Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Wednesday, September 25. We discussed a wide range of issues, and we agreed to set aside large chunks of this year’s bargaining sessions for the purpose of improving working conditions for special education teachers and the overall efficiency of special education programs.
Over the past three years of negotiations, we have consistently added challenges faced by special education teachers to the agenda. Despite hours of discussion, both CUTA and the District felt that we were continually adding new agenda items without effectively solving previously added items. The list of challenges for special education just got longer and longer. Special education is challenging as it is dictated largely by underfunded federal mandates. Still, we believe that we can work together to make positive change. We will share more specific information about ideas for moving forward as we move through the interest based bargaining process (IBB). The IBB process emphasizes finding common interests on issues to facilitate making solutions. CUTA and the District share an interest in improving working conditions and increasing efficiency in the special education programs.
We also discussed the progress being made with innovative scheduling at the high school. Since the interested parties (teachers and administrators) have settled on some form of an eight period block, we can begin discussing what contract language would be needed to represent that schedule. We can also begin negotiating student contact numbers. Your bargaining team wants to make it clear that we are waiting for a clear sign from the high schools that there is significant support for making a change of this magnitude. We don’t feel that has been demonstrated yet. Until we see that a specific schedule has been chosen and that teachers have come to a rough estimate for the number of student contacts they are willing to accept, we can’t move forward in negotiations in anything other than a hypothetical way. A multi-year test of a different high schedule will require new processes for CUTA. We need to be sure there is strong support for a specific approach among teachers at the high schools.
As Kevin noted in an email last Thursday, Greg Ford, a PV math teacher and bargaining team member has spearheaded the effort to bring a STRS (State Teachers Retirement System) training to our next district-wide staff development day on Tuesday, October 15. The District has enthusiastically supported this idea. If you are interested in attending this training, you can sign up with the link below. As Kevin said, “Signing up doesn't mean you are obligated to go nor will you be turned away if you don't sign up. We are just trying to get a rough head count so we can reserve a big enough room and tell STRS how much material to bring.” The training is geared towards teachers in the early to middle parts of their careers. Here is the link.
We moved on to a discussion of elementary assessment. The District has developed a new assessment continuum which they believe will lessen the burden of assessment in K-5. This continuum is being piloted by special education teachers this year. There was some confusion among elementary teachers about whether they were supposed to be using the continuum this year, and the District confirmed that the continuum is only being piloted by special education. Confusion may have stemmed from a link on the District site that displayed the continuum of assessments if you clicked on elementary assessment. That has been changed. The District has made CBM testing optional, and they have replaced the CCCS assessments with interim assessment blocks after teachers indicated their dislike for the CCCS assessments. The continuum of assessments will also eliminate baseline testing for most students. We hope that this will make elementary assessment more manageable. Your bargaining team brought up the idea of returning to the model in which each teacher had a small assessment budget to allow for two sub days for assessment during the year, but the District is not interested in moving in that direction at this time.
Lastly, we discussed the possibility of having one stipend per CTE pathway at the high schools. Originally, the three stipends per high school in the contract was enough to cover the need, but these programs have expanded significantly. We will return to this discussion at our next session.
Wage Agreement (repeat information from the last bargaining update)
We are entering the final year of our three year wage agreement, and this year the per ADA percent change for Chico Unified is 3.47%. With a tiny adjustment based on changes in last year’s number,this means our raise this year is 3.48%. This 3.48% increase is applied to the salary schedule, the District health benefits contribution, and all other compensation related dollar amounts in the contract. With this final raise in the three year agreement, we have earned a 13.42% total compounded raise over the three years. In addition, the District covered their portion of the increased contribution to STRS without passing those costs on to us. We will explore future compensation increases over the course of this school year. The District was a willing and generous partner in negotiating these wage increases. We appreciate the District’s commitment to making compensation a top priority.
This wage agreement is structured to wait until September to get the most accurate percentage possible from the state. Your September check will include the 3.48% raise, and you will receive a small retro check in mid October for the 3.48% missing from your August check. In October, the new health benefit premiums go into effect, and they did go up this year, so you may see a slight decline in your check from September to October.
Here is the link to the new CUTA salary schedule on the District website.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed. If you’d like to look at our contract, here is the link.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for our first negotiations session of the school year on Thursday, September 12. We discussed a wide range of topics that will occupy much of our bargaining time this school year, with an emphasis on special education, all-day kindergarten, elementary assessment and employee compensation.
