Friday, August 23, 2013

Quick Updates as We Head into the Weekend

One update, from KUOW, is that the contract negotiations between the district and the union have hit an impasse.  The district has indicated they have given all they can.

What are the issues?

The SEA and the district are at odds over several issues.

The union is unhappy with the district's half-hour extension of the work day for elementary school teachers because it would not result in extra classroom time for students.

The union and district are also clashing over whether to require the use of students' state test scores in teacher evaluations. The last contract required that state and district standardized test scores be used as part of the teacher evaluation process for teachers of the tested subjects: reading and math.

While district officials say using state test scores in teacher evaluations is a valuable part of the contract they bargained with teachers three years ago, Knapp said the landscape for teachers and students is entirely different today. "The goalposts have changed significantly from three years ago," he said. "State law has changed, federal requirements are in flux with the US Department of Education, Common Core standards are here and the new Smarter Balanced assessments that come along with them are being piloted this year," Knapp said.
 

The union and district are also still clashing over compensation. Knapp said the district's latest offer would give teachers a two percent pay raise for each of the next two years, which the union calls insufficient.

What next?

The SEA Representative Assembly will consider the district's latest offer at a meeting Friday afternoon, and make a recommendation to its members regarding whether or not to support the offer. The general membership is scheduled to vote on the district's offer Monday.  Knapp said he is not optimistic.

From the district:

Compensation: 
We are committed to providing a fair and competitive wage that compares favorably with other districts in the region. Our proposal includes a 4% salary increase over the next two years. In addition, we are fully restoring a 1.3% salary reduction that was mandated by the state legislature.

No class size increase: 
We have removed our proposal to increase class size. Despite our capacity management challenges, class size will not be increasing in this contract. We listened to our educators’ concerns around the importance of keeping our classrooms as small as possible.

Special Education:
During negotiations SPS and SEA jointly developed an improved service delivery model for students with special needs. This model will better serve students and increase compliance with state and federal requirements. Students will have the supports necessary to access the general education curriculum in the least restrictive environment possible.  There will be additional supports and professional development for all teachers throughout the district.

Student Support Services:
Our proposal makes a significant investment in additional staff such as psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, speech pathologists and nurses. These staff members provide important support services to students. The addition of more of these individuals to the teaching team will contribute to closing the achievement gap.

Length of work day:
We have proposed a restoration of the working day for elementary school teachers and certificated SEA staff to be a total of 7.5 hours.  This additional 30 minutes will provide more time for planning and collaboration around activities such as reviewing the progress of individual students. Our secondary teachers already work a 7.5 hour day. Our proposal would bring our elementary teachers’ work day in line with K-12 teachers in districts across our region.

Evaluation:
In 2010, SPS and SEA collectively bargained a new evaluation system. We established a shared definition of effective teaching practice by adopting common standards using the Charlotte Danielson framework. We utilize student growth measures as part of the evaluation process.

Since that time, we have seen gains in student achievement and a narrowing of the achievement gap. We want to keep the evaluation system in place and maintain the momentum toward our goal of success for every student.

 The other item is that the Charter Commission has adopted the rules that guide selection of charter schools for Washington State.  I attended yesterday's meeting in Everett and it was quite the slog through all the input/rule tweaking.  It is gratifying and refreshing to speak before a group that seems to listen.  In my remarks to them, I noted that the charter lawsuit has been assigned a court and judge and that it was truly in everyone's best interests if this matter is settled sooner rather than later because of the ramifications to many people throughout our state.

To their credit, they listened to input as I recognized several of the issues that I had raised to the Commission.

I am pleased to say that charter applicants are asked to file a notice of intent prior to their application which is a basic form about who they are and what type of school focus they are trying to achieve.

One item I pointed out would be fair and useful to all is whether they are filing as a "new" charter or a "conversion" charter.    This is part of the form now.


No applicant is required to file this letter but I think there might be some degree of suspicion if they do not.  The Charter Commission wants this just so they know - as possibly the sole entity receiving charter application if Spokane does not receive their okay as a charter authorizer for their district - how many applications are coming in.

