Saturday, May 09, 2009

Goodloe-Johnson Fires the First Shot in Teacher Contract Negotiations

(Update: here's a late story from the PI with the district insisting no letter was sent (but obviously, it has been).

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson hasn't wasted any time in the teachers' contract negotiations with a letter to be sent to all teachers in SPS. It reduces their work year one day from 182 to 181, taking a professional day away. Dr. G-J explains this is because the state has cut the funding. The SEA is not amused. Here's the story in the Times (there are already 6 pages of comment, mostly against the teachers).

Okay, so Dr. G-J is right. The money isn't there, the day has to be cut. However, she has been somewhat tone-deaf in doing it this way. However, her letter states their contract won't be renewed if they don't agree. What's to agree to? The state made a decision and the money isn't there. But why state it in that fashion? Why not just be informational?

Is this a misstep on her part? One, she comes from a right-to-work state and now is in a collective bargaining state. She can't negotiate with teachers individually. Two, is this really the time or the manner in which to do this?

Maybe she wanted to get this out there as soon as possible. Maybe she wants to take a tough stance early. Who knows?

Clearly, this isn't the way to start. I doubt if she will try to smooth things over before real negotiations start but it might be a good idea.

FYI, as I posted elsewhere, here's what I know about the upcoming negotiations:

  • for whatever reason, the district will be doing teachers', principals AND 609 members (clerical, kitchen, janitorial) at the same time. Good luck with that.
  • the teachers' contract expires August 31, don't know about the other ones
  • a source tells me that the district is thinking of making all meeting notes public and the union is not happy about this. I don't know if this is a tactic to make the district look open and transparent (and if it is, could they do it for parents as well?) or to unnerve the union but it could backfire.

77 comments:

SPSMom said...

"Is this a misstep on her part?

I don't think so. If you read the entire sentence she states that she cannot renew the 182 day contract, BUT she can offer a 181 day contract. That seems fair enough. She also states that teachers can appeal and gives them lots of info on how to do so.

"However, her letter states their contract won't be renewed if they don't agree."

I do not see that statement anywhere in the letter. Am I missing something?

Keepin'On said...

I have not been super happy with some of the things this superintendent has done, and am not sure how her "my way or highway" attitude will work in Seattle.

That said, I do think the negotiations with teacher's union in this city need to be tough, and some major things need to be changed. There need to be ways to get rid of bad teachers. High school teachers and middle school teachers need to be compensated far more than elementary teachers.( I am sorry K-5s, but working with over 100 students, mandatory SOURCE updates, etc, is far more challenging than working with 28 kids, and tons of parent volunteers who grade your homework for you) Seniority should not be a job guarantee if you are not doing a good job.

I had heard rumblings from teachers that a strike is imminent this year. I think this letter is a clever political move. The union already looks bad for their repsonse to the letter (really - suing over the loss of ONE planning day - when it has alrady been cut by the state? come on) This makes them look like a bunch of whiners.

Times are hard all over, many of my friends have been out of work for months,and I know plenty of folks who would be more than happy to take a teacher's 8 months out of the year job, and probably do well at it.

And I think Goodloe Johnson knows that.

anon said...

I would also say that the union's recent letter and petition about not wanting even basic reforms for special education in 2009 --two years after the audit found the district so many problems-- humiliates children with disabilities, denigrates their rights to be educated alongside typically developing peers to the maximum extent possible, and threatens families that any change unless ok'd by them (read: no change) will be harmful to our children. I applaud the Supt for standing up to the union.

owlhouse said...

Thanks for the posts Charlie and Melissa.

I read through the comments at the Times- and actually, found them more supportive of teachers than I've come to expect. That said, the tolerance for the Union is low.

What I find missing from this discussion, is that the loss of a LID day is really just an additional straw on the camel's back. We have growing class size, loss of support staff, shifting curriculum, undefined school hours, schools closing/moving/threatened... And, worst of all, district leadership who appear, in tone and action, to have very little respect for teachers. The Union would be wise to speak to all these issues, and show the parallels of teacher and student concerns. Legally though, this may be the issue that they can take a stand on?

Keepin'On said...

Wow. I think they are serious about transparency. I went to the district website, to see if there was any news about start times (HA!), and there is a new tab on the home page LABOR RELATIONS. It takes you to tons of info about the bargaining process.

Interesting.

momster said...

my reading of the supt's letter is not that she was attempting to negotiate with them directly, or threatening to not renew their contracts, but instead informing them of developments in the legislature and her conclusion thereon that she is thus not technically capable of renewing the existing 182-day contracts.

that - to me - is different from her saying "i am not going to renew your contracts"

i thought i liked and admired olga addae but wow - her characterizing this letter as "a slap in the face to every teacher in seattle" seems inflammatory and over the top - much like the wea's president's charge a couple of weeks ago that the "...groups behind..." (read - the state and city-level PTAs, League of Education Voters, etc) the legislature's education reform bills are "...vested interests masquerading as concerned citizens who care for children. Yet they're denigrating and dismissing those of us who actually educate their children!"

whoa.

maybe these salvos are mostly theater - show for the wea/sea rank and file - much like lou piniella throwing first base and kicking dirt on the umpire as a show of support for the players - and my guess is the rank and file wouldn't immediately take the sup'ts letter (or the reform bill) as the great offenses their leadership is making them out to be - but it doesn't really play well out in the rest of the world.

is the sup't not allowed to communicate with the teachers? i searched around a little in the current teachers' contract but couldn't really find anything.

it would be interesting to hear the opinion of members (is SPSMom one?)

seattle citizen said...

I don't know if the Supe is "allowed" to talk to rank and file directly, but it stands to reason thsat unions would be opposed to this, even if it's not codified. After all, what is a union if not labor speaking as one (whether you agree or disagree with labor's speeker, in this case Olga Addae)
Seems like a no-brainer in terms of what management might expect if it wrote letters regarding contract changes directly to labor. Addae's response, (slap in the face<" is over the top, but that's her job. Management wants to be tough; labor wants to be tough. Then, through negotiations, they come to terms.
Whether it's "letgal" or not, my understanding of contract negoatiations tells me that the district committed a faux pas, if not a breach of contract, by bringing htis issue directly to rank and file: The union negotiates ALL aspects of contractual pay with THE DISTRICT, not the state. Likewise, teh District is bound to bring all changes to the negotiated contract to the union. The pay package is the whole thing together, not bits and pieces depending on funding. What if the Supe said to employees, "the feds cut our Title One funding, so we needt o reduce your pay by a like percentage."
That's a non-started, eh? The Supe would need to go back to the table with the union and renegotiate the whole contract. The union might agree: "A day has been cut from LID days, so we will not ask for that day in our revised contract with you." But it is a contract change and not an individual choice regarding acceptance or rejection of the change ("renewal" as an individual or "non-renewal" as an individual.
ALL labor/management agreements regarding pay, hours worked etc are negotiated as one package; it is not within the Supe's purview to contract, or to impose important contract changes, with each member of the rank and file.

SPSMom said...

It would be interesting to hear the opinion of members (is SPSMom one?)

Nope, just a mom trying to navigate my way through SPS!

momster said...

just read the rcw that melissa posted - and i can see why sps could go from:

1) leg cut pay for 182nd work day
= 2) sps can't offer contract for 182nd day
= 3) contract can't be renewed as is
= 4) wa state law says "In the event it is determined that there is probable cause or causes that the employment contract of an employee should not be renewed by the district for the next ensuing term such employee shall be notified in writing on or before May 15th"

isn't their contract usually 180 days and this 2 days of professional development, over and above because paid for by leg?

wonder what the union would have done if may 15 had come and gone without such notification?

another mom said...

This appears to be a risky but calculated move on the part of the District. According to the District's website the so-called letter was not sent. It looks to me as if the union took the bait that was dangled and then predictably ran to the media.Union leadership sounded hyperbolic,out of touch and whiney. It is hard for the public to be sympathetic when so many are required to take mandatory furloughs or have already lost their jobs or have taken much bigger paycuts. SEA members are merely being asked to shorten their paid work days from 182 to 181. Does the union really want a legal action over this? I dunno it maybe a matter of principle. But I don't thinks that this has anything to do with MGJ coming from a right to work state. This is hardball labor negotiations, and right now the District appears to be in the driver's seat. The union needs to be more judicious about the using the media to press their issues.

Belle1 said...

Keepin'On:

I have little or no volunteer help because I chose to work in low socio-econ. schools at both elementary and secondary level. I don't appreciate your blanket comment.

Belle1 said...

Keepin'On:

I also work far beyond "8 months" a year. Please tell me what you are basing your analysis on.

momster said...

sounds right, another mom - it would be nice if the press were doing this kind of analysis, e.g., noting the letter wasn't sent, etc.

