Seattle Schools Needs to Listen to OTs

Better Bargaining Needed Now for ALL in Seattle Public Schools!

The Seattle teacher's strike is very much in the news and for important reasons - but there is much more to the story that needs to be told. For years, the Occupational Therapists (OTs), Physical Therapists (PTs), and Speech Therapists (SLPs) in the district have been working without contractual caseload limits in place, unlike in other districts, where corresponding increases in staff hiring occurs regularly along with increases in student population in order to maintain manageable workloads and satisfactory levels of Special Education (SpEd) service provision. Several years ago, a lack of adequately providing such services in Seattle and meeting the legal compliance standards involved led to the filing of many complaints by parents and the eventual intervention by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) which is still currently underway.
Despite the significant external sources of encouragement to make real and lasting improvements in service delivery for its special needs students, both the district and the union have been too slow to address the real basis for the problems - insufficient staffing levels given the amount of work involved. Even though a process was identified and put into the last contract to identify the caseload limit size for each discipline mentioned, and such was done, both the district and the union have elected to now treat the issue as if it has not already been addressed and, as a formality, need only to be put into the contract and implemented. Instead, they have re-engaged in a back and forth process over the caseload size matter that has currently led to proposals that exceed the already agreed to numbers and which allows for the further perpetuation of poor service delivery to SpEd students who deserve better and more by now. For all practical intent and purpose, the previous identification of caseload sizes for therapists was to have allowed for the sufficient staffing necessary and to have in place before the beginning of the school year and, despite that now not being possible, such dedicated efforts do not warrant abandoning.

What therapists need in order to do their jobs is to have this matter concluded and settled based on the agreed to numbers, not some new arbitrarily derived caseload amounts to be "worked towards" based on some vague allegations of what is considered as affordable or not within the district's overall budget. Therapists also desperately need to experience some form of demonstrated assurance that both the district and the union are now willing to start keeping their promises with them and treat them as respected and valued employees who will be receiving the same level of supports and protections they are entitled to and which are provided to all other dues paying members. There also needs to be an immediate end to considering and treating SpEd students and the services they require as being mere bargaining chips to be traded off in lieu of attempts to try and attain other priorities, such as staff raises which, while important, should not be considered as something to even be put on the same scale of required working condition provisions to be measured against each other. These services are legally required and not something to be considered as optional to be "working towards" their eventual full provision. If other districts can exercise the means and effort necessary to meet these basic obligations to their students by providing and maintaining reasonable workloads for their SpEd service providers then so, too, must Seattle. And, just as class size matters so much to the union for their teachers then so, too, does caseload size need to matter for their therapists.

For those who would like to help encourage this process of improving SpEd service provision for Seattle's students, please take the time to immediately contact some or all of the very accomplished and influential individuals below and share your thoughts on the matter regarding establishing therapist caseload limits and treating their employees more fairly. There is a continual learning process occurring for all of us and, especially with limited resources, it is vital that we understand and appreciate just how important the issues are to you and what needs to be considered as basically non-negotiable deal breaker priorities. It's obviously imperative that we need to create a collaborative contract that makes sense for ALL of our students and educators and not continue to waste precious time and energy with more backwards and bad faith forms of bargaining. The students deserve our best sincere and dedicated efforts on their behalf and, especially with the financial resources now more available than ever, we need to end once and for all what really constitutes discriminatory and abusive treatment of certain classifications of employees and the students they need to serve. In order to do so, let's now formalize and implement what's already been settled in terms of the caseload limits and start the reboot process of establishing more respectful, productive, and effective working relationships between all the members of our educational community, including those between our district and union teammates. Already agreed to caseloads now!

Kevin Hiniker, M.Ed., OTR/L
Occupational Therapist
Seattle Public Schools


Anonymous said…
Definitely, yes! But don't forget school psychologists, because even though we don't generally get to provide ongoing services to specific students, it takes time to do thorough comprehensive evaluations, which often include efforts by OTs, PTs and SLPs.

-A Psych
Anonymous said…
A-Psych , really ? thorough comprehensive? I think most of our local clinical psychologist would thank SPS for huge amount of IEEs and private evaluations sent their way.

