California Educator

March 2017

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T h e S a c r a m e n t o C i t y Te a c h e r s Association (S CTA) has di scov- ered that engaging both educators and the community is a natural way to reach its goal. "Our goal is to make Sacramento the 'destination district' that families want th eir kid s to att end ," says S CTA Presi- dent Nikki Milevsky. "We are on the verge of m akin g hu ge impro v em ent s to o ur schools and forcing the district to priori- tize our students." Educators in the Sacramento City Uni- fied School District have been working without a contract since December. During its bargaining campaign, SCTA has worked hard to engage more community and union members in the process. Teachers, nurses, psychologists and spe- cial education teachers are now part of the 60-person bargaining team, which includes representatives from each school site. Most have never been involved in bargaining, let alone the union. Community members are also on the team. ere is a chief spokes- person, but everyone on the team has an equal voice. "I decided to join because working for the change I want to see is more bene- ficial than complaining with a group of colleagues," says Nafeesah Young, a school psychologist early in her career. "I'm hope- ful that my participation will show the district that psychologists are more than test givers and report writers." Special education teacher Mary Rodri- guez says, " We have great site reps, but with all the work they already do, I wanted to support them by becoming part of the team and sharing some of their volunteer workload. As a special educator, I felt it was important to be part of the discussions." Now S CTA m emb ers with qu estions about the negotiations can walk down the hall to ask the team member in their s c h o o l , ra t h e r t h a n c a l l i n g t h e S C TA office. The team member can also speak to colleagues about specific issues as they arise, instead of delaying negotiations or relying district communication. Frank conversations Community members on the team say their experience has been positive. " We have on e v oice and many eyes," s a y s C a r l P i n k s t o n , a m e m b e r o f the Black Parallel School Board, a local community organization. He s ay s h e's b e e n su r p r i s e d a t di s- trict representatives' view of meetings he's attended and their comments that they can't do something " because of the teachers union." He has challenged that mischaracterization, since he is on the bargaining team. Pinkston says there are frank conver- sations in the bargaining caucus, which reviews and develops proposals. "We don't always agree, but we are united." e result of caucus meetings is a list of what SCTA wants to accomplish for students. The bargaining team says it is determined to improve student learning conditions. The bulk of the proposals are focused on students: lowering class sizes; making arts, music and physical education avail- able to all students in the district; allowing more inclusionary practices for students with disabilities; increasing the number of school nurses, psychologists and other pro- gram specialists consistent with national standards; developing an early intervention program; and implementing a resourced, bottom-up restorative practices culture throughout Sacramento's public schools. The district has so far rejected SCTA's comprehensive proposals. If no progress is made by April, SCTA and its members are prepared to strike. Young urges ever yone to get involved by supporting the bargaining team. "If you don't participate in your local association, you won't have a voice," she says. "Participation is not something that should be taken for granted, whether you're a first-year educator or knocking on the door to retirement. ings in this country are changing, and it is important for us to maintain our unions, keep them strong and get involved." See video of SCTA's bargaining process at NEA's YouTube channel. ONE VOICE, MANY EYES Chapter's expanded bargaining team includes educators and community By Cynthia Menzel and Cindy Long Clockwise from top: SCTA President Nikki Milevsky and Nafeesah Young, Carl Pinkston, Mary Rodriguez. Photos: Cynthia Menzel 33 March 2017

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