Archive for the ‘Letters’ Category

We’re Baaack…

December 6, 2010

Hello again and welcome to the Kent Education Association Blog.  We’ve had some turnover and some change and as a result we dropped out of sight for awhile, but, as stated, we’re back.  We have some new focus and some new fire and we would very much like to invite you, the KEA members as well as the public at large, (but this is the KEA blog, after all) to speak and be heard.  This is a forum where you may speak your mind without fear of retribution or retaliation.  You may say what needs to be said here, although I do urge you to remember you are teachers and to keep the dialogue civil, even though you may need to vent.  We want people to hear our voices and we want them to pay attention to our words as they are the powerful statements that will get our messages across.  Your stories carry much more weight than any dozen retellings by KEA officials.  Let your voice be heard.  Visit often and say a few words or a few dozen and remember, this is a contract year and there are very serious discussions about to begin.  Again, let your voice be heard.

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What Are KSD’s Budget Priorities?

April 18, 2010

When we asked this question last year, parents and community members stood behind Kent teachers in responding that KSD’s top priority should be students and supporting learning in the classroom.

Nevertheless, KSD is pursuing a course that will negatively impact our children by cutting elementary staff positions: Librarians who provide key literacy support; counselors who provide support emotional health and coordinate services; intervention specialists who support struggling learners and coaches who help teachers implement best practices.

Yes, KSD is surveying the community about these potential cuts. The catch? To submit your survey, your answers must accumulate at least 60 “points”. Reducing elementary staff, such as librarians, counselors and specialists, is the only way to accumulate these points. This does not truly allow the community to establish district priorities.

Does KSD have other options? Absolutely. In the last five years, KSD has had as much as $15 million more in its “rainy day fund” than the school board policy calls for. Last year, KEA forecast a KSD “rainy day fund” of $22 million, while KSD asserted that the fund balance would not exceed $17 million. At year end, it was $22.6 million. This year, KEA forecasts KSD will end the year with a “rainy day fund” of $21.7 million.

KSD has maintained a fund balance between three and six times the budgeted level and well over the board policy of 5%. What’s more, they spend just 90% of what they budget to spend in the classroom and about half of what they budget on purchased services (hired consultants, attorneys and other outside contractors). Just setting the budget for the actual expenditures would reduce the budget significantly and potentially eliminate the need for cuts.

Families must sometimes dip into savings to cover expenses. If necessary, the Kent school district should do the same.

During a budget crisis, staff members agree that support in and for the classroom should trump new programs and trainings with consultants.

We believe that the number one priority of the Kent School District should be the students. We urge the district and community members to keep cuts as far away from students as possible to ensure that our children continue to have the opportunity for a quality education.

One Teacher’s Take On Budget Cuts

April 11, 2010

The following is the text of an email sent by a Nationally Board Certified teacher in the KSD to the Kent School Board about the current budget cuts being proposed. 

Once again we find ourselves at a crossroads of making decisions for students or against students.  Any decision that compromises the student’s classroom experience is a decision against students.  When so much is being asked of those working daily with students to bring students up to standard and raise the level of proficiency in our district, how could any level minded stakeholder consider removing anything that directly effects the students.  IF it is necessary to make cuts in the budget, EVERY effort should be made to see that those cuts do NOT impact the classroom and those directly involved with the lives of the students. 
 
Lip service has been given to making administrative cuts, however, at an earlier board meeting this year, yet another superintendent position was approved.  How can that be?  I attend every board meeting; I hear the budget reports.  What I don’t hear are cuts from administration that free up money to preserve students’ education.  Administrative cuts I do see are those that remove administrative personnel from the buildings that only serve to harm the students in our care.  For example, just yesterday, our “designated administrator” (since our principal was out of the building) spent the entire day dealing with a student issue that potentially put other students at risk.  This required an intense investigation involving the questioning of at least a dozen different students to ensure an accurate representation of the situation before imposing consequences.  During this time, no other administrative work was possible.  THAT is what administrative cuts from last year have done.  Because the building I work in is not Title I, apparently we do not have student situations such as this that require the attention of administrative personnel.  Obviously an inaccurate assessment.  It appears that our district believes it is more important to add another superintendent position than it is to meet the needs of the students in the buildings by providing enough administrative staff to ensure the safety of our students.  Hmmm.  Something is wrong with this picture.
 