Keepin'On said...

Belle 1-

Gladly. Teachers work 180 days per year. 8 months. 2 weeks winter break, 1 week midwinter break, 1 week spring break, holidays, etc.
8 months. You are therefore, paid accordingly. Should you make a living wage in Seattle? Absolutely. Should you be paid the same as other professions - certainly. But you still are working 8 months a year. I am not sure why this statement is controversial when facts are facts with this. I suppose you could say you have to attend a week of class to keep your credit up after your master's, but we still can only stretch it to 9 months. Ok, I'll give you nine months.

Lower socio-economic school. You should get paid more than teachers who do not choose to go into a high-poverty school. Currently you do not. You are paid the same as the teachers at nice -upper-middle class schools with lots of volunteers. Is that fair? Is that equitable? I think not, and don't think you should either. That is why the district is proposing more pay for teachers like yourself, who choose the harder road. I have no problem with that, but I can guarantee you your union will.

You sound like a caring and devoted teacher, who is probably going the extra mile for your students. Why should you be compensated the same then , as a teacher who is just going through the motions? Why should young and energetic teachers get displaced by teachers just because of seniority?

And I stand by my statement that secondary ed teachers should make more money. They have more students, they have a much higher workload, and often fewer volunteers to help them. They work a longer day than MOST elementary teachers as well. Lets pose a real life example.

Teacher 1 teaches high school math. They have 4 periods a day, 30 students per period. 120 totoal students. Each day homework has to be graded and returned. College recommendation letters have to be written, Office hours to help students have to be kept. The SOURCE has to be updated on a daily basis. Now let us look at teacher 2. Local elementary school. Been teaching for ten years. Has 28 kids. Has been using the same lesson plans and homework sheets for ten years. Has 2 parent volunteers a day to help with grading, copying, etc. Why on earth should these two teachers make the same amount of money?

Look, my bottom line is that teachers should be paid well for the job they do. But when I keep hearing how they want to be treated like the profesisonals they are, I begin to want to say - "then start acting like one". Welcome and work for merit pay. Welcome and work for changes in tenure rules. Accept the fact that times have changed. The union had it's purpose, but now that time is done. Union officials seem to spend a lot of their time protecting bad teachers, making inflammatory statements to the media and finding ways to keep the status quo intact.

I don't think that my opinion is that uncommon - and I think the union is on shaky gound if it thinks they can call for a strike and parents will back them up 100%.

Feel free to disagree.

Renee said...

Hi! I'm a teacher at a local high school. I teach Science, and I can certainly agree with the longer work days I teach. I for one would love to see more pay for high school teachers and for science / math teachers (supply / demand). But I'm realistic in that I know its never going to happen. I am all for merit pay - but wonder how it could work - certainly I agree for higher pay for schools with a higher amount of students on free/reduced lunch and for more difficult kids. I don't want it to be tied to test scores, but I don't know what else you can tie it to. My Educational Politics Prof at Columbia told me the union is the beast - horrible sometimes and bad but the beast you know and it will defend you if needed. Sometimes I just want to do things on my own though.

I found out about this letter that the District supposedly didn't send right before I went to take my test for National Board Certification. While I think the Union is over-reacting, it has MGJ usual acerbic tone. She says she cares what we think but then orders come down from the top saying "do this or else". And I just received the letter today - so the SPS human resources department was lying that the letter wasn't sent. I have it physically in my possession - it is interesting because I just checked my school email and the press release from the District saying they didn't send the letter was sent to all teachers. I'm not exactly sure what they are trying to do.

LA Teacher's Warehouse said...

Teaching is not my first career. I've had successful careers in other fields, and I came to it relatively late in life. So I have something to compare the teaching business to.

Teaching is more emotionally demanding and stressful than any job I've had before. I know all about the long hours people put into other jobs. Teaching involves a different kind of hard work.

I should add that I work during my vacations. So my vacations are not entirely days off, though I don't mind sleeping in during my breaks. In addition, during the summer, I'm often either doing work that helps me to keep up with my profession or I'm actually planning and creating new courses.

Of course, I don't work every minute of my breaks. Knowing that I have a break coming is one of the things that helps me keep going during the most stressful weeks of the year.

I happen to be a very good teacher. I'm not the only very good teacher around; there are lots of them. I'm just saying that I'm good at what I do. I went into teaching because I wanted to do something meaningful with my life. I know what it's like to work hard for money--I've already done that. Now I want to help young people to learn the skills they need for their futures. Their successes make the job satisfying to me.

Now, to the business at hand. I am pro-union, but I think this leadership is politically naive. I think it makes sense for the union to test the legality of SPS's decision--if it is a decision--to terminate our contracts individually and renew them individually instead of bargaining with us as a group. It's a principle that should be tested, and we'll see what happens in court.

The leadership has made a bigger deal out of this in the press than it should have. They should have filed a suit, released an understated statement, and waited for their day in court. What if the union loses in court? Or what if it's true that the letter hasn't even been sent? Olga's words are not politically astute, to put it mildly. But I've never found the SEA, or teachers as a group, to be very savvy.

The other thing I notice is that my job is subject to faraway decisions of governments. This includes the legislature, which has cut funding that directly affects my job. It also includes the provisions of NCLB. I'm skeptical that there's a single piece of legislation that will ever make me better at my job. I've also worked in private schools, and I notice that they're subject to a lot less government regulation than public school teachers are. Private school teachers seem to do just fine without it.

I don't care for this superintendent's style or personality. However, if she does a good job, few people will care about such things, including me. However, I don't think she's doing a good job. I disagree with her priorities, and I think it's only a matter of time until more of you decide that she has to go. You may not have reached that point yet, but I'm guessing that eventually you will. We'll see.

GD said...

Anon says: "I would also say that the union's recent letter and petition about not wanting even basic reforms for special education in 2009 --two years after the audit found the district so many problems-- humiliates children with disabilities, denigrates their rights to be educated alongside typically developing peers to the maximum extent possible"

The SEA's purpose was to protect teacher workloads and workplace rights by not allowing the district to mainstream special education students onto already overworked classroom teachers while giving them little or no support.

My understanding is that the SEA wants a plan, with supports, and a timeline. They want the teachers themselves to have the opportunity to reflect their needs and how they believe their classrooms may be affected, and what they feel they may need the district to provide.

The training and support that teachers will be asking for, plus reduced class sizes and possibly other things, will probably cost significant amounts of money.

The district, and apparently some parents, realize that fairness to teachers and mainstreaming students with no extra costs cannot both be done at the same time, so they are tarring the SEA for trying to get safeguards for teachers.

Charlie Mas said...

The fundamental problem here is that the entity that negotiates the contract, the District, is not the entity that provides the funding, the state. So when the state cut the funding it left the Districts in the lurch. The Districts are contractually obligated to pay for 182 days even if the state only funds 181.

Frankly, it was a poorly written contract. The contract should not have specified a number of days but instead stated that it covered "the number of days funded by the state". The District's people who wrote the contract screwed up.

But there it is in the contract:

"ARTICLE IV: PROVISIONS FOR COMPENSATION AND WORK HOURS

SECTION A: BASIC EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT AND EMPLOYEE RESPONSIBILITIES

1. Employees receive a basic contract for 182 days of work.
"

Dreadful lawyering. No lawyer worth their salt would ever have written it that way.

Second, let's not kid ourselves. The law referenced by the Superintendent in her letter applies to teachers who are being fired for cause or laid off due to budget cutbacks. It's not about reducing the numbers of work days in the contract. In short, with this letter, the Superintendent is saying that she has elected not to renew any teacher contracts. They have ALL been laid off.

LA Teacher's Warehouse said...

We just received this "clarification" in district email:

"When the District learned this week that the Legislature would not be called back in session, we informed the Seattle Education Association (SEA) that the reductions in state funding would result in one less day for next year’s contract. The District and SEA has been discussing the impacts of reduced state funding for several weeks. We shared with SEA a letter we had prepared notifying their members that next year’s contracts would be for one less day than this year’s contract, or 181 days instead of 182 days.

"Labor leaders informed the District on Friday of their intent to file an unfair labor practice against the District. We decided that we would wait until early next week to notify SEA members, allowing time for a more thoughtful discussion with SEA. In an effort to clear up confusion caused by WEA’s Friday press release that erroneously claimed the District had “fired 3,300 teachers,” we notified all of our staff that evening by email that reduced state funding would result in one less day for certificated staff next year.

"While instructions were given that letters to teachers and other certificated staff should not be sent until early next week, we now know that some letters were mailed Friday evening instead of being held until early next week.

