CLASSROOM STRUGGLE

Strategy and Analysis to Defend and Transform Public Education

My personal perspective on the TA

The following perspective was posted by Ana Ferrús-García a teacher at Manzanita SEED on the OEA-schools-working-to-rule list on May 17, 2015. 

(I would like to emphasize that the following comments represent my personal opinion, as an OEA member, not my “official position” on the TA as Election Committee Chair–And my apologies for the long email….)

According to OEA leadership “Everything is coming up roses” regarding this proposed TA.

I have to respond, respectfully, “Not from where I am standing”

The proposed TA offers teachers a 2.5% contingency-free raise above what the district proposed last (4%).  That 2.5% amounts to $95 more/month for me, a 10-yr veteran. The total raise amount is more, of course, but I look at bargaining in terms of what I’ve gained (the difference between the district’s proposal and the final settlement)  vs. the cost (in terms of contract rights- I am not even talking about 3 months of W2R, board meetings, house meetings…etc.)  And to me, the loss/exchange for those $95 month is the support the union offered, until now, to all those teachers consolidated due to lower enrollment.  Consolidation is already very stressful: I can’t imagine being forced to leave your teaching and school community and “try your luck” elsewhere.  To that, the new TA is adding the stress brought by the uncertainty of whether the teachers at the potential “receiving” sites would think that you are “worthy” of joining their staff.  And because teaching is stressful enough, I can’t imagine most teachers compromising their mental health further by pushing their way into a site that doesn’t want them by “exerting his/her seniority rights.”  So then, in the absence of a “match,” a consolidated teacher would need to face the uncertainty of what he or she will end up doing for a year.  Contrary to what some have advanced, I doubt the district is setting aside cushy jobs for these, sorry for the term, “rejects” in their view.  LCI has been extensively restructured this year (good bye curriculum development jobs,) and I don’t know of any sites that currently employ full-time intervention teachers, so I really wonder what would be available for those consolidated teachers.

The bargaining team has said that they took into account the rights of the receiving teachers when making these concessions.  As a teacher who works at a site exempt from article 12 (via MOU) I can say with confidence that the ability to choose incoming teachers has not improved my working conditions.  Why?  Because for the last 3 years 50% of the new hires have left due to low salary, intense working conditions or other reasons.  In addition, the factors I see negatively impacting my working conditions are (I am sure these are common in many sites):

  • Class size (yes, OUSD has agreed to LCFF terms a few years ahead of schedule, but they were already in compliance with the numbers for most sites, so this agreement just made “official” conditions already present at most sites.)
  • Intervention support (or lack thereof.)  We have only been able to afford a part-time intervention teacher so, as a result, students at risk don’t receive the support needed.  I have compensated for this by tutoring students on my own time at the end of the school day.
  • Lack of paid collaboration time with the RSP teacher, who already has a caseload of 28 students and much to do at the end of his school day.  As a result, we meet, on a volunteer basis, whenever we can carve out time, and never the necessary length of time to fully cover the needs of the students we share. (Yes, our wed. will be extended by 30 minutes, but at the moment,  I don’t know what OUSD has planned for those 30 min.)
  • Lack of resources to support the needs of students experiencing trauma.  Our principal attempts to cover these and other needs with grants and partnerships with private agencies, but then we are asked to spend time after school meeting the grant’s requirements and, when paid, we receive a meek 23/hr stipend.
  • More and more district requirements which encroach into our “professional time” and leave less time for grading papers, lesson planning, material preparations, etc (2 hrs of prep  a week is not enough for me.)
  • Minimal custodial support: Our classrooms are only vacuumed twice a week and if someone is absent/on vacation we may only have the trash taken out until the staff return.

As far as I now, none of the above conditions are addressed in the TA.

So,  given the fact that an additional $95 will not make a dent in my retirement savings (especially as we will need to contribute more to STRS in the coming years) or my daughter’s college savings nor will they help my junior colleagues afford their rent or settle by buying a house in Oakland, I don’t think that the additional compensation was a fair exchange for what it will mean to consolidated teachers in the future.  I will gladly give the 95$ back in exchange for their (better) peace of mind.

For these reasons I will vote NO on this TA.

Respectfully,

Ana Ferrús-García/Manzanita SEED

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This entry was posted on May 28, 2015 by in Uncategorized.
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