11:26 PM PST on Wednesday, March 2, 2011

By KEVIN PEARSON
The Press-Enterprise

PDF: Copy of flier being circulated by Hemet Teachers Association

Tensions between the Hemet Unified school board and its teachers union escalated Tuesday when two board members lashed out against the union for what they called personal attacks against them.

For several weeks, members of the Hemet Teachers Association, in response to impending layoffs, have told the board during the open comment section of meetings that the union and the district reached a verbal agreement a year ago that only 13 teachers would be laid off this year in exchange for concessions last year. Several teachers have said laying off more than 13 teachers would show a severe lack of integrity.

Board members and district officials said they never agreed to such a compromise — verbally or in writing — and would never do so, as there is no way to predict the financial situation the district would find itself in.

The district expects to lay off about 50 teachers when final notices are sent in May.

Toward the end of Tuesday night’s meeting, board President Lisa DeForest said her 7-year-old son answered her home phone earlier in the day and a caller said, “Tell your mommy not to fire me!” and hung up.

DeForest said her son was in tears, thinking his own teacher would be fired and she had to explain to him that was not the case.

The teachers union has distributed a flier asking board members to “show their integrity and honor our settlement agreement from last year.”

It says teachers should not have to make more concessions. On the bottom of the flier, it lists the home phone number of every board member and cell phones for several.

PHONE CALLS

DeForest said she received three calls at home Tuesday.

“It makes me sick in my stomach,” she said. “My home phone number is my private business. I would appreciate it if you held yourself to a code of ethics.”

DeForest said she had no problems with teachers calling her business or personal cell phone but that it crossed the line when her child was subjected to the situation.

Jim Brigham, president of the teachers union, said he understands DeForest’s desire for privacy.

“But she is a public figure. She does need to be reached by her constituents,” Brigham said. He added it was not the first time the union has included board members’ home phones on fliers.

Board member Joe Wojcik said he has received dozens of harsh e-mails questioning his integrity.

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