We are entering the final year of our three year wage agreement, and this year the per ADA percent change for Chico Unified is 3.47%. With a tiny adjustment based on changes in last year’s number,this means our raise this year is 3.48%. This 3.48% increase will be applied to the salary schedule, the District health benefits contribution, and all other compensation related dollar amounts in the contract. With this final raise in the three-year agreement, we have earned a 13.42% total compounded raise over the three years. In addition, the District covered their portion of the increased contribution to STRS without passing those costs on to us. We will explore future compensation increases over the course of this school year. The District was a willing and generous partner in negotiating these wage increases. We appreciate the District’s commitment to making compensation a top priority.
We structured the wage agreement to wait until September to get the most accurate percentage possible from the state. Your September check will include the 3.48% raise, and you will receive a small retro check in mid-October for the 3.48% missing from your August check. In October, the new health benefit premiums go into effect, and they did go up this year, so you may see a slight decline in your check from September to October.
Here is the link to the new CUTA salary schedule on the District website.
Negotiations for 2020-21
The Camp Fire was a disaster on a historic scale. We will feel the fallout for years to come. One way in which Chico Unified has been impacted is through increased enrollment. Welcoming new students to our District can make staffing difficult to plan at times, and the permanence of the enrollment increases from the Camp Fire have been hard to judge. Our special education programs have been strained in some areas by these enrollment increases, and this has been coupled with a shortage of teaching candidates for these positions. The District is working hard to find a solution for overages in caseload and class size in SDC at the junior highs. The high schools appear to be adequately staffed for the moment, but the numbers continue to change. CUTA will discuss the District’s options with affected members in the coming days.
Special education in general appears to be an increasingly complicated and difficult position. Our special education teachers work with some of our most vulnerable students, and many feel increasingly overwhelmed by the needs of their students and the requirements of the job. We are planning to spend a lot of time this year working with the District on ways we can relieve some of the pressure on our special education teachers. Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes. The issues are multiple and diverse. I will not try to list them all here. We spent time in negotiations reviewing and adding to our list for the school year. Thank you to members who have shared their concerns with us.
In addition, we are continuing to expand our all-day K program through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the District. As new schools transition to all-day K, new issues and unintended consequences crop up. This is why we are using an MOU. We hope to resolve as many issues as possible before committing to permanent contract language. We will begin work on permanent language this year.
We also are considering adding an additional step in the grievance process. Currently, there are no active grievances, and it is a testament to the close and transparent working relationship between CUTA and the District that we have had no grievances for several years. When a grievance does occur, CUTA and the District share an interest in adding a mediation step before the grievance goes to arbitration. Arbitration is a very costly process with a long timeline. Adding a mediation step--in which a state-appointed mediator reviews the issue and attempts to solve it--could be a cost and time effective way to resolve a grievance. We are currently studying mediation contract language in nearby districts.
Lastly, CUTA and the District are working with STRS to provide employee retirement training sessions at two of the Districtwide staff development days this year. Our goal is to provide a training targeted towards teachers in their mid-careers and a training targeted towards teachers at the end of their careers. Thank you to the District for enthusiastically agreeing to allow these trainings to occur during their staff development days.
As we open negotiations for the 2020-2021 school year, CUTA looks forward to continuing to grow the positive, transparent and productive relationship with the District that has developed over the last three years.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed. If you would like to look at our contract, here is the link.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
I've attached a copy of the tentative agreement between CUTA and the District that has resulted from this year's negotiations.
We will hold a general membership meeting on Wednesday, May 29, from 3:30-4:00 p.m. Voting will be from 4:00-5:00 p.m. The site is still to be determined.
Voting will continue from 5:20-8:00 p.m. at the CUTA office at 819 E 5th Avenue. Any members are welcome to stay and help count the votes.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your CUTA bargaining team and the District concluded negotiations on Thursday, May 5, with a final review of this year’s tentative agreement (TA), which is scheduled for your vote on Wednesday, May 29. The voting site is still to be determined. We will hold a general membership meeting from 3:30-4 p.m., and voting will run from 4-5 p.m. Your CUTA team will then return to the CUTA office at 819 E 5th Avenue, and voting will continue from 5:20-8 p.m. Any member is welcome to stay and help count the ballots. The general contents of the TA are listed below, and members can ask any questions at the general membership meeting. We will also email out a final draft of the TA in the coming days.
