Archive for November, 2009

Letter to KEA Reporter

November 3, 2009

The following letter was published in the Saturday, Oct 31, 2009 edition of the Kent Reporter.  It was written by KEA Secretary-Treasurer Cindy Prescott, who is both a teacher and a taxpayer in the District.

October 26, 2009

To the Editor:

Last week, I attended the debate between the Kent mayoral candidates that this newspaper sponsored. Since Mr. Berrios is at the helm of the Kent School Board as its president, a question about the Kent teachers strike was asked. The question concerned whether there was a lack of transparency in the cancellation of a school board meeting during the strike. In response, Jim answered, paraphrasing, “I would answer that you just don’t know Jim Berrios.” He went on to detail conversations he had with teachers during the strike, inferring that he did his best to resolve the dispute quickly. Additionally, Mr. Berrios indicated that he has been “fiscally responsible” during his tenure on the school board.

As a teacher and a voter, I ask Mr. Berrios to think about how he could have used his position and influence to avoid this strike entirely, or at best, to resolve it well before almost three weeks had gone by. It is of some note that the Kent teachers have not gone on strike in thirty years. Furthermore, it is interesting to realize that Mr. Berrios’ “fiscal responsibility” has resulted in a district that has some of the highest class sizes in the Puget Sound (even after the new contract was negotiated) and has significant trouble retaining the very best and brightest teachers because pay is lower than in many surrounding districts (yes, even after the negotiations were finished.) Ending the year with a larger fund balance than the previous year, it would seem the Board’s spending priorities are suspect.

Recently, Mr. Berrios requested that Mayor Suzette Cook be more transparent in her budget figures. In my opinion, Mr. Berrios has been less than transparent, himself, in explaining to the citizens of Kent the part he played in causing teachers in this district to feel they had no recourse but to go on strike.

Cindy Prescott

 

School Board Watch Oct 28th, 2009

November 2, 2009

The following are notes taken by a KEA member about what was said at the Oct 28th School Board Meeting.   We will try to post notes to summarize the information at all School Board Meetings for the remainder of the year on this blog. 

Here’s how our member summarized the Board Meeting:

The year end fiscal report was given and confirmed that $22.6M was the ending fund balance. Of course, they always talk about fish sticks and insurance, etc. but be that as it may, we are $4.6M more than we were last year at this time. The undesignated, unreserved ends up at $12.7M. John Knutson said, “Remember, we always budget expenditures higher.”

SAT, ACT, AP, and IB results were given. They still are always surprised that we have an achievement gap in Kent (evidence of poverty/ethnicity in how many kids take and pass these tests). The idea given by Janice Bechtel was to give the PSAT to all ninth graders. That would encourage them to start planning to go to college. The fact that there’s a fee involved was brought up but glossed over. The board wanted that to happen and seemed to feel that can help. Chris said, “Kent is doing okay. It’s not okay to be just okay – we want to be well in excess of the state and national data. How soon can we expect to see gains?” Lee then gave a very long talk about data, about transparency about data, about a “lazer-like focus” on the data without really saying anything.

 H1N1 information was shared. During this time, after talking about how kids hate to miss tests, Chris Davies asked if there has been a message to teachers to back off so kids can stay home; giving them leeway to make up work so they can stay home if they’re sick. This is almost a quote, but didn’t quite get all the words exactly. KEA people made a lot of noise – I cleared my throat loudly. Lisa said it was ridiculous. Then Mary Reiger gave the policy of so many days to make up work. Can’t believe he thought that had to be brought up. It’s insulting. But due to our reaction, Jim Berrios said they had gotten a call from a parent saying her child was being made to shake hands. Israel said it wasn’t mostly spread that way. The whole conversation was ridiculous.

 At the end, KEA speakers raised some points and took exception to some of the info presented.  Mike McNett gave a talk about class size and inaccurate numbers. Connie Compton talked about SPED and the problems with numbers and paras, and Lisa Brackin-Johnson talked about how KSD was not being as collaborative as they claimed they would be by making unilateral decisions and not providing KEA with requested info.

Charles Allen from Kent Parents Coalition talked about how they are continuing to be a watchdog group. He was concerned that the correct info on class size is not getting to KEA, and also not in a timely manner.

We’re Back! Blog Is Up and Running!

November 2, 2009

The post-strike time has been hectic for all of us teachers and education staff as we get back into the swing of things with a new school year. 

The strike affected everyone involved in many ways.  It was great to see KEA members united and working togehter for a common goal.   It was also wonderful to see our community come out in support of us.  While we were not able to get the perfect contract, we made significant progress in the areas of Time, Workload, and Compensation.  

The work is far from over, however.  KEA is continuing to face many challenges as we continue to work on behalf of our members.  The new contract language needs to be enforced, and we are already running into examples of Administration trying to ignore the language or conveniently interpret it as they see fit for their own purposes.  We must remain vigilant and hold them accountable when our contractual rights are being violated. 

Furthermore, we need to do a better job of working with our community to make sure they are fully aware of the conditions in Kent schools.   As education professionals working with kids face to face each day, we are in the best position to determine what we need to make our students successful.  We need to work with our colleagues, the administration, and the community to make our schools the best they can be.

Keep an eye on this blog in the near future as we document the successes and problems that KEA members deal with.