The Charter Commission has to schedule a public meeting for each charter applicant and convene a charter application review group to review each applicant.  Basically, they just want to know what's coming.  As well, school communities, I believe, have the right to know that their school may be a target of a takeover by a charter applicant.  No skulking around behind anyone's back, gathering signatures on a petition.

Per the hearing, I had asked if community members could ask questions and this was left unsaid.  I don't know if charter applicants can simply refuse to answer questions (and leave the community to just make comments on their plan) but I suspect that again, it would reflect poorly on any applicant that won't answer questions.

They seem to have narrowed the decision of their Executive Director down to a candidate from Oregon (they had an Executive Session on it) but it is unclear when any announcement may be made.

On a personal note, best wishes to Commissioner Trish Dziko who started the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) and runs the acclaimed TAF Academy in Federal Way for children of color.  She was married to her long-time partner, Jill Dziko, on Tuesday. 

17 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Excellent report Melissa!

I hope everyone comes to an accord and school starts with a renewed purpose.

Diamonds Under Pressure said...

I believe every teacher wants to start on time. However, with our last contract we made many concessions with the MGJ admin and have not been treated respectfully while we try to do our very best for students. (Please see the last contract for details.)

As every other American, we recognize that times are tough all the way around, however, as more and more downtown administrators are added, costing the district how much?, the district says there is very little they can do for us. Additionally, school budgets for supplies are tighter than ever, which are impacting what we can do for students. Needless to say the average teacher will spend the 2% the district is offering on supplies for their students.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Diamonds, the teacher will spend the 2% the district is offering to cover health insurance increases.

rk

Anonymous said...

What the district is saying regarding special services is not accurate. They have offered an additional 3 FTE for each of the ESA groups and while it will help they will not commit to needed caseload limits.

seattle ESA

Anonymous said...

Seattle ESA,

What's ESA? And which "special service"? And "caseload limits" for whom?

Moniker Confused

Anonymous said...

ESA = Education Service Associate. It is the catch-all for certificated (ie licensed by the state) non-supervisory (ie not administrators) staff other than teachers. School psychologists, counselors, physical and occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, audiologists, and school nurses. Special services the services they provide the kids, which are often special education services but are not necessarily just provided to students eligible for special education. Caseload reffers to the amount of students they are providing services to and expected to assess even if the student assessed doesn't end up getting services.

-SWED

Diamond under pressure said...

Rk,

Yeah, I forgot about that increase! ��

seattle citizen said...

Union is now recommending that rank and file reject the district's proposed contract. If members reject on monday, district might come up with another offer, in which case there would be another meeting/vote on Tuesday the 3rd.

Anonymous said...

I think a large part of what is happening is the result of years of neglect and abuse (MGJ, Enfield, prior Board neglect). I have been surprised at how several peer teachers I've spoken with are soooooo set to strike... some even stating we should have last contract. I am definitely bothered and will not vote for a strike despite my annoyance at some of the limited creativity of the district under Banda on the non-compensation (2%) proposals. I've really liked many things about Banda and am not holding him personally responsible entirely for this mess (I think he's inheriting ticked-off feelings) but still...

I was pleased the district pulled the ridiculous class-size increase proposal. 2% may not be great in consideration of all the other years of no COLA (including state reversed COLA's), but in this economy I'll live with it.

Can somebody help me understand how there is some $ from McCleary implementation (yes, I know less than there should have been but still sizeable) and yet the negotiations are reportedly going poorly enough that many peers are talking strike before we have even heard the end result of what we're voting on in 48 hours?

And just as I was going to post this link came up http://www.kuow.org/post/contract-talks-stall-between-seattle-teachers-and-district saying we're apparently really going to have an interesting Monday.

-- Voting Monday

Anonymous said...

So the district agreed to not increase class size, and give a raise and that STILL might not be good enough?

I dont have an in depth understanding of this, but a 7.5 hour SALARY day, benefits, and vacation and summers off sounds like a pretty damn sweet deal compared to what many of use are doing to make ends meet. Excuse my ignorance if I'm missing something here, but if this is the case then I'm rolling my eyes in a MAJOR way.