In addition, we discussed several ongoing issues. One issue we touched on was the prep period, or lack thereof, for some of our members who work with our most challenging students. If the nature of certain classrooms is such that the District and the member determine that the teacher really can’t send the students out for a prep period, then the teacher works through his or her prep and is paid 6/5ths. There was some concern that a couple of teachers of some of these very challenging classes were going to have a scheduled prep next year when the teachers felt that the students couldn’t really handle going out into other classes. The District assured us that the process is to try to schedule a prep in the master schedule and then to work as a team to decide if it would be appropriate or not to send those students out to other classes. Simply scheduling the prep period in the master schedule isn’t the final step in the process. It’s quite possible that, after review, it will be determined by the team that a prep isn’t really feasible, and the teachers would then be paid 6/5ths.
We also discussed the Career Technical Student Organization (CSTO). There are a number of teachers whose work is funded through grants, and there is a significant amount of work beyond the school day. The District only provides stipends for up to three positions at each high school to compensate teachers for the work outside of the school day (for example, traveling for multiple days to competitions), but there are more than three teachers completing work outside of the school day. The outside work is required to receive the grant, but some teachers are not being compensated. The District agreed that this program has grown significantly, and they have agreed to discuss ways in which all participating teachers are compensated. This may be through grant money directly instead of through stipends. In any event, this is a topic we will continue to work on with the District.
We have received permission from the District to schedule STRS retirement trainings as options during the District-wide staff development days next year. Our goal is to schedule two trainings on October 15, 2019, and two more trainings on February 11, 2020. These are the “menu” DWSDs, when members have a selection of options to choose from. One training will be focused on teachers in the middle of their careers, and the other training will focus on teachers towards the end of their careers. We are also going to try to schedule a STRS training for new hires on June 11, which is one of the new hire summer training days. The District has been very agreeable to providing these valuable trainings to our members on District time, and we appreciate their cooperation.
Lastly, CUTA is proposing a small dues increase this year with the addition of a formula in which dues increase when the salary schedule increases. The proposed dues increase using the new formula would $0.76/month next year and $1.08/month the following year. The wage increases we have negotiated have increased CUTA costs, and this formula would allow us to continue to provide the time and resources towards future work. In addition to the formula, this proposal would create three “bands” or levels for the percentage of dues members pay. The description below will also be on the ballots.
Proposed Dues Formula:
The proposed dues formula uses a three-year rolling average based on salary schedule increases. For example, if this dues formula were in place, over the last three years the salary schedule has increased 0% (2016-17), 2.46% (2017-2018), and 6.98% (2018-2019). That is a three-year rolling average of 3.15%. If this formula is approved by you this year, our dues increase next year (2019-2020) would be $0.76 per month. Based on our projected raise next year, the three-year rolling average for 2020-2021 (the two previous years 2.46%, 6.98% and 3.5% projected) would be approximately 4.31%, which would translate to a dues increase in 2020-21 of $1.08 per month.
In addition, this dues formula will adopt the same dues categories that CTA uses. Currently CTA dues are broken into three categories based on FTE: Category 1 for members whose assignment is more than 60% (full dues), Category 2 for members whose assignment is more than 1/3 but not more than 60% (50% dues) and Category 3 for members whose assignment is 1/3 or less or on unpaid leave (25% dues).
Dues increase votes must occur at school sites. CUTA site representatives will bring ballots to your sites and ask you to vote on this between Friday, May 17, and Thursday, May 23. After the ballots have been delivered to the CUTA office by 4 p.m. on May 23, any member is welcome to help count ballots or oversee the counting process. This is a separate vote from the TA. As mentioned above, the TA vote will be on Wednesday, May 29.
This has been another positive year of negotiations with the District. Next year will bring new challenges as we come to the end of our three year wage agreement. The projected raise for next year, the final year of our agreement, is 3.5%. CUTA appreciates your support as we work to improve the working conditions for you and make this the best school district we can for our students.
If you’d like to look at our contract, you can find it here. Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Wednesday, April 24. We spent the majority of the session reviewing the agreements we reached this year to put in a tentative agreement (TA) for you to vote on. The vote will take place in late May after a general membership meeting. Details about the time and location of the vote will be forthcoming.
The following includes a brief summary of the items in the tentative agreement (TA).
In addition to completing the draft of the tentative agreement, we reviewed and agreed to continue our current MOUs (memorandums of understanding) with some changes. Our current MOUs with brief explanations are listed below. MOUs are approved by E-Board and only become a part of the contract if agreed on by the District and CUTA and voted on by general membership in a TA.
