Changing the game in teacher contract talks

2013-10-03T00:00:00Z Changing the game in teacher contract talksMark Goodman / Commentary Santa Maria Times
October 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

This week, negotiators from the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Faculty Association and the district will meet to continue bargaining the contract for the 2013-14 school year. As a resident of the district, there are some things the members of the faculty think you should know.

Last fall, the Faculty Association arranged for a training in interest-based bargaining for the association and district. Often called win/win bargaining, this is the approach the association and district turned to following the long strike in the 1990s to improve the relationship.

For years, this approach served the district and its teachers well. Over time, many administrators have come and gone, and the association sought to bring that positive process back.

The administration apparently had other plans. In July, without notice to the association, the district removed building principals from its bargaining team and hired a professional negotiator, someone with no personal stake or relationship in the district, to run the negotiations. He brought a new proposal, pages and pages of wholesale changes to the teachers’ contract.

One of the most troubling proposals is an outright elimination of the district’s longstanding 28-1 hiring ratio — a guarantee that for every 28 students, one teacher will be employed. For teachers and students, this is not as good as a hard cap on class sizes — something we would certainly want — but it does ensure classes don’t get too large, while allowing the district the flexibility to have some classes larger than others.

During the worst of the economic downturn of the past few years, the district and association have been able to preserve this language. Now, as the economy improves, the district has proposed eliminating this language completely, and without explanation.

No explanation is really required. There is only one reason the district could have for eliminating the language, because there is only one thing the district could do without the language that it can’t do now. That one thing is to hire fewer teachers, which can only mean raising class sizes.

There is much more to the proposal that should be troubling to residents of the district, more than can be told in this space. I encourage every concerned parent to contact school board members and administrators to ask about the district’s proposal, why they hope to eliminate the hiring ratio, and why they have abandoned interest-based bargaining.

As the Faculty Association bargaining team returns to the table this week, we will continue to work for an agreement that keeps the needs of students in mind as we maintain a productive and respectful working environment for Santa Maria teachers.

Mark Goodman is president of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Faculty Association.

Copyright 2015 Santa Maria Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(2) Comments

  1. smhsdad
    Report Abuse
    smhsdad - October 08, 2013 12:33 am
    As a parent, I agree with many things of JustA Thought has shared. You are right! Mark Goodman and the Faculty Association don't have the support of the parents, and the community of this school district. In the last school board meeting, the teachers that spoke to the board displayed a poor understanding of what our children really need to be competitive in the real world. For example, our sons and daughters need a rigorous schedule, and higher academic requirements to graduate from high school.

    It is long overdue for all high schools in the district operate in the same bell schedule. SMJUHSD is the only district in the whole state that has allowed the Faculty Association to have total control of the schedule for the last 20 years. That's a disservice to our student population! All stakeholders, specially WE the parents should have the right to vote in what would be the best schedule for our children.

    Who controls the schedule at SMHS, and the other two schools in the District? The Teachers Union has TOTAL control of the schedule. Parents, community members, and school officials have NO participation on the schedule. The worst thing is that in the last school Board meeting, the leaders of the Faculty Association defends the current block schedule at SMHS and PVHS to no end knowing that this outdated and illogical schedule does not benefit our students.

    Who controls SMHS Shared Decision Making? The Faculty Association does. The parents have LITTLE participation. The worst thing is that this committee meets during the school day. Seven teachers are out of their classrooms eight times during the school year compared to Pioneer High School SDM committee that meets in the afternoon to accommodate parents and students representation. SDM teachers need to be in their classrooms teaching their students. Then, if these teachers have the students' best interests at heart, they should meet in the afternoon to accommodate the parents, and community members work schedule.

    What group has tried to shut down Coffee with the Principal meetings for Santa Maria High School Spanish speaking parents? SMHS Shared Decision Making and the FA leadership have worked together to go so against "Cafecito con el Director", because WE the parents support Principal Mr. Domingues and the school administration.(We are 500 or more parents in attendance in each parent meeting) Also, the parents are asking for more SDM representation, and the meetings to be move in the afternoon to accommodate our work schedule. A FEW bad teachers are trying to shut down a wonderful group of parents called "QUE PADRE!". These dedicated parents have raised money to take students on trips to universities, and reward the students for their improve academic performance. Do you call team work not allowing parents to do something positive for our own sons and daughters?