Other administrative cuts I see are those of TOSAs, or teaching staff at the district office that work directly with curriculum implementation issues.  Once again, these are positions that directly impact the classroom and the students.  Seems the most costly administrative cuts are those that require the services of the least paid and those with the greatest student impact.  How is that “Preparing All Students for their Future?”
 
My concerns are not just mine.  I am certain  you have heard this opinion before, and if not, it is because of fear of retribution.  Yes, fear of retribution.  There is still a culture of fear in the Kent School District when teachers express their concerns regarding administrative decisions.  If we are sincere about
the quality of education in the Kent School District, ANY budget cuts will be far, far away from the classroom and the building. 

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

 

Words of Encouragement and Support

September 7, 2009

Below are some of the messages of support from across the country that have been sent to Kent teachers during this difficult time:

  • As a former UniServ Director in the Chinook council,   1971-1981, and the organizer of the first strike in Washington (Aberdeen) I applaud your members COURGE and RESOLVE  to stand up, demand  RESPECT and show your UNITY….   Hang together or you WILL hang separately.    Good Luck from your 3224 brothers and sisters in Central Adams UniServ a suburban local just north of Denver, Colorado
  • Please convey my support to your membership.  I am an officer of the Seneca Valley Education Association in Harmony, PA.  Having endured a 5 week strike 2 years ago, I understand the stress.  Thank your members for their solidarity, and know that we are with you all in spirit.  Hopefully your state Association and NEA is giving you everything they have got.
  • Please know that you have so many teachers and student families that support you and your decisions.  You are the leaders in the classroom, directly responsible for meeting the needs of every child. Thank you for being strong, courageous and doing the work that you do!  Arizona Teacher.  Region 1 AEA BOD
  • I am a UniServ Director here in Vermont, where my Area is all of Central Vermont.  We too have seen teacher strikes in our Area, usually over economic conditions of employment. When a school board will not negotiate over improved teacher time with students, however, they have reached an all-time low. You have my support – even from a few thousand miles away!!! Stay strong; know that you hold the higher ground morally, educationally and professionally.  I believe I speak for all my colleagues here in saying that we wish you every success in your endeavors.  Keep fighting the honorable fight for teachers and other workers. Now, more than ever, labor needs to stand strong.

Kent Legislators Weigh In

September 2, 2009

It seems that Kent’s state representatives are not happy with the way KSD has been bargaining either.  KEA has received copies of two letters from state legislators Geoff Simpson and Pat Sullivan regarding the current bargaining.  In a joint letter from August 13th, the two wrote to welcome Dr. Vargas to Kent, and encouraged the two parties to, “do everything we can to resolve the remaining issues and we stand ready to help in any way we can.”  What’s more, the legislators congratulated Kent for, “putting funds aside during past periods of economic growth,” but added, “we are clearly in times where many levels of government and private entities must rely on our reserves to carry out our core functions.  If we’ve been saving for a rainy day, the storm has come.”  You can read a copy of the letter here: http://www.kentschools.org/index.php/component/content/article/26.html

Representative Simpson followed up more recently with a strongly worded letter of condemnation to Dr. Vargas expressing his displeasure with how Kent School District was using, “sleazy tactics,”  to, “win in the court of public opinion.”  Rep. Simpson continued, “I think it’s wrong of you to use taxpayer dollars to take issues from the bargaining table to the public.”  In reaction to KSD’s use of parent contact info and resources to spread its propaganda to the public, Simpson says that he intends to introduce legislation in the upcoming session to prevent similar abuses in the future.  Read Rep. Simpson’s letter here:  http://www.kentschools.org/index.php/component/content/article/1/24.html

Editorial In June 12 Kent Reporter

June 14, 2009

“KEA: Better education comes through better priorities in Kent”

By KEA Vice President Connie Compton and KEA Secretary Cindy Prescott

In tough economic times, how can Kent educators be concerned about the district’s spending?  Because your children won’t get a second chance at their education when the economy improves. Our community wants a great education for our children – in good times and in bad. Kent Education Association members are professional educators dedicated to quality education for every student.

Educators need time to prepare lessons, absorb training, apply skills learned, confer with colleagues, meet with parents, and complete paperwork. Most importantly, teachers need quality time to teach our students. Time matters.

