What is KEA doing for you?

So, the strike has been over for a few months now, and everyone is back in their rooms.  After hearing so much from KEA before and during the strike, it has been pretty quiet recently.  As a result, you might be asking, “What has KEA been doing for me lately?”  The answer is, more than we can put in this blog entry!   Expect regular updates in the next few weeks.

KEA Wins Another Arbitration, KSD Weeps Gently

In the process of enforcing the contract, KEA has been forced on several occasions to file grievances about various violations of the contract.  Currently, Lisa, Mike, and Temple have about 20 they are working on!  Sometimes, when the initial steps of the grievance process cannot resolve the problem, KEA is forced to request an arbitration hearing to settle an issue.  In this case, a neutral arbitrator is selected to hold a formal hearing and rule on the matter.  KEA had already won two previous arbitrations in 2008 over the issues of seniority and an involuntary transfer, as well as the district’s overreliance on subcontracting through outside private agencies to hire teachers.  Yet another arbitration was decided in December.

At issue in this arbitration was the professional goal setting forms that were being used throughout the district in relation to our formal evaluations as teachers and certificated staff.  Depending on which building you worked at or which administrator was your evaluating supervisor, you may have seen any of several different forms.  These many different forms had been created across the district by various administrators, but were not included in the contract.  Additionally, some administrators in the district went so far as to assign the professional goals of teachers without their input, and tie teachers’ evaluation goals to their students’ test scores or to the buildings SIP plan!  At one elementary, the principal wrote on a Special Ed. Teacher’s goal sheet that 80% of their students would meet standard on the Reading WASL!  Obviously this was in violation of our contract and the spirit of our professional goals, but the district refused to acknowledge this fact.

While the district claimed it had the right to do this as part of their rights as management, KEA argued that the forms violated the contract.  (Article VIII of the contract)  Specifically, the District argued that there was a relationship between student test scores, the SIP plan, and the CAM (Certificated Assessment Model).  KEA’s own Mike McNett, however, argued that the forms went against the whole idea of a teacher setting professional goals based upon their own personal reflection through a collaborative process.  McNett also stated that teacher evaluations should be based on the professional practice of the educator and the extensive evaluative criteria already negotiated into the contract (CAM rubrics), not on student performance.  According to the contract, test scores are used appropriately when they are used by teachers for planning and preparation, not to determine whether a teacher is being effective or not.   We all know that teaching is about more than test scores…

The end result:  KEA won!  The arbitrator noted in his decision in favor or KEA that the Kent School District cannot continue, “unilaterally adopting goals and criteria,” that it wants without bargaining.  Instead, the arbitrator said the evaluation process must be conducted in a way that allows for, “uniformity, equity, and objective assessment throughout the District.”  So when the district invented different forms in each building that were not in the original contract, it went against the contract’s provisions for equal assessment criteria throughout the district.  The ruling went on to say that some teachers were, “inappropriately guided in the selection of their goals,” by their supervising administrators.  KEA was pleased with the result, to say the least.   Once again it was shown that the district’s administration continues to erroneously claim power over KEA members that is not a part of our contract. 

So now that the decision is in, what’s next? The arbitrator ordered KSD to immediately stop using any forms not currently in the contract, and told both parties to go back to the bargaining table to settle the issue of which forms would be used in future goal setting conferences.  Since that time, both sides met in a bargaining session that Lisa and Mike described as, “surprisingly pleasant.”  The proposed changes that KEA brought to the table were largely accepted, with only a few suggestions by the District for minor changes.   KEA will let you know how this might affect you as more info is available.  Talk to your Building Rep if you have questions.

It still seems amazing to many of us that the district truly believed that it could dictate our goals to us, and base them on student scores rather than on the criteria in the contract.  Once again, the district continues to downplay the professionalism of its employees.  KEA maintains that when any KEA member sits down with their supervisor, it should be in a spirit of collaboration, rather than an exercise in dictatorial top-down management in violation of the terms of our contract.  Let’s hope that this arbitration decision will help the district see that it is better to work with KEA’s members than against them!

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One Response to “What is KEA doing for you?”

  1. Teaching Used to be Fun Says:

    Top down? My principal’s philosophy is, “My way or the highway.” In other words, get out if you don’t agree with their total way of thinking. Does not sound like KSD is anywhere close to collaborating with their teachers.

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