Bargaining Update

On Thursday, March 1st, the VEA Bargaining Team met with the district. At that meeting, the district reviewed the additional cuts by the state. Unfortunately the additional cuts trigger 1 furlough day. It will be Friday, May 18th. Here is what happened.
January 2012
The state cut $13 per student in the Base Revenue Limit (BRL) and $28 per student for transportation for a total of $41. This was below our cut point of $50, so no furlough day was needed.

March 2012
Due to concerns of rural districts the state reversed its decision to cut transportation but increased the cuts per student in the BRL to $55. So the cut point now is $55, which is in the second tier requiring one pay-cut day for the 2011-12 school year.

VEA does not anticipate any other furlough days for this year and we are working with the district to determine when this money will be taken from our paychecks. VEA is asking that this money is spread over three paychecks (April, May and June) in order to minimize the impact as much as possible.

2012-13 School Year
Your Bargaining Team continues to discuss with the district any potential pay-cut days for the 2012-13 school year. Due to the uncertainty of the state budget and the possibility that the tax initiatives may fail, ALL unit members are strongly encouraged to start planning for potential pay-cut days in the 2012-13 school year.

Early Notification Retirement Incentive

Tomorrow, VCUSD is holding a special board meeting in regards to a early notification retirement incentive. VEA members who intend on retiring need to notify the District between February 18th through February 24th in order to receive a one-time payment of $1000. Additionally, in the VEA/VCUSD contract under 6.9.3.3, the limitation on benefits to age 67 is waived for unit members who notify the District by March 1, 2012 of their intent to retire by June 30, 2012. This allows unit members who are 65 or older to obtain health benefits for themselves for five years through the District. This portion of the contract EXPIRES at the end of this school year.

The District hopes to minimize the number of RIF notices that need to be sent by March 15th, so they need to know as soon as possible who is planning on retiring by the end of this school year.

Unit members should not expect a “better” incentive to come along. Sheila Gradwohl and I discussed the STRS plan with the Superintendent and there was no interest expressed at this time in offering this plan. VEA will continue to discuss other options for those nearing retirement, but need to remind unit members that the District needs to make fiscally sound decisions, especially in light of the potential reduction in the base revenue limit of $370 in the 2012-13 school year.

Finally, on March 14th, the CTA office in Cordelia is hosting a Retirement Seminar from 4 to 6. Please contact the CTA office at 864-0305 to RSVP. (Dinner will be served.)

A Cautionary Tale: QEIA Waiver Denial

On Wednesday, January 11, 2012, the California State Board of Education (CSBE) denied the waiver that the Vallejo City Unified School District had requested in regards to QEIA funding. Most of us who went to Sacramento to testify knew going in that it was a long shot. None of us believed that it would be decided as quickly as it was by the CSBE with only one Board member stating her reasons as to why she had to vote no on the waiver.

It needs to be at the outset that Superintendent Dr. Ramona Bishop provided the CSBE with a well-defined plan in order to right the ship. I strongly commend her for her tough message to the CSBE and for her willingness to take responsibility for this situation – a situation that was not created by her.

In meetings that I had with her regarding our presentation to CSBE, she expressed a willingness to work with VEA if the waiver was denied for Vallejo High School and Cooper Elementary. It was also stated to me that it is anticipated that lay-offs for this year may be minimal due to attrition. VEA will continue to push for being part of the lay-off process as well as ensuring that the contract is followed for teachers impacted by any involuntary transfers.

That being said, this denial serves as a reminder to the District the crucial piece that had been missing during previous administrations.

First, last year the California Teachers Association (CTA) issued a report, “Lessons From the Classroom: Initial Success for At-Risk Students” . One of the essential components for those schools that were most successful was the willingness of district administration to work with teachers and their unions in order to engage in essential and meaningful collaboration. This meant that most of the decisions made were site based driven and not driven from the top.

As many of you know, there has long permeated in this district an unwillingness to engage in meaningful collaboration and an outright refusal to work with the union in order to make working and learning conditions better for our students and teachers.

Second, one of the arguments that the District made in order to try to secure the waiver for QEIA funding was the lack of stability at school sites. It was argued that this instability had a severe impact on their ability to meet the API goals for QEIA. While VEA recognizes that none of us could have imagined the severe economic impact of this recession, let it be said that were a couple of options that the HR Department could have chosen in order to mitigate the instability.

For instance, VCUSD could have used the language in Ed. Code that allows for “skipping” any unit member that had received specialized training and/or is providing specialized services. This is the language that districts across the state of California use in order to “skip” special education teachers and more significantly, it is the language they used to “skip” our colleagues who teach at Vallejo Charter School. While VEA recognizes that this option is controversial, it is still an option available to the District through Ed. Code.

When the District chose to ignore this route, they also made the unfortunate decision to not work with VEA when it came time to bring people back from the rehire list. Instead, the HR Department made the decision that when people were brought back, they would be placed wherever they had an opening for them. Some of our teachers who had only taught primary, now suddenly found themselves teaching at the middle school and conversely some of those who had only taught middle school, now found themselves teaching elementary. No one, except for VEA, thought it was prudent to ask teachers what they wanted.

At Cooper, this meant a significant change in their staff at the start of the 2009 school year, where they saw 9 brand new teachers out of a staff of 28.

When I spoke to the CSBE on Wednesday, I expressed that I was cautiously optimistic. VEA has often fought for maintaining stability at our school sites when possible. This is because we believe that through stability, long-standing, trusting relationships are developed and built upon. This stability transmits to our students, which ultimately leads to our students performing at the very best of their abilities.

If we are all truly here for the kids, then it is of absolute importance that we work together.

School Site Safety: A concern for students, teachers, and staff

On Thursday, November 3rd, the teachers at Steffan Manor took a courageous step. After a student brought a hammer to school and threatened the teacher with it, the student was suspended for three days. The student was supposed to return to the same classroom where the assault occurred. The teachers decided together that parents at this school site needed to be aware that the safety of their students could be endangered unless the district took action. They urged parents at this school to contact Superintendent Ramona Bishop.

Instead of engaging in conversation with the teachers at Steffan Manor, the district has decided to scapegoat them. First, it appears that someone contacted a well-known community activist who stated that the teachers violated this student’s civil rights. Second, Superintendent Bishop was only willing to meet with the teacher directly involved in this incident. No conversation with the other teachers at the school site regarding school site safety has occurred. Third, at the November 16th VCUSD School Board, Dr. LaTonya Derbigny presented information on the suspension and expulsion rates for the district. At this meeting, teachers were scapegoated once again. School board members made outrageous claims that teachers were writing referrals “for their convenience” or “because they were in a bad mood.” Adding insult to injury, Dr. Derbigny turned to the reporter for the Vallejo Times Herald and demanded that he put in the paper that “teachers are lying when they say the district is not suspending or expelling students.”

VEA is hosting a forum “School Site Safety: Silent No More.” We can no longer stand on the sidelines while the district and school board members vilify our colleagues in a public forum. We are urging ALL VEA members to attend this event in order to develop a plan of action on school site safety.

In order for this district to “attract and retain quality educators” (a district goal), they need to start by listening to us about our concerns regarding the safety of our campuses. Our students deserve campuses that are safe and free from threats of violence in order to ensure their civil rights to a quality education.

School Site Safety Forum “Silent No More”
Hogan Middle School Theater
4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
December 8th, 2011

An injury to one is an injury to all!