Tag Archives: labor

District, UESF reach tentative agreement on a contract

Hot off the presses – United Educators of SF and SFUSD have reached a tentative two year agreement (covering 2012-13 and 2013-14) that will restore the number of instructional days to 179.5 and limit the number of forced closure days to 1.5.  This is huge, not only because teachers, paraprofessionals and other UESF members have taken four furlough days in each of the past two years, but also because students will now have the benefit of a full school year (the last day of instruction both years will be designated a half day).

The tentative agreement was reached by the district and UESF bargaining teams last week, and last night was ratified by the UESF Executive Board by a 2-1 margin. Next, the agreement will go to UESF membership with a recommendation to ratify — members will vote in a mail-in election with ballots due by August 20.

“What stands out about this agreement is that, even in the midst of an ongoing economic crisis for public schools in California, we worked together to find a way to make student learning come first by restoring the school year,” said Superintendent [Richard] Carranza. “However, our ability to keep schools open for our children completely hinges on the voters of California passing either or both tax initiatives, Prop. 30 and Prop. 38. Without this, we’ll have to institute as many as 5 additional forced closure days for the upcoming school year and up to 10 additional days for the 2013-14 school year.”

[UESF President] Dennis Kelly pointed out “that the union advocated for the half-day and non-instructional day closures to preserve learning time and to make a statement about the importance of extricating children from the vice of state fiscal failures.”

Major props to the bargaining teams for both sides, who persevered and achieved a good agreement despite some pretty hard feelings earlier in the spring. Assuming UESF membership ratifies the agreement, this is truly a win-win-win for the district, its partners in UESF, and families — who can now look forward to the first day of school without losing precious instructional days and worrying about having to scramble for additional child care to cover scattered forced closure days, or even worse, a prolonged strike.

Read the district’s press release on the agreement here.


Meeting recap: March 13, 2012

Update: I was so tired last night I completely forgot to mention another bright spot from the meeting — an update from Peer Resources on the programs they provide in 13 schools ( high schools and middle schools). This is a fabulous program that teaches teens conflict resolution and leadership skills, and it has changed a lot of lives! It’s a program of the San Francisco Education Fund that needs to be in every high school and middle school. Thanks to Peer Resources for an uplifting report. 

Anger over the Board’s Feb. 28 vote on layoffs continues. We had a large group of UESF members and other labor supporters address the board to oppose the layoffs, and the Board’s 5-1 decision to skip teachers at 14 lower-performing schools.

Some of the arguments were economic: do we really need to do layoffs? What about the district’s reserves? My answer to those questions is that the reserves aren’t enough for the worst case scenario if the tax proposals currently headed to the ballot fail, if the state’s revenues continue to falter and negotiations on the new contract do not produce any savings over projected costs for 2012-13.

Some of the arguments were political: We should be arguing with Sacramento, not amongst ourselves; The district’s layoff strategy is divisive and represents union-busting; Other schools are just as needy as those the district chose to skip. I agree that we should place the blame with Sacramento, but I don’t agree that skipping the SZ schools is union-busting. In voting for the skip my intent was not to weaken the union, but instead to support — in a limited way– schools that have under-performed for generations.  My friends at UESF strongly disagree. Are there more underperforming schools that could benefit by keeping their teachers? YES. But skipping the 25 hard-to-staff schools would have presented an even greater challenge to UESF and I believe for that reason, the Superintendent chose not to go there.  Still, several of us quietly agreed with the El Dorado staff when they told us we had not gone far enough to do anything for their school.  (And I must give an annual shoutout to the El Dorado staff for the way they stand up for their school and for each other. They don’t think much of the Board or district leadership, but anyway I do appreciate their efforts and their advocacy. People are listening, even if maybe you think they aren’t.)

Several members of the Martin Luther King Jr. High community came to talk to us about discipline, leadership and personnel issues at their school; we also heard from several parents of children who are eligible for Transitional Kindergarten and remain unhappy with the district’s decision to go ahead with opening two TK programs — one in Visitacion Valley and one in the Bayview.

Board members unanimously passed a resolution in support of the SF Botanical Garden Society’s plans to upgrade its educational programs through the construction of a “Center for Sustainable Gardening.” These programs benefit thousands of SF public school students each year and I was glad to author a resolution that brings  the Society’s dream of a true education center at the Botanical Garden a bit closer to reality.

Meeting recap: Labor unhappiness

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).

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Understanding teacher contracts

Education Sector has an excellent explainer on teacher contracts that compares and contrasts the San Diego Unified School District’s contract with a typical contract used by Green Dot charter schools with its unions.  The explainer goes provision by provision, covering things like teacher evaluation, pay and benefits, layoffs and dismissals and grievances and disputes.

