California Educator

August/September 2023

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Page 47 of 71

B I G T H I N G S A R E H A P P E N I N G at Semitropic Teachers Association (STA) near the city of Wasco in Kern County. STA President Robert Robb reports that after seven-plus years of having no meetings nor contact of any kind with teachers, the chapter welcomed several educators in August 2022, who immediately petitioned to elect new officers. STA works with Semitropic School District, comprised of one school — Semitropic Elementary School, which serves students in grades K-8; 92% of the student population is Hispanic. "For a school of only about 150 students and 12 certificated staff, doubling membership from four to eight members was one small step for the union, but one giant leap in support of the school and its stu- dents," Robb says. e new executive board promptly initiated contract negotiations to create STA's first ever collective bargaining agreement with the district, which took effect in July. "e superintendent/principal and the school board cooperated willingly with STA and CTA regional support staff in Bakersfield, making the process smooth and amiable," says Robb. Semitropic Teachers Association officers, left to right: Robert Robb, president and K-5 intervention teacher; Kelsey Moreland, vice president and sixth grade teacher; Ande Moreland, secretary/treasurer and first grade teacher. " Contract negotiations helped create a better working relationship that allowed us to finally be heard and taken seriously on other issues." — Semitropic Teachers Association President Robert Robb Semitropic Chapter on the Move Small but mighty local makes a big impact Existing practices and policies were codified, and several issues were improved or clarified including extra pay for taking on additional students when substitutes are unavailable, calendars/schedules and time com- mitments, "no reason" personal use days, evaluations/ observations, and attaining permanent status/"tenure." While not directly negotiated, all staff received an 8% pay increase in December 2022 thanks to the superinten- dent/principal's initiative — only the second increase in nearly a decade and the first over 3%. Now STA is striving to improve communication and collaboration among all staff to address major issues facing their school and students. e executive board is diving headfirst into the Local Control and Account- ability Plan (LCAP), shared governance, and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in an effort to improve every facet of the school. e need to act became clear after one educator went on medical leave this past spring due to issues around student behavior. is led to STA developing and deliv- ering a detailed presentation to administrators and the school board on the challenges the school faces as well as potential solutions. As a result, STA and school administrators are meeting regularly to discuss student and educator social-emotional and mental health, and school policies and procedures. "None of that would have happened if it weren't for us reviving the union," says Robb. "I think contract negoti- ations helped create a better working relationship that allowed us to finally be heard and taken seriously on other issues." STA hopes to continue to build its membership. "The union is recruiting the rest of the teaching staff, educating them through discussions and newsletters, ultimately believing that sunshine will be the best dis- infectant," Robb says. 46 Advocacy

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