.

The claims have come as the teachers’ union and district are bargaining for a new contract, with teachers also wanting higher pay for substitute teachers and to provide more accommodations for pregnancy leave.

Landry has told the board she has tracked the district’s teacher departures since 2017, but she did not share those records with The Coronado News. She also declined to comment for this story, but she has expressed concern about educators leaving CUSD due to retirements, COVID, and personal decisions during the March and April board meetings.

However, Coronado Unified School District’s Human Resources Department data shared with The Coronado News show the district has not experienced a high level of departures because of pay and smaller class sizes. 

Instead, those records show the majority of teachers left the district because they retired, moved away because of a military deployment, completed a short-term teaching assignment or died.

Just a fraction of the 115 teachers who left the district said they did so for higher pay.

-CUSD records.

Further, just a fraction of the 115 teachers who left the district said they did so for higher pay, district records show.

Records compiled by The Coronado News show that Coronado teachers, on average, make less than a typical teacher across the state and in San Diego County. However, Coronado has just four public schools in its unified system, making it one of the smallest districts in the county.

District turnover data

CUSD Human Resources Director Armando Farias said that as of April, 115 educators have left the district since 2017. 

That breaks down to 92 general educators and 23 special education teachers. 

He said three educators left CUSD due to an opportunity for advancement, promotion or higher salary according to a voluntary ‘departure survey’ that Farias started about a year ago, which gathered responses from 13 teachers who have left the district.

Farias said departures of general educators are due to a variety of reasons. 

Those include two deaths; temporary end of assignment (10); five military moves/move out of state; retirement (30); and resignation (38).

Special education employees have left the school district since 2017 for the following reasons:  four were not rehired for different reasons; six had military moves; one moved closer to home; three finished temporary assignments; one was an intern; and one moved out of state.

“For the rest we were not able to capture a reason for leaving CUSD,” said Farias. 

He said the district currently has 380 employees, of which 187 are credentialed teachers. 

Other labor disputes

Voicing a lack of salary competitiveness in CUSD is not a new effort among educators.

In 2018, The Coronado Times reported on teachers advocating for change due to growing class sizes, attracting and retaining quality educators, and the need for more special education teachers.

Meanwhile, strides towards higher wages across the state have increased educators’ participation in strikes. 

This month, the New York Times reported that the Oakland Unified School District recently reached a tentative agreement to raise salaries for teachers, librarians, nurses and other staff members after a nearly two week strike. Starting teacher salaries may increase from $52,905 to $62,696, according to the union’s tentative deal.

The Los Angeles Times reported that members of the United Teachers Los Angeles union approved an agreement for 2022-2025 allowing a 21% salary increase and class size reduction of two fewer students, following a teacher strike in March.

Salary Comparison

Source: California Department of Education, “2021-22 Salary and Benefits Schedule for the Certified Bargaining Unit (Form J-90)”

Coronado News findings

The Coronado News found that CUSD pays its teachers more than similar small districts in San Diego County. But, Coronado teachers on average are paid less than typical teachers at unified (K-12) districts in the county and across the state.

The average teacher salary in the Coronado Unified School District was $83,101 in 2021-22, the most recent figures compiled by the California Department of Education.

The 2021-22 statewide average teacher salary was $88,508 and teachers working for unified school districts in San Diego County on average were paid $88,871.

Coronado Unified had a lower average salary than five other unified districts: Carlsbad  ($91,818), San Diego ($90,641), San Marcos ($89,968), Oceanside ($88,164) and Poway ($87,096).

Meanwhile CUSD had a higher average salary than five other unified districts, including Valley Center-Pauma District ($82,422), Ramona ($79,265), Bonsall ($78,080), Mountain Empire ($66,006) and Warner Unified ($61,073).

Among these unified districts, CUSD was among the five smallest districts with 2,800 students.

Warner Unified School District has less than 2,000 students and San Diego Unified has more than 121,000 students enrolled.

CUSD had a higher salary average than other small school districts whose student enrollment is below 6,000 such as Valley Center-Pauma District, Ramona and Mountain Empire.

Bargaining updates

Meanwhile, Landry, the Coronado union chief, in March discussed the continued need for instructional assistants and turnover data related to educators including speech-language pathologists, psychologists, counselors and teachers.

Along with salary issues, since March 14, 2023, the teachers union is requesting an increase in the cost to hire substitute teachers and a more flexible “pregnancy” leave.

Teachers also want to move the salary cap for 2024-25 to 15-years, which is expected to attract experienced educators. And they want compensation increase for prep time coverage and for chaperoning sixth grade camp, with additional non-per diem hourly rate and a one time off schedule stipend for certified employees of up to $1,800.

In reports as union president, Landry has repeatedly said that instructional assistants are essential, and in February she said that the lack of instructional aides impacts classrooms because students don’t feel comfortable with temporary educators.

As of April 24, both parties have agreed on the proposed calendar for the 2023-2024 school year to be approved at the May 18 school board meeting.

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Julieta is a reporter for The Coronado News, covering education, small business and investigating the Tijuana/Coronado sewage issue. She graduated from UC Berkeley where she studied English, Spanish, and Journalism. Apart from reporting, Julieta enjoys reading, traveling, and spending quality time with family and friends.