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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Layoffs Have Started

UPDATE: Here is the link to the current proposals for the union contract between SEA and the district. As Charlie points out, the loss of 1 day for teachers, from 182 to 181 days, is not even in this document. I guess the district thinks they can just say it is so in a letter to teachers that was not received by all teachers and not sent in the manner proscribed by law.

I heard on KING at 6 p.m. that Seattle teachers have begun receiving layoff notices. A new story has also appeared on the Times website. From the story:

"District officials won't release the total number of layoffs until Wednesday, but confirmed they were in the process of notifying affected employees.

In addition to those laid off this week, the district earlier told another 33 teachers — those on what's called "provisional" contracts who are mostly in their first two years of teaching — that they'll be out of work in September."

A laid-off teacher at West Seattle High School says half her department received pink slips.

Also from the story:

"Other cuts under consideration include $4 million in central office staff."

Consideration? I thought they said they did cut staff (or was that just not filling jobs that were open?).

45 comments:

MapleLeafer said...

I wonder how Dr. Goodloe Johnson feels about accepting a 10% raise this year given how she is treating the teachers in Seattle. First, there were not going to be any RIF's and now there are. There wasn't any letter sent to teachers last Friday, and then there was. She's lost whatever credibility she had with me-- how can she continue to remain silent given what has happened to her credibility?

dan dempsey said...

About that 10% raise and the Seattle process

http://mathunderground.blogspot.com/2009/05/contract-language-in-sps.html

zb said...

The link doesn't work.

Jet City mom said...

^^it worked OK for me

I know that in past years- less seniority teachers have been "not rehired", but then in the fall rehired again when various funds came through.

Except for the ones that aren't because they took jobs elsewhere, that were more stable.

We lost a lot of good teachers that way.

seattle citizen said...

emeraldcity,
There is talk that this year is different: There might NOT be rehires, or nearly as many as in past years. Economy still falling (maybe), budget decimated...
People in the know seem to think its worse than ever before, and that rehires might not happen.
Sad but true. I hate to bring that up, because one hopes...But if that might be the reality, then everyone should start thinking about how the schools will "make do" with five or ten fewer staff members.

seattle citizen said...

For instance, who in their right mind would retire this year, with investments down, economy tanking...Who would switch jobs voluntarily, leaving the district for some unknown security?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Not one word from the district. There is not a press release nor any information on the News/Calendars page of the website.

Not even going to mention this to parents and what it means to our schools?

SolvayGirl said...

Losing teachers is bad enough, but losing Counselors can be devastating to schools with large high-risk populations. Teachers have a hard enough time wearing the many hats they do (teacher, social worker, surrogate parent) without having to add counselor to the stack.

seattle citizen said...

And IF there are few rehires, educators will have to teach much larger classes AND do the work of counselors (and heck, even serve lunch and tidy the restrooms, as the classified staff is also whittled down.)

Roy Smith said...

The way these layoffs are being done is a clear example of why I am extremely ambivalent about the usefulness of unions in white-collar fields (i.e., teaching).

If I am managing an organization and I have to lay people off, it seems obvious that I want to lay off the least effective employees and retain the most effective employees. Yet the union contract requires that those with the least seniority be laid off, regardless of the relative effectiveness of teachers.

The only way this makes sense is if one of two things are true:
1) Seniority and competence have a 100% positive correlation;
or 2) There is truly no way for a principal or anybody else to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers.

Does anybody think that either of these statements is unambiguously the case?

I know that who gets laid off is determined by teacher's contract provisions; all I am saying is that the contract doesn't necessarily do anything to further the goals of public education, and it seems to me that some contract provisions may actively hinder the ability of schools to improve education.

Sue said...

I concur. There has to be a better way.

Jet City mom said...

If I am managing an organization and I have to lay people off, it seems obvious that I want to lay off the least effective employees and retain the most effective employees. Yet the union contract requires that those with the least seniority be laid off, regardless of the relative effectiveness of teachers.I have seen it work this way- in the past when principals want a certain teacher in the building, but someone else interested in the job has more seniority.
They have crafted the job description to include certain qualifications of the desired staff or add other things to make it less desirable to others.
Sounds awkward but in the past it has been more successful- I believe hiring practices have changed however- at least I have the impression that it depends on the principal and their relationship with the district.

