Newsletters 2016-2017

April Newsletter

Classroom size

I know that everyone is aware of this. District says it’s a matter of money and declining enrollment. But there are rules as specifically stated in the Local Funding formula just how many children should be in a class depending on grade.

Who’s Listening?

We hope that our administration is LISTENING to what we are saying. I find that it depends on the site and the relationship between staff and administrator. I am convinced that the board is listening and has a vision of the big picture.

Superintendent Search

We have been very successful in developing a relationship with the board and have been kept informed during the process of hiring a search firm and offering our advice as to what we would like to see in a new superintendent.

New Officers

I have enjoyed being president for 4 years and vice president for 2. The new slate of officers is: Dan Nelson, president; Jesse Barnett, vice president; Linda Bergfeld, Secretary; Steve Boyd, high school director executive board. All others remain the same but in case you are wondering: Lorilee Johnson, treasurer; Anne Campbell, high school director executive board; Mike Malone, middle school director executive board, Regina Mitchell, middle school director executive board, Erica Hallahan elementary school director executive board, Lynda Uvari, elementary school director executive board

RA Electees

The RA is Representative Assembly and is the annual NEA convention. 5 members will be attending the RA in June, this year in Boston: they are Dan Nelson, Laura Castro, Elaine Theurer, Paula Osborn, and Linda Uvari. Regina Mitchell is the alternate.

State Council voting

Both Sebastien and I are stepping down as state council. Mine is permanent and Sebastien is for one year. If you are interested in running for state council and you meet the criteria, we will be discussing this at May 8 rep council. We will be electing 2 members and an alternate.

Relationship with the School board

Teri Roots and I have worked diligently to foster a positive relationship with our school board and this appears to be working! I send them a weekly report of our observations so please if you would like to add anything that you feel needs mentioning, please let us know.

Changes

I think that it’s safe to say that we can expect changes in the next school year.

Calendar

We have a calendar committee that meets to discuss what annual calendars look like.  If you are interested in being on the calendar committee, please email Lena in the office and let her know.  VUEAoffice@gmail.com

Elections committee

Diane Elrod is the new Chairman of the Elections Committee

Contract, Standing Rules, ByLaws, Organizational Handbook

We have them all, and the Contract, ByLaws and Standing Rules are available to all at www.vuea.net, then click the Ventura Unified Education Association menu link.

Roles of President

Listen to the members and organize what we need to do. Keep membership updated and represent VUEA whenever possible.

Channel Islands Service Center (CISCC)

This is the regional district G of the CTA and meets 4 times a year in Ventura/Oxnard, Santa Maria, and other sites. This group is comprised of Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties.

Getting involved and wearing red to board meetings

It is our goal to represent our membership. We know this could be an “interesting year” but aren’t they all? We would like members to attend the upcoming board meetings (May 9 and May 23) and wear your red shirt if possible. We are in negotiations and as we are all in this together, unity is our strength.

We generally pre-meet to discuss at Anacapa Brewing Company, 472 East Main St. in Ventura at 6pm on School Board Meeting days.  Contact the VUEA office to be sure we are planning to be there, then join us for appetizers and discussion.

Personal email collection

We have been trying to collect personal emails from all members and are about 50%. Please provide us with your email if you haven’t already.

Look in your district email for a message from VUEA.  It will direct you to a form so we can collect your personal email.  We want your non-VUSD email because we shouldn’t be sending Association communication through the VUSD system.  We don’t sell your email address, and we send out email using the BCC (blind copy) field, so others don’t get your email address as well.  VUEA uses email as a primary communications tool; it’s the number one way we can get important information to you.

Day of the Teacher

To be celebrated on May 10th statewide.

May 1

We have been trying to interest schools in being involved in a May 1 event that is the forerunner of Day of the Teacher.

Sick bank

Currently we have 7 members using the sick bank. There are 366 currently eligible members for sick bank. To be a member you must sign up prior to September 30th of the school year. You remain a member until you notify the district that you no longer wish to be part of the bank. Each year you are expected to donate 1 of your sick days.

Bargaining unit members

The number fluctuates but we have 832 members and 36 feepayers


VUEA Newsletter
January 2017
By: Chip Fraser

“These are times that try men’s souls”

While Thomas Paine wrote these words in 1775, they seem appropriate now. As a country, America is going through some strange and interesting growing pains. All empires do, so why should the United States be different?

