SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Archive for the ‘Jonathan Raymond’ Category

Teacher raises afoot?

From the Trenches

Optimism on School’s Chief Hiring Practice:

We teachers have all been sacrificing lately for the good of students and the financial solvency of SCUSD. I have an SCUSD-tested plan, however, to help us improve our financial and working condition, especially in light of the SCTA-generated concessions to our District. Here’s what we do.

Apply to the SCUSD school board to use the title, “Chief”, in front of our employee classification. For example, I would take over the moniker, Chief 6th Grade G.A.T.E. Teacher of Phoebe Hearst (it’s better to use capital letters…more credibility). You can immediately see how much more grandeur it gives a lowly teacher. But there are a host of reasons why we all should use the title, Chief:

*It improves student discipline. We all understand the importance of students deferring to classroom authority. Quiet kids make for productive kids.

*Classroom learning is enhanced. Studies show that totally compliant children make marked gains on standardized tests, the only true reliable test of student achievement.

*Teacher appearance necessarily will approach some higher standard. Let’s face it, a Chief Anything can’t come to school to improve learning for students in, say, jeans and sneakers!?! I’m a proponent of the bowtie, for example. You all must have lots of ideas on how we can dress ourselves more properly. Let’s do mandatory in-service on how to enrich a school community by what Chief Teachers wear. If only we could enlist some administrative help with teacher wardrobes.

*Parent-teacher conferences will go more smoothly and there will be more of them as well. No parent is going to dare skip the chance to talk to a “Chief” Teacher, and those pesky questions about student progress will be a thing of the past.

But this is the best news. We’ll all get huge raises. I don’t know how the Superintendent does it, but it’ll happen. He’s so confident that he replaced the Chief Financial Officer of SCUSD with a Chief Communications Officer. The financial predicament we face must not be all that bad, I guess! Maybe we’ll all just talk our way through the mess. I’m all for it anyway; it’s way easier than doing math and stuff.

So that’s one chief at $100,000 plus per year. His Chief of Staff? Again up into the six figures. The new proposed Chief of Family and Parent Engagement is expected to cost a bundle. We don’t exactly know how much the new Chief of Accountability will make, but the District spent $52,000 for a North Carolina outfit (none available in our state, I guess) to study accountability for us, so you know it’s going to cost a lot to hire someone to oversee how students, and eventually teachers are doing. Gotta be in the $100,000 plus range, though. All totaled SCUSD boasts seven new chiefs and counting. Heck, Mr. Raymond is spending thousands of dollars just to move secretaries, I hear. So any of you certificated people out there that know some secretaries, let them know about what we can do for them, too. Let’s spread the wealth!

So my plan then, placing a capital Chief in front of our lowly titles, will automatically generate an average salary increase of $42,000 per year, roughly $1 for every student we serve— if you look at finances the way our District does. And don’t worry about the school board; they’ve approved every Chief thrown at them. Besides, the Sacramento Bee hasn’t questioned the impropriety of any of our Chief’s Chiefs. It’s all on the up and up. You see, friends, we’re golden; we can’t lose.

So let’s start applying then. The District is apparently long on dollars, longer on Chiefs. The only thing we may be in short supply of is common sense. But we can solve that with a new position…..Chief of Better Judgment. Of course, we’ll have to run that by the SCUSD Communications Department for fiscal soundness.

Erik Knudson
Applying for Chief Random Article Writer status as the Need Arises


Truth in transcript

Yesterday, we published the transcript of this week’s  interview with Jonathan Raymond on Capital Public Radio. One of our astute readers (and contributors), Leo Bennett-Cauchon, did a little research (see below).


Raymond: “… We have to balance either way and we were prepared to do it by making reductions which would have increased our class sizes as well as would have eliminated the vast majority of our counselors at our high schools.”

Reality: estimated actuals 09-2010 = 28 M decrease. 10-11 = 16 M increase (pdf pg 20). Both are inaccurate projections but not balanced. 09-10 was balanced this time last year.

Raymond: “… Many of the categorical funds, these are the special dollars for state and federal programs are being reduced and there are positions — again 90 percent of our budget is personnel, so when the funding goes down we have to make corresponding reductions.”