Educators need a manageable workload. Students benefit from smaller classes. Some special education teachers instruct 40 students with unique needs.  Middle school teachers are asked to integrate laptops into daily lessons. High school teachers may have 35 or more students in a class. Psychologists, speech and language pathologists, and occupational and physical therapists travel to several buildings, with no limits on their caseloads. Some teach in a corner or a closet. Workload matters.

Students benefit when great teachers choose to come, and stay in Kent. Teachers in Kent work as hard as colleagues in neighboring districts and deserve equitable compensation. Kent is losing top veterans. They’re leaving to work in districts that pay as much as $10,000 more, and offer a greater degree of professionalism to their staffs. The children of Kent deserve better than the lowest paid teachers in the Puget Sound region. Compensation matters.

Can Kent afford this investment? The district’s own budget data says yes. Nearby districts prove more can be done. The district spends 67% of its budget on teaching and teaching support. Neighboring districts spend up to 73%. Lake Washington employs a teacher for every 16 students; Kent has only one teacher for every 19 students.  Kent has more administrators per teacher than it has teachers per student. The district expects to end the year with nearly $20 million in the bank, which exceeds the 5% reserve policy. Taxpayers in Kent deserve to see their investment spent on Kent students.

The Kent Education Association believes it is time for the Kent School District to make children its number one priority. Improving the time, workload and compensation for educators in Kent will improve education for children. The children of Kent are as valuable as children in districts around Puget Sound. Our community deserves to see its money spent where it belongs: in the classroom. 

In tough economic times, how can Kent educators be concerned about the district’s spending? Because your children won’t get a second chance at their education when the economy improves. Our community wants a great education for our children – in good times and in bad. Kent Education Association members are professional educators dedicated to quality education for every student.

Educators need time to prepare lessons, absorb training, apply skills learned, confer with colleagues, meet with parents, and complete paperwork. Most importantly, teachers need quality time to teach our students. Time matters.

Educators need a manageable workload. Students benefit from smaller classes. Some special education teachers instruct 40 students with unique needs.  Middle school teachers are asked to integrate laptops into daily lessons. High school teachers may have 35 or more students in a class. Psychologists, speech and language pathologists, and occupational and physical therapists travel to several buildings, with no limits on their caseloads. Some teach in a corner or a closet. Workload matters.

Students benefit when great teachers choose to come, and stay in Kent. Teachers in Kent work as hard as colleagues in neighboring districts and deserve equitable compensation. Kent is losing top veterans. They’re leaving to work in districts that pay as much as $10,000 more, and offer a greater degree of professionalism to their staffs. The children of Kent deserve better than the lowest paid teachers in the Puget Sound region. Compensation matters.

Can Kent afford this investment? The district’s own budget data says yes. Nearby districts prove more can be done. The district spends 67% of its budget on teaching and teaching support. Neighboring districts spend up to 73%. Lake Washington employs a teacher for every 16 students; Kent has only one teacher for every 19 students.  Kent has more administrators per teacher than it has teachers per student. The district expects to end the year with nearly $20 million in the bank, which exceeds the 5% reserve policy. Taxpayers in Kent deserve to see their investment spent on Kent students.

The Kent Education Association believes it is time for the Kent School District to make children its number one priority. Improving the time, workload and compensation for educators in Kent will improve education for children. The children of Kent are as valuable as children in districts around Puget Sound. Our community deserves to see its money spent where it belongs: in the classroom.

Seattle: This Is Why We Have Unions, Folks!

May 12, 2009

It is a cornerstone of Washington state labor law that public school employees are allowed to bargain collectively with their employers, the state’s school districts.  Furthermore, school districts are specifically prohibited from even attempting to bargain directly with union members.

Did anyone (especially district staff lawyers) inform Seattle Public Schools chief Maria Goodloe-Johnson about this fact?

Last Friday, an undetermined number of SPS’ 3,300 certificated staff members received a letter with Dr. Goodloe-Johnson’s signature affixed to it that read in part:

“The purpose of this letter is to advise you of my determination, as Superintendent of Seattle School District, that there is probable cause to nonrenew your contract that was for 180 basic contract days plus two LID days, and to offer you an employment contract for the 2009-2010 school year for 180 basic contract days plus one LID day.”

