Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Thursday, 12/13/18. We were scheduled to meet on 11/8/18 and 11/30/18, but the Camp Fire occurred. Returning to negotiations was part of the process of returning to normal in our District.
We began negotiations with a discussion of special education class sizes and caseloads. Diane Olsen attended to share her expertise, and we went through the entire interest based bargaining process to approach this issue, which has multiple components. To give a little background, RSP teachers have an Ed Code defined caseload of 28, but our other special education teachers do not have an Ed Code defined caseload. In Article 7 of our contract, we have language that identifies class size/caseload ranges and maximum class sizes and caseloads for our special education programs, but we have no language identifying class size for RSP teachers. Additionally, our contract language, which was adopted from BCOE many years ago, does not distinguish between class sizes and caseloads. To add to the confusion, we have contract language that states that teachers who go over the suggested ranges should receive “appropriate additional support services,” which is rather vague. Quite frankly, it’s all a bit of a mess.
CUTA has a potential interest in establishing class sizes for RSP teachers and in clarifying the rest of the language relating to class sizes and caseloads for our other special education teachers. The District shares an interest in clarifying the language and in clarifying what “appropriate additional support services” means in practice. CUTA is concerned that, because RSP has no contractual class size, the District could theoretically put 38 students into an RSP teacher’s classroom. To be clear, the District has not done this and we don’t believe that they intend to do this, but we always feel better when there is clear language in the contract. This is a potentially long discussion because of the wide variety of program styles and approaches in the different special education programs in elementary, middle school and high school. We will keep you informed as we continue negotiating.
In the afternoon, we were joined by Tim Cariss to discuss additional duties assigned to special education teachers related to the interim SBAC assessments. One purpose of the interim SBAC assessments is for students who receive testing accommodations to get a chance to practice using the accommodations. These accommodations can be assigned in two ways. The District can conduct a mass upload of all CUSD data from the Special Education Information System (SEIS), which includes the accommodations as assigned in IEP meetings, or they can do piecemeal manual uploads for individual students or groups of students. In the past, the mass upload was conducted soon before the start of official state testing in April, but now that we are giving interim SBAC assessments, the District conducted the mass upload at the end of September. That means that special education teachers have to notify their SBAC site coordinators of any changes to student accommodations made during annual IEPs so that the site coordinator can make those changes manually. It’s added another layer of work to the special education teachers in a time when many of them already feel that completing their job is a challenge. To add to the complexity, many non-special education students receive SBAC accommodations as well, and those accommodations also have to make it into the SBAC testing system. Tim Cariss will be emailing a group of special education teachers to see whether anyone has ideas for making this process more efficient.
We moved on to a brief discussion of the 504 process, and we shared two more concerns that counselors shared with us. Jim Hanlon and Diane Olsen are preparing their responses, and we will share their answers with counselors.
Next, Jim Hanlon shared the District’s job descriptions for preschool teachers. Currently, we have three state-funded preschools in Chico Unified, and there are plans to add a fourth. The preschool teachers are CUTA members, and we have an interest in negotiating a job description that meets their expectations and the needs of the program. We will meet with the preschool teachers and gather their input on the District’s perspective of what their job should include.
Lastly, we discussed the waivers in place at many elementary schools in which schools “bank” minutes over the course of the year, which allows for one week of minimum days following the parent conference day, along with a minimum day on the day before winter break and the day before summer vacation. The schools utilizing this waiver work five extra minutes every day to generate the minutes needed for the seven minimum days. The District is interested in adding this to the contract so that all schools follow the same schedule. At this time, CUTA is not interested in adding this language to the contract. There are sites that feel that their current schedule best serves the needs of the parents of their populations. CUTA will continue to facilitate any sites that are interested in trying out this waiver.
The last month and a half have been a test for our District. The Camp Fire and its aftermath are unprecedented. All I can say is thank you to all of our colleagues who have worked tirelessly for our community. It is your work that will keep us moving forward. Take care of yourselves and of your colleagues.
If you would like to look through our contract, here is the link: http://www.chicouta.org/contract.html
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Mary Schoenthaler serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.