But this is the exact argument for ‘think globally and act locally.’ Whatever we do, whatever we think, we must all accept some of the responsibility and figure out how we should approach our future and since it has everything to do with us collectively and individually, we have a vested interest.

As teachers and counselors, nurses and other staff members, we have been given the responsibility of educating our students and providing them with skills essential to their maturity. Regardless of what changes occur, our job is to create flexibility and adaptability so that life’s journey makes more sense. The recent march is a shining example of people standing up for what they believe and acting on it.
Just as we have a crisis looming in the world, we must be aware of issues directly affecting us. As educators, it is important for us to realize that we are the front line. Teacher-driven and strength-based education is our right and privilege. Who better to guide the youth of today than us? We have chosen to be in this field and through our experience and education we have the training and the skills to provide leadership. Though collaboration and cooperation we assist our children in formulating their own philosophy which carries them through.

We are the marketers of learning and we must promote because much of the population does not believe in public education. As we enter the new phase we all anticipate “that change is going to come,” and it will not necessarily be the change we want. Personally, I like change but I don’t like the change I think I am going to experience. The “new leader” seems to have contradictory ideas to mine and although I will be open to positive opportunities, I’m just not sure that he will deliver them.

But it doesn’t mean that we will slip into nothingness because we have learned how to adapt and adopt and will be adept at handling whatever he or they give us. The key is staying in touch, communicating, and not backing away from those things that smell like social injustice. We are a resilient group and can defeat the evil that people do, “for tyranny can be conquered while we are mindful and aware.”

Currently in Ventura here is what we are looking at:
1. Upcoming negotiations – we have not been avoiding negotiations. The district has had a lot of health situations interrupting them and given the election, staff leaves of absence, and the Prop 55 and the parcel tax resolutions, here we are.
2. Individual school climates – always important. What is going on GOOD at your site? Conversely what are some things you’d like to see CHANGED. Don’t be shy.
3. Special Education – I am hearing much about decline in enrollment but it is a school by school issue.
4. Banking time – all schools seem to have a different interpretation. But KNOW that we have a say so in what is done.
5. LCFF/LCAP – this is most important and once more per the governor and the state legislature, VUEA must be included in making decisions as to how money is spent. Normally, a group of administrators have ultimately chosen how “WE” choose to spend the money allotted to us. But we must take advantage of our opportunity and clarify where funds are spent. Otherwise when it comes to spending there will be no money left for VUEA and VESPA.
6. Grievances – we are near filing a couple and will be having some training so that you can see how it’s done. Remember, a grievance must be related to the contract. And it never hurts to have multiple “grievers.”
7. Hostile Work Environments – this is separate from a grievance and it involves how you feel you are being treated. Not all principals are leaders. Some think of themselves as Bosses. A few may have anointed themselves emperors, but the school belongs to teachers, classified staff, nurses, counselors, students, and parents as well as site administrators. This is where the term Collaboration comes into play.
8. The work day is 7 hours and 15 minutes.
9. Principals have 27 hours in which to have mandatory meetings.
10. At each faculty meeting, 5-10 minutes should be allowed for union business.
11. You have personal leave days and the reason we have the word “personal” in there is because it is. You do not have to provide an explanation.
12. You can suspend a child from your class for up to 2 days, but remember to notify the parents.
13. Retirement has been a rather tricky item this year. Fortunately for the district many people decided to wait until June to leave.
14. Remember to treat substitutes with love and understanding.
15. If you are unclear about a certain order given to you by your site administrator or director, contact your site rep or VUEA.
16. Stress is continuing to plague a lot of members. Protect yourselves and don’t try to carry the weight of the world. Worry doesn’t solve anything. Tai Chi and yoga are uncommonly good avenues.
17. When involved with an aggressive parent, please let your site rep know and use our help.
18. Please try initially to deal with your site rep and handle as much of the issue as you can but do not wait too long. Nipping a problem in the bud as they say before it becomes unmanageable.
19. Curriculum and materials remain an item worthy of discussion. If you are not happy with what you are using offer another solution.
20. Strength lies in numbers. If you observe a problem or the potential for a problem alert your colleagues and approach with numbers. We are harder to defeat if there are more people than one solitary person voicing dissent.
21. I do not want anyone to be in fear of retaliation. Please speak up if you sense any retribution.
22. Much has been said of restorative justice but I continue to hear that the term has not been adequately explained. If you are still in the dark do not hesitate to ask your site administrator to have a workshop to demonstrate or role play how it works.
23. The Ed code and the Contract is an asset, consult if you do not understand something check it out.
24. If you are considering retirement make certain that you have an appointment with your CalSTRS counselor. Weigh your options. Know the landscape. VUSD does not really have an incentive. But if you let them know before the end of the first semester, if you are retiring after the first semester, there is a differential you can receive.
25. I have mentioned IFT the (Institute for Teaching). This is the guild portion of the CTA and it is all about practices, skill enhancement, and positive teaching. The motto is “Teacher Driven and Strength Based” Curriculum. What IFT advocates is the Teachers and all union members under the NEA and AFT banner need to “wrest” control of education back from the politicians and the self-appointed experts in the field of education. IFT also provides many grants to individuals from $2000 to $20,000. And they are always looking for more candidates.
26. We need to pay attention to what is going on at our schools. Students are more than numbers and test scores. I do appreciate data, but in our roles building relationships and connections is/are the key to students succeeding now and in the adult world.
27. Evaluation of teachers, etc. and principal evaluation. How about superintendent evaluation?
28. The concept of re-election scares new employees. Is it worth extending the temporary and probationary period to avoid the non-re-election possibility?