The Seattle Education Association has denounced the Superintendent’s letter (she has since said that the letter had not been sent on Friday, but would be sent soon.  Never mind the inconvenient truth that many Seattle School District personnel had already received a copy).  SEA has further stated that it intends to file an unfair-labor practice complaint regarding what SEA considers to be Dr. Goodloe-Johnson’s attempt to circumvent the bargaining process and negotiate directly with SEA’s 3,300 members.

How this will play out should be a foregone conclusion, but it’s still early yet.

One thing that you as a KEA member might keep in mind is that collective bargaining supported by collaborative member action is the most effective tool that educators have for holding districts to account when they do things like break state labor law.  Also, when you have a union to represent your interests, you are not required to make the hard decision whether or not to take an individual personal contract offered to you on a take-it-or-leave-it basis by someone whose compensation package is likely three-to-four times yours.

The notion that teachers ought to be allowed to pool their bargaining resources in pursuit of the best possible working conditions and compensation package is a time-honored one and is black letter law in both the state and federal legal codes.  Any attempt on the part of either side to circumvent a process that is built on negotiation and founded in the spirit of compromise can do nothing but breed mutual distrust.

As a wise man once said, “That way lies madness.”

 

Brian Thornton

KEA Executive Board Member

WEA President Responds To Seattle Crisis

May 10, 2009

As many of you have will have heard, Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson of the Seattle School District mailed contract nonrenewal letters dated Friday, May 8, 2009 to every Seattle public school teacher with a continuing contract.  You can find a copy of the letter that was sent to our members here: www.washingtonea.org/docs/SeattleSD.pdf

Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s actions in sending this letter are a violation of the state’s labor laws and an unnecessary distraction from the important work our members are doing with Seattle students every day. Legally, under our collective bargaining statutes, any proposals the Superintendent may have about the number of teacher work days must be negotiated between the school district and the Seattle Education Association. The current contract states that it is a 182 day contract. SEA began negotiating a new agreement with the school district on April 20. It is unfortunate Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson decided to go outside the legal process with her “take it or leave it” position. Her actions in threatening our member’s jobs are exactly why our state has a collective bargaining law.

With 175 contracts open across the state, it’s important for all of us to remain vigilant and steadfast to bargain fair contracts of which that we can be proud. We are examining all of our options to ensure that Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson and the school district are held legally accountable for this action. We are consulting with our attorneys and next steps could include filing a suit against the district. SEA staff and leaders are working around the clock with support from WEA to ensure the protection of our members’ contracts and rights. In the meantime, we will keep you updated frequently as things unfold.

Mary Lindquist

Another KEA Member Disappointed With KSD’s Initial Proposals

May 6, 2009

April 29, 2009
 
Kent School District Board of Directors:
 
I was disheartened to read the proposal offered by the KSD bargaining team.  On top of the 130 layoffs our district expects to see next month (even after attending the March school board meeting where the board gave the impression that RIFS would be given at the LAST resort), KSD is proposing an 11% pay cut (after taking away the effective ed. hours which is 3.89% of base salary, cuts from benefits 7.22%, and the loss of COLA). How is this possible? I understand the economy is discouraging for everyone, but you are asking me to take on even more students for even less pay. Other than my love of my profession, what incentive do I have to Successfully Prepare All Students For Their Future?
 
The item on the KSD proposal regarding the possibility of eliminating the right of KEA and its members to choose the insurance and benefits that will best fit the needs of our members and their families is quite disturbing.  For me personally, this is frightening, as there is only one insurance provider that will cover the costs needed for my cochlear implant and supplies. Should you choose the wrong provider for me, I will be sorely affected.
 
Awarding or punishing teachers based on WASL scores (SIP) is also an insult. Certainly you know that teachers can not control every child’s environment away from school. I do what I can in the classroom. Are you telling me that I will be punished for wanting to work with children who attend a Title I school who may be constantly hungry, move three times in one year, or live in an unstable environment while sleeping on a trampoline? Of course we all want children to succeed, and they will, but not all children will be successful based on WASL tests. Until there are assessments for all intelligences, this is not a reasonable request.
 
I want you to know that I am disappointed that the District would make such a proposal. The Kent School District provides the lowest pay in the Puget Sound area, and to reduce it further is an insult to the value of each member of the professional staff. Proposing rollbacks, rather than taking steps to bring compensation up to the level paid by every other district in our area, is a move in the wrong direction.
 
Sincerely,
Dr. Emma Goliff, Ed.D.