    It's time for the SMJUHSD Superintendant Mark Richardson, district officials, and the School Board to lead. We the parents are here to support the necessary changes that you need to enforced to better the education of our children. We are NOT longer be intimidated by Mark Goodman, and the Faculty Leadership. Many times these FA leaders have called parents "ignorants and uneducated" in public forums. These people do not have our children interests at heart at all! They are misleading the dedicated teachers that district has. It is time for ALL stakeholders to work together as a REAL team! Please School Board and District officials, it is time to take the bell schedule back! It is time to get rid off Share Decision Making committee. SDM has become a poison, specially in SMHS. It is time to have a solid and rigorous educational system! Our present students and future generations will reap the benefits of that!
    "Passion is a powerful force that can not be stopped"
    Thanks for your time!
  2. JustAThought
    Report Abuse
    JustAThought - October 05, 2013 10:55 am
    I am going to go out on a limb and put my humble thoughts out there regarding many things that are troubling.
    I'll start with the issue raised in Mark's post. Eliminating 28-1 is a bad idea and let me state why. 28-1 does not mean that all classes will only have 28 students. Let me help my friend Mark explain his point. 28-1 means that for every 28 students you must hire 1 teacher. Now those students are not necessarily equitably distributed amongst classrooms. For classes such as Special education and remediation classes, for example, there may only be 10, 12, or 20 students. So where do the other 18, 16, and 8 students go? They are put in another classroom. A classroom that I've seen bulging at the seams with 42 students, more students than desks, and no way for a teacher to possibly be able to teach to all levels and abilities because with so many students stuffed in one classroom, more time is spent inevitably on classroom management than teaching. I have children in this district and have walked on all campuses and witnessed the overcrowding in classrooms with my own eyes.

    Now time to get real about this entire train wreck that is wreaking havoc in our schools and holding this district hostage. Let me start by saying that I am for students so I am not going to mince words.

    There are various reasons for the pretentious stalemate we are all watching unfold. Let me start with the FA leadership. Times have changed. You no longer have the strong hand you once held, this is no longer the 90's, the strike is over, get over it and move on. Let's deal with the reality of today because you aren't doing the association any favors by taking the stance you are currently taking. You walk in with a chip on your shoulder, hostile to any new ideas or thoughts, and talk twice as much as you listen. The truth be told, there are things that need to change in the contract, but I agree that 28-1 is not one of them. What truly needs to change is tenure. Where in any business in this country can you not be fired for not doing your job? And please spare me with your "there's a process" talk. I've read the contract forwards and backwards and know what's in it. Quite frankly I'm tired of having to work twice as hard to get my students achieving at the level they need to be, only to have my neighbor next door with his feet up on his desk not doing his job that he gets paid to do. And can he be evaluated on his poor performance? Of course he can, with proper notification to the Association and a scheduled visit once every 2 years but if they've been in the district for, what is it now 10 years, they can be assumed to be doing the job and only need sporadic evaluations. So, the admin schedules the appointment to observe the teacher "in action," the teacher is notified and prepared, and finally gets his out from behind his desk and decides to teach for 1 day out of 2 years. Let's be real. There are teachers underperforming and not doing their job. Not all, but a few bad teachers in the bunch makes us all look bad and they don't deserve to be called teachers. Now let me also say there are bad administrators (and who they are is no top secret surprise in this district either). Just like there are bad classified employees, bad management, a bad school board member now and again.....just like there are bad police officers, priests, landlords, you all get my drift. Just be real with what the problems are, face them, work to change them, so you can do what you're meant to do which is get back to teaching.

    Parents! You have every right to be concerned about the education of your children. This is a competitive world and you know how difficult this world can be. You've raised some valid concerns. Unfortunately many of your valid and real concerns are being overshadowed by these ill-intentioned groups that have formed and are polluting our community and also contributing to this now hostile environment where students are trying to learn. From what I have heard from some of you at school board meetings (please look at the minutes from the SMHS school board meeting last April or May) a parent stood up to say that she was not meant to be a leader, she worked in the fields, but was there that night because many of her friends that worked with her were concerned, some frightened, by the bullying tactics of these groups that were being used to make parents sign petitions, petitions that they weren't even sure what they were signing. They were being yelled at, harassed, people showing up at their doorsteps, some even bribed with money to sign these petitions. These people do not have your interests at heart at all and it saddens me that these so-called leaders would take advantage of some of you, pretend to be there for your kids, and then are the very people who are contributing to the hostility by calling people racists, etc. Please come to the meetings, speak your own thoughts, help to build a stronger, better community and school for your children. It can be done!
    To the school board. I'm not quite sure why you continue to allow this to go on. You all should've stepped in long ago. Not with your side meetings with Joe Dominguez or Mark Goodman or Rudolfo Ramiro. Those are side bars that have gotten this district no where. Step up and lead these groups and this community to a resolution because what is coming is not what the students deserve!
    Mark Richardson get out and lead this district. Don't sit behind a microphone at board meetings and allow the contention to continue. A leader leads with his words, with his actions, with his wisdom. I know the difficult task set before you. I have been at meetings with both these parent groups and the FA leaders. Personally, I think they are bullies with little cause at best, and a misguided moral compass and worst. Where we are, we should never be and it looks bad on all leadership involved.
    Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. You may not like them, but you may find a little more than a grain of truth.

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