Discontent with cuts to local schools spilled onto Napa streets Sunday afternoon when a group of students, teachers and community leaders banded together in a public protest.
Using the parking lot of New Technology High School as a starting point, the group of about 50 people marched south along Yajome Street, east on Clinton Street and south along Soscol Avenue, where they spent an hour chanting and waving signs.
The Napa Valley Unified School District is preparing to eliminate as many as 60 positions this year — including 43 teachers and five administrators — and will close Capell Valley, Wooden Valley and Carneros elementary schools because of reductions in state education funding.
Some protesters carried signs that read “Support our schools, not jails,” and “Education 4 1 Nation.” Others showed wider political concerns, carrying signs that read “Fight Immigrant Bashing” and “Give me your tired, your poor.”
New Tech High Teacher Alma Cortez-Lara said the main reason for the demonstration was “that we are furious at education cutting and the raise in tuition for college students. The second reason we are here is for immigrant rights, it’s part of a national effort going on today. It’s the last day to get it on the agenda. The third reason why we are here is to celebrate Cesar Chavez’ birthday.”
Each demonstrator had his or her reason for marching.
“Education is important to me, it’s my top priority,” said Madison Remigio, 14, a ninth grader at New Tech High. “I want to be able to get into college without having to pay a lot of money.”
Oscar Galdamez, a Spanish teacher at New Tech, was one of the 43 instructors within NVUSD who received a pink slip in March. If he gets laid off in May it will be especially hard on Galdamez’ family, since his wife, Rachel, a teacher at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma, also received a pink slip.
“I’m just praying that these things will make a difference,” Galdamez said as he stood on Soscol Avenue with his wife.
Alex Shantz, 22, is a member of the Napa Valley College’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. He said he was marching Sunday to show solidarity with the Latino community and support immigration reform.
“It’s a shame; these are people who are just trying to provide for themselves,” Shantz said.
President Barack Obama has vowed to direct attention to immigration reform and create a bipartisan solution to the problem this year. Groups such as Latinos Unidos de Napa Valley, which is one of the three that sponsored Sunday’s demonstration, are working to make sure that the cause is not forgotten.
Students for a Democratic Society and Californians for Democracy — a group that advocates for a majority rule in legislative actions that affect the state’s budget and revenue — also sponsored Sunday’s march.
“Without the means to raise the revenue to educate students, we are going to continue to have a problem,” said Joanne Gifford, Napa campaign director for Californians for Democracy.