We had a little bit of time left to check in on issues we are currently negotiating. The District expects the report on its special education program to be finished by early May, which will hopefully allow us to spend time during our final two sessions discussing the many issues we are trying to address in this area.
The District has agreed to include STRS trainings on the District-wide staff development days. STRS trainers will tailor presentation for young educators, mid-career educators and veteran educators and may provide information for additional, sensible investment options. We are trying to work out the best times to offer these training sessions, and the District is being very gracious in sharing their time to allow these presentations. We are also looking to provide STRS training for brand new teachers, and again the District has offered us time at one of the new teacher training days in the summer. This is a great example of the District accommodating CUTA member needs, because they want the best for our members, too.
Next year is the final year of our three-year wage increase agreement with the District. We have begun preliminary discussions about what a compensation increase might look like in 2020-2021. Although we have no way of predicting future state funding, we can start to examine various ways to offer compensation increases. This is the start of a long discussion.
In addition to the general membership meeting and vote on this year’s TA, we will also be holding site level votes on a formula to use for a dues increase. Our president, Kevin Moretti, sent an email explaining the formula CUTA would like to establish for dues increases. The formula would result in a very small increase of $0.76 per month next year for full-time teachers and an increase the following year of a little over $1 per month. For a detailed explanation, please see Kevin’s email. The dues increase would allow CUTA members working on union issues to continue to devote the necessary time for working closely with the District on working conditions, compensation increases, and other issues.
If you would like to view our current contract, you can find it here. Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Thursday, April 11. We have three remaining bargaining sessions this school year, and we are beginning to put together a tentative agreement for you to vote on in late May. In addition, we are reviewing all of our current MOUs to adjust and renew as needed. We also continued to discuss issues related to all-day K, special education, long-term independent study, medical benefits for retirees in special circumstances, bargaining release time, CUTA trainings at District-wide staff development days, coaching stipends, and MAA.
We opened the session by sharing the specific feedback we received from all-day K teachers at the meeting we held in January. The District listened closely to the K teachers concerns about the training of aides. They have ideas about how to get the aides more training in classroom management and other important skills. We also shared some teachers’ concerns with the age-appropriateness of the prep lessons being provided, while recognizing that the District has control over what is delivered during prep time. We also shared that one site did not get to choose whether or not the all-day schedule would have a delayed start. The District is in full agreement that the default position is a two-week delayed start for the all-day schedule and that all teachers and admin would have to agree to start the schedule earlier. This MOU will govern all-day K next year, and we will begin writing contract language during 2019-2020.
We have been discussing how to clarify the process by which special education teachers can get support based on both caseload and class size. We have also expressed an interest in establishing class sizes for RSP teachers. These discussions are on hold until the District receives a report on the special education program from School Services of California. Once that report has reached a final draft stage, we will continue our conversation.
We are also trying to clarify the procedures for how the state can grant the District a waiver to increase an RSP teacher’s caseload from 28-32. We have received conflicting information from the California Department of Education. We have been told that the RSP teacher must agree to the waiver by one expert, and we have been told that the RSP teacher can register their disagreement on the waiver form but the District can get the waiver anyway. We are exploring the issue further so that we can be sure that we are following the law.
We are still working on the details of the long-term independent study MOU, focusing on caseload numbers.
CUTA shared an interest with the District to allow members to receive retiree health benefits from the District if they resign from teaching and meet contractual age and length of service requirements for receiving retiree health benefits, but are not yet drawing STRS benefits. Our current contract language states that a member who has been with the District at least 10 years, is 55 or over, and “qualif[ies] and [is] in the process of receiving retirement benefits” from STRS will receive health care benefits from the District until the member is eligible for Medicare. We can imagine occasional situations in which members might want to resign from teaching but not yet be ready to begin drawing STRS benefits for financial reasons. With tight parameters, this could be a net savings for the District and benefit a member in this somewhat unique situation. The District is running numbers on various scenarios and they are also considering the philosophical question of whether it is right to pay benefits to someone who no longer works for the District and may actually be employed elsewhere. We are also checking to see whether SISC would allow this. This is a scenario that is unlikely to impact many members, but it could help some.
A recent court case upheld the position that school districts have to cover the costs for a “reasonable” amount of time for union negotiations teams to meet and prepare for bargaining. Since the word “reasonable” is undefined, we are working with the District to come to an agreement on a specific number to add to the contract.