Other companies with unions may do the same thing- during his decades at Boeing, my H has been retained in many cases because he was shifted to a shop that didn't have as many layoffs and his job classification was changed so it was not as desirable to others.

The trade off is- he kept his job- but despite his 25 years of specialized & high security clearance work, his pay grade is roughly what it was when he began.

If he hadn't been in the union- its probable that some would be paid less- but its also probable that highly productive and competent workers would be more recognized.

Mr. Edelman said...

I think it's a mistake to make seniority the only factor (within category) in deciding whom to lay off. The only thing odder is the way that Seattle Public Schools handles its displacements and layoffs.

Here's my story. In February, I was displaced because the funding for my program was expected to disappear with cuts in I-728 funding. I then entered the "displacement pool" where I was eligible to apply for jobs in phase 1 hiring.

Right before phase 1 hiring, the district used LAP money it had previously given to buildings and decided to use it to partially fund my program. As a consequence, I applied and interviewed for the job I now have, only at 60% of full-time. I was offered and accepted this job, with the understanding (in writing) that I could jump up to full-time if more funding materialized.

Then I was informed that I wasn't highly qualified to teach in my position and I had to come up with a plan in three workdays. I spent hours researching what to do and coming up with a plan that would satisfy HR and NCLB.

Then this week I was informed I was RIF'd. So now I've lost the job I had just accepted after having lost it. But it's possible that no senior person will want my job because it's only part-time. In which I case I can apply for it second time this spring or summer.

I've heard claims that SPS is improving the hiring process. Oh, how? In addition, I've heard that SPS wants to get better at retaining successful teachers. Really?

This is a difficult time to transition back to private schools, but my wife did it. She now has a better-paying job with better benefits at a stable private school. I am a good teacher who gets results. I know that my principal will do whatever he can to retain me. However, his options are limited by the seniority system, and even if they weren't, I have to consider whether I really want to continue with this school district. I love my students, but there are wonderful students everywhere who need a good education. If I have the opportunity to leave SPS for a better job, why would I stay?

BullDogger said...

The teachers union is an out of date model for professionals. EmeraldKity mentions the Boeing union but the IAM is a poor comparison. SPEEA, Boeing's professional union lives under a system of merit based rankings performed every year. These rankings affect the layoff order while a similar process drives the percent of the wage raise pool an individual receives. Its a good system for something as important as designing safe airplanes.

SEA/WEA could learn a lot from SPEEA. The industrial union model is totally inappropriate for teachers because it feeds off members fear, not their attributes. In the end our kids lose. Do educated kids mean as much to us as safe airplanes?

rugles said...

If I am managing an organization and I have to lay people off, it seems obvious that I want to lay off the least effective employees and retain the most effective employeesOr, for example, you may be making millions managing Circuit City, in which case you layoff your more expensive employees, effective or not, and replace them with ineffective but inexpensive employees. It seems obvious that you then will quit/be fired shortly thereafter, and receive a nice severance, bonus and sundry gifts and prizes.

Management unencumbered by a union is no guarantee of anything. I am certainly more "ambivalent" right now towards SPS management than I am the teachers and their union.

BullDogger said...

Rugles said...
"Management unencumbered by a union is no guarantee of anything."

Guarantees are a fantasy. The steel workers learned that in the eighties and the UAW is learning it now. Fear, driven by those hoped for "guarentees" is what holds a union like the SEA/WEA together. Fear of the review process or the standardized test makes even the best teachers gather with the herd. Teachers are professionals not factory workers. A college education doesn't dictate their value but rather individual abilities and contributions in the classroom.

Management can be a mostly reasonable process as many successful industries have shown. The education industry though is years behind others. In Seattle, the cost of their outdated model will now be paid by the rest of us. Good teachers losing their jobs or being underpaid. Poor teachers continuing to educate our kids. I don't get why most parents buy into this?

anonymous said...

Sadly, I opened my email this afternoon and had received this letter from Shoreline Schools:

This week 29 of our valued members (21 FTE) in the Shoreline family received letters that formally non-renew their contracts with the Shoreline School District for 2009-10. I personally delivered six of those letters and know first-hand that there are real people, with amazing professional and personal skills, whose lives are negatively impacted by this required reduction in our work force (RIF). We all deeply regret that this action was necessary.

