SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Archive for the ‘Pink Slip Terrorism’ 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

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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.

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.
Sincerely,

Jonathan P. Raymond
Superintendent

Written by scusdobserver

March 21, 2010 at 10:02 pm

TFA redux

The “now is not the time” response to Teach For America‘s presentation in front of the school board Thursday night seemingly puts the program low on the list of current priorities.

But before we go, let’s read a letter written by a TFA graduate and brought before the board by a community member during Thursday night’s public comments. This young gentleman, who has roots in Sacramento, did his teaching stint in Charlotte public schools and is now pursuing a law degree at Cornell University:

The veteran teachers’ beef always seems to relate to the idea of young, idealistic, mercenaries coming in for two years and stealing jobs from established teachers. Especially with the current economy, their concerns might be legitimate. Thus, to assuage their concerns it is necessary to let them know that high-performing, hard-working teachers will always have jobs and that there are (likely) thousands of teachers that fit the mold in Sacramento that continue to provide the best possible education for their students. But, there are clearly still gaps that need to be filled and Teach for America is a resource that helps to fill them.

While, Teach For America is not a panacea, it is a step in the right direction. The organization’s involvement in each of its regions goes beyond the teachers in the classroom. It creates a necessary piece of the foundation that works toward prioritizing education and remedying some of the problems that face any failing educational system.

Most importantly, education is about the children. TFA teachers, even if only be a small margin, are better than other first year teachers and display a high level of commitment to their students and their schools. Additionally, Teach For America alumni that choose not to stay in the classroom (like myself) become advocates for education and understand the complexities and problems facing the public schools. The hope is that when TFA alumni go on to do other things, they remember their experiences and come back and use policy, law, etc… to continue to fight against educational inequity. That is a powerful resource for any city.

Education is in need of reform, and better teachers are an integral part of the solution. Bottom line: If Sacramento teachers truly want what is best for the children and the public education system, they will understand that this is not about stealing jobs from veteran teachers. Rather, it is an additional piece of the puzzle that can lead toward what should be the ultimate goal: that “one day all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” (TFA’s motto).

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Written by scusdobserver

March 20, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Congratulations to the Adult Education Teacher of the Year

…unfortunately in her acceptance speech before the board this evening, ESLL Teacher Marge Matoba shared that she has been pink slipped. And the adult education programs in the city? Under threat from budget cuts.
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Written by scusdobserver

March 19, 2010 at 5:51 am

SCTA is the problem

Editor’s Note: In the continued interest of fairness and facilitating communication, we print this letter in support of Teach For America, brought to you by a concerned SCUSD parent.

(sent to SCUSD Board Trustees March 18, 2010)

I am a parent of two children in SCUSD and urge you to support Teach for America. SCUSD must support the development of new teachers, regardless of their place of origin. The current system of education is stagnant and our children must have the benefit of new ideas and new people, especially people from outside the region, who can bring different perspectives that will enrich their education.

There are people who believe Teach for America will displace local graduates and/or displace current teachers. This is a misguided belief. Teach for America is not the problem. The current system maintained by the Sacramento City Teachers Association is the problem. SCTA has been unwilling to make any concessions that would protect newer teachers from annual layoffs nor are they willing to protect our children from larger class sizes (which affect younger students now, but also have an impact on learning through high school) and ridiculous hiring practices that can mean newer teachers are displaced several weeks or months into a new school year by teachers with more seniority. This happened to my kindergartner at Theodore Judah in the 2007-08 school year. If we really care about learning, why would it ever be acceptable to change a child’s kindergarten teacher 6 weeks into her very first school year? This flies in the face of common sense and shows flagrant disregard for research about how young children learn–but it doesn’t matter because the SCTA is more concerned with protecting teachers with seniority than creating a learning environment where all children can be successful.

Sacramento children MUST be the district’s top priority, not protecting health insurance co-pays for teachers. These co-pays and other benefits are completely out of line with the private sector and also completely out of line with our current economic climate, where most workers have accepted pay cuts, reductions in hours and more to preserve their jobs and the services they provide. Middle and upper-middle class teachers can afford to pay more and they should. Do we value protecting the status quo for teachers more than we value the education of the many low income, under-performing students in Sacramento who will suffer more in larger classes?

Teachers should be compensated fairly, but they should also be held to high performance standards. Years of service do not always equate to a quality education. Teachers should be evaluated on performance and they should be hired and fired accordingly. We should make it easier for administrators to identify and reward excellent teachers and remove teachers who are not performing. New teachers should not automatically be pink-slipped each year in favor of veterans. In the private sector, performance matters, but my experience as a parent with two children in the SCUSD has proven that longevity is what matters here in Sacramento.

My children attend one of the best schools in the district, Phoebe Hearst, and I have been mostly disappointed, and at times appalled, by the quality of their individual teachers. My children are bright and my husband and I are involved parents and still we have seen our children hurt by ridiculous personnel practices that have derailed their education and hurt by teachers who seem to be detached from how children learn.

I urge you to consider any innovative options that will bring new ideas and new education strategies to our struggling district, including Teach for America, high quality charter schools and other options that enable parents to exercise educational choice. Our precious tax dollars fund this system and we have a right to a voice even though we don’t have Union representation.

Written by scusdobserver

March 18, 2010 at 6:20 pm