Next, we moved on to a discussion of the menu of options available to staff on District-wide staff development days. CUTA offered to provide a training class on STRS, and the District has expressed an interest. We are working on the possibility of offering a STRS training session on the District-wide day on the first day back after the summer and potentially again at one of the later District-wide days, as well.
The District has agreed to add a stipended position for a girls wrestling coach. It will be a varsity coach position in category 3 in the contract.
Lastly, we discussed the MAA program. Currently, there is no MAA funding coming into the District, but it may resume at some point in the future. Our contract says that eligible MAA reporters who are CUTA members will receive 50% of CUTA’s portion of MAA dollars. The District wants to find out if those members would rather use that money for program needs, perhaps by working on committees to choose specific, potentially large-dollar items. CUTA will discuss the District’s ideas with eligible MAA reporters.
Our CUTA president, Kevin Moretti, sent out an important email yesterday. CUTA will hold a vote this year on a very small dues increase. The proposed dues increase for next year is $0.76 per month. CUTA has not raised dues for more than eight years. During that time, we have negotiated nearly 20% in raises along with negotiating countless smaller items with the goal of improving your working conditions. The small dues increase will allow us to continue to provide the support you deserve. We are proposing a formula that would link very small dues increases to raises. Kevin’s email explains it very well. Please take the time to read his email. Our bylaws state that any vote on an increase in dues must take place at the site level.
If you would like to look at our contact, you can find it here. Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Wednesday, 3/27/19. We discussed a wide range of ongoing topics including District student admission policies, member attendance at District-wide staff development days, elementary assessment, long-term independent study, coaching stipends, providing work for suspended students, and medical benefits for retirees not yet receiving benefits from STRS. It was a productive session.
The District began the session by following up on CUTA’s question about District policy regarding the entry of new students into a class. They confirmed their initial thoughts from our last session. By law, homeless students must be enrolled and admitted to class “on the spot.” For all other students, the District policy is to encourage parents to bring their child to school on the day following enrollment so that the teacher can be notified and given advance warning. However, in the event that parents insist that their child be enrolled immediately, the District will grant the parent request. In the vast majority of cases, teachers will receive advance notice of a new student being enrolled in their class.
We then looked at data on member attendance at the District-wide staff development day (DWSD) on January 15. Contractually, members are docked ¼ day if they don’t attend a DWSD, provided they aren’t sick or excused by their administrator. The District was relatively pleased by the data, which showed an attendance rate of approximately 90%. In the event that a member shows habitual non-attendance at DWSDs, an administrator may have a conversation with that member.
For our next topic, we returned to elementary assessment. We have been encouraging the District to find a way to minimize the impact of elementary assessment on classroom instruction, and it has been a challenge, since many teachers have indicated that they value the majority of the existing assessments. In fact, nearly 80 of our TK-2 teachers responded to a survey (out of 125 total TK-2 teachers). Even the three least popular assessments were supported by over 60% of the respondents. The District and elementary DLC have worked hard on this. They are going to eliminate the requirement for the 3rd math I-Ready diagnostic and they are going to make CBMs no longer mandatory.
In addition, the District and the elementary DLC are in the process of designing a reading assessment continuum which, in theory, should reduce the overall number of assessments needed to be administered. Basically, students would take reading assessments in order of complexity until they demonstrated mastery on each assessment, and at that point, teachers would no longer be responsible for re-administering a mastered assessment to that child. Currently, students have to continue to be assessed during testing windows on assessments they have already mastered. This would eliminate the need for mandatory baseline assessment every year, and it would allow teachers to assess the students at their appropriate level, rather than having to deliver every assessment to every student during every testing window. The District is confident that they can provide clear data sheets showing where each student is to make organization more manageable. A plan like this could mean that an intermediate teacher might find themselves responsible for administering a test they are unfamiliar with, but the District feels confident that by eliminating CBMs, sites will free up more support for intermediate teachers who need help administering unfamiliar assessments. This conceptual plan is not complete, but the District and elementary DLC will continue to work on it in the hopes that it will serve our students better and make assessment more manageable for elementary teachers. At some point, elementary members will see presentations about this idea from DLC members.
We are still working out the details of the long term independent study programs offered by the District. Currently, caseloads for these programs are governed by MOUs, which we need to adjust and re-negotiate annually. We have continued to gather information from our members teaching in these programs, and our discussions with the District are ongoing.