The $3.5+ million reduction in Shoreline’s state funding for 2009-2010, in combination with our declining enrollment, makes it necessary for the District to reduce its staffing. We are very frustrated because the 2009-2010 school year was to be the first year in a long time that the District would be able to spend all of our revenue on programs and staff. Our reserve account was finally restored this year.

When faced with a need to reduce staffing numbers, the District hoped that the resignations, leaves and retirements at the end of the year would accommodate the downsizing required. This was unfortunately not the case in Shoreline. In fact, our attrition rate this year was abnormally low with only a few staff providing notice that they did not intend to return. A few districts around us, although reducing the number of staff members for 2009-2010, have been able to avoid a RIF with natural attrition.

Another difference between Shoreline and many other districts is that “provisional contracts” under the Shoreline collective bargaining agreement must receive the formal notice. Without this difference, Shoreline would likely have been able to avoid all RIF notices.

Whatever the reasons, the District is sincerely distressed by the need to reduce its staff. The determination of those certificated staff to be retained was made on the basis of certification/endorsement, and seniority, in that order, according to the collective bargaining agreement with our Association. We hope over time to be able to offer our qualified staff who have been negatively impacted in this situation an opportunity to return.

Very sincerely,
Sue Walker
Superintendent, Shoreline School District

ParentofThree said...

What a difference in tone from the SPS superindent's communication. And hand delivering RIF notices. Wow.

It's sad that Shoreline is reducing staff, but you can tell that Ms. Walker does loose sleep at night.

MathTeacher42 said...

BullDogger,
I'll NOT defend the seniority system. However, your claims about management personnel management are nonsense.

In exactly which American industry has management done more than grow and protect some government supported oligopoly while treating employees like kleenex and charmin, while justifying their place at the head of the goodies line, and while taking the biggest piece of the goodie pile regardless of performance?

The steel industry? The dinosaur electric industry? The auto industry? The banking /finance business ... (HA HA HA HA!!) The software and hardware business?

Put away Uncle Miltie, unless you're 1 of Uncle Miltie's Chicago buddies who are fabously compesated for being synchophants to the management.

BullDogger said...

Mathteacher42...

I'm not a socialist and yes I have worked quite hard for some of the industries you mention (and several others). Our country, our world, our education system is a work in progress. Hard times give us motive and opportunity to question those customs that don't work anymore.

You say you won't defend the seniority system. Is that because you too feel it fails to serve children? On that I sense we may agree.

Mommasnark said...

This is exactly why I teach at a private school. The union nonsense (and I used to be a rep at a public school) combined with the ridiculous hiring process and policies in Seattle keeps me far, far away.

But I really WANT to teach in public schools. I'm waiting for a good reason to return.

Jet City mom said...

This is a good point from another board- about rehiring/hiring teachers right before school starts.

The discovery method can be very valuable, but it needs to be reinforced by more traditional methods. The teacher needs to be able to guide the students so that not too much time is wasted and to get the students to get the right answer, and to do some practicing. One study of the drawbacks of the discovery method suggested that even when teachers receive training in how to teach a new curriculum when it is introduced, later hires are not similarly trained. Given the high turnover among teachers, this is a real concern. This is especially true for k-8 teachers who are often generalists and must familiarize themselves not only with the math curriculum but also the social studies/humanities and science curriculum.

We once hired a teacher in mid-August for an early September start time and she had to devote most of her time familiarizing herself with our social studies curriculum, leaving no time to learn how to teach science and math. This is a very common occurrence.
And when are the teachers going to get time to get caught up to speed on the rest of the curriculum?

Unknown said...

Any one know the answers to these questions?

How many of the layoffs are going to be filled from the displaced pool (presumably full of people who worked at a closed school) and how many actual positions were eliminated?

How many layoffs were classroom teachers as opposed to certs who weren't teaching?

How many downtown staff positions were eliminated? How many admin?

owlhouse said...

Anyone know where I can find a list of schools with RIFed teachers? I'm wondering which schools are impacted.

seattle citizen said...