"The fact remains that the legislature eliminated both authorization and funding for one Learning Improvement Day (LID), which means a reduction in funding of $1 M to SPS. In light of needing to fill an additional $34 M budget gap, we must in turn eliminate that LID day from next year's contract.

"We sincerely regret the confusion created for our staff this weekend."

SEA vs. SPS: the histrionic vs. the incompetent.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SPS, you're right, it's doesn't say "don't agree" but isn't that implicit that you'll lose your job?

Keepin' On, one thing I would want in a new teachers' contract is MORE Source updates. I'm sorry but two per quarter (which is what I was told is in the current contract) is not that much. What are parents who want to keep up and make sure their children are doing their homework/studying for tests supposed to do? If you e-mail teachers, then they get mad. And what elementary teacher has parents grading for them? I read a few essays here and there but never graded anything.

According to several comments in after the Times article, teachers DID receive the letter.

I agree the union went overboard in their remarks but by Dr. G-J, citing the RCW it certainly to escalated the nature of the letter. (And sending on the last day of Teacher Appreciation Week certainly adds a bit of irony.)

If Charlie's research and analysis is correct, then uh oh. It may be on the district to pay that day if it is specified in the contract. Charlie's right; the amount of time should have been by how much the state funds, not by number of days.

It'll be a long summer at this rate.

LA Teacher's Warehouse said...

Melissa,

I also found irony in the timing of the letter sent (and not sent) on the same day as this email from the superintendent:

"Dear teachers and instructional staff,

"The first week in May is set aside each year for thanking and honoring teachers, and all of our instructional staff, for what you do – day in and day out – to serve the children of Seattle.

"I think it is especially fitting that we set aside time to appreciate teachers during the month of May. Despite some rain and wind the last couple of days, spring brings a sense of hope and renewal. Hope is something that you, as teachers and instructors, offer to our students every day – the hope of grasping a new concept; the hope and dream of pursuing a particular career; the hope of graduating from high school ready to meet all the opportunities that lie ahead. In the words of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy:

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.”"As a profession, teachers have among the most profound influence on people. Virtually everyone who works directly with children in our schools chooses this profession because we want to make a difference in the lives of children and in the world. I want to say thank you, to all of our teachers, substitute teachers, instructional assistants, librarians, nurses, OT, PT and speech therapy specialists, psychologists, tutors and counselors – for making that choice.

"I know that this has been a challenging year for many of you. Together we face a downturn in the economy that has led to budget challenges and personal hardships. As we have followed our strategic plan, Excellence for All, we have faced hard choices, including school closure and program moves, to ensure that our system and our infrastructure work well. I thank you for your continued professionalism and focus on students as we move through these changes.

"I hope that this week you have received many individual “thank-you’s” from colleagues, students, and family members. I want to add my sincere personal thank you. We know that excellent instruction in every classroom is the single most important factor in student success. Thank you for your dedication and creativity as we work together to achieve that success for every student.

"At the School Board meeting on Wednesday evening, it was my pleasure to highlight for our board members and for our community the accomplishments of some of our teachers during this past year. I highlighted a selection of “Staff Celebrations” that have been included in our e-newsletter, School Beat, that is sent to every SPS employee and a growing number of members of our community. The presentation is posted on our Web site. Enjoy!

"Wednesday May 6 is School Nurses’ Day, and I have the pleasure of honoring two outstanding school nurses at the board meeting this week. Maureen Rigert, nurse at Green Lake Elementary has been selected as Washington State School Nurse of the Year, and Jill Lewis, Manager – Student Health Services, has been elected Washington State Nurse Supervisor of the Year. These are outstanding accomplishments. While we know how much our nurses do for our students every day, their caring and expertise over the past week as the community has responded to the flu situation has been extraordinary. Congratulations to Maureen and to Jill – and thanks to all of our school nurses for the excellent care and support you provide to our students.

"I hope you have been reminded many times this week of the wonderful work that you do with students and families. Once again, THANK YOU!

"Sincerely,

"Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, PhD

"Superintendent

"Every student achieving, everyone accountable."

emeraldkity said...

Why on earth should these two teachers make the same amount of money?

Look, my bottom line is that teachers should be paid well for the job they do
Because they have collective bargaining.
It is not about teacher Q at one school-compared to teacher Z at another. It is about if you have worked for ten years- you get this- fifteen years that.
Clearcut

I would agree that areas where we have a lack- science and math for example- we should both have incentive pay & have special emergency certification available.

MathTeacher42 said...

District 1, Union 0.

There are facts and there are the presentations of the facts, and finally there is the interpretation of the facts.

IF you do well with your presentation, the facts could be totally against you, BUT you continue winning.

Look at the Republican Party lies since 1980 with Ronnie RayGun, and look at yesterday's Wall Street Journal headline - 599 BILLION To Bank Bailouts! Opps! Don't forget Ketchup is a Vegetable, Iran Contra, Enron, Katrina, $4.50 gallon gas & Exxon profits, AIG & Merril Lynch and Goldman bonuses.

The ONLY reasons people stopped listening to the lies is that the truth is so bad and, btw, obama is so good.

I do NOT know what the facts are of the intentions of the SPS, I do know that I have NO updates from the union. Incompetence in messaging and communications seems to be a job requirement for those involved in union communications and messaging, just like the Democratic party.

As someone who spent 25 years in the private sector before teaching - ya know, where 160,000,000 out of 210,000,000 make less than 50 grand a year (See STABUS) - it is RARE that those who are actually more productive are the better paid. For every creator of a google or pencillin who is DESERVEDLY rich, there are 99 who excel at getting to the top and staying on top, well, unless they are already born close to teh top!

Performance pay? HA HA HA!

Here - for those rush limbaugh dolts who don't watch any 'news' but right wing lies - WHERE have the largest performance bonuses been for decades? The finance business in general, and upper management - ya know, the people who brought us Freddie, WAMU, Fannie, Bear Stearns, AIG ...

and, by the way, auto industry management!

And, about that pay change for us teachers - the legislature cut out 1 day of the typically worthless training, so we won't get paid for worthless training. Oh well.

However, it has been my experience that it is rare that management recognizes the cost from your hide in being flexibile to get the job done. Aside from NOT recognizing the cost to your hide & health by management, there is ALSO no figuring out how to fix the problem that required the flexibility. There is plenty of work done justifying management salaries and management existence.

Instead of just breaking your butt to get the job done, which is DEFINITELY the case with scores of teachers I work with everyday, you end up breaking your butt to get thrown over the side once you've broken down too much from breaking your butt too much.

There are 6++ billion people in the world who need housing, health care, education for the young, care for the elderly, retraining as technology changes life, clothing, safe food, clean water and sensible sewage, recreation ...

here in the USA we have about 4% of the world's population consuming about 20% of the resources used on the globe, and, instead of using our relative wealth to figure out how to make the whole world sustainably wealthy, we're behaving like nitwits, spoiled brats, aristocrats, ...

Any-hoo - the district won, whatever they're up to or not up to.

emeraldkity said...

The ONLY reasons people stopped listening to the lies is that the truth is so bad and, btw, obama is so good.Are you related to the conspiracy theorist working at far east handicrafts in Fremont?

I've been reading Mother Jones magazine since Obama was in high school.

There are areas that have districts without unions- however since G-J works in a district that has them- it seems she better learn the rules.

Belle1 said...

Keepin'On:

What I meant/should have said is eloquently expressed by LA Teacher's Warehouse's comments. I don't know many teachers who don't work during vacations and after hours etc.

Like LA Teacher’s Warehouse, this is a second career. To be honest, I really don't care much about the pay. And I'm not in this profession for guarantied tenure: for that, I could have completed a PhD in my academic subject unrelated to education and sought tenure at an institution of higher education. I'd just like to stop feeling that when I tell people what I do now, I always feel the need to preface it with "I used to be a high powered. . . " and name my former, very prestigious, profession. So, that's my problem. I'm too sensitive about the lack of respect I feel from the greater community and I’m annoyed by generalizations about educators. Plus, I’m displaced due to school closures and don’t know where I’ll be next year. And that has nothing to do with my performance; rather, it’s due to my transition from classroom teacher to specialist.

westseattleteacher said...

I received the letter the District didn't send/accidentally sent today. The issue is fairly straightforward. Contracts are negotiated between the District and SEA. The Superintendent doesn't have the authority to make a change to our contract without going through the collective bargaining process. Yet she writes that the purpose of her letter is to "advise you of my determination, as Superintendent....that there is probable cause to nonrenew your contract that was for 180 basic contract days plus two LID days." A reduction in funding from the state doesn't give her the right to make this decision.

Our union leadership is up in arms because this is a blatant violation of our right to collective bargaining. The proper course of action would have been to propose and discuss the reduction at the bargaining table. I wonder if the Superintendent is ignorant or if these moves are intentional. Surely someone on her staff understands the contract process and could advise her. Then again, they pushed through the bell time changes without regard to our contract.

