xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Don't Forget South Central: May 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Two Teachers, Two POV's

This email exchange landed in my inbox this week and shows the complexities of the issue of seniority, bargaining rights, and ed reforms.  L.A. Academy is ground zero for this debate, and we are working to try to reach a coherent, reasonable approach to all of these issues.  Of note, both teachers have been RIF'ed in the past 2 years.  (Exchange reprinted with permission of authors.)

Email #1

From today's LA Times.  Interesting to see that the "reform" effort in Colorado was headed by democrats and that the Colorado chapter of the AFT eventually supported the reform in exchange for some changes they wanted. This is just one more indication that teachers are losing the public relations battle with our "just say no to everything" approach.  It's no longer just Republican union-busters coming after teachers, but pretty much the whole political establishment.  I really fear that if California teachers' unions continue to say no to all reforms they are going to be ignored and we will have something really bad rammed down our throats.  Better to get a seat at the table and try to help create something we can live with than to stand in the street yelling when no one is listening and lose everything.  Read article here. (Dave D'Lugo)

Email #2

With all due respect and affection, while it's clear that teachers are losing the public relations battle, your characterization of our approach is just plain false. "Just say no?"  We didn't "just say no" to pilots--which was a controversial initiative that thinned the contract and limited teacher protections.  We fought out butts off at the
HOR (UTLA House of Representatives) to get people to support it, warts and all, and won. BTW a bunch of good teachers are being ousted from their school because of a misuse of the pilot idea and the below-named "School Choice" garbage, but most of us who supported it are still glad we did.

We didn't "Just say no" to the "school choice" process either.  We, frankly made a decision that I hated and did get a seat at the table in a choice process that gives no choice to the communities and gives publicly funded schools away. Then we all rallied behind that unfortunate decision, rolled up our sleeves got involved and went out and won our schools back--even though the process was corrupt and stacked against us. And we're going to have to work even harder on the next round of schools because of that.

And we didn't "just say no" to furloughs, even though the district still hasn't rescinded all the
RIFs (forgetting about last year) and less than a week after the deal, promptly dripped 300 mill+ on capital funds for school improvement with money that could have hired us all back.  You're not at the area meetings or the HOR lately, so you have no idea how infuriating this was to people.  Many wish now they had "said no" to the furloughs, and though I ultimately disagree, I absolutely understand why they feel that way.

The notion that they'll stop coming after us if we agree to take a seat at the table is ludicrous.  The forces stacked against us have one goal: the elimination of public sector unions. They want to create a right-to-work environment. You've worked in that, so have I.  We know how bad that is. That's what they want, Dave. We have worker protections precious few Americans have, and they're inconvenient to people in power. Notice how they never talk about bad administrators, but bad teachers--few as they are--are worth writing articles and articles about. What about overworked, underpaid excellent teachers who haven't had a COLA raise in four years and have to worry if they lose their jobs every year? Again, there is an agenda at work here, whether any of us want to see it or not.

The Colorado decision is not good, and
Weingarten is not making friends among her rank and file with her "seat at the table"approach.  Read the new piece in the NYT Magazine about unions and seniority. It's also very much stacked against us, but provides a little complexity.

You're clearly very passionate about this Dave. I'd like to invite you actually get involved in these discussions. With a little bit of participation and effort, you can be sitting on committees with officers and BOD members and getting your voice heard, and more than likely helping to direct our union.

But reading mainstream media articles that have a clear agenda against us will not get us anywhere if we don't do something.  As for the rest, I just hope you realize that this story is far more complicated than you indicate in your email. If you got involved, you'd truly know all the layers of complexity and then you'd be able to use your more than astute mind to help us figure out what to do about it.

We could really use the help. (Joe

My two cents to both Dave and Joe:

I think the union should embark on some reforms NOT because we want a seat at the table (as a history teacher I keep thinking of Neville Chamberlain and his failed appeasement of Hitler).  I don't want to go down as the sucker who sold out the union in return for nothing.  Yet at the same time, we as teachers have identified areas of improvement for our union, such as the one I am most concerned about:  seniority based lay-offs.  We know what that did to our school.  I advocate making layoffs district wide, not by school site.  If there is s 5% layoff in our district, each school should lose 5% of its staff.  This is fair.  If you don't want to be in the 5%, go to another school where your seniority will put you in a safe place.  This is reform-minded, its right, and we can push internally  We wouldn't be doing it to prove anything to anyone, yet we would reap the benefits.
Just a thought. (Martha Infante aka avalonsensei)

photo from ancientfaith.com

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spring at the Academy

We are settling into the final two months of the year, now that the turbulence of C Track is behind us.  It's funny how every year there seems to be a cluster of students who define themselves by their disagreeable behavior.  It can happen at any grade level, any track.  It is like a contagion, and once it takes hold, it is hard to reverse course.  We wonder if the very noticeable behavior differences this year is a result of the layoffs (resulting in new faces on campus) or an increase in more challenging students, since we believe charters do siphon off more motivated families.  It would be great if someone had the data on this.  Until then, we can only wonder.

In our year-round school, we enter our final "mester" with A and B Tracks on, and the final 6 weeks of school upon us.  We are figuring out who our instructors for next year will be, since several of our newly RIF'ed teachers have not had their layoff notices rescinded in spite of the ratification of the tentative agreement, in which LAUSD teachers agreed to a pay cut via furlough days, in an effort to allow students to keep their teachers (and adults keep their jobs.)

On a positive note, all of our new employees have indicated they will return next year.  We will not spin this fact as an example of how awesome our school and community is (although we all love LAAMS), but perhaps it is a sign that in this recession, one can't be too overconfident about job possibilities.  Maybe teachers are staying put to be safe.

A Track teachers wonder if we will be allowed to put anything on our walls this semester.  It seems that we are scheduled for maintenance on our walls and bulletin boards.  In LAUSD this means repair men can arrive at any time, any month, and the walls must be completely bare.  The estimated time of arrival was given as "anytime in the Spring semester."  The bureaucracy strikes again!

Our 8th grade students are receiving their high school acceptances, and our Honors students in particular, have made use of district choice programs such as the Magnet Program and Advanced Studies Program to select schools more suited to their career interests.  One of our talented 8th graders has won a full scholarship to Harvard Westlake school in Bel Air; the competition was stiff this year.  Although 5 students received acceptances from private schools, only one student received a full financial aid package.  Nonetheless, we are proud of all of our upcoming graduates!

We are concerned for students who feed into Fremont HS.  We wonder who will be left to staff the school after Reconstitution.  While many advocate this "accountability measure," educators wonder if the cure will be worse than the condition.  Closing schools which are purportedly failing children and replacing them with...more of the same teachers and administrators from LAUSD, and expecting different results is perplexing.  We feel for the students and staff who are forced to undergo this destructive process that has yet to show positive results in any school around the country.  As Steven Krashen surmises, "fix poverty and you fix schools."  Until then, we continue to hold on tight during this roller coaster ride at Six Flags Privatization Park, and hope the public continues to keep their eyes open.

photo from S.W.