Spare me
KG said…
It is great that Inslee does not Support Carter Schools but he did support the Boeing destruction of McCleary where they heisted 8 billion in taxes to be paid to the state
along with another 3.2 billion in 2003-2005 bi-ennium. This is about 18-20% Cola's lost to this facist take over of out Legislature or should I say the 1%'s Legislature. ALl school employees should be receiving this and class sizes reduced.
Overwhelmingly the public votes for education funding and then the Legislature get owned by the Oligarch's. Then we get a strike, which arguably should happen more often based on the before-mentioned shenanigan's.This Boeing decision sure hamper's the ability to fully fund education especially sine we are in the mid 40's in funding education on a state for state basis. Shame on the Legislature and shame on the Seattle School Board. Two of the Board members are Boeing managers. I doubt they told their corporate employer that this was shameful behavior since their positions were probably part bank rolled by their owners. It is all about the children Ms. Carr and Mr. Martin Morris, isn't it? Has any body listened to Bernie Sanders lately? This is a fine example of the Control the 1% has everywhere. Let's stop it. Go Bernie!!!!!!!!!!!!!
n said…
I support the needs of sped, OTs, and any other group that has been left out over the last decade. The district and our union have left too many loose ends for far too long. Perhaps this will be the time to devote to looking at our schools and their needs more closely. I hope so.
monkeypuzzled said…
Thank you for this post, Kevin. And thanks to the SPS OTs who have made such a difference in my child's education.
Anonymous said…
Here's another example I just found buried as I am reading the week's posts. This is what I mean about the lack of value add from downtown that completely sinks any hope that I or the parents I know will support our district administration when it gets down to the nitty gritty. Read this people. It deserves its own non-strike thread. This is madness.


Can I vent about our elementary math curriculum? I know most of the focus is on the strike as it should be, but I want to put a spotlight on what the SPS math dept has done with our elementary school math curriculum. Do you remember a year ago we got a new math curriculum called Math In Focus? It was bit of a kerfuffle. The SPS board got involved. Many parents wanted Math In Focus, SPS administrators did not want Math In Focus, teachers came down on all sides of the issue. Anyway, that is the curriculum that the district bought for elementary schools.

Last year I implemented the curriculum. It's time consuming to learn, teach, and differentiate a new curriculum at the same time, but that is just how it is. At the end of the year I was looking forward, now that I really knew the curriculum, to going deeper in the new school year. I had a good sense of where to move faster, where to slow down, where to supplement, etc.

Guess what! The SPS math dept. has decided to write its own math curriculum. Yes, you heard me right. We are all REQUIRED to use it unless your school gets a waiver. The reason they are doing this is supposedly because Math In Focus is missing part of the Common Core standards. So instead of providing supplementation to the curriculum which is much more efficient and easier for teachers to handle and teach, they are creating a new Scope and Sequence document with new lessons attached. The Scope and Sequence document outlines the sequence and timing in which you need to teach mathematical concepts. The sequence is not a problem for my grade-level, but our 4th and 5th grade teachers think the sequence is awful; makes no sense mathematically.

The worse part is how they expect you to do this. I'm supposed to teach one lesson from one of the chapters and the next day one lesson from a different chapter and then the day after find an on-line link and teach that. WHAT!! To top it off, there are no assessments and they haven't even finished writing the curriculum. I have to wait until they finish writing the curriculum before I can look ahead to see what we're doing next.

It's awful! The reason why they say they haven't finished writing the curriculum is because there are only two of them in the math dept. (As an aside, I am NOT advocating hiring more downtown staff but if the math, ELA, and science depts. don't have many staff, WHAT ARE ALL THOSE PEOPLE THEY KEEP HIRING DOWNTOWN DOING?!)

Thanks for listening to my vent. The cynical part of me thinks that the math dept is purposely undermining a math curriculum they never wanted in the first place, but who knows!
Frustrated Teacher
Frustrated, please send this to the Board -
dw said…
the Boeing destruction of McCleary where they heisted 8 billion in taxes to be paid to the state

This Boeing decision sure hamper's the ability to fully fund education especially sine we are in the mid 40's in funding education on a state for state basis.

Really? Hyperbole much, KG?

It's ~$8.7b of breaks over 25 years. That's about $350m each year. Not insignificant, but people get irrational when they start hearing huge numbers. Repeated for the sake of getting it across: this is over a 25 Year Period.