I don't think that SEA's response was hyperbolic or histrionic. The union is not throwing a fit because of a reduction in work days, they are legitimately very upset at the arrogant disregard shown by the Superintendent. I am genuinely perplexed by the District 1 Union 0 comments. I cannot fathom how this could be perceived as a successful strategic move by the District.

Slightly tangential, but I wonder how Dr. MGJ rationalizes accepting a raise when everyone else in the District faces a substantial pay cut.

Evan said...

LA Teacher's Warehouse - you said "However, I don't think she's doing a good job."

can you elaborate? curious to hear what a teacher thinks.

Charlie Mas said...

Please read the letter from the Superintendent again and look for the functional part.

Here it is:

"The purpose of this letter is to advise you of my determination, as Superintendent of the Seattle School District ("District"), that there is probable cause to nonrenew your contract that was for 180 basic contract days plus two LID days, and to offer you an employment contract for the 2009-2010 school year for 180 basic contract days plus one LID day."

It's clear. They are all fired. What's more, they are all fired for cause. Of course, concurrent with the firing is a new contract offer, but they are all fired by cause first.

That's why she has to advise them of their rights under RCW 28A.405.210 to appeal the determination that they have had their contracts nonrenewed for cause. Moreover, it requires every teacher who wants to appeal their layoff to do so within ten days.

The law, by the way, also requires the superintendent to deliver the notice of nonrenewal of their contract for cause "personally, or by certified or registered mail, or by leaving a copy of the notice at the house of his or her usual abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then resident therein." They cannot send it by regular mail.

How did the letter come to those who received it? Did it come by registered mail? According to the law, if the notice was not properly delivered, the employee's contract is renewed under the same terms as the previous contract. That's the law.

"If any such notification or opportunity for hearing is not timely given, the employee entitled thereto shall be conclusively presumed to have been reemployed by the district for the next ensuing term upon contractual terms identical with those which would have prevailed if his or her employment had actually been renewed by the board of directors for such ensuing term.
"

The deadline for the notices is May 15. It has to happen this coming week or the opportunity is passed.

The next question, of course, is what constitutes "cause" for nonrenewal of a teacher contract?

I couldn't find anything in the collective bargaining agreement about it. Perhaps the Superintendent is invoking the "due to enrollment decline or loss of revenue" section of the law. Even so, I think the District is going to have a hard time proving cause for every single teacher in the system.

westseattleteacher said...

My letter was postmarked May 08 2009 and it came via Presorted First Class mail from Human Resources.

MathTeacher42 said...

westseattleteacher -
the district is winning because

ON THE NEWS
TO THE PUBLIC

the union leadership, and we-the-teachers look like whiners over some little technical no big deal clumsy letter phrasing, or, we look like whiners over losing a day's pay which ... um ... is NOT funded!

much of what you say is THE TRUTH. so what.

IF the union and the leadership are NOT winning in the court of public opinion - and until an email from the union this morning, there was silence ALL of yesterday - THEN we are losing. PERIOD.

how old are you? There have been great critiques of the right wing lie machine since before William Grieder wrote about David Stockman, RayGun's OMB Director, in The Atlantic Monthly in 1981. WHAT effect did the The Truth have against right wing lies in 1980, '84, '88, '93(healthcare), '94,'00,'02, Iraq War, ... '06?

IF your marketing can NOT beat their marketing, THEN YOU LOSE. PERIOD.

Where's The Truth ?? um - the truth, unfortuneately, is wherever the winning marketer says it is. Even worse, we the peee-ons usually have the The Truth on our side, BUT, with incompetent messaging, we don't win or won't win.

This is NOT a scientific arguement we're involved in, this is a political arguement. It is great that you want to contribute to The Truth, but, consider the following quote which you'd typically run across in a language arts class, but, which applies today as well as it applied during the 30's and 40's:

But then I sigh; and, with a piece of scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
And thus I clothe my naked villany
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.

LA Teacher's Warehouse said...

Evan,

Let me put it this way. The superintendent (and Board, for that matter) adopted the strategic goals in this document. They are ambitious goals, but I think we should shoot for ambitious goals, even if we don't ultimately make all of them.

However, the superintendent has not prioritized resources to meet these goals or even come close in the timeframe stipulated in the document. My guess is that the district will fall embarrassingly short of meeting the 2012-2013 goals. The superintendent and the Board should be held accountable.

Every student achieving, everyone accountable.

LA Teacher's Warehouse said...

I'm not sure that SPS is entirely beating the SEA in the media. The report on KIRO last night was more sympathetic toward the teachers, and the reporter made the point, again, that Dr. MGJ wasn't returning calls for comment.

In the meantime, the district has completely botched the letter thing. They sent it out to some and not others, after telling us that it wasn't sent to anyone. In addition, the letter refers us to an RCW whose provisions they clearly didn't follow. ("Such notice shall be served upon the employee personally, or by certified or registered mail, or by leaving a copy of the notice at the house of his or her usual abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then resident therein.")

The letters were sent out on the same day that Dr. MGJ sent email telling us how much she appreciated teachers. The email that "clarified" the letters was not sent by Dr. MGJ, but by her minions--that is, she hasn't, as of yet, taken personal responsibility for the mistake.

Every student achieving, everyone accountable.

Dorothy said...

I saw Steve Sundquist on KIRO look straight into the camera and say there was no letter. Boy, I wonder how finding out more made him feel. Like he's in charge on governance, I suppose.

Please note that the letter that was a draft, doesn't exist, wasn't sent, was only an accident, was not stamped draft AND had MGJ's signature on it. Who signs drafts?

SPSMom said...

Another interesting story...some of the letters were mailed even tho it that they were not to be mailed.


http://www.seattlepi.com/local/406061_teachers09.html?source=rss
The article states:

"District spokesman Tom Redman said no letters have been sent to teachers about the nonrenewal of their contracts. Instead, he said a letter is being drafted to inform teachers about the one-day reduction in contract days, but it is not completed and has not been mailed.

An e-mail sent out Friday night by Seattle Public Schools also said, "The District did not send letters today to certificated staff on this topic.

...She (teacher) showed a copy of her letter to KOMO News, along with the stamped envelope it arrived in from the school district, and said, "I don't know what to think - do I have a job?"

Now the school district says it is looking into the situation."

"Goodloe-Johnson could not be reached for comment about the latest developments."

Oops....it appears that the keystone kops are on the loose again....

Evan said...

la warehouse et al - maybe it was prepared and signed 1) as information for the union leadership (i.e., "don't believe me, olga?"), and 2) as preparation for delivery in one of the rcw-required modes (of course with a signature image - so a letter with signature could be blasted out via mail merge to all of the teachers in their employee file).

did someone in hr make a bonehead mistake, misunderstand the instructions ("get them ready to go"), and mail some portion of them?

not so implausible. wonder if we'll ever know.

la warehouse - thanks for the answer on the job the sup is doing - i'd seen those goals but never in that format. when you say she's not prioritizing resources to meet them, what are they putting resources to that should go to these? (again, not challenging, just interested in what a teacher thinks).

MathTeacher42 said...

About the letter -

I HAVE ONE SENT TO ME.

It came in the mail yesterday.

The postmark says May 08 2009.

This entire situation will probably be spun from 1 side as a clerical error occurring during a time of unprecedented budget problems and systemic stress. Ooops, we're sorry.

Given the hostility found in the southern united states against working people working together to take back a piece of the community's wealth stolen by the people at the top because they're at the top and they get to steal,

and they hire people to lie about their theft,
and they pretend like they earned it,
and they blame working stiffs for wanting more of the wealth than just starvation wages,

some people might conclude that this whole letter-and-firing-which didn't happen episode to be some kind of machiavellian hard ball.

oh, and most people are probably busy running up their credit cards to buy stuff they already own, but since they have so much stuff crammed into every nook and cranny they can't find anything, so it is more fun to go shopping.

Somewhere between Candy Land, right wing lies and escapism lies the truth.

sun. 9:45

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm on the district's list to get updates on meetings, etc. and there have been several times when I get the e-mail and then, moments/hours later get an e-mail saying to ignore the first one it was either (a) in error or (b) a mistake. I'm not surprised that some of the letters got sent.

Teacher 42, court of public opinion exists but thank goodness we have REAL courts of law. I don't think the district would come out so well there if Charlie's reading of the collective bargaining agreement is correct (and I think it is). I know the lawyers helping Dr. G-J with the "draft" of this letter and they helped her wordsmith this document. I'm not sure if this was a calculated risk on their part for some further good down the road for them but legally, it may have been a mistake.

