Friday, April 10, 2020

SCUSD Fails To Consult Teachers on Learning

Superintendent Threatens Legal Action Against Teacher Volunteers
SCUSD Announces Unilateral Implementation of "Hybrid Model" Distance Learning Plan As Thousands of Students Are Without Chromebooks
April 10, 2020

Last night at 8:48 p.m. we received a letter via email from SCUSD Superintendent Jorge Aguilar that declared “that the District will move forward with phase 3 of its student-centered distance learning plan.” You can view the letter here.
Since March 30, the District has:
  • reneged on MOUs #1 and #2 that legally commited the District to create with teachers a "mutually-developed" Distance Learning plan;
  • backtracked on its previous position that it "mutually-develop" a FLEXIBLE Distance Learning plan grounded in the professional judgement of teachers;
  • rejected our offer to use $1.8 million in health plan savings to buy Chromebooks for students;
  • refused to abide by Governor Newsom's Framework for Labor-Management Collaboration, that was endorsed by the California School Board Association;
  • rejected our offer to use Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna as a mediator;
  • failed to respond to our most recent proposal of April 7;
  • refused to meet since April 3. 
The District’s Distance Learning “Plan” Was Created by 6 Serna Administrators with No Input from Classroom Teachers: As we wrote to the Superintendent yesterday, April 8, which you can view here, the District has provided no details of its “distance learning plan [that] is grounded in the commitment to provide consistency necessary to ensure that our students do not fall any further behind because of this unprecedented crisis,” included, but not limited to, the students who have lost contact with teachers. The District has not shared its plan to accomplish “developing and providing comprehensive and equitable learning opportunities to all students.” 

According to Chief Academic Officer Christine Baeta, the District’s distance learning plan was created by 6 Serna Center administrators with no input from classroom teachers.

The District rejected our proposal to create Work Groups in Elementary, Secondary, Special Education, and High School Graduation to create detailed plans, and failed to follow up with Work Groups for Waldorf and Physical Education.

The District’s Learning Plan Lacks Any Details or Substance: While the District’s announcement of its intention to unilaterally implement “phase 3” of its Distance Learning plan is a violation of California labor law, that is not what is most troubling. Our biggest concern is that District leaders can’t explain what “phase 3” is.

District leaders kept promising to discuss their Distance Learning plan in an effort to create a "mutually-developed" plan going forward. It commited to presenting a comprehensive plan on March 26—but never did. On paper, the District describes its “plan” as: “a hybrid approach,” with “clear guidelines, not qualifiers,” “focused on innovative methods to ensure that we can teach and meet essential standards,” with “consistent schedules” and “communication with families.” The “plan” also includes “teacher collaboration” with “support for student social and emotional needs.” Grading will only allow students to improve their grades.

For example, the District has provided no information how packets will be created and distributed to students. The District has not addressed security and confidentiality concerns related to Zoom. The District has not explained how some staff could be required to conduct in-person meetings when there is a statewide stay and shelter order in place.

We repeatedly expressed our concern that the District appeared to be more interested in creating a Distance Learning plan that sounded wonderful and looked great in an Info-graph, but that in reality lacked substance. Unfortunately, that appears to be what its plan is.

Superintendent Aguilar Threatens to Take Legal Action Against Volunteer Teachers Who Are Willing to Provide Technical Support to Students and Parents: Yesterday, Superintendent Aguilar even went so far as to send as cease and desist letter, which you can view here, threatening to take legal action against teachers who volunteered to provide technical support to students and parents related to Distance Learning.

The District Has Failed to Follow Through on Its Commitment to Provide a Chromebook with Internet Access to Every Student Who Needs One by April 13: Until Tuesday of this week, April 7, the foundation of the District’s distance learning plan was based on its guarantee that every student who needed a Chromebook with internet access would be provided one by the District. The District even rejected a proposal from SCTA to use $1.8 million from health plan savings to purchase Chromebooks for students, because the District claimed it had already ordered them

For the first time on Wednesday, the District finally admitted that Chromebooks would not be available for all students who need one by April 13. More than 73% of secondary students—13,552 students--won’t be offered a Chromebook by April 13. And for those students at those schools who were fortunate enough to be offered a Chromebook (mostly elementary schools), Chromebooks were limited to one per family, rather than one per student, no matter how many students are in a family. The District confirmed to the Sacramento Bee “that it will be unable to complete the distribution of computers to all 40,000 students before April 13. . . . We ultimately expect to provide each student from all grade levels a computer within the next few weeks.” Distance Learning will only occur for nine weeks, from April 13 through June 11. The District will not produce the purchase order to show when the purchase was made, and will not provide any details when deliveries can be expected.

The Leadership Style of Superintendent Aguilar and Board President Jessie Ryan: While we are extremely disappointed in the lack of leadership and cooperation from the District, we are not surprised. Although we never had the opportunity to have either Superintendent Aguilar or Board President Ryan present their vision directly to us, unilaterally implementing a plan that is more sound bite than substance is entirely characteristic of their leadership style.

In contrast, nearly every other school district in the state of California has reached agreements with their teachers' unions to transition to Distance Learning during this international pandemic.

Later today, we will provide in question and answer format responses to many questions we have been hearing from teachers, students and parents.
As always, feel free to share with us your thoughts and suggestions.

David, Nikki & John

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