California Educator

January / February 2017

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Alum Rock S eek s Smaller Clas s Sizes, Raises Frustrated Alum Rock Educators Association (AREA) members in San Jose have been bargaining for a fair contract with the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District for nearly a year. Despite hoarding $29 million in reserves, the district still refuses to reduce class sizes or provide adequate raises. "It still appears that teachers are not a priority for this district, and that's causing some to leave for districts that actually respect them," says Jocelyn Merz, president of the 600-member AREA. "Our salaries rank near the bottom of school districts in Santa Clara County, while top Alum Rock administrators received up to a 22 percent raise." Class sizes stand at 32 students per teacher in K-3 classrooms, com- pared with the 24-student maximum in surrounding districts. On Jan. 3, Alum Rock teachers started a work-to-rule protest, meaning they stopped doing extra work for free. This follows an effective AREA candlelight rally in December, where members sang protest songs, chanted and spoke out at the school board meeting. Deal in C oachella Valley Many months of negotiations and organizing by the Coachella Valley Teachers Association culminated in a three-year tentative agreement that should help retain teachers in Coachella Valley Unified School District. It includes two additional professional development days, and class sizes that are balanced and, for special education, do not exceed state-mandated maximums. It has a retroactive 3 percent increase on the salary schedule and an off-schedule 3 percent bonus for 2015-16. For 2016-17, an additional 3.3 percent retroactive (2.8 percent effective) raise began Jan. 1. In 2017-18 there will be an additional 3 percent raise, and the district will pick up benefit costs over its cap. Menifee in Mediation Menifee Teachers Association (MTA), which represents 14 schools in Menifee and Quail Valley in Riverside County, held a rally in December outside the Menifee Union School District (MUSD) office to urge a mediated settlement in an ongoing contract dispute. Despite 10 negotiation meetings, key issues remain unresolved. A state-appointed mediator has been assigned to try to bring the parties to agreement. Several tentative agreements have been signed off, such as extending the school year by two days for profes- sional development. MTA negotiators have pressed for a better compensation package to help retain its more than 480 members. Unresolved issues include salary and special edu- cation language to better serve classroom needs of exceptional students. "We want to welcome the next generation of teach- ers to Menifee's schools," MTA President Brenda Myers explains. "Competitive salary and benefits are the corner- stone to attracting and retaining those new professionals. With the lowest compensation in the surrounding area and the California teacher shortage intensifying, MUSD is not positioned to bring those new educators to Menifee." By Cynthia Menzel, Mike Myslinski and Ed Sibby. #OurVoiceAtTheTable Fresno L istens to Parent s, C ommunit y Fresno Teachers Association (FTA) invited parents and community to forums as part of its Stand With Students campaign. Hundreds have shown up and told FTA leaders they want smaller classes (average class size is 40), more teachers and support staff, and expanded voca- tional electives. With this input, FTA is now bargaining with the district for smaller class sizes, vocational options, school nurses, more support staff including counselors, use of schools as public/ community space, development of a parent/ educator/community committee to decrease the achievement gap, additional tutoring for stu- dents, and salary increases. In December, Fresno Unified Superinten- dent Michael Hanson announced he plans to leave the district , effective in August 201 7. F TA has clashed with Hanson on several issues, including his refusal to use local con- trol funds to improve learning and teaching environments. 43 January / February 2017

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