The current teacher and paraprofessional contracts between San Francisco Unified and United Educators of San Francisco are also posted on the UESF web site.

Oakland Unified imposes contract on its teachers

Did you feel it? On Wednesday evening, a little earthquake rattled through the headquarters of the Oakland Unified School District and reverberated through neighboring school districts. In voting (unanimously) to impose its last, best and final offer on its teachers, the school board in Oakland has drawn the attention of many school boards and teachers’ unions up and down the state, because imposition is a very drastic step. 

Imposition means no more talking and no more compromises. It means “take it or leave it” and let’s get on with educating children. It also (in Oakland’s case) means no raises for teachers even though an independent fact-finding report noted that Oakland’s teaching salaries are quite low (starting teaching salary in Oakland is $39,000 compared to $50,000 in San Francisco) and suggested an increase. (I haven’t read the report, but apparently the fact-finder also said that OUSD’s financial situation is dire).

In Oakland, bargaining over a new contract has dragged on over two years, and the district only just regained local control after emerging from a state takeover. They have millions of dollars in state loans to repay, and have reached the same “cliff” in state funding that San Francisco and every other school district in the state has. Oakland school board members and Superintendent Tony Smith have both said that they felt imposition was the only choice they had, but their teachers are understandably furious.

What happens now? Well, either Oakland’s teachers will go on an extended strike or they won’t. A one-day strike is scheduled for Thursday, April 29.  For good coverage on the situation in Oakland, read Katy Murphy’s blog  “The Education Report.”  >>>>>

The war of words intensifies

There have been strong words from UESF and district negotiators today since  Friday’s bargaining session, and it does appear that the war of words is intensifying.  It’s inadvisable for me to say much of anything on the state of the negotiations — so instead I am simply reproducing the latest public statements from each party:

The upshot? The union walked out Friday afternoon and the Superintendent has countered by saying he intends to declare impasse. This action brings in a third-party mediator with the power to get the parties back to the negotiating table. Stay tuned.

Skips, bumps and seniority: how layoffs work

My commenters from El Dorado Elementary have angrily alleged that the district chose to focus the brunt of layoffs on hard-to-staff schools, pointing to a legal precedent in the case of Bledsoe v Biggs Unified School District (2008) 170 Cal. App. 4th 127 (skip to page 8 for the discussion of the case).

The teachers say this precedent gives our district the right to skip certain teachers without respect to seniority, and say that the fact that 60 percent of the staff  at El Dorado (or 67 percent of the teachers, depending on what you use as the base of your percentages) received pink slips shows that the district has abandoned the ideals of “Beyond the Talk.”

Strong words. I haven’t appreciated some of the accusations that have been leveled at me (for example, that I was spreading “misinformation” because I used the 60 percent figure), but whatever. They’re angry, they’re facing the loss of their jobs, and they’re mourning the likely breakup of a dedicated and idealistic staff team– so I guess I can take it. I did, however, ask the district’s legal counsel for an opinion on how Bledsoe v. Biggs applies to our current situation. Are the El Dorado elementary teachers correct that we have ignored a legal precedent that would save teachers currently working at hard-to-staff schools?
In a word, according to our general counsel, no. Here’s why:

  • In the Bledsoe v Biggs case, the district “skipped” teachers at its community day school (a school for students expelled from other sites). A more senior teacher asserted the right to bump. Notably, the court found that the senior teacher was both credentialed and competent to hold the position. However, the district successfully avoided the bump by showing that the more junior, skipped teacher possessed unique training and experience for teaching in that environment that the more senior teacher did not possess.  At our hard-to-staff schools, we do not currently require that teachers have special training or credentials to take a position. They do receive additional professional development and stipends after they begin teaching at a hard-to-staff school, but we do not require that professional development as a condition for beginning employment at the school.
  • We have instituted “skips” for particular kinds of “hard-to-fill” subjects or credential areas:  BCLAD (bilingual), special education, and single-subject math or science credentials, for example. But even within those skipped areas, more senior teachers have bumping rights. As an illustration, last week I was contacted by a special education teacher who could not understand why he received a pink slip. After the Human Resources department investigated, we were told that because there are administrators who received pink slips that also hold a special education credential, those employees could conceivably have the right to “bump” into special education classroom jobs to avoid a layoff. Hence, a handful of special education teachers still received pink slips despite the skip (the teacher who contacted me was senior enough that after the investigation, HR rescinded his layoff even though they concluded he was properly noticed in the first place). The bottom line: a job at one of our hard-to-staff schools is not the same–in the eyes of the law–as a job in a hard-to-fill area, in terms of the specific training and credential required. In addition, more senior teachers who hold the same credential as the “skipped” employee are still able to “bump” into his or her position in a layoff. Since teachers at hard-to-staff schools hold the same credential as their colleagues at other schools, they would not be protected from being skipped in a layoff because they could still be bumped by more senior teachers who received layoff notices.
  • As noted above, teachers are only permitted to bump into position that they are credentialed and competent to fill, and the district does have broad authority to decide what “competency” is for its teachers. Recently, for example, we decreed that all teachers employed by the district must have the CLAD credential (now required by the state for any teacher who works with English Language Learners). As a result, teachers who earned a credential before the CLAD was required (and did not go back and get the CLAD certification later) are no longer “competent” to teach in our district. However, competency criteria must apply equally to all staff. A competency requirement that would protect staff at hard-to-staff schools (such as requiring experience teaching in a hard-to-staff school) would result in finding the majority of the District’s staff to be not competent. Such a requirement would probably not survive a legal challenge.