But more importantly, do you think that if the incentives were not implemented that our state would magically have $8.7b in their coffers? That's the impression you give, and it's so far wrong I'm hardly sure where to start.

Boeing has already been slowly moving out of our area. You do know their headquarters haven't been here since 2001, right? Executive management has no attachment or sentiment associated with this region at all, and if the economics don't make sense to keep their engineering and manufacturing here in our area, they'll move in a heartbeat -- or at least as quickly as feasible, it does take time. In theory, this locks Boeing into our region for another 25 years.

What happens to the state revenue equation if Boeing packs up and leaves?

According to the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, the incentives impacted the state’s tax revenues positively and negatively. Washington would have lost 190,000 jobs over 20 years. Staying in Washington and adding jobs to build the 787 would result in 14,000 new jobs, while remaining in the stating but not adding 787 jobs would have cost the economy 4,641 workers. You can go look up the report.

This might feel a little off-topic, but I've seen others spout similar nonsense, somehow equating this incentive package with an equivalent loss of revenue available for eduction. That's just pure BS. The financial impact is very, very difficult to measure, but it's a tiny fraction of that deal. And I'm sure the many 10s of thousands of folks who would have lost their jobs and been unable to feed their kids, would be thrilled to know that you "took the high ground" and made those darn greedy bastards pay their "fair share". If only it worked that way in reality.

Now if you'd complained about the engineering jobs that are being moved out of the area right now, I'd say you have a legitimate complaint, especially in light of this incentive package. These are higher paying jobs on average than manufacturing, and they are being shuttled elsewhere as I type. Nothing that will materially affect state tax revenue, but a crappy move nonetheless.

KG said…
DW, A little defensive for the corporate welfare machine called BOEING? Do you have ties to them? Seems like profits over people could possibly be your motto. Seems like our states and countries favorite past time. States should not be in the business of handing large tax breaks to large corporations. They need to take responsibility for themselves. I thought the back bone of America was small business? They certainly do not get large Food Stamp hand outs like Boeing.Remember also DW that Boeing made 80% on the stock market the year previous to this welfare agreement. You can look it up. Also they got rid of the pension program they once had. There was also a 3.2 billion tax give away in 2003 to this same needy giant. This cost school employees a 3.8% COLA over that 2 year bi-ennium. You can look it up.When is enough greed enough greed? You seem to be defending it. The top 1% has as much money as the bottom 90% of Americans. This is not working.
Taxpayers have to make up the 8.7 billion and how we do this is underfund public services and have Box-tops for Education. Because our state gave this large tax break to Boeing taxpayers should get to vote on what to do with the profits Boeing makes and where they manufacture the airplanes and how much to pay the executive thugs that run it.What happens to the state revenue equation if Boeing packs up and leaves? Let them go and do not let the door slam them in the back. Check what Kashama Sawant said about it. She is a socialist and she is right about this topic. Build the planes like Airbus does. The fact is that taxpayers should not be subsidizing corporations. Oh I forgot, Boeing is also a Department of Offense contractor, oh excuse me a department of Defense contractor. God they need more subsidy in the next couple of years. Let's just suspend the Cola and class size initiatives again. As you stated they are still sending jobs out. Education and public services are simply more important than corporations greed and this example of greed shows the break down and failing capitalistic society we live in. This is not B.S. This is truth. Go Bernie!!!!
n said…
Not only are the states to which Boeing is moving to pay less - Alabama, Missouri, and South Carolina - these are states highly dependent on federal tax dollars as well. WA State is sending them jobs and tax dollars.

I don't really understand the move to reestablish their commercial division to S. CA. but good luck with climate change and water Boeing brass.

2015 Best-Worst Schools Missouri comes in a tad bit higher than WA State while Alabama is lower and S. Carolina is in the weeds. Washington should be in the first twenty-five at least. We need a fix!
Anonymous said…
Good idea. I will follow up with sending a copy of my comment to the Board, maybe Tolley and Anna Box too. I'll probably mail it so I can be anonymous.

Anonymous said…
I know this isn't the right thread, but since someone reposted my comment here I'm following up here.