Chip Fraser
President, VUEA

Chip Fraser

President, VUEA

 


VUEA Newsletter
December 2016
By: Chip Fraser

I have always wanted to say: I don’t know where to begin, because I don’t know where to begin. So, in that case, I will dive in and spill as much as I can. I shall begin with Michael Babb and his first year. Let me say that he is very easy to talk to and like Trudy, kind and reassuring. This does not mean that he responds to everything I tell him. I have learned over my many years of teaching and the time I spent in private business that I don’t always get my way and not everyone sees he world from my P O V. I do think that we have accomplished some things and every problem has a solution somewhere.

I wanted to touch on my recent bout with health issues. I think I am mending but I caution each of you. If you are experiencing stress, pay attention to your health and don’t allow it to open the door to illness. I have personally found duress to be nefarious and unrelenting. There is a lot to worry us and anxiety creates side effects that can be permanent in their outcomes. Meditate, exercise, laugh, and enjoy life as much as you can.

We have grievance forms in the Contract and the Contract can be located on our website www.vuea.net. Just remember, grievances MUST be connected to the contract. Every school has at least 1 Site Representative and essentially each school is permitted 1 site rep per 15 members. I encourage all members to attend a Rep Council meeting, held on the 2nd Monday of each month unless we have school holidays.

Per our contract, every staff meeting permits the union/VUEA to have minimally 10 minutes before the meeting technically begins. The more issues that you can settle at the site level, the fewer problems you will encounter. However, all of us understand the nature of employer/employee relations so don’t misinterpret this rationale.

In the past few years we have been confronted with a term: restorative justice. Sadly this has translated into a new form of administrative “bullyism.” In its purest form, restorative justice was designed to reduce suspensions. I think that everyone can agree that suspensions are not good for the student, as they miss valuable teaching and learning time, but when students disrupt the classroom there comes a time when the teacher must consider altering the dynamic and protecting the many. We still have the opportunity to suspend students from our classroom for up to 2 days as long as the rules are followed. Incidentally, restorative justice has opened the door to another item and there is evidence of several administrators pitting student against teacher and accusing teachers of criticizing and “embarrassing” students. The school should not question a teacher’s authority without a thorough identification of the issues because in this country, one is innocent until proven guilty.

During the November election, two new school board members were elected: Sabrena Rodriguez and Jackie Moran. As a state, California approved Prop 55 which simply allows money from the state to continue being added to our revenue. But it is NOT new money because we no longer have the sales tax provision. I just want everyone to be aware that there is not any new money available and given our negotiation history we will doubtless have to negotiate determinedly. We did have an opportunity to join forces with the City of Ventura when they asked for an increase in sales tax but VUSD decided to go with Measure R which is a continuation of Measure Q. Ventura did pass Measure R and the City passed their 0.5% sales tax which originally had included VUSD.

