Archive for the ‘Administration’ Category

Charters Now?

January 21, 2012

Connie Compton, KEA President, has some thoughts on Charter schools:

Our legislators and their constituents need to focus their energy and address the real problem in education in our state. Putting an issue on the table that Washington voters have already rejected three times distracts needed energy from solving the real problem.

Washington State has been cutting the education budget year after year. Education Week recently ranked Washington 42nd in per pupil spending ($9,329/pupil in WA versus the national average of $11,665/student) and 44th in state expenditures as a percent of state taxable resources.

We have less and less to meet the needs of our students. When I started in education over 30 years ago we had supply rooms with pencils, crayons and construction paper. We had textbooks and a wide variety of materials. As a special ed. teacher, I had a budget to purchase the unique materials my students might need to grow and learn. With the drastic budget cuts in our state, supply rooms are empty, textbooks are often out of date and special ed. teachers no longer have funds for basic materials and that’s just a start. Teachers spend hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets to make up the difference to supply their students with paper and pencils, and sometimes even coats and shoes.

And please don’t blame teacher salaries – Washington has consistently dropped down the list ranking states for teacher salaries. Our teachers are lower paid than all other states on the West Coast in spite of a high cost of living, particularly in the Puget Sound region. Last year the state legislature further cut teacher salaries by 1.9%. A handful of districts, including Kent, are paying the 1.9% out of other funds – however, before that Kent was the lowest paid district out of 22 in the Puget Sound region.

Charter Schools will take time and money to implement. They take funds away from true public schools that meet the needs of each and every student who walks through the door. Coming up with the staff to process applications, oversee charters, and the other related needs will cost our districts and state money. We need to work together to figure out how to fund what we have and not start anything new that we don’t have the money for.

If and when we solve our budget issues at both the state and local level and truly meet our state constitution’s requirement to amply fund public education, then we can begin to look at the valid research and statistics and learn from the experiences of other states. We can consider the many instances in which charters have been mismanaged and done more harm than good. We can look at the data regarding innovative schools that already exist in our state. Then we can then decide if this is really the best direction to go to meet the needs of the students of our state.

KEA Recommends School Board Candidates

October 20, 2011

KEA Recommends Candidates for Kent School Director Positions:

Larry Sims, Pos. 1 YES Open minded.  Willing to keep communication open.  Understands the need for priority in budget in the right place—class size.  Wants to know where the money is allocated.  Is aware about how much weight is applied to standardized testing.
Karen DeBruler, Pos. 2 YES Understands issues of classroom.  Understands workload.  Voted against the cuts budget.  Teacher of highly capable in Issaquah.
Leslie Hamada, Pos. 3 YES Not afraid to stand up and speak up.  Understands classroom realities.  PTA activist and single mom with successful grown children (one a teacher).  Passionate about support for all children.  Has worked on levy committees.  “Walks her talk” still.  Tutors at high risk schools during and after school.

KEA KELA (Kent Educators for Legislative Accountability) Team members interviewed each of the five candidates who filed for the three open
Kent school director positions. Being involved in the interview process is our way of recommending informed, reasonable pro-education
candidates. Vote!

Bargaining Update

July 19, 2011

This just in from yesterday’s bargaining session:

 KEA Bargaining Update      July 19, 2011

Bargaining Team Goal:  To strengthen the KEA contract in the areas of working conditions and compensation and benefits in order to improve teaching, and learning for the students of the Kent School District.

KEA and KSD returned to the bargaining table this week. The big news is that we reached tentative agreements (TAs) on some items, including:

  • A new “Civility Clause” outlining expectations for respectful communication.
  • Added language requiring that any audio/visual recordings of observations must be mutually agreed upon in writing.
  • Language allowing the district to move to the goal setting model at all elementary schools. This contract change will move elementary conference weeks to October and February and progress reports to January and June.
  • A provision requiring a three week period to roll over a discretionary day ending on June 10th each year.
  • No changes in insurance rates or coverage. The benefit allowance for a 1.0 FTE will remain at $768 per month.

 Your KEA Bargaining Team is now waiting for the district to respond to several proposals, including the Learning Collaboration Days (Late Start / Early Release Days), Supplemental contracts for Nurses and Psychologists, Bereavement Leave and reducing Required Meetings.

Finally, as you know the legislature cut teacher salaries by 1.9%. In June your Representative Council voted for Bargaining Team to take the position of “pay the days or waive the days.” The district has yet to address this issue. While the district has presented a proposed calendar, your KEA team cannot come to a tentative agreement on the calendar until we know how the district will address the 1.9%.