Reality: Restricted Balance (categorical): 09-10 = 7 M. 10-11 = 23 M (pdf pg 30)

Raymond: “So we’re not adding another position, in fact, we’re reducing the cabinet level positions from eight positions down to seven.”

Past Reality: Interim Superintendent’s Reorganized Cabinet = 6 ( December Cabinet – Chief of Staff = 6). (pdf pg 2)

Current Reality: April Cabinet + Chief Accountability + Chief Engagement = 12. (pdf pg 1)

Future Reality: ?

Written by scusdobserver

July 9, 2010 at 7:24 am

Do we have the tools?

Transcript of Interview with Jeffrey Callison and Jonathan Raymond on Capitol Public Radio Insight, Wednesday July 7, 2010

Callison: Sacramento school teachers recently agreed to concessions but the city’s school district still faces big challenges. Today we’ll talk about those concessions and challenges. We’ll start our discussion with the Superintendent of Sacramento City Unified School District, Jonathan Raymond. Welcome back to Insight.

Raymond: Good morning, Jeffrey. Nice to be here.

Callison:  Well, we’ll talk about concessions in a minute, but first where does the District’s budget stand now? Are you in a better place than you were, let’s say, a month or two ago?

Raymond: Well we are from the standpoint of, you know, our budget is balanced and we have submitted it on to the state as required, by the end of June and certainly the recent concessions and agreements which we’ve reached with our teachers have helped.

Now, we had a balanced budget before that but what this has enabled us to do is to keep our class sizes in the K-3 area low, and to also bring back and restore the vast majority of our counselors, so that’s helped us.

Callison: If the budget was balanced before the concessions, why seek the concessions?

Raymond: Well so we can make sure that we keep a lot of our great teachers and our great counselors and that why it was important to me. We have to balance either way and we were prepared to do it by making reductions which would have increased our class sizes as well as would have eliminated the vast majority of our counselors at our high schools. These were tough choices that we had to make, but that’s the state of where we are in public education today in California.

Callison: The current contract was due to expire in 2011 and earlier this year the teacher’s union said they didn’t expect any negotiations on a contract before then. What did you say, if anything, to change that?

Raymond: Again, we went through a conversation. Part of it was I’m new, and getting to know each other, developing a relationship and that’s a process that takes time and I’m pleased to say we were able to accomplish…you know, nobody gets everything they want — that’s why it’s a negotiation. But we were able to reach an agreement that I think it’s good for our community, it’s good for our schools and it’s good for our employees.

Callison: Jonathan Raymond, Superintendent of Sacramento Unified School District. We’ve been trying for some time now to have a Sacramento City Teachers’ Association official on Insight, but we haven’t been able to schedule a date yet, but we remain committed to including the union’s perspective on Insight and as soon as we can schedule an official, we will.

Let’s bring into the conversation, Rachel Minnick, who is a parent of children at Phoebe Hearst Elementary School which is in the Sacramento City Unified School District. Rachel, Welcome.

Minnick: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Callison: As a parent I guess you’ve been watching what’s been going on, the District has had tough budget challenges as have many districts in California. The district and the union, the main union, came to an agreement. What do you make of all this?

Minnick: I think as a parent I’m pleased that the union was able to make some concessions to protect class sizes. My youngest is 8 years old so she’ll be going into third grade so she would be one of the kids that would be affected with the larger class sizes so I was very concerned about that. So I was just pleased to see that they were on board with a lot of the economic realities that the rest of us are facing in the world, you know, I’m paying more for my health benefits, I’m furloughed a little bit in my hours, so I appreciated that they were willing to take on some of that load as well, and share some of the pain.

Callison: When you say you were furloughed, are you a state worker?

Minnick: I’m not a state worker, I work for a non-profit but we are state-funded so we had to make some adjustments to our work force in order to accommodate the work and continue to serve the clients.

Callison: Jonathan Raymond, what were the main deals struck between your administration and the teacher’s association?

Raymond: Several Jeffrey…First we were able to — the teachers agreed to take three days equivalent salary reduction for two years.

