Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Why Can't They Just Get Along ? Union Teachers v SCUSD Administration

 Many in Sacramento are frustrated and angry about the continuing conflict between the Sacramento City Teachers Assoc, and the SCUSD Superintendent and Board of Education.  Families are being disrupted and children are having their school schedules scrambled.

So, what is going on ? 

To find the District view, read the Sacramento Bee and particularly Marcos Breton.  He opines regularly.

I wanted to hear the teachers' side. So,  at a meeting of the Communities Priority Coalition, I asked David Fisher, President of SCTA to explain the issues.  I got an explanation I could understand.  Here it is.

At its heart, our dispute can be boiled down to one major difference. It's not a dispute about the length of teachers' workday, or teacher pay, it's about providing the best instruction to address student needs and foster a love of learning. In a brick and mortar setting, teachers have the ability to use their professional expertise and judgement to provide an education based on the individual needs of their students. Rather than extend that respect for the professional judgement of teachers to the distance learning setting, SCUSD administrators, with no direct experience teaching in a distance learning environment, are trying to impose a rigid, overly scripted learning model that devalues teachers' professional judgement. It's a choice of quality, rather than simply quantity.

Other districts have been more respectful to the experience of teachers. Here is what one assistant superintendent from Folsom Cordova Unified who "placed his full faith in the teachers" had to say: "Teachers are the educational experts. They went through a lot of training, a lot of college, and a lot of credentialing classes on how to engage kids and help them with their learning."

There's no reason such a respect for teachers should not apply in Sac City as well.

We are moving forward teaching every day to the best of our abilities based on the needs of our students but we want the learning experience to be much better than it was in the Spring.

Last Spring the District unilaterally implemented their proposal without any input from educators at all. It was unclear what the expectations were and was inconsistent at best. 

We want this fall to be much better with much clearer expectations based on input from those who are charged with implementing the instruction. That is why we pushed so hard for training that the District only finally agreed to a few hours before the day began.

That is also why our current proposal including our schedules were developed by hundreds of teachers from every school site and segment. We considered our experience in the Spring, expert recommendations by the American Association or Pediatricians and the W.H.O, we reviewed research on sleep patterns of teenagers, as well as looked at what other Districts were doing and what was working and what wasn't. 

The teachers on our bargaining team believe their ethical obligation requires them to teach in the manner that is in the best interest of students.  In addition we have received feedback from hundreds of parents, teachers and community members who prefer our more flexible, comprehensive proposal.

As far as the schedules, we are in agreement with our District that the total instructional minutes are the same as recommended by the CDE and the same that most districts also have. While there is some variance in other districts around required live screen time, most other districts give teachers the same discretion they have in a brick and mortar setting to divide their instructional minutes between whole group, small group and independent practice.

For example Folsom Cordova has no minimum required synchronous minutes and leaves it up to the discretion of the individual teachers based on student needs.

San Juan requires 45-65 synchronous minutes at elementary level.

Our proposal requires a much higher minimum of (110 1-3) and 120 synchronous minutes at the elementary level (4-12) and gives the teachers flexibility to increase the minutes for those students who need extra support.

As far as standards and assessments, all teachers will continue to use standards to guide their instruction and will assess students appropriately just like they always have.

It's also important to emphasize that the decision to propose our schedules was not made by me or only a handful of leaders, it was a unanimous Decision of our 85 member bargaining team and by hundreds of school site representatives elected by their peers at each school. 

I could not unilaterally make that decision nor change that decision even if I wanted to. And for some additional context, after discussion with other local association leaders, they all said they would never sign on to our District's overly rigid proposal as written. Natomas even went so far as to take a strike vote to make sure they got an acceptable plan and Folsom Cordova didn't have an agreement until about two weeks into their school year.

All that being said our teachers are committed to, and will continue to teach our hearts out to the best of our abilities with or without the trust or respect of our district leadership. And instead of ignoring the disparities in the schools we proposed multiple options for meeting the needs of students that are unable to connect during the live screen time instruction. Unfortunately the District has rejected those ideas. 

David Fisher
President SCTA 
Phone: 916-452-4591
Fax: 916-452-4675

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