Also, Dorothy and I were interviewed for the KIRO piece (and alas, were cut)but the reporter told us that Dr. G-J is very difficult to contact and one of the least accessible superintendents she's seen. Again, maybe another tactic (good or bad) by the superintendent. She may be thinking that she doesn't need to explain herself and that for the contract negotiations, mums the word.

I had asked Charlie about whether he was going to the Alliance for Education breakfast on the 20th (go - Dr. G-J gives a speech and you see all the movers and shakers - they ask for a donation during the breakfast). I was debating whether to go but I'll have to now just to see if Dr. G-J stays on script.

LA Teacher's Warehouse said...

Evan,

Let me put it this way. Suppose that you wanted to keep students in school and raise academic achievement. Suppose you also have limited resources.

You can't do everything, so what do you do? In my view, you focus on the most important factors. You decide, for example, whether adopting a standardized curriculum across the district is more important than addressing summer learning loss. Which is a more important factor in improving academic achievement? Which do you address first?

This superintendent is fond of alluding to unreferenced research. I would be interested to know what the research is on the value of curriculum standardization. (Anyone know?) There's a large body of research on summer learning loss here.

I've only picked one issue as an example. One could also examine, for example, how we're doing with truancy prevention, academic support programs, ELL support, and so on. Each one of these issues is complex; each one deserves full treatment. With each one of these, we could ask: what has worked elsewhere, and are our strategies working in SPS? Has the superintendent adopted effective strategies in keeping with our district profile? I'm guessing that the data in the next couple years will bear out my claim that the superintendent has failed to prioritize resources properly.

Every student achieving, everyone accountable.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reading the comments after the PI story, I see one person's reasoning for the letters that got sent; first-class postage rates go up Monday.

Every little penny.

another mom said...

It appears that the letters were not properly delivered. Term. notices are sent by certified/registered mail. The District can say they were sent by mistake, but even with that were only meant to be informational.But what was the motive? I still believe that this entire episode is hardball labor negotiations. The 2009-2010 calendar was negotiated and decided months ago. Now, the District wants to change the calendar which requires bargaining. The District claims to have tried but the SEA would not move on the calendar and the only choice left was to inform employees. Does this rise to the level of an unfair labor practice? I think so, but what about public opinion? For as incompetent as the District appears in this, SEA looks even worse. In light of today's headlines of teacher layoffs in neighboring districts and SPS riffs none, this does not bode well for the SEA.They appear to be quibbling over one day of pay. The last contract was an unprecedented one. In effect for 5 years and negotiated by Raj Manhas' & staff.

Abby G. said...

Keepin'On:
"And I stand by my statement that secondary ed teachers should make more money. They have more students; they have a much higher workload, and often fewer volunteers to help them. They work a longer day than MOST elementary teachers as well. Lets pose a real life example."

I teach at a K-8 school and find your statements to be rather upsetting. Middle schools teacher do get that extra compensation for having more students, they get more planning time then elementary school teachers.

"Gladly. Teachers work 180 days per year. 8 months. 2 weeks winter break, 1 week midwinter break, 1 week spring break, holidays, etc.
8 months. You are therefore, paid accordingly. Should you make a living wage in Seattle? Absolutely. Should you be paid the same as other professions - certainly. But you still are working 8 months a year. I am not sure why this statement is controversial when facts are facts with this. I suppose you could say you have to attend a week of class to keep your credit up after your master's, but we still can only stretch it to 9 months. Ok, I'll give you nine months."

Teachers may only "work" for 8 months of the year, but the time they do put in is very different then most jobs. If I have to pee during the day, I can’t. If I were to leave the classroom to do a basic thing like use the bathroom, I would not only be endangering the well being of 25 five year olds, but risking my job. Lunch is 30 minuets, no coffee breaks, and no long lunches, just 30 minutes in which I have to; get my kids situated, open tricky containers and milk cartons, check my mailbox, pee, eat, and pick my kids up from lunch recess on time. Teaching is not a normal job, I have to not only teach the kids but bandage injuries, council, support families, copy & print, manage data and help to run the school.

Every single after school or evening event that a teacher hosts or attends is out side of their contracted time. Add up the hour spent on evening events each year and you can and another two months on to the 9 month tally you have going. Don’t forget overnight camping trips. I would like to add in the packing and unpacking of the upcoming school closures and moves, the district is paying for one packing day. The crazy list goes on and on and never ends.

Fortunately I don’t know any teacher who went into it for the money, but when the “you only work 8 months a year” argument is thrown out, I get grumpy.

Sorry not real eloquent today, I spent four hours working in my classroom (Sunday) and then squeezed in some time with my family.

owlhouse said...

Well put, Abby G, thanks for all you teachers do!
I too, am incredibly bothered by the argument that teachers some how work less than "most" people. To your list of responsibilities beyond class/compensated time, I'd add:

Inventory management, cleaning, phone consultations, peer support, and the constant (informal) professional development that comes with the territory.

No doubt, unions aren't perfect. But given labor history and the impression so many seem to have of teaching as a part-time job, the right to collective bargaining is essential.

dan dempsey said...

OK this work issue discussion is missing a major piece. The amount of time teachers spend fighting administration and OSPI to get instructional materials worth using. For Math teachers the Bergeson "Reform Math" years were a disaster.

In the May 6th adoption, just before the vote, OSPI's Mathematics Director of Teaching and Learning arrived to mislead and deceive the school directors.

These OSPI and central administrators seem to be on a special mission to ignore the data and keep the kids below average.... like Lake Woebegon upside down.

Here is the sad story of May 6th and OSPI's new reigning Queen of deception Ms. Greta Bornemann.

http://mathunderground.blogspot.com/2009/05/long-last-word-on-may-6th.html

WS said...

I haven't seen this reported elsewhere but the district did post a "clarification" type of note in the news section of its website late Saturday night. While I (as a member of the media) got the news release Friday night saying the letters hadn't been sent (and then a note from a local teacher saying he'd gotten his and posted it to Flickr as proof), there was no media e-mail announcing this clarification. I added it to the bottom of our story here:
http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=16725

momster said...

like keepin'on, i'd like teachers to be compensated appropriately for their time as well as feel their profession is valued (though i would note that any time anyone polls - levy people, caciee, etc - teachers and the pta poll higher than everyone, e.g., board, district staff, sup't, mayor, etc).

and abby, i hear what goes on in your day - and was wondering why you have to open milk cartons - in our elementary school, there are teachers (and the principal) on duty during lunch who respond to kids' needs like that.

also - don't you get pcp time? (not that pcp time is for things others might do at lunch - but it is time when you don't have direct responsibility for your students.)

can you offload printing and copying to parent volunteers? that's what teachers in our elementary school do - there is a parent/volunteer group that meets weekly and takes all comers for cutting, pasting, copying, collating and other clerical tasks that aides used to do.

i couldn't figure out the calculation of your out-of-contract-time events adding up to another 2 months of work - if an average work month is 18 days and hours/day is 6.5, 2 months is 216 hours. over 10 months (sept-jun), isn't that almost 22 hours/month? that's a lot!

a camping trip would account for a big chunk of that in a particular month (though you must be talking about other teachers at your k-8 because i wouldn't imagine you're taking your kindergarteners on overnights) - but when i got to thinking about when i see our elementary teachers after hours, it was hard to see how you could rack up that many hours.

we have one winter evening concert, one spring picnic/art event, a once/month pta meeting that one/two teacher reps attend, and the occasional evening program that some teachers might be a part of.

maybe you are talking about district meetings and training and events?

i don't really mean to challenge you - i just know that i get paid 80% for a 32-hour/week job, but because i'm a "professional" and non-exempt (i.e., not compensated hourly for overtime), i put in as many hours as it takes to get projects and tasks done - whether it's 32 or 62. it helps to have latitude about how and where i do my work - but i'm always a little taken aback when i hear a teacher say "that's on my time" - it's not a concept i hear in my work world unless it's from someone in the more entry-level jobs.

Charlie Mas said...

I've been thinking about this letter to certificated non-supervisory staff and I've reached some conclusions.

First, the few letters that we have heard of were not properly delivered in accordance with the law. Teachers who received these letters may choose to appeal them within the ten day time limit on the basis of their faulty delivery - if nothing else.

Second, the letter clearly offers the teachers a contract. What contract? Not the one collectively bargained by the SEA - that contract stipulates 182 days. Is it some other contract? What else does that contract say? How else does it vary from the bargained contract? Don't the individual contracts of the certificated non-supervisory staff include the collectively bargained agreement by reference? If so, aren't they therefore for 182 days as stipulated in the bargained agreement?

