For Petaluma teachers, moonlighting pays the bills
After Todd Siders grades the last of his student’s papers and finishes lesson preparation for his social studies classes at Casa Grande High School, he picks up his keys and hits the road for a late night shift as a Lyft driver.
When he’s not teaching or driving for the ride sharing company on Saturdays, the 48-year-old Petaluma resident is juggling several other odds jobs – an increasingly hectic lifestyle, but one he says he needs to maintain to make ends meet while pursuing his passion of educating the city’s youth.
“I had these expectations of what I thought about when I went into the teaching profession,” he said. “I had this belief when I was in my early 20s that when I would be middle aged – when I’d be as bald as I am today – that I’d also get compensation for the lack of looks, that I’d at least be comfortable enough in a career to hang out and chill and come home after a day of teaching … I wouldn’t have to worry or scramble to find the rest of the money I need.”
Siders, who has taught at Casa Grande for 21 years, is among a growing number of educators taking on extra jobs to supplement their income as the cost of living in Petaluma continues to increase, according to Sandra Larsen, president of the Petaluma Federation of Teachers union, which represents more than 400 educators.
For Siders, the estimated 60 to 65-hour work weeks come at a cost: he said his relationship with his young son has suffered, he’s still had to borrow from payday loans, he’s “perpetually exhausted” and “less effective” than he would like in his classroom.
“I feel like I’m perpetually one of those starving college students in terms of how I get by,” he said.
According to research from the Petaluma Federation of Teachers, the average teacher’s salary in the district in 2015-16 was $67,736, ranking 16th for compensation among 21 other California districts with similar average daily attendance. Meanwhile, the median income in Petaluma is $77,149, while the median home price is $603,276, according to county data.
“Teachers still have to live a college lifestyle – they can’t afford their own house, and I know a lot that can’t even afford their own apartment,” Larsen said. “It’s getting worse as Sonoma County has gotten so much more expensive to live in and the teacher’s salary hasn’t kept up.”
Sten Mander, a science and robotics teacher at Casa Grande, shared the same frustration. He works a “constant” stream of handyman jobs in addition to what he estimates equate to 50 hour work weeks for his teaching job so he can pay his mortgage and support his family. Mander said while he’s expected to learn new programs and tackle classroom initiatives, there is little promise of a salary increase, generating a sense of frustration.
“I don’t see a solution,” Mander, 54, said. “I think the reason is that there’s a giant disconnect between the folks at the district office and the teaching staff.”
The district and the teacher’s union are in the throes of a more than year long process of navigating a new contract since the last agreement expired in June 2016, according to Linda Scheele, assistant superintendent of human resources and lead negotiator.