Reminder: Bargaining Updates are posted on the KEA Blog https://kenteducationassociation.wordpress.com/ where you can also post your questions and comments.

General Membership Meeting

August 30, 2011, 5-7 p.m.

Kentwood High School.

 

KEA Bargaining Team

Connie Compton, KEA President

Cindy Prescott, 4th/5th grade, Crestwood/KEA Vice President

Michael Kerstetter, Music, Daniel/KEA Secretary Treasurer

Lisa Brackin-Johnson, Language Arts, Mattson

Brian Thornton, Social Studies, Meridian Middle

Emma Goliff, 1st grade, Panther Lake

Ron Nauer, Science, Meeker

Rose Racicot, Occupational Therapy/Assistive Technology

Sandra Goveia, KEA Uniserv Representative

Bargaining Update

June 30, 2011

 Bargaining Team Goal: To strengthen the KEA contract in the areas of working conditions, compensation, and benefits in order to improve both the teaching and learning conditions for the students of the Kent School District.

More bargaining this week! KEA and KSD held an-all day meeting on Tuesday, June 28. Several proposals were exchanged and we are close on some smaller issues. The district has agreed to bring responses to the KEA proposals at our next meeting. Workload and teacher rights have dominated our discussions. Your KEA Bargaining Team is standing firm on the issue of teacher-directed time. Some of the remaining issues are complex and will not be resolved independently.

Staying informed all summer, as well as communicating with colleagues and community members, gives your bargaining team the power to get the most beneficial settlement for KEA members.

Some members of the KEA team left for Chicago for the NEA Representative Assembly Wednesday morning (June 29). Joint bargaining is scheduled to resume in mid-July.

In other news …
There are three school board positions up for election, two of which are contested. The Kent Educators for Legislative Accountability (KELA) team interviewed the candidates for each position. Look for the recommendations soon.

Don’t forget …

  • Regular Bargaining Updates will also be posted on the KEA Blog where you can also post your questions and comments.
  • General Membership Meeting, 5-7 p.m. Aug. 30, Kentwood High School

KEA Bargaining Team
Lisa Brackin-Johnson, KEA President
Connie Compton, Special Ed., Jenkins Creek
Cindy Prescott, 4th/5th grade, Crestwood
Michael Kerstetter, Music, Daniel
Brian Thornton, Social Studies, Meridian Middle
Emma Goliff, 1st/2nd grade, Panther Lake
Ron Nauer, Science, Meeker
Rose Racicot, Occupational Therapy/Assistive Technology
Sandra Goveia, KEA UniServ Representative

Getting ready for RIFs

May 8, 2011

With RIF (Reduction In Force) notices set to go out this week, it is critical that you know what to do, even if you do not feel you are in danger of being let go.  If you do receive one, note that there will be a meeting at the KEA office on May 17, at 4:00 to give you information on what this means and what your rights are.  This is a checklist from WEA and KEA:

Getting ready for RIFs: Six steps to take now

 With significant cuts coming in the state education budget, KEA and WEA want you to be prepared in case you receive a Reduction in Force (RIF) notice. Here are some important steps to take NOW, even if you have not received a RIFnotice:

  • Keep all notices and paperwork you receive from your employer, especially your RIF notification should you receive one. These explain your appeal rights and may be necessary for any potential challenge to a RIF.
  • Make an appointment to check your personnel file at the district office. Make sure the information in it is accurate and complete. For example, make sure that your contracted FTE, endorsements and other information are recorded properly. If you find mistakes, correct them as soon as possible. 
  • Make sure the district has current contact information for you, and keep it updated (mailing address, phone number, e-mail address, etc.). If you do not have a personal, non-district e-mail address, sign up for a free one and provide it to the district. Accurate contact information is important in case of a recall.
  • Get a complete copy of your personnel file. You may have to pay for the copy charges, but the investment will be worthwhile down the road.
  • Obtain letters of recommendation from your principal or other key people and have these recommendations ready in the event you need to look for employment elsewhere.
  • Make sure you know who your local association president and UniServ representatives are and how to get hold of them.                                                                                               (President: Lisa Brackin Johnson- lisa.brackin-johnson@washingtonea.org), UniServ Rep: Sandra Goveia- sgoveia@washingtonea.org)

Report from the KSD Budget Hearing

April 12, 2011

At the KSD Budget Hearing on March 29th, Superintendent Vargas and Business Officer Richard Stedrey reviewed the budget and proposed reductions using a worst case scenario forecast.

