Archive for May, 2010

$28 Billion In Education Funding At Stake!

May 24, 2010

On May 26th, 2010, Speak Up For Education And Kids!

America is facing an educational crisis that threatens our schools and our students, with 80% of school districts expected to lay off school staff.  These layoffs will lead to overcrowded classrooms and dramatic program cuts. 

That’s why it is so important to Speak Up For Kids and  join the National Call-In Day on May 26th, 2010. Call 866-608-6355 to hear our important message about kids and education funding and urge our congress to include education jobs in the Emergency Funding Bill.

Learn more on Facebook at www.facebook.com/speakupforkids

Thanks from all of us at KEA, and all those who support a quality education for all students.

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Community Budget Forum Coming June 2nd

May 18, 2010

Kent Education Association is pleased to announce that it will be sponsoring a Community Budget Forum On the Kent School District Budget on Wednesday, June 2nd, from 7-9 pm.  The meeting will be held at Daniel Elementary School in Kent in the school’s Multi-Purpose room.  

Kent Education Association invites any parents, KSD employees, School Board or community group members, or anyone else who supports students in the Kent School District to attend.  The meeting will include an in-depth analysis of the Kent School District budget by Andrea Hardy.  Ms. Hardy is an expert on school budgets in Washington State for the Washington Education Association.  Her presentation will analyze the Kent School District’s financial picture, its spending patterns, and how it compares to other school districts in the region.  These facts will help shed light on the recent budget cuts announced by the Kent School District, which have led to 24 teachers being laid off, not to mention the cutting of vital staff, programs, and services.   We know that these cuts hurt kids, so we must all ask:  Are they really necessary? 

The information presented at this Community Budget Forum will help parents and community members to ask questions and take action to influence budget priorities in Kent schools for years to come.   The District has presented their budget in dire terms.  Now is time to hear the WHOLE story!

If you care about educating Kent students for their best possible future, you won’t want to miss this meeting!

24 Kent Educators Received Layoff Notices

May 14, 2010

All layoff notices have now been delivered, according to the district administration, with pink slips going to twenty-four educators. Of this number, four were partially reduced, and the remainder lost all of their current full-time or part-time employment for next year. The total reduction was 20.7 FTE. The list includes counselors, a librarian, band, choir, and general music teachers, math teachers, a science teacher, and first grade teachers. The impact on students, families, and school communities will be significant.

There will be a meeting at the KEA office at 4:15 p.m. on Monday, May 17th for all members who received notification of layoff. At that time, information will be provided regarding unemployment, insurance benefits, potential recall, and other points of concern. The KEA office is located at 10427 SE 244th St. in Kent.

Administrators Receive Promotions, New Titles

May 13, 2010

While KEA members are receiving layoff notices this week, no less than a dozen administrators received promotions or new job titles at Wednesday night’s school board meeting. Effective July 1st, the district offices will have an abundant supply of individuals bearing titles such as “School Improvement Officer,” “Chief Student Achievement Officer,” and “Chief Information and Automated Operations Officer.” With so many new officers on deck, much saluting and heel clicking is sure to be the order of the day.

Sadly other education professionals with titles such as “elementary counselor,” “instrumental music instructor,” or “librarian” will not fare nearly as well in this new restructuring. Neither will 16 TOSAs, who were just informed that their jobs are being converted to “intervention specialists” and they are welcome to apply for these positions. There is no indication that the administrators who gained new job titles, and possibly salary increases to match their elongated titles, had to reapply for their jobs.

In the meantime, KEA continues to wait for the district to provide us with the layoff list we have been requesting.

District Starts Distributing Layoff Notices

May 12, 2010

Layoff notices are now being distributed to Kent teachers, according to phone calls coming into the KEA office. The district had previously indicated that notices would go out to the principals today, and be delivered to teachers on Thursday and Friday. KEA has repeatedly requested that the district provide our office with a list of those who will be laid off, but as of the time of this writing, nothing has been received.

A meeting will be held at the KEA office on Monday, May 17th at 4:15 p.m. for all who receive a notification of layoff. At that time, issues such as unemployment insurance, benefits, and potential recall will be discussed.

Keep in mind that layoffs are not necessary in Kent. The district is projected to end the year with a General Fund balance in excess of $21M and, while some sources of revenue will be lower next year, others will be increased. Many surrounding districts have chosen not to layoff educators, and KSD can afford to make that decision, too.

A community forum on the district’s alleged budget crisis is being planned for Wednesday, June 2nd. A WEA financial analyst will provide a detailed overview of KSD’s financial health, and Association members, parents, other unions and community organizations, will all be invited to participate. Watch for more details soon.