Callison: So it’s basically a furlough?

Raymond: That’s basically a furlough — the equivalent of a furlough, but it’s not a furlough and that’s good news because it means — it doesn’t decrease the number of instructional days during the school year. Many districts have gone to that but we think it’s really important —

Callison: So the days will still be worked then?

Raymond: They’re still going to work, that’s correct, so we’re not going to reduce the calendar, the academic year will stay the same, which is important. They’ve also made some adjustments to health insurance. We had a grand jury report earlier this spring which highlighted our long-term health liability, and so there are a number of things through restructuring of prescription drugs and looking at some of the out-of-area costs, as well as a monthly contribution the teachers will be making toward funding that long-term health liability are very important. And one that’s also important is the changing of our professional development time and turning that into ongoing common planning K-12 which is an opportunity for teachers to get together and collaborate. That’s now going to be throughout the school district K-12 which is very important for us.

Callison: The concessions were aimed at reducing layoffs of teachers and other certificated staff, still I guess the District has lost teachers?

Raymond: We have lost some, yes, because our funding overall has been continually reduced. Many of the categorical funds, these are the special dollars for state and federal programs are being reduced and there are positions — again 90 percent of our budget is personnel, so when the funding goes down we have to make corresponding reductions.

Callison: Now there’s a political aspect to the layoffs issue and that is that layoffs in school districts certainly in Sacramento are governed by seniority rules, bargained between the administration and unions, and what that tends to mean, as I understand, is that newer teachers to the District which often means the newer teachers, period, are the first to be laid off. If there are layoffs, has that been the case in the Sacramento city schools district?

Raymond: Like other school districts that has been the case, and that is a challenge that we have to deal with and we have to face. There are certain ways we can work with that and this year we have skipped math, science and special education teachers. That’s an area that we’re always hiring even in this down time. Those are always hard to staff positions, so we are — through a provision called skipping — we can work with that, but that impact is felt here as it is in other school districts.

Callison: Rachel Minnick, parent of students in the Sacramento city schools district what do you think about seniority and layoffs? The teachers union argues that more experienced teachers presumably have more value because, well, they’re more experienced. They also tend to cost more because they’ve been in the system longer. If the slate could be wiped clean, how would you approach the issue of layoffs and seniority?

Minnick: I’d love to see a really reliable evaluation tool so that we keep the best of the best and we really pay them a premium because they really are the most important people in the community, I think, outside of parents, they are really important so I would love to see that.

And just to give an example, when my daughter was a kindergartner, she was kind of a victim of some of the hiring practices. Her kindergarten teacher was a newer teacher and a few weeks into the school district year, they had to evaluate the number of positions and the number of teachers, so my daughter’s kindergarten teacher actually was laid off — I don’t know where she went, I don’t know all the specifics because it’s a personnel issue, but she was replaced by a longer-term teacher about two weeks into my daughter’s first year of public school and I picked her up and she said, “Mommy, my teacher is going away.”

And I said, “Oh, I don’t think that’s true, maybe she’s just taking a vacation, she’s going to a wedding.” No. She really did lose her job and this teacher came in and taught and then during winter break, decided to retire. So when my daughter came back from winter break the teacher was gone. So it was this really interesting revolving door and it just had to do with somebody that had seniority but got moved around because of the number of students at different schools. So it was very difficult and very emotional for us.

Callison: Jonathan Raymond, Superintendent: If there were no seniority rules, how would you handle layoffs of teachers? Presumably, if you were able to lay off, without regard to seniority, you could layoff fewer teachers if you laid off more experienced teachers who make more money.

Raymond: I think the way to look at it Jeffrey, and Rachel pointed it out, is do we have the tools that enable us to determine, you know, who are the most effective teachers? And I would say we don’t. And that’s an area that we need to start to do a lot of work in and that’s an area where we need to work together with our teachers, with our principals, you know, with all of educators to find out those kind of tools which enable us to really determine, you know, which teachers are enabling our students to learn the most and the fastest and connect with our kids.