Third, if the superintendent is offering revised contracts to certificated non-supervisory staff, does that constitute going around the SEA and bargaining directly with the staff? And isn't that an unfair labor practice and prohibited by state law?

In what universe is this okay?

Abby G. said...

Momster:

“was wondering why you have to open milk cartons - in our elementary school, there are teachers (and the principal) on duty during lunch who respond to kids' needs like that”

• Some schools struggle to find the money to have people doing those types of duty; at our school we don’t have much of this. We do our own recess coverage and while there maybe an adult in the lunchroom that’s 1 adult to over 100 small children. The kids have a small amount of time to eat and we suffer the consequences of there hunger later in the day if they don’t get enough to eat at lunch. Maybe my motivation for helping kids open their containers is really a self centered motivation. Ok let’s take that time out of the equation.


“also - don't you get pcp time? (not that pcp time is for things others might do at lunch - but it is time when you don't have direct responsibility for your students.)”

• In theory yes, in actual practice not always. If a student of mine has a melt down or becomes disruptive or has an accident it’s me who needs to deal with it. Depending on the group of kids I have each year this happens about once a week. So ok let’s take that time off the table.


“can you offload printing and copying to parent volunteers? that's what teachers in our elementary school do - there is a parent/volunteer group that meets weekly and takes all comers for cutting, pasting, copying, collating and other clerical tasks that aides used to do.”

• You are making an assumption that all schools have a plethora of parent volunteers. This is not always the case; parent help/support is very disproportionate through out the district. So if a teacher is luck enough to have a pool of parent helpers, yes they can get some help. I’ll even take this one off the table.


“a camping trip would account for a big chunk of that in a particular month (though you must be talking about other teachers at your k-8 because i wouldn't imagine you're taking your kindergarteners on overnights) “

Yes we do take our kids on an overnight, for k & 1st kids its one night, second – third two nights, forth – 8th a week.

“we have one winter evening concert, one spring picnic/art event, a once/month pta meeting that one/two teacher reps attend, and the occasional evening program that some teachers might be a part of”

Again this varies from school to school. I added up the hours from last month (an easy month due to WASL) outside of contacted hours my total was:
Kindergarten open house – 5 extra hours
Math Night – 5 extra hours
School auction – 6 extra hours
Science Fair – 5 extra hours
PTSA meeting – 3 hours
Student performance – 2 extra hours

Total: 26 extra hours (Again this was a slow month)

maybe you are talking about district meetings and training and events?

Staff meetings at my school are weekly – extra 1 ½ hour a week
Required IEP meetings (this depends on the amount of students with IEPS) – yearly 3-4 hours
Student Intervention Team – Helping struggling students and families 8 hours yearly
Parent conferences (this is outside the yearly event) – 20 – 40 hours yearly
School board meetings: (most teachers I know attend one or two of these a year, sometimes more or less depending on the issues) 4 hours yearly.

I’m getting tired of adding this up. My point is I love my job despite the unnoticed time and effort I put into educating my kids.

wseadawg said...

Anyone else think Sundquist owes the teachers an apology? He seems a little too eager to defend the district's moves over and over again. I thought I was voting for a parents' advocate, but he seems to have an institutional bias, trust, and loyalty to the district - at any cost. Is he using the TV spots to train himself for a future run at higher office? From his admiration for "consensus" on the math comittee and his repeat defense of indefensible acts from the district, I'm beginning to wonder what else is going on with him. Going along to get along should automatically DQ any board member. That is not their job.

But I'd be happy if he apologized to the teachers he went on TV and called liars, acknowledged the foot in his mouth, and woke up and smelled the coffee about how the district really operates at times.

SQ's too smart a guy to have blind faith in the district. So what the heck is going on with him?

Keepin'On said...

Abby G and Belle 1-

Well, maybe I need to avoid blanket statements. (See- you taught me something!)Thank you. And I do appreciate most of my children's teachers!

However, I think Momster made my point more clearly than I did.

Most salaried professionals work more than the 40 hours per week they get paid for - whenever there are projects to be done, things to finish, professional development to attend to, etc. And they do it 12 months out of the year, week in and week out. I just get a bit frustrated as well when I hear statements from teachers about how much extra time they put in, as if they are the only workers in the world to do so. I know you put in extra time. So do a lot of other people. So maybe we should all avoid blanket statements. we are all working hard for the money, ok?

In the hulabaloo over the 8 months comment, these issues were missed. I really would like to know what teachers feel about the issues I raised about merit pay and seniority, and the ability to get rid of bad teachers that will be coming up in contract negotiations.

Here are my original comments:

"Lower socio-economic school. You should get paid more than teachers who do not choose to go into a high-poverty school. Currently you do not. You are paid the same as the teachers at nice -upper-middle class schools with lots of volunteers. Is that fair? Is that equitable? I think not, and don't think you should either. That is why the district is proposing more pay for teachers like yourself, who choose the harder road. I have no problem with that, but I can guarantee you your union will."


And this one-

"Seniority should not be a job guarantee if you are not doing a good job."

And this one-
"You sound like a caring and devoted teacher, who is probably going the extra mile for your students. Why should you be compensated the same then , as a teacher who is just going through the motions? Why should young and energetic teachers get displaced by teachers just because of seniority?"

I would be very interested on your opinions about these issues.

zb said...

"I’m getting tired of adding this up. My point is I love my job despite the unnoticed time and effort I put into educating my kids."

Abby, this made me smile. 'Cause, of course, you're educating our kids (unless you have a very big family of your own).

(I do know that I do want my kids' teachers to talk this way, too).

Abby G. said...

“Lower socio-economic school. You should get paid more than teachers who do not choose to go into a high-poverty school. Currently you do not. You are paid the same as the teachers at nice -upper-middle class schools with lots of volunteers. Is that fair? Is that equitable? I think not, and don't think you should either. That is why the district is proposing more pay for teachers like yourself, who choose the harder road. I have no problem with that, but I can guarantee you your union will."

• Every class, school and district comes with its own problems and advantages. Teaching in a rich, volunteer heavy are comes with over active parents who spend more time questioning and challenging a teachers teaching. You get “helicopter parents” who hover over their child teaching dependence not independence. Who is to say what group of kids is harder. There is some composition for teaching in a low-socioeconomic area. I got my student loans cut in half for teaching five year in a designated need area.


"You sound like a caring and devoted teacher, who is probably going the extra mile for your students. Why should you be compensated the same then , as a teacher who is just going through the motions? Why should young and energetic teachers get displaced by teachers just because of seniority?"

• Getting ride of cruddy teachers is ridiculously difficult. You have to have a very aggressive and organized principal, and it will still take two-three years to get them moved. Notice I said “moved” not out of the district but to another placement. Insanity!!

• On the other side merit based pay is frightening, not because I feel that I may be at risk of loosing my job, but because I don’t trust my district or any that I have seen to be the judge of my teaching. What standards will be used, students scores on standardized tests. Hell no, I have kids who come in not able to recognize their own name in print and leave at the end of the school year knowing all their letters and sounds, but according to the district this isn’t good enough. Progress isn’t measured, just the end result is.

Zb:

Thanks for noticing the use of the words “my kids”

Tim said...

Why does everyone think it is hard to get rid of bad teachers? Because they are aware of one, and it should be obvious that this person needs to be fired?

Whose fault is that? I have been 20+ years in the profession, seen almost as many principals and assistants, and have rarely seen a principal that documented bad teaching effectively, and followed the steps of the contract for removing the teacher. Seniority makes no difference. If the steps are followed, the teacher is fired. The steps are typically (depending on the contract, of course) straighforward, with protections built in for due process. For example, anonymous parent complaints are not usually considered cause for firing, however, a good principal will investigate the complaint, and look for evidence based on direct observation.
Bad teachers are not required to tell anyone they were fired for not doing a good job - they may complain of being railroaded etc, and nobody but them and their evaluator will ever see the write-ups. Obviously this can put the evaluator at a bit of a PR disadvantage with parents and other staff. But most people end up leaving the job when the poor evaluations start coming in.

But seniority is no protection for bad teachers. Principals are required to evaluate by law - if they take their responsibility seriously, and their supervisors hold them accountable, then no problem.

Funny, since I came to teach in Seattle, I have heard of buildings where nobody gets an evaluation write-up.

Should we have any form of merit pay when principals can't follow a set of steps to document poor teaching? Who will decide who merits better pay?

Mirjana said...

Keepin' On -- Can you give an example of another salaried professional who works over 40 hours without additional compensation? Because I have a hunch that any other salaried professional makes a lot more than a teacher, which would make the extra time easier to take.
Teaching and nursing -- the last female dominated professions. For all the talk about the teachers' union, the nurses' union is a lot better.

Charlie Mas said...