Here's a copy of my follow up letter about the change in math curriculum. I'm not sure what good it will do, but I'm sending it off. I've decided to send it anonymously because I don't want to bring the wrath of the district down on myself or my principal. I have a lot of respect for my principal. She treats me as a professional, but her supervisor is very rigid and controlling. It's too bad the supervisor before her was great, but he left the district. Seems like many of the good people end up leaving:(

September 13, 2015

Dear School Board Directors,
I am an elementary school teacher in Seattle Public Schools. About a week ago, I posted a venting comment on a blog about my frustration that we are being required to no longer using the Math In Focus curriculum that the district bought and we used last year. The suggestion was to send you a copy of my comment. The comment is below.
I would ask the School Board to PLEASE let us use the math curriculum that the district bought. We spent all last year training and learning the curriculum. Why can’t we use it? If it needs supplementation, that’s fine. Please don’t ask us to use a whole new curriculum that is written by the math dept. The lessons that I have seen so far rely heavily on Engage New York. I don’t have a problem with Engage New York if that is what the district had decided to use, but I thought we had decided to use Math In Focus. Engage New York is a teacher time-intensive on-line curriculum that requires a lot of copying time.
I have attached a couple of the required math lessons so you can see for yourself that we are really being required to use a different curriculum than the one the School Board approved and the district bought.
Thanks for listening. Please consider my request to allow teachers to use the Math In Focus curriculum.
Elementary School Teacher

CC: Larry Nyland Michael Tolley Anna Box

(Blog folks, to see the original comment, look above in the thread.)

Anonymous said…
Ooops! The post above was from Frustrated Teacher.
I am wondering why there doesn't seem to be a discussion about the impact of student being in the buildings an additional half hour will have on secretaries and why they will not be compensated for how much less time they will have for the many projects they are responsible for.

Could someone please address the following issue:
Secretaries will be greatly impacted by students being in school an additional half hour.
The office calms down once the students have left for the day, and that time is used to work on the many projects we have that are time sensitive.
Has anyone thought about compensating secretaries not just teachers for this additional burden?????
dw said…
My apologies for missing this reply earlier.

A little defensive for the corporate welfare machine called BOEING?

I guess this sets your tone.

Unfortunately, you don't seem to have a clue about economics, finance, or how the real world works. You are too steamed to even know where to direct your anger.

Boeing made 80% on the stock market the year previous to this welfare agreement

Really? Who is it that you think made 80%? Boeing, the company? The executives? That is simple ignorance, so let me try to help.

By my count of public records, 17 insiders own a grand total of about 3/10 of 1% of the company. Thomson Reuters actually lists Insider Ownership at 0.08%, so even less than my quick calcs. And again, via public documents, it looks like Boeing only owns about 8/100 of 1% of their own stock.

Who owns the other 99.7% of the company, and were the actual recipients of that 80% increase in wealth? Mutual funds, other similar investment funds, and individuals like your neighbors, friends and family. So should we be angry at the investment funds? Not so fast. What makes up the ownership of those funds? Much of it is pension funds (they need to try to keep up with inflation), other retirement funds (same), and again, your neighbors, friends and family.

There are no "bad guys" that you can punish by taking those profits without hurting the primary owners of the company, which is to say: the public. You may not like it or understand it, but that is the reality of how the world works.

Taxpayers have to make up the 8.7 billion and how we do this is underfund public services

Clearly you still don't understand that there is no 8.7 billion. There never was, and there never will be. It's an imaginary number based on an imaginary scenario. No dollars have been taken away from anyone; they don't exist, and never existed outside the imagination of people who dreamed this money could be available for good causes like education.

What did happen through this tax break was that 10s of thousands of jobs will remain here in the Puget Sound region. By arguing that Boeing should leave, you are arguing that 10s of thousands of people here should lose their jobs. The executives don't give a shit about who designs and builds their planes, they are happy to move those jobs elsewhere. Your anger is misdirected.

FWIW, I don't own any shares of Boeing, and I don't work for the company (though I'm sure we both know people who do). I'm just frustrated with people not having any freaking clue of what they're talking about, and directing their anger in useless directions.

If you want to direct your anger in a positive way, work on limiting out-of-control executive compensation (though it's probably a fruitless effort), or better yet, raise hell with the company for continuing to move jobs out of our region when they "promised" not to do so. That would help keep jobs and our tax base more intact. The dreams about a non-existent $8.7b are just that: dreams.

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

Weirdness in Seattle Public Schools Abounds and Astounds