There’s a lot of work that’s occurring around the country, much of it funded through foundation and other philanthropic dollars, and that’s work that I think we need to start to pay attention to and come together around and all of us, collaboratively work together to see what can happen.

But right now, you know, the law is the law and so seniority governs and that’s the law that we live by.

Callison: Speaking of the law, Senator Darrell Steinberg, and the president pro tem in the California legislature has authored a bill that would amend the seniority law so that teacher layoffs were spread more evenly across a district because they tend to happen in lower performing schools, which for one reason or another, tend to have younger teachers. Do you agree with that bill which could become law?

Raymond: We’re taking a look at to see what the impact is. I want to look at that. The other part of that is why are we concentrating our newer, younger teachers in our lowest performing schools and that’s something we can do something about as a school district. So at the very front end, you know, we need to take a look at how we’re distributing our teachers, where we’re hiring and who we’re putting in and we’re working on that right now in Sacramento with our six superintendent priority schools. We’re trying to our best leadership, our best teachers, the best opportunities for kids in some of our most challenging schools.

Callison: Rachel Minnick, are your kids aware of all of the politics and the tough money situation at their schools? Do you talk about it with them?

Minnick: I think my kids are totally worn out on the discussion because my husband and I spend a lot of time talking about this. My kids go to a really wonderful school and it’s a magnet school where kids are at or above grade level, there’s parent involvement — it’s a wonderful school, but I don’t know that it’s a great representation of every school in our district and I wish I could say that that was the case, so I don’t know that my kids really know what it’s like to go to a different type of environment or a different type of school. I went to those schools, so I know, but I don’t think that my kids know.

Callison: Finally, Jonathan Raymond, let’s quickly touch on two related issues — the California Department of Education recently released an updated and expanded list of California schools on the fiscal early-warning list and Sacramento city schools remains on the list and in fact, almost every Sacramento County school district is on the list, as are some others in surrounding counties. Is anything going to happen soon, on the department level with the city schools district? Is there going to be any action taken either by the county board of education or the state department of education?

Raymond: I think the issue, Jeffrey, is one of finding some stability in funding. That’s one of the crises in public education right now which is why I think, right now, confidence is really shaken in the institution, which is a bad thing for everybody. It’s difficult to manage when you don’t know what your funding is going to be. Tell us it’s going up, tell us it’s going down, tell us it’s staying at the same spot and it’s a lot easier to manage to — but with uncertainty, with lack of clarity, with this really great unknown, it’s really challenging and what makes it really difficult in this profession is because we’re an organization of people, you know, is keeping people motivated to do the work.

As I say, teachers and principals can’t have a bad day. That doesn’t mean that they don’t feel well but what it means is when you’re in that classroom with 25 or 35 kids, you know, you have to be on and the great majority of the adults in our system I’m really proud of because they don’t have a bad day. They do what’s right and they do what’s needed for kids.

Callison: And finally, you’ve asked your board to create a new executive position at the city schools district, a chief accountability officer. Is this the time to add another manager to a system that’s laying off people?

Raymond: So we’re not adding another position, in fact, we’re reducing the cabinet level positions from eight positions down to seven. We’ve decreased our central administration by close to six million dollars. Dozens of positions at the Serna Center have been eliminated, it’s really want of saying — you know, we need to change the way we do business — if we want the same outcomes, you keep the same structure. You want different outcomes, you’ve got to change the structure and you’ve got to change personnel. We’re aligning around our new strategic plan — it’s our vision and it’s road map for moving the District forward, and these positions align with that. It’s about moving schools forward, as Rachel said, we have a number of schools in our district that do a wonderful job. They, too, can do better, it’s a question of holding our schools accountable for continuously improving and moving up that developmental sequence.

Callison: Again, we’ve been trying for some time now to have a Sacramento City Teachers’ Association official on Insight, we haven’t been able to schedule a date yet but we continue to work on that.

In the meantime, Jonathan Raymond, Superintendent of Sacramento City Unified School District, thanks for joining us along with Rachel Minnick, who is a parent of students at Phoebe Hearst Elementary School in Sacramento city unified schools. Thank you both for joining us.