-Really

Diamond under pressure said...

Dear "Really",

FYI, while we get "summers off" we don't get paid during that time. A portion of our 10 month salary is kept each month by the district, who by the way makes interest on OUR money "paying us back" during the summer, on which they have made, not us, interest over the 12 months!

Secondly, you I can assure you that good teachers, whom I'm sure there are many in SPS, spend more than 7.5 hours working each day. We don't simply "forget" about the children, being able to turn off our "teacher" hat just because the end of the school day bell rang! And you can bet, good teachers spend many days in the "summer" working for "free" preparing for the next years students.

Finally, last I checked, not many jobs make the employee pay to keep their jobs. Nor do most jobs expect employees to use part of their salary to do their job to effectively serve their "customers". Yeah, I realize we don't have to, but then who'll suffer?...The children. And, yeah, we could have chosen a different profession, but many us were "meant" and "do" teach, inspire, and support children, who will one day grow up and make a difference in our society.

Anonymous said...

So don't strike, go to work and do the job you were hired to do. Nobody just forgets their job when the work day is over. Especially salary employees. If I told my boss I wasn't going to show up to do my job, I would expect not to have one when I decided to return. If the district has agreed to not increase class sizes and give teachers (a well deserved) raise, then I'd say that's a fair negotiation and be at work on time. No job is perfect but if teaching is your calling then you knew what the schedule and expectations are, and it's really a pretty great gig. So what is it about the contract that is still not being agreed upon?
-Really

Melissa Westbrook said...

I believe some of the issues in play are:
- extending the elementary day (and it is unclear to be if this is a longer day with pay or without extra pay)
- student measurements beyond state requirements
- and money

Anonymous said...

Many teachers will find that the proposed 2% raise is little raise at all when the increased health insurance premiums and deductibles are factored into the equation. For example, one colleague calculated that with a family of four and Group Health Options (one of the less expensive plans), his actual raise would be $18 per month. Not much of a raise.

For certified employees, remaining issues are the evaluation system, the extension of the work day for elementary school teachers, the amount of the pay increase, caseloads for ESAs, bilingual ratios, bonuses for hard-to-fill positions, special education training, and repurposing of sabbatical monies. Classified employees have their own sticking points.

If the SEA General Assembly rejects the district's contract offer, it does not mean that there will be a strike. We could continue under the old contract for months, while the two parties return to bargaining.

DWE

seattle citizen said...

Really - it's not really a "salary day" as teachers are under contract for a set time, which, in effect, makes them hourly. Of course they work beyond their contract hours....routinely. As noted (and discussed ad infinitum whenever the issue of teacher pay comes up) there are endless hours off-contract and in the summer.
Oh, and while yes, they get "vacations" when the students get them (December, Winter, Spring) some might argue that after weeks on end of high-pressure, "on-stage" days managing 25 or 150 students almost requires some breathing room...

Speaking of salaries, teachers are notoriously underpaid. Yes, after fifteen or twenty years one might make 60-70k and benefits, but there are other professions, with and without masters degrees, that routinely pay more. The last few years have seen a majority of voters vote to pay teachers more but have the legislature not fund that, and now the legislature is actually claiming it is "spending" a billion MORE on education by including the 300 million dollars it would have spent on teacher raises but spent elsewhere.
Teachers have languished in pay for years.

There are four other points of contention in the proposed contract, maybe of more concern than the pay:
Extra contract time added to elementary teachers work day (but NOT a longer day for students...bizarre);
Not enough pro development and other support for para-pros;
the district's insistence on using the old evaluation metric (for teachers)of district and state tests when there is a new state test coming and its efficacy is unclear ("Smarter Balance", based on Common Core)
and one other that I'm forgetting just now.

My take on the reasons the union is suggesting a "no" vote is that it's more about supporting colleagues: para-pros, elementary teachers, and those who fall under the two-test evaluation metric (which is NOT every teacher; only those who have students tested on MAP)
But the raise is also long overdue, and 2% is barely enough.

Anonymous said...

It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. - M. Twain.

WSDWG

authon said...

intelligent blog
commercial dispute resolution