Anyone know
1) how many (and what kind) of certs were displaced for next year during closures/program movement in winter;
2) how many OTHER certs were recently displaced, including the first-year non-renewed (because the combined total of this round of RIFs PLUS the non-renewed one-year contracts equals the "holes" to be filled in schools
3) Do displaced staff from closed/moved programs (winter's round) have super-seniority rights over "regular" RIF certs? In other words, can a displaced cert with less seniority than a RIFfed cert have precedance in a given job?

I've been hearing the figure of 170 circulating for the RIFs. I'd imagine there are over 100 additional non-renewal of provisional contract (first year certs, not included in RIF) for a total of 270 positions.
I'd guess the closure/movement of programs, plus certs cut from non-teachig positions led to some...250-350 displaced staff....

So: in theory, the cert holes might be filled by displaced staff, and might be part of the reason for the RIF, to find places for displaced staff.
The questions will be:
Do displaced certs have precedence?
Is there an equal amount of empty positions in EACH CATEGORY (ie elementary, MS, HS LA etc....

From all I've been hearing, this round of cuts is the worst in years, and unlike in previous years, there won't be a lot of rehires.

seattle citizen said...

The biggest shame, AFTER the loss of so many wonderful staff members (and how many NON-cert people have lost jobs? Anyone know?) the biggest shame is that some schools/departments have lost their TEAMS: if half of an LA department is lost, then it will take years to rebuild the department. Look at WSHS: they lost half their department INCLUDING their department head.

How long will it take to rebuild the teams of/in schools?

Roy Smith said...

In most professions requiring levels of education similar to or greater than teaching requires, unionization is a rare exception, not the rule. Why is this the case?

Maureen said...

Roy Maybe because of the monolithic nature of the employer? I would need to pull out my Econ 101 notes, but isn't there something about monopoly/monopsony balance in employment? There is not significant competition amongst various employers for the teachers' specialized labor (private schools are small) to ensure that employees are paid their true market value, so the employees organize to make that more likely--balancing their economic power against the monopoly hiring power of the School Districts.

Are there any comparable industry structures we can compare this to? Maybe the Federal Government in DC--but there the employees' skills aren't specialized--private companies compete for their labor. Nurses are often unionized (specialized skills, limited number of employers per geographic area)--that supports my theory!

seattle citizen said...

It could well have something to do with the public ethos - while educators are a diverse bunch, they work for a public institution. Public institutions are, by their nature, socialistic. Socialistic systems tend towards collectivism....

Yikes, where did THAT come from?!

Charlie Mas said...

I think that teachers need the protection of a collective bargaining unit because there is no accepted objective measure of the quality of their work. Consequently they need protection from the subjective - and possibly biased - persecution by an individual manager.

They also need the protection because their employer doesn't make a profit or have a bottom line. Consequently the employer has every economic incentive to put the lowest cost employee to work. Why would a school have an experienced teacher at $80,000 per year when they could have two inexperienced teachers at $40,000 per year each? Or, better still, one inexperienced teacher at $40,000 per year?

The experienced teacher is paid more but doesn't generate any more revenue, and therefore does not make economic sense. It is only with the protection of a professional association that experienced teachers can earn higher salaries and keep their jobs.

seattle citizen said...

nice analysis, Charlie. Makes sense to me.

seattle citizen said...

Oh, and I read somewhere that the recent RIF effects about 170 certs, which I'd known, but also about 59 classifieds. FYI

Unknown said...

Hm. Most of my working life has been as a union member (government jobs), some strong unions, some completely nominal, no power. I personally think unions are not necessary for cert. employees. I have been far more impressed with gov. agencies where merit was the crucial factor rather than years of service. I personally think that organizations value their cultures, and if (from the top down) a culture of merit is created, then the org follows suit and does not lay off peopl simply due to seniority. Rather, top officials argue to budget directors to keep what they value. I have seen this in action in quality gov. agencies. I have also seen the reverse-- governmental systems in which the bad seeds are completely entrenched. Do we really believe that the organization would fire quality teachers with many years experience just to hire a few more less experienced workers? By the way, plenty of fed and state employment laws prevent such actions. Do we need to be so paternalistic that we cannot allow merit to enter our considerations?

Unknown said...

