MERCED — Blaine Barrick said he is passionate about learning and the teaching profession. He also is zealous about treating teachers right and helping students get the most out of their schooling.
Barrick is the new president of the Merced Union High School District Teachers Association, which represents 467 teachers at campuses in Merced, Atwater and Livingston.
"My passion has been personal learning," Barrick said. "Teaching is a very honorable profession and it has been a pleasure to be in this profession."
In general, the public views teachers in a very positive way, understanding that they are experts in the fields they teach, he said. On the other hand, he reads online postings and recognizes that there is a negative reaction to unions.
"I am very proud to be a union member," Barrick said. "I am proud to advocate for our teachers. The goal this year is to make sure the DTA is more visible and active in the community."
Michael Boykin, interim DTA treasurer and a physics teacher at Golden Valley High School, said Barrick goes the extra mile.
"What I like about Blaine," Boykin said, "is he wants to get everybody involved, so people know what's going on. He's a great guy and wants to do a good job."
Teachers' academic freedom and being able to tailor lessons to students' needs are very important, Barrick said.
MUHSD teachers have not had a raise or a cost-of-living increase since 2007, reflecting tough times with state budgeting, Barrick said. With the passage of Proposition 30 at the polls last November, most teachers are more optimistic about potential salary increases.
Also, district teachers are hoping more money will be available to purchase instructional supplies.
The DTA's goal is to make sure not only that workers are fairly compensated but also that the district remains financially viable. Barrick said he is skilled at looking at finances and has a positive relationship with district administrators.
"We are absolutely concerned with students' safety and their welfare," Barrick said. "We don't want to take a position that would jeopardize the financial standing of the district."
Recognizing that it's important to keep communication open, he said they can have frank discussions and he believes he can always go to trustees or administrators with concerns.
Barrick replaces Sheila Whitley as DTA president. He teaches three periods of French at Atwater High School and two periods at Buhach Colony High School. Previously, he taught French at Merced High School since 1999 and taught the same subject for seven years at Los Banos High School and four years at Argonaut High School in Jackson.
Having been fascinated with the French language for years, Barrick said he loves literature of any kind. He spends his summers in France and knows Spanish and a little bit of Italian, along with an African tribal dialect.
Trustee Dora Crane believes Barrick will be a great asset for the teachers' association and the district.
"Blaine is a hard worker and is dedicated to putting students first," Crane said. "He will do a great job representing teachers."
Crane is president of the Merced City Teachers Association and has worked with Barrick on California Teachers Association programs, including the Merced-Mariposa UniServ Council.
Barrick went to Merced College and UC Davis before graduating in 1979 from UC Santa Barbara with a bachelor's degree. He spent 1979-81 teaching English in Gabon with the Peace Corps in West Africa.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.