Raymond, Minnick:  Thank you.

Written by scusdobserver

July 8, 2010 at 10:28 am

Corporate restructuring

The news that Superintendent Jonathan Raymond is seeking permission from trustees to hire a chief accountability officer for SCUSD does not allay very real fears that Raymond is accelerating a push to develop a corporate education culture in Sacramento.

Consider these job titles: Chief Talent Officer, Chief Knowledge Officer, Chief Portfolio Officer…all with annual salary ranges between $125,000-175,000. New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, a strong proponent of privatization, devised this idea of “administrative restructuring.”

These executives (most who have never taught in a classroom or been a principal) make the rounds throughout the countries’ school systems while changing job titles and descriptions. It’s a smorgasboard of CEO’s. Raymond was a chief accountability officer before he was hired in Sacramento.

The ultimate goal is to run the school system like a corporation –SCUSD teachers will have continued pressure to “teach the test” and improve API scores — data will be relentlessly tracked and tied to performance by the chief accountability officer.

This reform leads to what education historian Diane Ravitch calls a huge mistake:

Teachers — not just union leaders — are unhappy, frustrated, and demoralized. So are parents, because they don’t like the high-stakes testing regime either. They don’t like that their children are losing time for the arts, science, history, geography, physical education, foreign languages, and everything that is not tested. They may not be well-informed, yet they know that their children are missing out on a good education.

Time for the board to step up

By Lori A. Jablonksi

Sixty-seven teachers at C.K. McClatchy High School voted this week to overwhelmingly support the collective bargaining agreement between the district and Sacramento City Teachers Association.

I want to make sure I do my best to convey the general sense and mood as
McClatchy teachers gave their approval to donate to the District over $1,000
annually for the next two years to fund elementary class-size reduction and
to establish a retiree benefit trust.

Teachers voted with no guarantee that the counselors we so desperately
need at the middle and high school levels will return.  And they did
so without any word whether pink-slipped high school teachers would be
back in the classrooms next year.  One teacher called his vote a “leap of
faith” that the Board will finally “get it” and start paying attention to
the budget and actual spending, rather than just approve what the District
staff presents.

Another, a teacher with teens soon to start college, had tears in her
eyes as she voted (actually, quite a few did).  She told me that with her
husband furloughed and with the astonishing increases in the price of
tuition she had no idea what she was going to do about her kids’
college future.  This agreement, she said, would essentially wipe away
what little discretionary income her family had left each month. (She
noted too, as did several others, that at least with furloughs they could
spend the day off at home. A bit of gallows humor, perhaps, in a
terrible situation.)  Nevertheless, she told me she voted for it, as did
over 90% of the McClatchy staff.

Most concerning to me, however, was the overall sense of skepticism
expressed that Superintendent Raymond and the members of the Board of
Trustees truly appreciate that the teachers have agreed to make a
significant financial sacrifice in order to repudiate the “race to the
bottom” mentality others were so quick to embrace:  that furloughs (teaching
fewer days!) in any way, shape or form are consistent with “putting kids

Now that the agreement has been ratified, the District, thanks in large part
to its teachers, should be celebrated far and wide as a place where the
school year was kept intact, students and families were not turned away
through furloughs, and the true education mission was preserved.

It is now time to ask SCUSD board members to step up and match the
commitment shown by District teachers to keep cuts as far away from the kids
as possible.

Over the past year, I have joined others, including Board Member
Rodriguez, in advocating for a “line-by-line” budget review public work shop
in order to ensure that all dollars budgeted and spent are done so with
priority concerns–our kids’ classroom learning experience–in mind.

This is a plea to create such a process.

It will help re-assure teachers, parents and the community, at this
crucial time when so many are sacrificing so much, that the District Board
of Trustees are determined to leave no stone unturned to find ways to reduce
the cuts to teaching and support staff going forward.   We might even
discover a way to fully fund our middle and high school counselors and
restore some reality to the oft-stated principle that we believe in
nurturing a college-going culture in this district.