I do think that we will see more programs and academies addressing career and vocational education and personally I applaud whatever strides we make towards this situation.

Special Education remains a concern for every district and hopefully VUSD will take strides to address the issues and be certain that all children with needs are suitably addressed. Everyone seems to be aware that we need to have enough credentialed adults available for every student identified with special needs.

VUEA is working on evaluations and it is paramount that all employees fairly evaluate administrators although many teachers and classified staff admit that they are reluctant to complete evaluations because they fear recrimination.

Should you wish to retire at the end of the first semester, please let HR know by December 16th. Mid-Year Retirement Option 1 is available per our contract Article 29. Sherry Manley can provide further details as to your specific situation. Also, if you are over 65, please check into your Medicare opportunities.

Have a spectacular holiday and don’t forget to do something for yourself!

Chip Fraser
President, VUEA


VUEA Newsletter
October 2016
By: Chip Fraser

There is a lot going on locally, statewide, nationally, and globally, and I’m sure that the people, issues, and propositions are confusing enough. Let me try to simplify:

(1) Locally, we have Measure R, which is a continuation of Measure Q- money dedicated to the Arts and Career Education. It applies in Ventura ONLY and is determined by a 66.7% majority vote to pass. It is a parcel tax only applied to people owning property in the city of Ventura and VUSD has their own oversight board to make sure the money is used expressly for its designated purpose. The district expects to receive approximately $2.4MM annually for the next 4 years.
(2) We also have a School Board race and Ventura is privileged to have 7 candidates running for 2 seats. Both Debbie Golden and B.J. Fitzgerald are stepping down from their seats and taking with them their enormous experiences. VUEA has endorsed essentially 3 candidates, all of whom have demonstrated exemplary characteristics. Our 3 recommendations are Ed Summers, Don Wood, and Sabrena Rodriguez. Based on our interaction and vetting process, we believe that each of these people would be worthy additions to our school board.
(3) We also have Hannah Beth-Jackson running for State Senator and Julia Brownley for Congress.
(4) There are Propositions 51-66 and Proposition 67 which is a referendum. There is ample literature available to help you make your decision.
(5) From the education perspective, we, the VUEA, are most concerned with Prop 55. We STRONGLY recommend YES on Prop 55 because without Prop 55 we could possibly face massive cutbacks, layoffs, furlough days, and increased classroom sizes. By the way, this only impacts the top 2% of the California’s earners ($250,000+ annual income for a single individual or $500,000+ annual income for a family.) Without Prop 55, we can expect nearly $4Billion in funding cuts to education. And these funds SPECIFICALLY go to the classrooms and not to bureaucratic and administrative costs.
(6) We also have very important national elections occurring which include the President of the United States and the possibility of Senate and House of Representatives control which DOES affect education.

In the meantime, we have been saddled with uncommonly hot weather which translates to the Global Warming belief that is supported by 15 straight months of hotter temps.
And yet, we continue to staff our 27 schools and operate wonderfully. Why? That answer is simple: great educators and support staff. Our 1700+ individuals make this district superlative and provide our students with an outstanding education and superlative connections to magnificent and caring people. We are Heroes and the proof of this statement is in the product we generate.
Every school contributes to the energy and the health of their community. We are a dynamic force which collaborates to create the best possible outcomes.

We will begin negotiations with the district after the November 8 elections because then, and only then, will we know what and who we are dealing with. The Local Control Funding Formula coupled with Prop 55, Measure R, and other revenue producing elements will determine our budget. From here, we can examine and decide what monies are available for raises and benefits. We have been blessed to have our benefits covered by VUSD in the past and hopefully, that will be the direction we will continue to move.

We will also discuss elements of the contract that VUEA and VUSD wish to pursue. While we signed a Tentative Agreement, we have not yet ratified our contract but will be doing so in the next 2 weeks. Expect to see a summary sheet of the agreement with the district appearing in your mailbox in the next few days, with votes occurring before November 9th.

Although we have barely started our 2016-17 campaign, there are numerous issues to be discussed and anticipate all members voicing their opinion(s).

