Teachers rally on 4th day of strike
By Molly Morris, St. Thomas Source, 17 October 2000
With shouts of "Hip hip hooray," and assorted cheers and songs, St. Thomas teachers were still going strong as they rallied at Emancipation Garden Monday morning, the fourth day of the teacher's strike.
Speakers included Vernelle de Lagarde, interim AFT president for St. Thomas-St. John, who urged the animated crowd to organize. "Get together and form shifts at your schools," she said, "This isn't over yet, and we need to show support."
The crowd of about 150 to 200 teachers was a cross between joy and solemnity. Many were sitting on the wall surrounding the gazebo looking resigned, bearing signs and long faces, while others chatted and walked around showing off the graphic pleas on their placards. One in particular stood out. "Education Victim!!!" read a sign carried by Darwin Newton, 27-year teacher at Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School. The sign showed a boy with a pencil going through both ears and his tongue hanging out.
Sidney Bell, union representative and 26-year teacher at Joseph Sibilly Elementary School, urged one and all to honor the red ribbons teachers have been passing out with a "hip hip hooray" or a honk of the horn. This exhortation was greeted with more cheers as the teachers assembled for a "shopping spree" march on Main Street.
Speaking after the rally, de Lagarde said what they need to do now is to secure the $11 million the Legislature proposed in Friday's session. She did not say whether the AFT would accept the $11 million offer in bargaining talks scheduled for Tuesday with Karen Andrews, the governor's chief labor negotiator.
De Lagarde was off to St. Croix Monday afternoon for further talks about the offer. She said she had met with the Central Labor Council over the weekend and had gotten its support. "They're in support of Education," she said. "Because of the governor's declared state of emergency for Education, they say we should be paid first."
She said she had tried to contact the governor this morning, but was told he was off-island.
Is there any hope for a resolution tomorrow? "There's always hope," de Legarde said.