SCUSD and SCTA leadership reach tentative agreement

(edited 9:22 a.m. Tuesday, June 15)

June 14     3 p.m.    Theodore Judah

Superintendent Jonathan Raymond, SCUSD Board President Ellyne Bell and SCTA President Linda Tuttle announced in a press conference the details of a two-year contract designed to save teachers’ jobs and to keep class sizes small.

The deal includes:

  • a mutual understanding to keep K-3 class sizes small with a 1/25 ratio
  • teachers will be asked to give up the equivalent of 3 furlough days in salary. Each SCTA member will effectively pay back approximately $950 per year to the district in order to “give back” or retain teachers currently holding pink slips
  • teachers will be asked to increase their monetary contributions to their retiree health benefits packages
  • the board is being asked to consider a parcel tax measure to go on the ballot, possibly next year

SCTA’s 3000 members have not yet seen the details on paper.  SCTA volunteers will deliver the proposed contract to members beginning Tuesday morning with a final vote tally promised by late Thursday evening with announcement on Friday, June 18.

This two-year agreement will push out the previously scheduled 2011 contract negotiations for SCUSD and its teachers’ union.

Tuttle described the compromises as a “stop gap measure” to immediately bring back teachers and also to concede to parent partners’ demands for small class sizes in the elementary grades.

Raymond believes the furlough concession is a “huge part” of the agreement because roughly $2.3 million will be saved in district coffers.

Confusion surrounds the school year calendar. In separate agreements with its other bargaining units, it is reported that the District has agreed to three actual furlough days — two at Thanksgiving week and also Lincoln’s Birthday.

SCUSD Board members Roy Grimes and Jerry Houseman were also in attendance.

The Sup uses the word "blueprint"

Editor’s Note: Blueprint is the buzzword for the re-issue of No Child Left Behind.
Here is the most recent letter from Jonathan Raymond to pink-slipped employees:

March 22, 2010
Dear Colleague:
At Thursday night’s Board meeting, I was thrilled to announce that we plan to send letters out on Monday that will rescind approximately 170 of the layoff notices that were sent out last week.  We hope, in the coming weeks, to rescind even more.  These rescissions mark a step in the right direction but make no mistake – we still have a long way to go.  I understand that this process can be confusing at times and that it can be laden with tremendous anxiety and upset, and my staff and I are available to answer any questions you might have about the status of the process.
The unfortunate truth is that there is no way to avoid some layoffs to balance our fiscal house.  The exact number that will be needed is undetermined at this time, but I can tell you that I am doing everything in my power to have as few people as possible be impacted.
It is crucial that, even while we face the types of extraordinary challenges that we do today, we never stop searching for ways to innovate and improve our children’s education.  It is with this notion in mind that we introduced our “Priority Schools” Initiative earlier this week.  By focusing on bringing the best staffs and most resources to these six underperforming schools, we will be able to create a blueprint for the success of the other schools in our district.  Change at these sites will not come easy.  In fact, it will require us all to take a long, hard look at the way we go about educating our children at these sites and in general.  It will also require us to identify where our strengths are and have the courage to acknowledge our weaknesses.  Cleary, the status quo has not been working for our children and while I am not interested in making change for the sake of change, we MUST be willing take a step back and examine even the most fundamental aspects of how we operate.
As we look at new ideas, innovative approaches and creative strategies, it is important that we leave no stone unturned and no opportunity unexplored.  That is the basis of the Teach for America proposal.  This is obviously a topic that has inspired a lot feedback from many around our district and the full-house at Thursday’s Board meeting is a testament to that.  I truly appreciate and embrace an intelligent and mature dialogue about this – and every – issue.  We won’t all agree on every idea that may lead to improving the quality of our children’s education, but we should be able to agree that we need to work together to solve our problems.
As this process unfolds, I will continue to seek out feedback from all of you regarding where we are, how we got here and, most importantly, where we can go from here.  You have a continuing commitment from me to be open and transparent in this process and I ask that you join me in working collaboratively – not antagonistically – to help us all achieve our ultimate goal: the best education for our children that we can possibly provide.

Jonathan P. Raymond

Written by scusdobserver

March 21, 2010 at 10:02 pm