So, let's say you have a staff of 12 teachers, and you are very lucky in that they're all really good, which by the way is more the norm than most people think. They have their individual strengths and they collaborate and work very well together. But you have to lay one off. The two relatively weak teachers (and only relatively and also subjectively, since each teacher has his/her supporters and detractors) are a first year teacher and someone who's been teaching for 15 years and is at the top of the pay scale. Whom do you fire?

seattle citizen said...

And...
"Rather, top officials argue to budget directors to keep what they value."
So...a principal values staff that shuts up, whether its about having to do direcdt instruction 24/7, or about how the principal sits all day in her/his office, or about how the principal makes decisions...
My point is that this is very personality-based, very subjective. Sure a good principal can then retain the staff he/she wants, but a bad principal can do the same thing.
You might argue that that's just life, that in many workplaces we serve at the whim of our boss, crazy or not, but this doesn't strike me as either fair or good education.
"Merit" is the issue: Can we start a thread on how we might usefully determine teacher performance?

Unknown said...

The whole idea of merit pay is a red herring for so many reasons. Here are a few.
1) There are already procedures in place for determining the performance level of teachers.
2) Most teachers are performing very well in very difficult situations. Will there be an unlimited pot of money available to reward them all? I didn't think so.
3) Teaching is a difficult and stressful profession. There is very little respect given to teachers, which is reflected in the low pay and general attitude that teachers need people who have never taught to show them how to teach. We teachers rely a lot on support from and collaboration with our peers. Start pitting teachers against each other and see what that does to the system.
4) There's a lot of lip service given to the idea that children are the most important thing of all. But it's just lip service. Start paying teachers what you say they're worth -- all of them -- and the best and the brightest will start going for their education degrees. In other words, the powers that be should start putting their money wherein lie their mouths.

Roy Smith said...

Charlie, your argument for collective bargaining for teachers is based on the supposition that managers cannot be trusted to fairly make subjective evaluations of their employees. It seems to me that if I can't trust a principal to fairly evaluate the teachers that work for him or her, there is no way on earth that I would trust that principal to make disciplinary decisions about the behavior of my children, but that is in fact clearly part of their job description.

Mary, your argument is based on the fact that our society has equated respect with pay scale. There is a certain amount of unfortunate reality in this assessment, but I think a reasonable case can be made that respect and salary levels need not be 100% correlated.

In general, I think teachers are adequately paid. What they do not get is adequate respect from parents or the larger community for the work they do. When I was in high school, I considered going into teaching, but I decided not to pursue it. That decision had absolutely nothing to do with money - it had everything to do with the fact that I saw middle school and high school teachers that put up with an incredible amount of grief from some parents (usually the parents of disruptive and problem students) who felt that their kids were being treated unfairly by the teachers.

Besides that, if somebody doesn't want to teach now, but would teach if the pay scale were some percentage higher (with no other changes in the working conditions), I would seriously question if that person is somebody I would want teaching my children. I want my children to be taught by people who love teaching, not those who are primarily motivated by money.

We might attract some more of "the best and brightest" if the career paid more - but if their motivation is money rather than love of teaching, have we really gained anything?

seattle citizen said...

"We might attract some more of "the best and brightest" if the career paid more - but if their motivation is money rather than love of teaching, have we really gained anything?"
Ummm...can't their motivation include both? This seems awfully close to the "they don't care about the money; they're in it for the LOVE OF CHILDREN!" argument.
Doesn't this suppose that educators are economic idiots, with nary a thought about the mortgage, the cost of a masters degree, the cost of raising their OWN children?
We hear this argument every time educators or the community asks for more money: They got into the field because of their love of the students...why are they interested in mere money?

Unknown said...

So, keep 'em low-paid and lovin' it? Like barefoot and pregnant? Hmmm... As someone else said, it's one of the last female-dominated professions.
Yes, a lot of teachers are in the profession because they love children, including their own. It doesn't mean they should be encouraged to be martyrs to a cause. If teachers were suddenly as well-paid as other professions (not holding my breath here) people would not get into the profession if they loved money and disliked children. If they didn't have the good sense to choose another career that didn't include children, they would certainly be weeded out during the teacher training/student teacher process.

Roy Smith said...