Given the division of responsibilities between the School Board and the Superintendent, and the Board's commitment not to involve itself in the day-to-day administration of the District, perhaps it would be best if Director Sundquist did not comment on camera about matters which are not Board matters.

He told KOMO 4 News "What I know for sure is that the letter has not been sent." Clearly, he should not have been so sure. Letters were sent to a number of teachers. We now know this "for sure".

Director Sundquist should take a lesson from this and not rely entirely on statements by District staff - on this matter or any other.

Keepin'On said...

You are probably right, they do make more than a beginning teacher.

Way back when this started, I said "Should you be paid the same as other professions - certainly."

And yes, the historical reference is accurate and fascinating.


And I appreciate the thoughtful and informative comments about the merit pay, helicopter parents and removal of bad teachers. It is going to be an interesting contract negotiation session.

zb said...

Charlie writes

"Third, if the superintendent is offering revised contracts to certificated non-supervisory staff, does that constitute going around the SEA and bargaining directly with the staff? And isn't that an unfair labor practice and prohibited by state law?

In what universe is this okay?"

Ahh, good to notice that process is important to you in all circumstances. I too am flabbergasted at the thinking behind these letters, unless they really meant to try to jump the May 15th deadline for laying off state workers. If so, they still messed up, 'cause they didn't send the letters according to the rules.

zb said...

Glad to see the teachers chiming in. Hope to hear from you on the other topics, too. I think the blog-owners have done a decent job of keeping this blog respectful.

Abby G. said...

keepin on:

I noticed your off hand comment and took it to mean, "Wow teachers are a pain in the a** no wonder negotiations are going to be hard" Possibly you didn’t mean this at all, once I get fired up its hard to come down and I have STREP throat and can't do much but complain right now. I just want it noted that so far no one has said anything in support of the teachers union. What I want the union to fight for is not pay or my job security, there are bigger problems that need attention. We have a superintendent that has repeatedly lied to the school board, made curriculum changes that don’t seem to have our kid’s best interests in mind and wants teachers to be mindless drones who read scripts. I totally agree with you on the point that we need a way to get rid of ineffective teachers, I just didn’t hear any ways for this to be done well.

gavroche said...

What credibility exactly does the Superintendent have? Did she do a bang-up job in Charleston, her previous place? Wasn't her plan for that School District also called the "Plan for Excellence"? Did she merely slap on the word "Seattle" to the same basic plan and claim a pay raise for the effort after one year here? Did she bring "excellence" to Charleston? What expertise and excellence has she brought to Seattle that certain members of the School Board seem to be in thrall to? I'm willing to give credit where due -- if applicable -- but so far, I'm just not seeing the excellence.

Keepin'On said...

Abby G-

It is interesting to me that if teachers feel powerless with this superintendant, and district ( rightly so)- and they have a union to fight for them - how do you think parents feel sometimes? We have no one to fight for us. We pretty much just have to take what comes. Start time changes, Discovering Math, Everyday Math, no more AP classes, WASL madness, sub-par instruction sometimes, no money for 7 periods of class per day - the list goes on.

Maybe we need a Teacher/Parent Union? I bet we have more in common than we think.

momster said...

thanks for taking the time to write, abby g - it's educational.

just some thoughts about what you said:

- our teachers don't necessarily have a pool of volunteers each - there is a set day/time (e.g., Weds 9-11) that anyone who has time shows up to do whatever work any teacher has asked for. it takes a little bit of coordination to get started, but it's easier to maintain than having a group of volunteers for every teacher (which then has to be reconstituted every school year). if you have even one parent in your class who is asking you how s/he can help, this would be one thing to suggest - and a great way to leverage time across all of the staff.

do you have a pta? if you don't and/or don't have enough volunteers to field the once/week cut/paste/copy gig, lots of times schools with more plentiful volunteers are eager to take on a "sister" school. your principal could get in touch with the seattle council of ptsa's (sharon rodgers is president) and they might be able to put the word out.

at our school only one teacher attends the pta meeting and reports back to the rest of the staff - and they rotate the assignment every year - for just the reasons you are talking about. some actually come because they want to (the T in pta!)

same with the auction - the principal doesn't require it and some actually come because they want to - in the same way parents come because they want to, not looking at it as "work")

if as a teacher you are doing the k fair AND being the pta teacher rep AND not getting assistance with clerical tasks AND going to the auction, sounds like your principal could employ some strategies that others do to help teachers with work/life balance (especially as a k teacher who really needs to be at the k fair/open house.)

from the parent side of things, it's an interesting feeling to know that many teachers (not saying you, necessarily) consider it work to attend the auction, a pta meeting or two, and the social events - sometimes it can feel as if the esprit de corps that seems to exist between the parents and teachers at a school is not quite what it seems to be.

i know i often feel as if i'm just tolerated - and as if the teachers consider all of us to be helicopter parents and a hindrance - not a great feeling, i will say - as much for the hypocrisy of it all as for anything.)

Charlie Mas said...

I'm sorry, but I just can't leave this alone. It's driving me crazy.

How could the District have bungled this so completely?

How could they have written that letter which at best was ill-advised and most likely illegal? How could the Superintedent have signed it?

How could the District have mailed them out - any of them - and not know that they did? After repeated denials that they sent out any of them, they now acknowledge that they sent them to about half of the teachers. How could they have been wrong on that simple fact? They made Director Sundquist look a complete fool for saying that he knew "for sure" that none of the letters had been mailed out. People will be asking him to confirm statements "for sure" for the rest of his term of office. I know I will. The spokesman for the District looked like a lying slimebag when confronted with the blatant lie.

How could the District have been so stupid as to send them out via regular mail? This mistake just astonishes me. It says, right there in the law, how the notices have to be delivered and regular mail just ain't good enough.

I'm can't help wondering what sort of advice Faye Chess-Prentice is giving the Superintendent on labor issues with the SEA. She couldn't possibly have approved the letter, yet who but a lawyer would have inserted all of that language about RCW 28A.405.210?

Finally, I can't help wondering what - if anything - the Board is going to say or do about this. Will they retreat into a shell of "No comment" or claim that "It isn't a Board matter"? I don't see how they can. School Board Policy B60.00 says that "The Board shall delegate to the Superintendent such powers as may be required to manage the Seattle schools in a way consistent with board direction and policy and state and federal law." That means that the Board is responsible for seeing to it that the Superintendent follows the law. The Board also has a Whistleblower Policy, F09.00, that "encourage(s) the reporting by its employees of improper governmental action taken by district officers or employees". I can't wait to see which Board members - if any - poke their noses out of their holes and I can't wait to see what line they will follow if they do.

Dorothy said...

Charlie, I agree with you on everything except this part:

They made Director Sundquist look a complete fool for saying that he knew "for sure" that none of the letters had been mailed out.Nobody made Sundquist look like a fool. If he looked like a fool (and he sure did) he is responsible for it, not the district. Does he really have such great experience with the district being transparent and truthful? If so, he's unique. Stacy M from KIRO was there on Saturday, with a copy of the letter that didn't exist. I bet the KOMO person had a copy as well.

Simple critical thinking. Why did two TV trucks show up, why all the hullabaloo for something that doesn't exist? Who could have orchestrated that? Occam's razor.

Too bad this didn't happen before the math vote. Wonder if Steve would have thought twice about trusting process and all that nonsense!

momster said...

mirjana asked keepin'on, "Can you give an example of another salaried professional who works over 40 hours without additional compensation?"

it's actually hard for me to think of a profession (requiring college degree) where people *do* get compensated for hours > 40. that's often the definition of "professional" - vs a job with a time-clock orientation where all hours are compensated on an hour for hour basis.

some teachers come from other fields, but so many come straight out of school into the job world (and the union/contract world view) that i wonder if they know how other jobs work. it would be interesting to hear how la teacher's warehouse views this, since s/he has done both.

when you factor in (as keepin' on did) the 2 months in summer and 4 weeks "paid vacation" (i.e., breaks), the healthcare and other benefits - it can look to the rest of the world as if it's not a bad gig - even though it would be hard to get gainful employment for the 2 months in summer if you wanted it.

Mirjana said...

Momster -- What I was really asing for was an example. With salary range.
I do know what a professional is.

momster said...

sorry, mirjana - here is one - the full-time accounting supervisor at my company has about 30 years of experience, earns a salary of $60,000, gets 3 weeks of paid vacation, 10 paid holidays and 2 paid floating holidays, and rarely works 40 hours/week (it's often 50+, none of which is compensated beyond her base salary).

when i worked for a public accounting firm, the staff (entry-level, just out of college) accountants got to "bank" hours > 40 to take as vacation or pay (don't know what they do now), but the managers (next level up), worked hundreds of overtime hours per year with no compensation beyond salary - and the salaries were no great shakes.

some of the motivation was the promise of better assignments, promotions, etc - but that's the deal in most jobs, i think.