Audience members expressed a high level of concern regarding the budget survey process and proposed cuts, including the long-term impact of many of the cuts.  The speakers included parents, students, educators and community members. Participants raised a wide range of questions and suggested alternatives. Concerns regarding PE and Music and maintaining K-4 class size were frequently addressed. Many speakers noted the connection between Music and PE and increased academic performance. One elementary student raised $15 at a garage sale to save the PE program and a middle school student said, “Music is my life.”

Kent Education Association Vice-President Connie Compton addressed the School Board and recognized the challenges of the school district budget. She continued, “As the education professionals who work with your students every day in the classrooms across the district, we feel it is absolutely imperative that we be an integral part of the conversation. We respectfully ask the board to invite us to the table to honestly and openly discuss possible alternatives to navigate these troubled economic waters while continuing to provide a high quality and well-rounded education to each and every one of our students. Together we can find a way to reduce the budget while minimizing the impact on our students.”

Audience questions included:

  • What is the end-goal driving budget decisions?
  • What are the priorities and values of our community?
  • Have decisions already been made?
  • Why are Elementary PE and Music being considered?
  • Why do administrators earn top pay for our region, but teachers are at the bottom?
  • Why are neighboring districts able to balance their budgets without impacting classrooms?
  • Why do the Auburn and Tahoma districts have better trust with their communities?
  • Will cutting the middle In-School Suspension program limit discipline options and have unintended consequences?
  • Is PE mandated by the state?
  • Is eliminating PE a contractual issue?

Suggestions for alternative budget reductions or raising revenue:

  • Make cuts that do not impact students.
  • Reduce salary at the top.
  • Run a supplemental levy to raise $3.7 million dollars.
  • 10 summer furlough days for administrators.
  • Cut administrative travel.
  • Freeze administrative pay.
  • Eliminate outside consultants.
  • Delay new curriculum purchases.
  • Use alternative transportation for high school students.
  • Freeze standardized testing.
  • Continue tuition-based full-day kindergarten programs.

The district has responded to some of these issues on the district website. KEA looks forward to responses to the remaining questions and concerns.  As well, we hope that we will be invited to discuss options with the school board.

Budget Survey?

March 26, 2011

This was forwarded to me by Connie Compton, KEA Vice President, who wanted members to be able to see what she did when she tried to fill out the KSD Budget Survey.  This was sent to the school board and Dr. Vargas.  I apologize that the chart didn’t transfer over as well as intended.  It came as an excel doc and was difficult to format.

I just attempted to complete the Budget Survey. I am disappointed and frustrated. I am unable to make the choices that I think best serve the needs of our students because the limited choices offered force me to cut certificated staff. This survey does not allow us to keep cuts away from our students and the classroom. Because the survey gives such limited options and does not present the full list of options developed by the school district or allow me to make my own suggestions and yet requires a specific point total, I am unable to use the online tool to give my input. Therefore, I am sending my input directly to you.

The students attending school in the Kent District School District today or entering kindergarten next fall only get once chance for their education. We need to provide a well-rounded education that meets the needs of all students. Cutting the Elementary PE and Music programs does not reach this end. As a 30-year veteran special education teacher, I know that school can be challenging and even frustrating for many students. PE and Music can be the positive in their school day. Other students find their passions starting in the elementary PE and Music programs, which leads to their connection to high school, their social group, and even their college path or their careers. Research clearly ties physical health and music to academic achievement. Likewise, research supports smaller class size at the elementary level. Teachers across our district will tell you that they are already stretched to their limits. Increasing class size and cutting elementary planning time will seriously impact the learning of our students.

Ideally, I believe that a supplemental levy should be put to the voters. This would increase funding by approximately $3.7 million, which would cut the need to reduce the budget by more than half. However, it is possible to reduce the budget without directly impacting classrooms or running a supplemental levy. Please refer to the attached spreadsheet (printed below) with my recommendations to reduce expenditures.

