Several dozen teachers, parents and neighbors gathered outside West Hollywood Elementary School this morning for a demonstration in support of United Teachers Los Angeles that was as festive as it was political.
The demonstration began at 7:30 a.m. in front of the school at 960 N. Hammond St. with the demonstrators marching north to Sunset Boulevard as drivers of passing cars honked their horns in support. Two hours later, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined L.A. Schools Supt. Austin Beutner and United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl at L.A. City Hall to announce that the L.A. Unified School District and the United Teachers L.A. union had reached a tentative agreement on a contract. Teachers will be back at work on Wednesday, ending a strike that as of this morning was in its sixth day. They are scheduled to vote on the proposed new contract on Tuesday of next week.
The protest outside West Hollywood Elementary brought different elements of the community together. Annabeth Gish, an actress whose son Cash is a student at West Hollywood Elementary, said she was enthusiastic about the support of other parents and of neighbors who didn’t have children at the school but showed up anyway to back the teachers. She and Josabel Holgado-Paredes, a second grade teacher who heads the WeHo Elementary unit of UTLA, also praised local businesses for their support.
That support included Bristol Farms providing hot breakfast food, Veggie Grill offering breakfast burritos, the London Hotel providing pastries, Organic Kids LA donating hot breakfast food and Le Montrose hotel providing everything from coffee and pastries to parking for teachers and parents on the picket line and bathroom access for the teachers.
“In this politically charged climate, especially delicate around the subject of our children’s education, the cooperation and coming together of our West Hollywood community, parents, teachers, neighbors and friends has truly been inspiring. The warmth and support is something politicians and administrators can’t do. But families and friends can,” Gish said in an email message about the demonstration.
The festive part of the demonstration involved a dancing and musical march on the sidewalk with one of the demonstrators helping the other adults and children channel Aretha Franklin’s dance style.
Cathy Flynn, a teacher who joined WeHo Elementary in November, focused more on the issues. She carried a sign with words that detailed complaints that the teachers union has had about LAUSD’s funding of education. The union has clashed with the school district administration over pay, class sizes and what it sees as lack of sufficient support staff. That clash resulted in the first teachers’ strike in 30 years.
Roughly 30,000 of the teachers, counselors, librarians and nurses who are UTLA members have been on strike since Jan. 14. Schools have remained open, with administrators and a small number of substitute teachers keeping things running. Many of the students who were actually attending West Hollywood Elementary this morning showed their support for the strike by wearing red clothing, which was the color that dominated among the picketers. That color reflected the “Red4Ed” movement that started last year in the Midwest in conservative states where budget cuts resulted in a major reduction in education funding.
West Hollywood Elementary School has more than 400 students in kindergarten through fifth grade classes. The school first opened in 1910 and has