Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/20/2011 07:26:29 PM PDT

COLTON – More than 300 teachers protested against what they said are unfair contract demands again on Thursday, joined this time by firefighters, police officers and members of the National Organization for Women.

“We’re willing to offer reasonable concessions, but the district is making excessive demands,” said Karen Houck, president of the Association of Colton Educators. “We’re willing to be reasonable. You need to be realistic.”

Whistling, drumming and chanting continued into the first hour of the school board meeting, including calls of “liar, liar pants on fire” as Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Jaime R. Ayala showed data suggesting the district would run out of money by May if more cuts aren’t made.

Houck showed Ayala’s projections for previous years alongside the ending fund balance of that year. Each year, the district ended with more money than he had predicted.

This is the second time the Association of Colton Educators has rallied outside the headquarters of the Colton Joint Unified School District since September, when the district declared an impasse in negotiations over a new contract.

At that time the district made a “last, best and final offer” – including a 2-percent pay cut and a benefit cap that means the district would pay no more than $9,600 per year for each employee’s health and welfare benefits – and began the process of imposing that contract.

The first mediation meeting between the district and union was held Monday, and a follow-up is scheduled for Oct. 28.

Union members say the district is now looking to increase class sizes, which was not in the last, best and final offer.

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