VUEA is a powerful voice but is only as powerful as it’s ACTIVE membership. AND we would appreciate any articles or information you may have to share with our newsletter!
Chip Fraser
President, VUEA

VUEA Newsletter
September 2016
By: Chip Fraser

We are officially in the 2016-17 school year and everyone “appears” to be excited and optimistic. Perhaps “everyone” is strong language, but let’s pretend that we are positive and looking at the bright side with enthusiasm.

And what better way to begin then to mention retirement incentive. Now I am well aware that not everybody is thinking about retirement, but for those of you on the plus side of 60, I’m guessing it is a priority. Over the years we have had a few opportunities to have an enhanced retirement but they are few and far between. True, some districts do offer encouragement to their teachers nearing the end of their career however, VUSD is not really one of those districts.

But, we still offer an option, known as Mid-Year Retirement Option One. Criteria include 60+ years of age, have submitted a request to retire to the VUSD Human Resources office no later than the last day before the winter break for the retirement to begin on the day after the last day of the first semester.

An eligible retiree of the current school year will be entitled to a paid bonus on or before July 31st of the school year following the date of retirement. This paid bonus will be the difference between what the bargaining unit member would have earned had he/she worked for the remainder of the current school year in which the bargaining unit member retired and what they would earn in Class 5, Step 8.

Additionally, district paid health insurance will be discontinued for early retirees effective the last day of the month in which the bargaining unit member worked prior to retirement.

Also, very important in our careers regarding job security and wage advancement is the continuation of Prop 30 (which contributed approximately $80MM to VUSD revenues for the past 3 years), Prop 55. Prop 55 is different from Prop 30 in that the sales tax addition is removed. Instead, revenue will be generated from only the wealthiest in California. No taxes are raised on anyone, just an extension of Prop 30 on individuals making $250,000 per year or couples making more than $500,000 per annum. Should we not pass Prop 55, we can expect layoffs and increased classroom sizes. It is estimated that if Prop 55 DOES NOT PASS, schools will lose $4Billion annually. The good news is that it is polling well however, we (you and I) need to get the word out. Also, Measure R which is the continuation of Measure Q will be on the ballot and hopefully, we can help this Measure pass as well. Prop 55 and Measure R need our support and they will make a huge difference.

Otherwise, we are off to a good beginning. Yes, let us continue to hope that rain and cooler temperatures find us soon! Keep your Site Representative in the know on classroom size and the number of duties you are given. Districts use the site “average” but NO educator should have too many students in the class and there is a formula that the state requires us to meet.

Based on our last few surveys wages, paid benefits and class size appear to be most important issues. No one is ever shy about mentioning these when negotiations occur. On that note, we should commence our negotiating after November 8 which coincides with Election Day. We have 2 new members on the Negotiations Team- Skyler Chapin from Balboa and Joel Levin from Buena.

While we are on negotiations, if you recall, our last negotiation settlement, while the best in many years, was not retroactive. From my perspective, not as many people retired in June, 2016 because teachers/educators who decided to wait until mid-year or beyond in order to receive their full 7%. We don’t know what mid-year retirement is going to look like, but I am hearing that many could be stepping down at that time. I guess we will have to wait and see…

Enrollment is down at many schools and it looks like that the overall effect might be fewer students district-wide.

We did welcome 25 new teachers and given the understanding that people will be retiring at the end of the semester, we can expect long term substitutes to be filling the spaces until the year is ended (June 2017). At that time, all positions will be flown. That is my understanding at this time. Naturally, everyone is aware that fewer people are going into teaching. I would like to know why you think this is occurring…

Please enroll in the Sick Leave Bank by September 30th if you have not already done so. You do have to give up a sick day when you enroll but should you have a condition that requires you miss a certain amount of days, this is well worth it. And in that same arena, let me mention American Fidelity and their disability program which also includes a cancer program that benefits you should you become disabled.

There are also a number of elections that will matter to us as educators and I would appreciate any help that you can provide to pass Prop 55 and Measure R.

Finally, VUEA and VESPA are offering a panel of School Board Candidates taking place at Anacapa Middle school on Tuesday, September 20th at 5:30pm. Fliers went out to all members- both certificated & classified last week. We hope to see you there!

Chip Fraser
President, VUEA