Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Thursday, January 14. We continued discussing issues related to Covid-19 and the schools, and we also managed to discuss other upcoming issues for Chico Unified.
Governor Newsom released his proposed budget for 2021-2022, and it reflects a state in a much more comfortable than expected financial situation. Despite the toll Covid-19 has taken on the state economy and on everyday workers, the stock market soared during 2020. California’s tax revenue is highly dependent on wealthy Californians, many of whom did extremely well despite the pandemic. The proposed budget appears to fully fund schools, while also adding in the lost COLA from this year onto next year’s budget. There are also pots of money for dealing with the learning loss aftermath from school closures. Details will continue to come out, and the California Legislature now takes its turn to make changes to the proposed budget, but the financial news is far better for schools than many of us may have expected.
School Board Decisions and Vaccinations
The School Board is scheduled to meet on January 20. They will continue to gather community input as they discuss how Chico Unified will move forward during this school year. They have also scheduled a special meeting on February 3 to stay on top of what seems to be an ever-changing situation. The two new Board members have shown very different views on the best path forward, so it is hard to predict what decisions the Board may make. The availability of vaccinations for teachers and staff will certainly be considered.
Since the Butte County Health Department had remaining vaccine doses from the initial tier of people to vaccinate, they opened up vaccination “by invite” to Chico Unified. They approached Chico Unified first, because our District had stayed in close contact with them and showed a preparedness to begin immediately. The response from Chico Unified teachers and staff was strong and the initial appointments filled immediately. Because of high demand, the health department was able to create more appointments, offering the opportunity for all teachers and staff to be vaccinated. Because the strongest protection from these vaccines comes 10-21 days after the second dose, we would be nearing spring break by the time all teachers and staff have had the opportunity to achieve that highest level of protection. The School Board will certainly be considering this as well. I cannot pretend to know what decisions they will make going forward.
We are currently nearing the end of a multi-year process of transitioning to all-day kindergarten across the District. Before the pandemic occurred, Shasta and Parkview had been scheduled to implement all-day K this year, and Marigold and Neal Dow would have been the final two schools to implement all-day K next year. Because the disruptions to the schedule this year would have made it difficult for Shasta and Parkview to evaluate all-day K, CUTA and the District agreed to move the Shasta and Parkview implementation date to next year. That means that in 2021-2022, the four final schools will all implement all-day K.
We have been operating all-day K under an MOU, and we are currently working on developing contract language to add to our next TA. This contract language will be partly in a new kindergarten article and partly in Article 6: Hours, for items like prep time, length of day, etc. On the next district wide staff development day (February 9), one of the choices on the “menu” will be an all-day K meeting. CUTA encourages kindergarten teachers to attend this (virtual) meeting so we can get final feedback and discuss any possible changes to the MOU as it moves into the contract.
With an improved outlook for the state budget, CUTA shared some ideas for future compensation. Increasing wages on the salary schedule is always a CUTA interest when it is fiscally responsible. We also discussed other possibilities as well. CUTA has a long term plan to finish a collapse of the salary schedule so that it tops out at 30 years (currently 31) and has uniform two-year steps at the top of the salary schedule (currently irregular). The current contract is linked here. On a smaller scale, CUTA has an interest in changing how part time members advance on the salary schedule. Currently, part time members who are less than .8 FTE only advance upwards every other year. CUTA would like to see that changed to part-time members at .5 FTE or higher advance every year like everyone else. The District has agreed to run numbers to see the cost of both of these possible compensation items.
Some of you may recall the absence reporting sheets we were required to fill out some years ago. During that time, we were in regular conflict with the District, and we argued that the absence reporting sheets were added work so the District needed to eliminate some other required tasks. We came to an agreement, using an MOU, that the District would not call staff meetings during the weeks grades were due.
The absence reporting sheet has been gone for a long time, and that MOU is no longer in effect, but the District believes that it is good policy to not call staff meetings when grades are due. They had one concern about putting this restriction in the contract, and it is a fair one: They need the ability to call staff meetings in emergency situations. Think of events like the Camp Fire or even the end of last month where the decision of how the second semester would begin was up in the air until the final week. Defining an emergency for the purpose of the contract is extremely difficult. We have agreed in principle to language that states: “The District shall encourage site administrators not to hold staff meetings during weeks when grades are due.” In secondary, this is straightforward. In elementary school, it will require a conversation between site administrators and members as to which week is best to refrain from holding a staff meeting in the fall. Some sites might prefer the week with parent teacher conferences; others might prefer the actual week report cards are due. In any event, it is recognition by the District that teachers need time to work on grades.
The District is in the process of taking over the ERMHS (Educationally Related Mental Health Services) program from the county. The ERMHS clinicians will be CUTA members. The District presented their proposed job description and gave us an idea of how the clinicians would practice in Chico Unified. Although the same (or many of the same) clinicians who are currently providing services to Chico Unified as county employees will move over in this program takeover, the District plans to make changes to how services will be delivered. The District also proposed a maximum caseload of 25. CUTA will be talking with the clinicians that may be joining our District.
As always, thank you for taking the time to stay informed. If you would like to look at our contract, the link is here.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Mary Schoenthaler serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.