From this article:

A first year teacher in Seattle will earn $42,005. A teacher with a master's degree and experience (the article doesn't specify how much) will earn $79,716.I am a college graduate with a technical degree and 14 years of highly marketable experience. I have worked in professional positions since college, and as a new college graduate, I earned considerably less than $42,000 per year, even after adjusting for inflation. Now, I earn a little over $60,000 annually. I have adequate income to live in a decent neighborhood in Seattle, support a family with a stay-at-home spouse, and not ever worry about my financial situation.

I could have picked different career tracks (on multiple occasions) where I would now be earning twice what I am now, but I made some conscious career decisions to do things that I enjoy doing rather than things that would maximize income. It seems to me that teachers are making (consciously or not) the same sort of decisions. And so yes, I think teachers are adequately paid. If money is so important to them that they are unwilling to accept the trade-off, then they should find another career.

Teachers are correct about one thing - they don't get the respect they deserve. But as far as I am concerned, money does not equal respect, and I don't see how throwing more money at them is going to make up for lack of respect, or how it is going to entice in people, like myself, who stay away from teaching because of the lack of respect.

Unknown said...

Roy -- Well, to be fair, teachers made a lot less 15 years ago too. I don't have a salary schedule from that far back, but 10 years ago a beginning teacher made just a little over $23,000.
But if you're living well and supporting a family on $60,000 (not your take-home, I assume) then you have my respect. That's just about what I make and I live a no-frills life and still have trouble making ends meet.

seattle citizen said...

Roy, your points are well-taken; educators aren't horribly underpaid (tho' that could change during these current negotiations)

Keep in mind that very few teachers have merely a BA. The expectation is that they get a masters (it was, briefly, required until they figured out the difficulty) and masters degrees can cost 30-40,000, which many people put on a student loan, thus incurring another monthly deduction from take-home.
A teachers with JUST a BA, your level of credential, would top out at...43,000 per year, that's it.
(see: http://www.seattleschools.org/area/hr/sal/cert.pdf)
Without a masters but with additional college credit, certs top out at 58,000.

I'm very impressed that you can make do with just one income of60,000: After taxes, that's maybe 45,000
divide by 12 = about 3,700

low-ball, bare-bones expenses -
Home mortgage: 1500
Home insurance: 200
Home repair: 200
Home taxes: 300
Food for four: 400
Utilities: 300
Cable/phone: 40
internet: 30
clothes for four: 100
transportation: 100
child's college fund: 100
= 3270
pretty tight....

Roy Smith said...

Lots of people get by on a lot less than my family does in Seattle. From Wikipedia, the median income for a family in Seattle is $62,195 (I don't know what their source is), so about half the families in the city are getting by on less than my family is. And I don't see how expenses of $3,270 on an income of $3,700 is tight - that sounds like over $400 a month into the savings to me.

The secret is to not buy a ridiculously overpriced house, and instead rent until the real estate market comes back down to affordability. With a little shopping around, I get the following by renting instead of owning:
** No loss of quality of life or stability.

** None of the hassles of property ownership (taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc. - those are the landlord's problem).

** A much better cash flow situation - my housing costs are almost exactly half of those mentioned above, and it is not at all unusual to find houses for rent where the monthly rent is less than half the monthly ownership costs for an equivalent house.

** The ability to relocate on fairly short notice with minimal hassle if you need to. It's much less stressful to worry about having enough time to get the furniture packed than to worry about if you'll be able to sell the house.

** No worries about negative equity when the housing market crashes.

I have both owned and rented, and been a landlord as well. I sold my house in 2005, and have been happily renting ever since.

Unknown said...

"And I don't see how expenses of $3,270 on an income of $3,700 is tight - that sounds like over $400 a month into the savings to me."
Are you serious? What about birthday presents, medical and dental costs (they're not all covered, are they?), the occasional evening out, pizza night, the washing machine breaks, etc. etc.
That said, I think you were smart to get out of home ownership when you did. I thought about it and didn't do it. Now I wish I had.

seattle citizen said...

"the median income for a family in Seattle is $62,195 (I don't know what their source is), so about half the families in the city are getting by on less than my family is."
Sooo...do we want the educators of our children to be in the top half or the bottom half of the pay scale?
Many, if not most, have masters degrees...