By: Chip Fraser
Well, it’s been an interesting year with some interesting changes. Here are some year-end notes:
- Please join the Sick Leave Bank during open enrollment (September 2016). We had more people out of work due to a plethora of reasons, but I’m sure that stress was an underlying current of all. Shingles popped up frequently, as well as high blood pressure. The Sick Leave Bank is an invaluable asset, so when you return to work- JOIN!!! And check into the disability insurance. It is worth the money
- We are already hearing the sad tale of how we don’t have any money. VUSD did not help themselves (in my humble opinion) by choosing the parcel tax to back (provides us with about $2.6MM annually) AND requires a 2/3 vote to pass. We had the opportunity to be involved with the city of Ventura in a 1% sales tax increase. Depending on what our split was (60/40 or 70/30) and the number of years the sales tax would be in effect (12 to 25) VUSD could have realized significantly more money. But, there was an issue with the wording of the language that “could have been” problematic. This issue needed 50%+1 vote to pass. We also have a new version of Prop 30 which has supplied VUSD with $80MMM over the last 4 years which hopefully will pass…and oh yes, there might be other help on the horizon but nothing definite.
- I can see improvement in several administrators who have been too forceful in the past. Energy is great. Frenetic energy is not. Please let me know if you think that your site administrator(s) are lacking in their respect for you and the job you are doing. Kindness and courtesy must be extended and if not, we need to let Dr. Babb and Ms. Mayville know. What we need to remember is that grievances MUST be tied to the contract- not just general personality conflicts.
- We have an upcoming school board election. Debbie Golden and Barbara Fitzgerald are retiring. There are 7 candidates. Our PAC will be interviewing any candidate that wishes to apply for our votes and money (yes, we have a fund). We are specifically looking for those who are pro-teacher, counselor, librarian, nurse, speech therapist, and classified. Translated, School Board members should listen to our stories and not believe what they are told by the administrative side.
- Next year- be looking for a new newsletter format and we will be educating those who want to be better informed about the union.
- Currently, we have about 160 members who are 60 and over. Should you interpret any behavior towards you or colleagues that remind you of “Ageism“, let us know.
- This year was a new beginning in that Dr. Babb became Superintendent and Kristin Mayville became the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. Suffice it to say that the VUSD culture is deeply rooted and it will not change overnight. Dr. Babb said that he intended to watch and learn and I suppose, that changes made will occur in year 2 and going forward.
- We know about the heat problem. Hopefully, VUSD has addressed the issue and will do something about it.
- Remember that an injury to one is an injury to all.
- Have a wonderful summer and see you in August!
By: Chip Fraser
“Who is the happier man: He who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on the shore and merely existed?”
Seems as good a place to start as any…I have just returned from Sacramento and Burlingame (home of the CTA) and heard the future news. I wouldn’t call them “predictions” but something to be aware of as our year unfolds.
First, let’s recap this year. We did get a raise which was 7%. Not as much as we hoped for, but compared to years past, a good raise. We also received a 2.75% one time “bonus” that was a nice check to receive. We also retained our full benefits. The big disappointment was the fact that the district “couldn’t” give us the raise retroactively, thus complicating some people’s choice in when they retire.
As it stands now, many potential retirees decided to extend their retirement date until mid-next school year when the full brunt of the raise will be realized. I’m not sure how many people will opt for retirement mid-year but it will doubtless affect the smooth running ship given the paucity of substitutes. It could also disrupt the students who must now greet a new teacher and say goodbye to the veteran.
This brings up an interesting conundrum: is it better to have young, new teachers with vitality and energy, coupled with new ideas or, the seasoned veteran with their immense experience and classroom management skills? Well, this is kind of a trick question, because people are different. Some still maintain the zest for teaching and others have been worn down and look forward to leaving their job and enjoying their life free from the enormous duties that they have endured for many years. Teachers, counselors, nurses, and librarians all have “peak” years, and as the rest of growing older goes, reach a point where their performance and abilities (and energy) diminishes.
Based on my conversations with many teachers nearing retirement (145 who are 60 or older,) many would retire if the district would offer them some sort of retirement incentive. It could be cash or extended insurance, just something to make their segue into the “after work world” more palatable. And this is a discussion we have had for years.
I am certain that VUSD anticipated more teachers retiring because they always plan for a general number of employees to retire. That just did not happen this year.
We can also look at the numbers of decreasing students. In a time when the economy is healthy,we simply replace a retiree with a new teacher and presto! Problem solved. However, new teachers are not always re-hired. I don’t have exact numbers but I would bet that we let quite a few go- both as temporary and probationary. Which opens the door to a new problem: fewer people going into education and therefore reducing the available people who would be the next generation of teachers. Yes, you read me right: we have a teacher shortage.
How did this happen do you suppose? Some answers are clear: Low pay, over-crowded classrooms, more and more responsibilities, and administrators who have somehow forgotten kindness and sincerity in their behavior. Don’t get me wrong. There are many principals, assistant principals, and directors who do place a priority on kindness. But somewhere in the philosophy there has been a definite change where micro-managing, bullying, and “do it my way” have taken place. I’d almost call it “groupthink” because watching the actions of these faux leaders, I am saddened by their arrogance and their hurrying- around, too busy to be civil or care about their employees unless of course, the employee does exactly what their “leader” says.
But to be leader vs a boss, there is a lot more that goes into the role. As Dr. Babb has said; “Principals are cheerleaders, facilitators, and managers.” My interpretation of that is a school built on REAL collaboration. It is strength-based and Teacher- Driven. I know I’m not telling VUEA members anything they don’t know, but we, the “common people” are the front line. We make it happen.