The fact that I think the counsel’s analysis is sound does not mean I like it, or that I think it’s fair that 67% of El Dorado’s teachers received pink slips.  I think we should work on a side agreement with UESF that would enable us to go as a team to the legislature and request a legislative solution that saves teachers who choose to work at hard-to-staff schools.   I am also following the national conversation on alternative ways of conducting layoffs, and I hope there is a way that our labor unions will feel they can eventually participate in such a conversation (probably now is not the best time, since we are in the midst of a very difficult negotiation). Seniority is a major pillar of the labor movement, and it’s not the cause of all the ills in our schools –it’s not helpful to to blame our labor contracts for disproportionate layoffs at hard-to-staff schools,  just as it isn’t helpful to blame the district for the sad situation we’re in.

Save our secretaries! City layoffs endanger school workers

If the principal is the head of a school, the secretary is the heart of the school office. Secretaries welcome visitors, answer phones, translate for parents, hand out band-aids and ice packs, comfort sick children waiting for their parents to pick them up, sort mail, handle essential paperwork for the principal and other school staff, and generally keep the school running from day to day. At my daughter’s elementary school, “Ms. Grace” greets children and parents with a warm smile and a “Hello darling!”; when the playground felt too chaotic she would let my oldest “visit” and bang on her typewriter.

But some of our school secretaries are in danger of being bumped out of their jobs by more senior City workers who have been laid off by their departments as part of the City budget crisis. For almost a century, certain public jobs in San Francisco have been governed by the Civil Service System, a system of complex rules and job classifications intended to make the hiring, seniority and layoffs of government positions work in an orderly way.  There are arguments in favor of the Civil Service rules, including the fact that having these objective rules allowed women and people of color to advance into positions offering them secure futures and a living wage.

However, even though the school district is a state agency, we are considered to be a city department by the City’s Human Resources department, and some (but by no means all) of our jobs are considered interchangeable with other City positions (the history and reasons behind this are too complex to go into here, even if I were able to fully explain them). When layoffs happen, either in the school district or in the City, laid off workers may use their seniority to “bump” less senior employees from their positions.  This year, the City laid off a number of clerical workers, but the school district did not. Now, more senior “Clerk/Typists” who lost their City jobs are bumping into our school secretary positions (the duties and requirements of both positions are considered to be equivalent by the Civil Service Commission). Some of those secretaries may be able to “bump” less senior City or school district workers and stay employed, but the end result will still be devastating, because schools will lose their beloved secretaries and at least some less senior school district employees will lose their jobs — even though we did not lay them off.

secretary rally

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Personnel and Labor committee, Sept. 10

Good news from human resources at tonight’s meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Personnel and Labor (a committee that meets as needed, not necessarily every month). Unlike previous years, we started the school year with 99.9 percent of teacher positions filled — just three teaching positions remained open on the first day of school and none of them were in special education, which must be a first. Paraprofessional vacancies were a bit higher, particularly in special education, but still, the district deserves credit for hiring more qualified teachers earlier so that most students began the school year with a fully-credentialed or highly-qualified intern teacher (94% of all new hires).

We are also reaping the advantage of being the only district for miles around that was actually hiring for 2009-10 (thanks again to the Rainy Day Fund!). This year, there were 18 applicants for every position requiring a multiple subject credential (generally middle- and elementary-school teachers); 11 applicants for every math or science teaching position, and 9 applicants for every special education teaching position.

We also heard an update from The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit organization that seeks to attract highly-qualified teachers to high-need urban schools.  TNTP has been working with us on the Model Staffing Initiative, a program that recruits teachers to teach directly in 25 schools that are the hardest to keep fully-staffed. The program also spends significant time working with principals, assistant principals and instructional reform facilitators (IRFs) to help them better select candidates who are the right fit for the instructional environment at their particular school. The program has been a huge success, and has been extended for a fourth and final year. After this year, HR Director Roger Buschman believes he will have the in-house capacity built up to be able to carry on the work without the help of an outside nonprofit.

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