Update: I left out a few things (which is what I get for updating the blog late at night!). I’ve added information below.
Tonight’s meeting was long, mostly due to lots of public comment on two items: the annual “non-re-elect” resolution and our labor negotiations with SEIU 1021, the union that represents our clerical workers, custodians, student nutrition workers, and other classified staff. (Hint: Lots of public comment usually equals unhappy people, and tonight was no exception).
First, the non-re-elects: Under state law, teachers are probationary for their first three years in the classroom, and then become permanent. Until they are permanent, they can be released from service for any reason, without the district having to state cause (permanent teachers can only be dismissed for cause). However, probationary teachers that may be released are required to be notified (and issued a separate intent to lay off notice — a “pink slip”) before March 15 if their services will not be needed by the district in the following school year.
The non-re-election notices are the first step in a multi-step layoff/release process. On March 1, the Board will hold a special meeting to consider a resolution to issue intent to lay off notices to teachers (the Board voted in closed session this evening to issue “may not renew” notices to 150-odd administrators and Central Office classified staff – 5 in favor – Fewer, Mendoza, Norton, Wynns, Yee, 1 against – Maufas, 1 absent – Murase). Assuming the Board passes this resolution, pink slips will be mailed to permanent teachers whose hire dates make them the least senior in the district, probationary teachers who did *not* receive a non-re-election notice, and probationary teachers who did receive non-re-election notices. I don’t know what those numbers will be yet.
On May 15, there will be permanent layoff notices mailed to a smaller group of the above employees — as vacancies occur over the summer or as the budget picture gets clearer, we are then able to rescind those notices on the basis of seniority.
Anyway, as you can see, things get complex very quickly and this year is worse than normal because of the uncertainty around the state budget. We are being told to prepare for “Scenario A” which would be a doomsday budget that would come to pass if there is either no June election OR the revenue measures don’t pass in June; AND prepare for “Scenario B,” which is a happier vision of the future where there IS a June election and the voters choose to extend the taxes on the ballot. (We should know by mid-March if there will even be a June election. More on that in a few minutes).
Back to the meeting: as you can imagine, the 38 teachers who received non-re-elect notices are unhappy and in many cases believe they were issued those notices unfairly. Of the 38, eight are Special Day Class teachers and six are teachers in the Child Development Program (most of them at the SF Public Montessori school). I can only imagine how dispiriting it is as a first- or second-year teacher to receive a non-re-election notice; at the same time we expect administrators to make tough decisions when evaluating who is an effective teacher and who is not. Based on the timelines that are part of the non-re-election process, we must expect administrators to trigger the process if they have doubts that a particular teacher will meet their school’s needs in the following year. Those notices can be rescinded before the end of the year, and I have no doubt that at least some will ultimately be rescinded. Of course, I recognize this assurance does not make the process any less painful and uncertain for those who find their livelihoods caught up in it. Final vote on the non-re-elect resolution: 5 in favor (Fewer, Mendoza, Norton, Wynns, Yee), 1 against (Maufas), 1 absent (Murase).
On to general public comment: Many members of SEIU were on hand to express their impatience and unhappiness with the current state of contract negotiations, which have been dragging on for months. At issue: the four furlough days taken by other units, which the district has maintained do not need to be bargained (SEIU disagrees and regards the district’s instructions for its members not to go to work on those days as a lockout); various pay differentials for different kinds of work, including word processing and longevity with the district — the district says it should not have to pay employees extra for word processing nor length of service with the district, but SEIU says its workers are among the lowest paid in the district, that the differentials help contribute to a living wage and regardless, they represent status quo; and finally, the district’s lawsuit against the city regarding the district workers’ participation in the civil service system, which leaves district positions open to bumping by city employees (we saw this in late 2009 when City clerical workers bumped school secretaries at several schools). The district says it should be able to hire and maintain its own workers, whose jobs — in many cases — are materially different than a similar classification in the City (for example, a Student Nutrition worker must understand myriad state and Federal regulations about the school lunch program, in the way a food service worker in another part of the city might not; a Clerk/Typist in the Department of Public Health has very different job expectations and duties than a school secretary). SEIU says being a part of Civil Service is a major benefit to its school district workers and believes it would harm those workers’ long-term economic prospects if they were denied the possibility of bumping into City jobs and enjoying other benefits that come with being part of Civil Service. They also point out that there is little formal training for school secretaries — they are expected to learn on the job when they are hired or when they bump into the job.
The parties head into fact-finding soon, which is the last step before serious labor actions. Depending on the outcome of the fact-finding report, the Superintendent will either ask the Board to impose a contract (which would be binding for six months), or continue to try to reach a settlement. Either way, this is definitely not the last time SEIU members will come to Board meetings to share their views on the negotiations.
Unhappy events aside, there were several other items of note on tonight’s agenda:
- The Parent Advisory Council report centered on the ongoing effort to gather input from the community on the district’s efforts to build quality middle schools and middle school feeder pathways. A schedule of community meetings is emerging, as well as a number of questions that will be discussed at those meetings. The PAC’s printed report to the Board (PDF) contains great information on both these topics (including a list of meeting dates, times and locations). Meeting information will (I believe) also be distributed on the district web site, by PPS, and other groups that are working on parent involvement.
- Deputy Superintendent Carranza and “executive on loan” Laura Moran gave the board a brief update on “Beyond the Talk 2.0,” the work towards implementing the district’s strategic plan. They also provided a written report with more thorough updates on the various strategic initiatives.
- We heard a great presentation on the Kinsey collection, a collection of art and other significant objects from African-American history that is currently on display at the African-American Arts and Cultural Center on Fulton St through April 30, 2011. Funds may be available for buses and other supports to allow public school students to visit the collection for field trips; Chief Academic Officer DeeDee Desmond has been put in charge of figuring out how to get interested schools the resources they might need to visit the collection. The exhibit is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 1-5 p.m. at 762 Fulton St. in San Francisco. It’s free, with a suggested $5 per person donation.
- The Board unanimously passed a resolution calling for a June special election to extend temporary revenue measures to help prevent devastating cuts to schools.
- The Board voted 5-1 to appoint Catalina Ruiz-Healy to a three-year term for our seat on the Elections Commission. Ms. Ruiz-Healy is a Mexican-American with a long history of advocacy in the area of voter access and youth voting. This year there were a number of very qualified applicants for the position, and it was a tough decision, but I’m satisfied that Ms. Ruiz-Healy will serve us well.
- The Superintendent introduced for first reading four items: charter renewal petitions for City Arts & Technology High School, Five Keys Charter High School and Five Keys Adult Charter School; and a proposed update to residency policy for students attending and applying to San Francisco public schools. These items will be heard in committee and returned to the full Board for consideration in March.
- Finally, the meeting was adjourned in the memory of three people — giants, really — who left us in recent weeks: Carolene Marks, political legend, wife of late State Senator Milton Marks and mother of Community College Board President Trustee Milton Marks; Dan Kryston, head of the Musical Theater and Theater Tech departments at Ruth Asawa School of The Arts; and Dan Ryan, founding principal of School of The Arts, and an advocate of arts education until the very end. Each contributed to our district and our city in myriad ways and each will be greatly missed.