Thank you,
Connie Compton
Elementary Special Education Teacher,
KEA Vice-President,
Community Member & Voter, and Parent of 2 KSD Graduates

2011/2012 Budget Reductions for Consideration  
Central Office Budget Reductions as planned 2,762,032.00  
     
Energy Savings 592,568.00  
Mid-Day Kindergarten Transportation 127,400.00  
     
Reduce One Assistant Principal per High School               Rationale: Three Assistant Principals (or 2 and a Dean of Students) aligns with most high schools of similar size in our area. 542,388.00  
Middle School In-School Suspension 173,527.00  
Principal’s Travel Fund Carryover 248,951.00  
10 Furlough Days for Superintendent and Chiefs               Rationale: As KSD Certificated Staff are paid less than those in 22 surrounding districts, it is reasonable to reduce pay for administrators to a similar level. Furlough days can be taken in the summer without impact to the student school year. 76,020.00  
10 Furlough Days for District Management                        Rationale:  See above 323,560.00  
Return 11 TOSAs/Coaches/Facilitators to the classroom. Rationale: The professionals working in the trenches will agree that teachers in the classroom keeping class size low and programs intact will prove to be of the most value in student achievement. These staff can fill open positions in the schools. (Estimated savings based on the average cost per certificated staff of $80,963, although potential savings could be higher as most staff in these positions are typically higher paid staff). 890,593.00  
Cut “Travel” from the Budget                                                Rationale:  Priorities. Elementary PE and Music should be valued over administrator travel. 330,000.00  
Total Reduction 6,067,039.00  

Ramblings on Class Size

March 10, 2011

This was sent to me by a teacher who objected to Bill Gates’ opinions on class sizes in schools.  

 Bill Gates has recently been quoted as saying, “”U.S. schools have almost twice as many teachers per student as they did in 1960.” I have to wonder what Bill bases this on. I’m guessing it’s not the Kent School District. Our contract allows Kindergarten to third grade to reach 29 students and 4th to 6th grade to reach 32. My husband was recently working on some old school pictures. Here’s what we saw –

1960 – 1st grade – 31 students                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1961 – 2nd grade – 31 students                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1962 – 3rd grade – 28 students                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1963 – 4th grade – 28 students                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     1964 – 5th grade – 30 students                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1965 – 6th grade – 27 students

Interestingly, the kindergarten at my school has 27 students this year.

 So maybe Bill’s problem is that in 1975 a federal law was passed that provides for a free and appropriate public education for all students. Prior to this law many students now in special education programs could not attend public schools. Others dropped out after they had been held back repeatedly. In Kent, approximately 10% of the teachers are special education teachers.

 We also have ELL teachers in Kent and 15% of the students in Kent are in ELL programs. Many more have exited formal ELL programs, but are still building their skills in English.

 I often wonder what makes Bill Gates an “expert” on education. I wonder how he’d do teaching for a week in a public school classroom.

Education Reform?

February 22, 2011

There are a lot of people out there talking education reform these days and it’s getting hard to keep the stories straight without a program and a script, but it’s good to know that there are some who are managing to see through all the fog (and smoke and mirrors that are trying to hide other agendas).  Here’s an article that can help you see past the people who would destroy public education by not funding it and then complain because it doesn’t seem to be working.  This article references Parents Across America (http://parentsacrossamerica.org/), a new organization that promises to connect parents and activists from across the U.S. to share ideas and work together on improving our nation’s public schools.  Please take a look and see if you agree with this article.

http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/why-i-am-not-a-defender-of-the-status-quo-in-education-because-the-status-quo-is-failed-ed-reforms/

Late Start/Early Release

January 27, 2011

The district, KEA and other interested bargaining groups have been in discussion for several months over the issue of providing more time for teacher collaboration, training and performing other professional responsibilities.  To that end, a committee of administrators, teachers, KEA leadership, parents and community members was formed to develop a few proposals. This is an idea that has support from the superintendent, administrators, teachers and other groups within KSD.

 As you may know, in most surrounding school districts, there are many more days set aside as early release or late start than we currently have, and if you speak to teachers from those districts, most will tell you that it has been invaluable as a means to do a variety of things that enhance their teaching and student learning.  In the districts that have this time, they added minutes to the student day to keep with the state required 1000 hours of instructional time. Teachers in those districts understand that a few minutes extra each day is well worth the additional time they get on the late start or early release days. We currently have 8 days of early release/late starts and the 3 proposals that have been suggested are:

  1. Every Wednesday a 90 minute late start
  2. One half day every other Wednesday Every
  3. Wednesday a 2 hour late start

How the days will be directed is subject to bargaining, so you will have a voice in this, if adoption is recommended. Two community meetings will be held to provide information and gain input from community members, teachers and other KSD employees.    The first meeting is at Kentridge High School on January 31, from 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM, and the second is at Kentlake High School on February 1, from 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM.  Come and see what’s being proposed.