Mirjana said...

Thanks, Momster. Interestingly, this site: http://www.simplyhired.com/a/salary/search/q-accounting+manager/l-WA
puts the average salary of an accounting manager in Washington at $67,000 and the average teacher salary at $48,000. Is it possible your accounting manager is underpaid, or working for a very small company? Some other average salaries: architect, $83,000; physical therapist, $67,000; pharmacist, $77,000.
Anyway, I know this is way off topic. Whether you believe that teachers are adequately compensated or not, the real issue is that the superintendent appears to be flexing her union-busting muscles just a little with her not very subtle implication that she and no one else determines teacher contracts.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mirjana, maybe then, this is where the line in the sand is for teachers AND parents. Perhaps there is only one way to get the Superintendent's full attention and that's to make her perform her duties within the letter of the law.

I get her tough girl stance. It has probably served her well. I'm not asking for her to be nicer; I'd like to her give forth the idea that she has some inkling of the concerns of parents and teachers.

Maybe more people who don't agree with her actions should go to the Alliance for Education breakfast.

dan dempsey said...

Teacher contracts?
What about the Superintendent's contract and the board's frequent concern about process?
Isn't Board By Law B45.00 part of the process?

http://mathunderground.blogspot.com/2009/05/contract-language-in-sps.html Inkling of concern about parents wishes is becoming less important with each passing month in a variety of areas.

momster said...

mirjana - actually, i was wrong - i went back and checked and she makes $71K.

the 2008-9 sps teacher salary schedule shows that a teacher with a BA and 15 years (1/2 the experience of our accounting supervisor) makes $64K between base and TRI.

and has been noted prior, the $64K is for 182 days @6.5 hours (notwithstanding extra hours as has been discussed by abby g), while our accounting supervisor's $60K is for 260 days @ 8 hours (assuming no OT for her, either).

i think the teacher's 182 days must not include break days while the supervisor's 260 does include her vacation and paid holidays - so if you put them on equal footing, the teacher's year looks like:

209 days @ 6.5 hours = 1358 hours, or $47/hour.

the accounting supervisor's year looks like:

260 days @ 8 hours = 2080 hours, or $28/hour.

assuming both work overtime, their effective hourly wages both go down - but the teacher is starting from a much better place - and i've never heard our accounting supervisor say "no - i'm not doing that because it's not in my contract and it's on my time" as i've heard some very nice and admirable teachers say.

i could well be missing something.

i want everyone who works hard and brings value to earn a living wage and better - but i'd like people to be really candid and talking apples-to-apples when comparing real wages between teachers and other professions.

note - the company i work for is small, but pay and benefits are competitive enough to draw applicants for all jobs - even before the economic downturn.

Dorothy said...

6.5 hours a day includes no time for preparation, no time for grading papers, calculating grades, communicating with parents or anything else of a quotidian nature. At a bare minimum, I'd say that adds two hours of work per 6.5 hour a day of face time with the kids. All the other things, meetings, evening events, weekend events and so on, one might consider them extra uncompensated time, but for compensated time, you absolutely cannot use the 6.5 hour figure.

emeraldkity said...

According to the SEA a first year teacher with a BA makes $42,000.
Not bad for right out of school-
I agree that you cannot assume that the day of a teacher, is shorter than any other working professional.

But that is neither here nor there- because when layoffs happen, the cheap( younger) teachers are laid off first.
If we really wanted to save money- I wonder if we could do like some companies do- and " encourage " people to retire.

Keepin'On said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keepin'On said...

I am saddened about the layoffs announced today, and more so by the fact that some of the best teachers my kids have had will lose their jobs, simply because they have less seniority than other teachers.

I am not sure what the best way to do layoffs are - but sometimes the way we do it here, with seniority being the deciding factor, seems to not be the best. I wish we had a more equitable way, but don't know what that would be. If we cannot use merit,because evaluations are not uniformly and appropriately administered on a wide scale, then we need to come up with something else. And I truly hope that when the contracts are negotiated, that this issue will at least be explored. (And I too, have experienced the "last hired first fired" in my own job a few years back, and didn't like it then either)

It is a sad day.

Charlie Mas said...

I've posted this information elsewhere, but I'll post it here as well.

The District does not show a reduction of the number of workdays from 182 to 181 among the proposals they have made to SEA in the current contract negotiations.

In other words, they are not trying to negotiate this point through the proper and legal channels. Instead, they are using an illegal and unfair labor practice to try to force the change in the teachers' contracts.

Tim said...

Momster - I still don't get your math...

The link to the salary schedule you posted doesn't work. Try this one: http://www.seattlewea.org/static_content/certsalary.pdf

At 15 years, the only way to get to your figure of ~60K is to have a masters degree and 45 credits additional salary, or a BA plus 90 additional credits. Unlike many professions, all of the additional college credits come from the teachers' pockets during summers. It is very rare for a district to pay for them. Often they will subsidize "clock hour training" in which each hour of training is worth a tenth of a credit, but none of those hours can count toward a master's degree. (Try to get hired in a new position if you have 900 random clock hours instead of an actual masters degree)

But put aside the fact that this teacher paid for these courses; I have no idea whether an accounting manager typically pays for their own continuing ed or not.

While there are evening courses for master's programs, they are problematic for teachers - many teachers take them and they are the ones who come to school with hollowed out eyes from lack of sleep etc. - up late completing course work while the parent emails, grading and planning (not to mention learning new curriculum) still has to be done. Summers (as you point out) are unpaid - and teacher's choose between summer course work or supplementing their income. But the summer isn't as long as it looks, because there is no time in the school year to close down the classroom - yet every year teachers are required to pack and cover everything up, take down bulletin boards etc, then unpack and reset the classroom again. And some find out during the summer their assignment changed...

The effective time for course work or employment over the summer is about 7 weeks - July, and most of August. Most college semesters begin before June is done, so it ain't easy...and 7 week jobs are hard to find too. I have heard many teachers say they would work longer years, but of course, that would cost more money...

You have also assumed that the hours a teacher works are the hours students are present. Actually, contracts always call for an 8 hour day, not the 6.5 you mentioned. Obviously, many professions work more than the minimum 8. But teaching is a bit unique - we are often called professionals, but also often treated as hourly workers - if you are in doubt, look at the letter that came from the SSD this week. It states we will work one day less, and get one day less pay. In fact, contract language clearly lays out a number of hours for amount of pay - ask someone to tell you what a per diem wage is in Seattle for a 15 year teacher. It may seem high - which is why it is rarely paid. Usually most districts pay something like a "project pay" rate for contracted work outside the day - like requiring a teacher to do something other than their normal duties. I have no idea what that rate is in Seattle. My last district it was about 15 bucks an hour, no matter what experience level the teacher had. Grading and planning are never paid, unless the teacher manages to fit them into the 8 hour day. Most don't - we spend that time communicating with other staff, attending meetings, talking to parents, tutoring for free etc.

One of the "bargaining" strategies that occasionally comes up in Unions, but is always dismissed, is for teachers to "work to the contract" - in other words, put in nothing beyond the 8 contracted hours. But, aside from the obvious difficulty most would have making a half attempt at their "passion", we all know what doing anything with a big group of students is like without a good plan - it would be a terrible personal price for us to pay...

In terms of the "breaks" throughout the year, teachers are often divided about whether to compact the year more, so that they can have summers for other work or continuing ed...or to use the breaks as R and R time. In some ways the district bargains for the parents, and they often seem to want more of the breaks that divide the year, and arguably result in less teaching...(Only the very best teachers can get the laser focus out of the kids on a Friday before a break...probably the same thing happens to the accountant before T-day or Christmas.)

So, back to the math...if you run the numbers again, with an 8 hour day, as required by contract, then I think you get about $38 dollars an hour, not $47. You mentioned rightly that TRI money is part of the salary. But to get that money, there are an additional 8 more days worked - plus the two LID days that we have been hearing about. (Which you already included in your 182 days.) So, add 8 more days and the new calculation is about a buck a day less...just less that $37 bucks an hour.

Maybe that is too much to pay a teacher. But if that were so, then why are there chronic shortages in certain areas? After all, anyone can get a degree to be a science, math or special ed teacher and find a job. Typically, even in hard times! So at this enormous hourly wage, with so many breaks, why would someone pick account manager over teaching?

Mary said...

Tim -- I would also add that after 15 years, teachers are maxed out on salary.
I'm a teacher. I get to work at 8:00 and 4:30 is the earliest I ever leave. I do all my curriculum planning and most of my grading papers on weekends. I don't know many teachers who work fewer hours than I do, but I know many who work a lot more.