Thursday, September 03, 2015

Seattle Schools and the Teachers Contract: Where Are We?

Update: District Communications says "there are no negotiations today (Thursday), the union suspended them.  We are willing to meeting with them anytime."

End of update.

Here's the latest, somewhat terse message from the Superintendent:

The Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and Seattle Education Association (SEA) are negotiating to achieve a new collective bargaining agreement.
SEA represents our educators, substitutes, paraprofessionals, instructional assistants and office professionals. The current contract with SEA expired Tuesday and school is scheduled to start next Wednesday.
We are optimistic for an agreement because both SEA and SPS want the same thing; excellent teachers who receive competitive compensation to provide quality instruction time with students. 
The link has all the updates from the Superintendent as well as negotiating documents.  
The district says  that a mediator has been brought in but the negotiations do not resume until Friday.  The SEA Facebook pages says "bargaining continues."  I have a call into the district to clarify this issue.
Today, the SEA will meet as a group downtown at Benaroya Hall.
WHAT: SEA General membership meeting to vote on a tentative agreement or to vote on a strike
WHEN: Sept. 3, Registration begins at 3PM, meeting starts at 5PM
WHERE: Benaroya Hall, Third & University, Downtown Seattle
Note: there is a Seahawks game today so that should be quite the commute in and around downtown.
(I will note that in the documents discussing Building Leadership Teams - which parents/community can be on - that parents and community are pretty much left out in the cold and it is entirely up to the principal.  The wording (right now) is that parents/community members "shall" (not 'must") be appointed to BLTs ("as appropriate"). 
I think this is wrong, wrong, wrong.  Parents are a huge part of how well any school works and, of course, vital to its well-being.  As well, if any conflict arises between the BLT and other groups in that school community, BLT trumps.  
Which confirms my belief that PTAs are virtually toothless in any kind of power structure within their school communities.  Except, of course, when it comes to money and then the principal has his/her hand out.  Parents, you basically have one power and that's the power of the purse.  Consider that for the future.


Anonymous said...

My personal experience with the BLT is parental/community rep role and influence has been chipped away for a while now. Even if the school allotted a parental/community seat, it's more an observer's role and the person is chosen by the staff anyway. Perhaps they just want to codify the changes to reflect the reality. The PTA is good for fundraising/donations and provider of volunteers and chaperones when needed + good PR outlet for building community spirit and school communication.


mirmac1 said...

In contract-ese "shall" means "must"

Anonymous said...

BLT as a place for input has become a joke! The PTA at our school was removed from the BLT and has no input into anything that takes place at the school. The PTA is now functioning as a booster group and should probably re-organize as one instead of using the PTA's name.

N by NW

Anonymous said...

@NW, I think that is wrong, PTAS are a huge parent of how well any school works and, of course, vital to funding. As well, if any conflict arises in the BLT the PTSA sometimes can help calm things down. PTSAs do quite often become dysfunctional as the case with the current SPED PTSA.


Joseph Rockne said...

I am on the BLT team at Whitman. This will be my third year. Every year we try to have at least one parent from each grade. But it is always difficult to find parents willing to put in the time.

I express my views and opinions and believe I have been a reasonably valuable member of the team.

I have also learned a tremendous amount about the school and how it operates in the district.

If you want to know how your school operates within the school district, I can't imagine a better seat.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ex-PTA, of course PTAs are part of how a school work. They raise money and provide volunteers. Do they truly have any input on how the school runs? Not in my experience (and that conveyed to me from parents around the district). Is that much help to a school worth it to parents who, in the end, may have no say over a new principal or how the PTA dollars are spent? Each parent (and PTA) has to ask itself that question.

Ex-PTA, on what do you base your opinion that SPed PTA is "dysfunctional?"

Joe, I'm glad you have that experience. But again, I hear from parents who are frustrated that only PTA Board members are on the BLT or no parents at all. I believe that is wrong.

Anonymous said...

I've been on our PTA board and always understood our BLT to be only Principal/senior staff and PTA president. That said, I've also been involved in a couple of committees that were important to our school and our princpal is very good and good at soliciting parent/PTA input. But, formalizing the relationships would be good.

What would be even better would be a governor-style approach common in the UK, where schools - even state schools - have a board of governors who take an active role in running the school: budget, strategy, and ultimately the principal reports to them. PTA there is a lot more "junior" and does small fundraisers/rah-rah spirit stuff, but the nitty-gritty of management is much more collaborative between the governors and principal (governors usually are a mix of appointees and parent reps who are elected by the parent body. Appointees are usually local professionals with some area of expertise, eg, employment law, accountancy, etc.) I prefer this approach because it provides safeguards against bad principals in a way that is much harder to address here.

But I digress. Perhaps parent involvement in BLT is something that should be raised as an issue in the board elections?


Eric B said...

"We are willing to meet with them any time."

Are they willing to show up on time for scheduled meetings?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Eric B, you're right to catch the irony of their wording. They're unable to state,

"We are willing to meet with them on time."


Anonymous said...

The media is not on the teachers side, KUOW basically called the SPS teachers "greedy".

Not Good

Anonymous said...

Ms. Westbrook,

Thank you for the things you do, but I don't have the time to delve into the myriad of issues concerning the SPED PTSA. For your part, I have been to 25 or more SPED PTSA meetings and 10 or so SEAAC meetings and I don't recall having seen you at any of them. I'm sure if you took some time to investigate the group your answer would reveal itself.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Ex-PTA, I have been to Sped PTA meetings but no, not in a long time. I attend so many meetings in so many locations, it is impossible for me to be everywhere.

But as an ex-PTA Board member and president, I would ask you to not flame-throw on another PTA if you don't want to back it up. It's not fair and you would like another PTA attacking yours.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Westbrook,

At one point the SPED PTSA had over 200 members, now that number is down to less than 30 with most being SPS staff members. Need I say more?


Anonymous said...

Does anyone understand what the difference is between SPS and the union regarding "equity and disproportionality"? SPS points to this as an issue where the two are far apart, and links to the respective proposals. Both proposals seem like opaque schemes to dispatch the issue to endless committee meetings, and it's impossible to tell what either side intends related to the issue, or what they disagree about.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ex-PTA, I'm not going to engage in this kind of speculation - there could be many reasons for why membership is down. If you know those state them or again, do not disparage other PTAs.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it Shoreline got a ~20% increase over 3 years in their agreement today. Yes, their pay scale is much lower than Seattle's so they had much more to make up, but I still don't think the 21% SEA is asking for is unreasonable, especially given the district wants them to work an extra 30 minutes...for free. How many years of COLA have they missed - 9? 11? I've lost several teacher friends to the east side of the mountains lately because they could no longer afford to live in Seattle on their (single) salary and pay the exorbitant rents - $1400 -$1600/month for a studio? Ridiculous!
And given the disdain and disrespect the district administrators have shown towards their own teachers by not showing up for bargaining meetings, or showing up many hours late, I fully support the teachers in whatever they vote to do.


Anonymous said...

"SEA General membership meeting to vote on a tentative agreement or to vote on a strike"
There is no tentative agreement to vote on. The membership voted to strike if there is no tentative agreement by the first day of school.

Nyland sure knows how to pen press releases with plenty of spin. “Our goal is a contract which honors, respects and pays our educators....”