On another front, the District is willing in principle to add a stipended coaching position for girls wrestling. In theory, it would fall under category 3 of head varsity coaching stipends. Although the District is avoiding adding any new costs at this time, they recognize the growth of this sport at Chico High, and they also don’t want to run afoul of Title IX. They are going to explore the situation further, but they are responding positively to this idea.
Our last major topic of discussion revolved around how and when teachers provide work to suspended students. With the Board policy changing from teachers “may” provide work to suspended students to teachers “shall” provide work to suspended students, we have been working on a way to make this work for students and teachers. The District plans to propose to the School Board a similar concept to what we have discussed in negotiations. In this policy proposal, teachers have two choices. The teacher may provide the student the work at the time of the suspension and expect the work when the student returns, or the teacher may choose not to provide work and the school will provide packet work. In the latter case, the teacher cannot hold the suspended student responsible for assignments missed while on suspension because the teacher declined to provide the work. However, the teacher may require the suspended student to take any assessments that he or she missed upon return from suspension. As the District works through the challenges of allowing Chromebook access at ISS, it should be easier for teachers to provide students work.
If you’d like to look over our contract, you can find it here.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Wednesday, February 27. We had a long agenda, and we had a productive discussion on all of the agenda items.
Kevin Moretti, your CUTA president, began the session by sharing information about a District-led meeting to look for solutions to the problem of student violence against teachers in the classroom. Although this is not a widespread problem, it does occur, and CUTA and the District both share an interest in helping teachers in this situation. The meeting included both data and information gathering and brainstorming, and Kevin felt it was very productive as a first step.
We moved on to asking clarifying questions about current RSP class sizes and about how elementary RSP teachers provide intervention support for non-RSP students. We plan to meet with elementary RSP teachers to gather input. Diane Olsen will be joining our next session to continue this discussion, as well as to discuss caseloads and class sizes for all other special education teachers. CUTA has an interest in clarifying the caseloads and class sizes for non-RSP special education teachers and in understanding how and when special education teachers receive extra support in their classrooms. We also have an interest in having a class size maximum for RSP teachers.
Next on the agenda, we discussed a way to streamline the process for CUTA to meet with new employees hired in the middle of the year. Currently, Kevin meets with newly hired teachers before the school year begins to share information about the union. It is more challenging to meet with teachers hired during the school year. The District plans to schedule a monthly meeting for any new hires during that month to meet with Kevin. This is another example of positive cooperation between the District and CUTA. We appreciate that cooperation very much.
Short-term independent study continues to generate questions from members. At our last session, the District said that short-term independent study would be for absences from 5-10 days long. In exceptional circumstances, short-term independent study could be granted for up to 15 days. We discussed what would constitute an “exceptional circumstance”. The District has now provided packet work for up to 10 days for elementary, middle and high school. We asked for the District to provide an additional 5 days of packet work for elementary, middle and high school, if they plan to grant 15 days, even if it will only be granted occasionally.
Our next topic was elementary assessment. We have heard concerns about assessment from elementary teachers for a long time, and we have struggled to find a way to address it with the District. Oftentimes, the District hears the opposite from elementary teachers. They hear from teachers who say they value all or most of the assessments and don’t want to get rid of any. We decided to try to get some actual data to work with, and we focused on TK-2 teachers as a starting point. We created and sent out a survey to all TK-2 teachers (roughly 125 people) which asked them to rate each assessment as one of the following: informative to parents, informative to teachers, both, neither, or not applicable (assessment not used in that grade level). We have received 78 responses. We are hesitant to draw ironclad conclusions from the results for several reasons. For one, almost 50 teachers didn’t respond. For another, we are not expert survey designers; it’s possible that our rating system for assessments doesn’t fully capture teacher concerns.
With that caveat, the data shows that the vast majority of assessments used in TK-2 were rated by a strong majority of responding teachers as valuable to parents, teachers or both. The exceptions to this were the I-Ready reading and math diagnostics and the CCSS math and ELA assessments. These four assessments were rated as valuable to parents, teachers, or both by 55-65% of respondents. About 35-45% of respondents rated these four assessments as valuable to neither parents nor teachers. In essence, even these less popular assessments still showed support from a majority of responding teachers.
We also received 42 written comments of which some were quite detailed. One unifying concern through the written comments was that there simply wasn’t enough time to complete the assessments, valuable though they may be. There were also more specific concerns. We are combing through these comments to try to find common concerns about the timing and frequency of specific assessments.