It’s not easy when you have too many children (I think the national average is 20 students in the elementary, 25 in the upper grades) coupled with a murderous schedule of meetings and paperwork. Add this to the tests and teaching to the tests. Throw in those administrators who disrespect their workforce. Mama Mia! This is a lot of baggage to put on those who have dedicated their life to educating and to the children. Additionally, we have to look at our facilities and how to make them safer and more comfortable.
Okay, we have addressed what is happening- now let’s look at the crystal ball as to how this plays out. You know we have LCFF, where districts decide what to do with the money. In some districts, it works where the teachers, classified, parents, community leaders, and students get to help decide how the money is spent. Now, Prop 30 will sunset at the end of this year. There is another proposal on the ballot but this does not include a sales tax and will not produce as much money. The economy will not be as strong as the past couple of years. We also have to pay back CALStrs.
VUSD has had the good fortune of having Measure Q, a parcel tax, which brought in $2.6MM annually. Recently, VUSD did have an opportunity to join force in a partnership with the city of Ventura to ask the citizens of Ventura to pass a 1% sales tax increase that would be divided between the city and the school district. But something happened on the way to this happening. Still not all that clear, but it seems like the wording in the document was not what the district wanted and there was some miscommunication as to how the documents should be worded and the “trust” level was/is not that great between the 2 parties. If that could have been worked out, VUSD could have realized as much as $8MM+ annually for 12 years. As it is, VUSD opted to go for the parcel tax rerun and $2.6MM annually for 4 years. In order for the parcel tax to pass, we need 66.7% of the voters to vote yes. To be fair, even though the sales tax theoretically needs 50%+1 vote to pass, the documentation of the sales tax as it is presently written could change the voting threshold from 50%+1 vote to 66.7%.
Anyway, this is where we are and what the next year looks like. I urge, no, I beg you to get involved. Ask questions, stand up for yourself, realize that we are all in this together and the only way we succeed is when every person – teacher, counselor, janitor, bus driver, principal, office manager, nurse, para-educator, Superintendent, parent, and student, works together to make our schools world class.
March & April 2016
By: Chip Fraser
Well, here we are in April (after a busy March), the time of season when winds will blow and perhaps some rain will fall (hopefully). It is also that period in our year when many feel the stress and fatigue more than any other time.
Given the ongoing chattering between the Democrats and the Republicans mixed with the normal US and world events, there is ample reason to ask yourself: can I make it through another day?
Yes, yes you can. Why do I say this so confidently? Because you are educators, and the front line of education. We are the connections and we are the ones who deal with the students, answer their questions, understand “most” of their behaviors, and are the line to reality. When I think of George Bernard Shaw saying foolishly, “Those who can- do; those who can’t- teach,” I am reminded of the BETTER version: “Those who can- do; those who CARE, teach.” And this is who we are: teachers, counselors, nurses, technicians, janitors, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, para-educators, office personnel, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, warehouse people, etc. We are the folks who make it possible for our children to go to, attend, and get home safely.
Every child in our system needs all of us. We know they and their parents and guardians depend on our choices and our actions to insure the day/week/month/year runs smoothly. And as you know, we are not without aberrant behaviors and even natural events that do their best to derail us!
Each year brings a new host of events, or rules, or actions that disconnect us from our primary job of educating our children. We now begin with children as young as 4 and it is our designated responsibility to present and teach the courses that we know will help them learn and be better prepared for their adult life.
And while I’m on that subject- I will segue into the arena of what a student should learn and what is important to all students and why it is important.
Data has shown that the 9th grade is a critical junction for youth. Hormonally, life is changing, they are moving from middle school to high school, and they are expected to have outgrown or at least be outgrowing behaviors and attitudes associated with childhood. In truth, childhood is always with us in some form, but as we reach our teenage years, one can anticipate a certain behavior that accompanies us.
And with the beginning of maturity, hopefully, an increase in one’s level of responsibility or at least, a bit of the “accountability” factor. School districts have been incredibly poor in picking up on the need for much more attention to Vo-tech, Career technical education, and programs designed to teach and foster work experience and careers outside the college purview. Not only that, but the so called “experts” in the field, have totally neglected areas that are formerly known as Civics, more recently as Life skills, in providing our students with a tool kit that will EMPOWER them with skills and techniques that assist them in decision making and identifying the ever present “Bumps in the road.”
Our children continue to get the normal courses that eventually lead them to graduation, but how much time and attention have been focused on those less tangible but more important characteristics such as Honesty, Integrity, Creative & Critical thinking, identifying solutions, passion, inspiration, self-respect, being more aware, and enjoying life? Tragically, our leaders don’t think in this direction. They are too caught up in “data” and the testing and making sure that we meet the state and federal guidelines.
This is an important crossroads we have been at for awhile. Do we ignore the needs of our students and keep our heads in the sand? Or we wake up and insist that every school participate in programs that give our children a chance to handle the obvious issues that will surely confront all of them.
By the way, the teachers’ union would not be the teachers’ union without a “proposition” to support or combat. In our situation, Prop 30 which restored monies we have lost, sunsets on December 31, 2016. That means we have to have other money in place or the advances we had made will Go AWAY! But there is an alternative and we (CTA and VUEA) have an opportunity to get as many signatures as we can AND it only affects the upper 2% of the population, so if you are not in that group, you don’t pay anything.
If we do not pass this measure, as I said, we will experience the same sort of futility we felt when we were facing riffs, furloughs, and no salary increases.
PLEASE sign the petition and get others to sign it. Look, as it is, we are not paid anywhere near the salary that we should receive and the last thing we need to do is go backwards. By signing this petition, you are not voting, merely giving the petition the right to be on the ballot.
Signing off for now…