District Creates Roadblock in “Race to the Top”

May 12, 2010

Rejecting a cooperative approach offered by the Kent Education Association, district officials have erected an unnecessary barrier in the Race to the Top (RTTT) grant application process. RTTT is a new federal grant program that provides a modest amount of new money to school districts, but requires changes in programs. Some of these program changes may be in conflict with existing collective bargaining agreements, and the application form asks for the signature and cooperation of the local union president, possibly leading to the reopening of portions of the contract.

KEA President Lisa Brackin Johnson has met with district officials and offered to co-sign the RTTT grant application. In order to preserve our bargaining rights, KEA has asked that the district in turn sign a one page statement promising to negotiate any changes in the contract before enacting those changes. The district has refused to agree to honor the Association’s rights and crossed out many of the statements in the proposed statement. In contrast, many other districts in our area have recognized the importance of working with their teachers in making any changes, and have gladly signed similar partnership agreements.

Lisa is continuing to talk with the administration, and remains willing to co-sign the RTTT grant application on behalf of KEA if the district provides assurance that they will respect our legal bargaining rights. At this point, an agreement seems unlikely, and it appears that the district prefers making an attempt to undermine the rights of teachers rather than work with us as partners to seek additional federal funding. Without the partnership of the Association, the district’s grant application will probably be denied.

A Teacher’s Response to “Spotlight on Inclusion”

May 10, 2010

I would like to respond to the column by Kim Halley (“Spotlight on Inclusion” May 7). I, too, attended this event on April 22. In fact, as a general education teacher, I was involved in a focus group for this project. I was surprised that our group and our comments did not make it into the inspiring videotape shown during this event.

The general education teachers in my focus group all agreed that we feel inclusion to the fullest extent possible in the general education classroom is beneficial for children, both special education and general education kids. However, our concerns were about the support that is needed in our classrooms for inclusion to be most beneficial to all. In some instances, all asssignments and tests have to be modified for students who are working significantly below the standard for that grade level. In other cases, students with behavior problems do not have another adult assigned to the classroom that can help defuse situations that occur without completely stopping learning for the rest of the class.

Extra personnel, resources, extra time and planning must be part of a well designed inclusion program that works for the benefit of all. Additionally, each building should in charge of designing how inclusion works for their particular students, as they know their students’ needs and building resources best.

In the Kent School District, in some general education classes with included children, this is not currently happening. And next year, with the cuts the district is now proposing, it is hard to understand how our children will get the best education possible.

I urge the Kent School District to rethink its priorities and put the needs of all children first.

Cindy Prescott
4th Grade Teacher, Kent

Layoff and “Bumping”

May 3, 2010

Despite current rumors, “bumping” is not a part of the layoff process in the KEA/KSD contract. No one will get to select your job and push you out of it. And, although the contract groups jobs together into “categories,” the same process applies to all teachers in all categories. No group or job-type has greater rights or protections than any other.

So, how does it work, then? The district compiles a district-wide seniority list in January of each year, using all experience of a type that would be used for salary schedule placement, regardless of the district in which the experience was gained. Then, the school board decides which positions (not people) are to be reduced from the program. Next, the district looks at seniority within each broad job category in which there will be reductions, and identifies the staff with the least district-wide seniority. The least senior staff in those categories who have multiple endorsements will then be compared in seniority to staff in those other categories, again on a district-wide basis, to see if they are to be retained over less senior staff. The end result should be that more senior staff should be retained in any category in which they are certificated. If this causes them to move to a different category, then the least senior staff person in that second category may be the one to be let go.

Transfers to even out staffing then follow. Staff who are retained may need to be moved to another building. This is also done by seniority, with the least senior person in the surplus category being moved first. Unlike the regular transfer process, this “Transfer Due to Reduction of Staff” does not exempt provisional status teachers from being moved. This process is scheduled to take place in early June. A list of openings and of “surplus” teachers will be distributed in advance, then those to be moved will be called, starting with the most senior, to select from among the vacant positions in other buildings. No one may select a position that is not already scheduled to be vacant.

Admittedly, this is just a summary of the contract language. To gain a more precise understanding of the process, one should read the contract (Article VII, Section 8; page 112 ff). It can be found at the Contract tab at http://www.kentea.org. No one can accurately predict the final outcome of this process, nor can the Association accurately address each of a myriad of hypothetical scenarios. The best advice we can give you is to read the contract.

The layoff is not necessary. The district is on track to end the year with a General Fund balance of almost $22M, and can use all but $1.6M of this to prevent layoffs. They can also reprioritize their $261M budget. This reduction in staff will reduce services to students and is contrary to the district’s stated mission. It is the wrong choice.