This leaves us in a challenging situation. In some ways, it seems like what we thought teachers were saying and what the District thought teachers were saying were both correct. Teachers are concerned about assessments, although they generally value the data gathered from the menu of assessments. What they are concerned about is time: both the time needed to give and score the assessments and the time lost for instruction. Creating time is hard. Even if the District was willing to provide more prep time or sub days to handle assessment, teachers would still be losing classroom time with their students. Our next step is to go through the notes and information gathered from the DLC-led conversations at sites. We will continue working on this issue.
We moved on to discuss the possibility of establishing an end time for called meeting time. Currently, a member can be asked to attend up to eight hours of called meeting time each month with a limit of sixty hours in a school year, and called meeting time must begin within fifteen minutes of the end of the student day. The District-wide staff development days, Back to School Night, and Open House are exceptions to the start time rule. There is nothing in the contract about when called meeting time needs to end. CUTA suggested capping called meeting time at 90 minutes, and the District is considering the idea. This would apply only to District called meeting time. IEPs are not called by the District; they are federally mandated meetings.
Several members have asked about the process for when a new student enters a classroom midyear. The District shared that administrators and office staff try to give advance notice to teachers, especially elementary teachers, so that teachers can be prepared to welcome the new student, but that there can be exceptions. Administrators and office staff will always recommend that the child start on the following day so that teachers can be informed, but in certain situations, the child will start attending on the spot. Legally, if a student is homeless, the District must enroll the student on the spot and allow them to begin attending school immediately. Additionally, if a family is insistent that their child enter the classroom right away, the school is going to allow it.
Based on a request from a member at Chico High, CUTA asked for the District to consider adding girls wrestling as a sport eligible for a coaching stipend. The District will go to the School Board with the request. Like other sports, there will have to be a minimum number of participants, or the sport would have club status. If the Board agrees to add girls wrestling, we will explore what category of coaching stipends it will fall under.
We also shared with the District concerns that have been raised by band and drama teachers at the high school level. In order to put on performances and concerts, the teachers have to do a large amount of fundraising in order to be able to pay members of the community for key tasks such choreography, costume and set design, and many more. Some of our band and drama teachers asked for these extra task positions to be stipended to relieve some of the fundraising duties. The District expressed an understanding of the large amount of work and an appreciation for the high quality of the performances, but they said that with the large increases in compensation, they are not able to add to the budget currently. In fact, they are looking to make cuts in the budget to make sure they stay fiscally sound. To be fair to the District, CUTA encouraged the District to repurpose dollars to pay for our raises. The concerns raised by the band and drama teachers are an example of a worthy cause that can’t be addressed right now because of our generous increase in compensation.
We also discussed the future of the MAA program. It’s possible that MAA dollars may eventually begin to flow into the District again. Currently, the District is in the process of paying off a penalty to the MAA program, but after that penalty has been settled, CUTA and the District share an interest in deciding how to allocate those potential future MAA dollars. The contract says that members eligible to be MAA reporters will receive 50% of the MAA dollars received by the District. The contract also says that CUTA will encourage eligible members to participate, but members are not required to. The District has expressed an interest in seeing those dollars spent on students. CUTA suggested setting up committees of eligible MAA reporters (nurses, speech therapists, and special education teachers) who could decide on how to spend the MAA dollars on bigger budget items in their departments. Some members have said they would prefer to simply receive the money as personal compensation. CUTA suggested to the District that if these members had access to 100% of the MAA dollars to spend on department needs, instead of just 50%, they might be more interested in this approach. The District is considering that option, and CUTA will be checking with its members. This is still all theoretical, because nobody knows if MAA dollars will actually return to the District.
We also discussed the process for providing schoolwork to students who are on in-school suspension (ISS). Teachers may provide work for the student at the time of the suspension and hold the student accountable for the work when the student returns to the classroom, or teachers may give the student the work when they return and give the same number of days as the suspension length for the student to make up the work. There have been issues with students being able to use Chromebooks when on ISS, and Andrew Moll, the administrator a Fairview, will join us at a future session to iron out the situation.
Lastly, we discussed when the responsibility for lesson planning shifts from the teacher to the sub when a teacher goes on medical leave. The short answer is that lesson planning becomes the sub’s responsibility when the sub starts to receive long-term sub pay. The longer answer is that the sub may start to receive long-term sub pay at different times depending on the member’s medical leave. The sub starts to receive long-term sub pay on the eleventh day of subbing for a member on medical leave. If a member knows that he or she will be gone on medical leave for more than ten days, the sub will begin to receive long-term sub pay on day one of the leave and is responsible for lesson planning from the beginning. If a member doesn’t know how long his or her leave is going to be, the member is responsible for lesson planning until the eleventh day.
We are scheduled to meet with the District next on Wednesday, March 13. If you have questions, please feel free to email me. If you’d like to look over our contract, you can find it here, which is on our website: chicouta.org.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
I wanted to make a quick clarification about short term independent study.
If a family requests short term independent study and the school approves it, teachers have three options.
Option 1: Assign your classroom work to be completed during the absence period. Grade the work when the student returns and include it in his or her grade.
Option 2: Assign the generic packet work. Grade the packet work when the student returns (you can use a simple "credit/no credit" grade if you want). Do not assign zeroes or F's for your classroom work that the student missed while he or she was gone. This option doesn't exist yet for high school, but the packets are being developed, so it will be an option in the future.
Option 3: Assign some combination of your work and the generic packet work. Grade the work when the student returns. You can include the portion of your classroom work that you assigned for the short term independent study in the student's grade.
Each site will develop its own procedures for how to access and assign the packets.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Wednesday, January 30. We continued negotiations on a variety of topics that carried over from our last session.
We started off the morning by discussing ways to clarify Table 7.6.1, found at the end of Article 7, which describes class sizes and caseloads in special education. CUTA and the District share an interest in making changes to this table to reflect the realities of the existing programs in Chico Unified. In addition, we both want special education teachers to understand the mechanisms and situations in which additional help will be provided to special education classrooms as suggested by current language in the contract. The contract lists special education class size ranges that, when exceeded, can trigger additional support. Diane Olsen joined the negotiating teams on Wednesday and shared the process by which additional help for individual students can be requested, evaluated and provided if necessary as decided by the special education team assigned to the given student. She believes that we can adapt this process to be used in situations when the number of students (class size) may necessitate additional support. She also provided two reorganized tables that reflected the reality of current CUSD special education programs and could possibly replace the existing Table 7.6.1. Both teams appreciated her work on this issue, and we will continue to negotiate.
CUTA also has an interest in settling on a class size for RSP teachers. This is currently undefined in the contract. EdCode sets an RSP teacher’s caseload at 28 students, but there is no language about class size. There was some discussion about potentially creating a class size and total daily student contact for RSP teachers, but no hard numbers were officially discussed or proposed.
We moved on to short term independent study, and the District shared that their policy will be that short-term independent study can be assigned for absences that last five days or more or ten days or less. In special circumstances, the District can assign short-term independent study for up to 15 days, but any short-term independent study lasting 11 days or more will need to be approved at the District, not site, level. The District will be sharing this information with their administrators.
Teachers have the option to assign their own classroom work to students and hold students accountable for that work when they return. Teachers also may choose to assign generic packet work, which is currently available for elementary school and middle school, but if teachers choose to assign packet work, they may not hold students accountable for missed classroom work. Teachers must also “assess” packet work upon a student’s return, but it can be at the simple level of “credit/no credit.” High school packet work is in the process of being designed. Teachers could also assign some of their own classroom work and some packet work.
Next, we briefly reviewed changes to the new preschool job descriptions. We agreed on the changes and approved the job descriptions.
Tim Cariss joined us in the afternoon to share the results of his meeting with several representatives from special education. They met to discuss ways to improve the process for uploading changes to student testing accommodations for the SBAC tests. All involved in the meeting agreed that there was no perfect solution, but they settled on special education teachers printing out the page of the IEP document that lists accommodations and providing that to their SBAC site coordinators.
We spent a good portion of the afternoon discussing member concerns with the quantity of assessments at elementary, and most specifically in grades TK-2. The District does a lot of the selection and deletion of assessments through the DLC. CUTA suggested that it might be possible to solicit more direct input from elementary teachers, even though the DLC is made up of teachers. The District has agreed to ask its DLC members to ask for specific feedback on the quantity of assessment at a future staff meeting. CUTA is considering surveying impacted members about specific assessments to move this discussion forward.
Lastly, we want to check in with kindergarten teachers who are teaching all-day K to assess how the MOU is functioning this year. We want to iron out any issues before we begin to write permanent contract language. We are trying to schedule this meeting for a district wide staff development day. We will share more information as it becomes available.
If you’d like to look at the contract, the link is here.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Michelle Bunch serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.