Your CUTA team and the District met for negotiations on Thursday, January 16. We continued discussing special education, innovative scheduling at the high school, compensation and a host of other issues as well.
The District shared their vision for significant change in the secondary mild/moderate special education program. In an effort to provide what they feel is the best program for students and in an effort to save money in the long term, the District plans to combine secondary mild/moderate SDC students and RSP students into one large pool of mild/moderate students. As students leave elementary school, there will no longer be a distinction between the two groups of students. The students will still receive everything allotted them by their IEPs, but they will not be identified as mild/moderate SDC students or RSP students. They will simply be considered mild/moderate special education students.
As part of this new approach, the District will offer secondary mild/moderate SDC teachers the option to become RSP teachers. If a mild/moderate SDC teacher chooses to become an RSP teacher, she or he will have a caseload maximum of 28 (up from 20 in junior high and 22 in high school) and she or he will teach four periods and have on prep period and one assessment period. If a mild/moderate SDC teacher chooses to remain in her or his current position, nothing will change in terms of caseload, class size and teaching load; however, if some members of a site SDC team do choose to change and others don’t, it will necessarily have an impact on what subjects the remaining SDC teacher(s) will teach.
Secondary sites will identify what classes are needed for the broader pool of mild/moderate students, and all the RSP teachers will need to teach the classes determined to be needed. The District hopes that RSP teachers at each site will work together to decide how best to split up teaching responsibilities. If a significant number of secondary mild/moderate SDC teachers choose to become RSP teachers, it is very likely that current RSP teachers will need to teach different classes in the future than they are accustomed to. How this will impact co-teaching and push-in support is still to be determined.
The District first shared this idea with some of the affected teachers at a collaboration meeting a week ago, and they plan to hold more informational meetings in the near future so that mild/moderate SDC teachers can make an informed decision.
Although your CUTA bargaining team shares an interest with the District in increasing the efficiency of the special education program and in providing relief to our special education teachers, we are troubled by this approach. There are so many unknowns, and it will have a significant, potentially negative, impact on current RSP teachers. Whether the potential benefits to students will materialize is also unknown. If the majority of secondary mild/moderate SDC teachers choose to become RSP teachers, it will save the District money, because they will need fewer teachers to handle the student load. The District has assured CUTA that they plan to reduce teaching positions through attrition rather than through layoffs, and we will work on language to guarantee that. We will also negotiate an RSP maximum class size, which is currently not part of the contract.
Additionally, CUTA cannot stop the District from offering this option to secondary mild/moderate SDC teachers, and the District has the contractual right to reassign RSP teachers to different subjects/classes. If you are an affected member, and if possible, please attend the voluntary informational meetings when they are scheduled by the District. The union will have representation at these meetings as well, when possible, so that you can share your thoughts.
Innovative Scheduling at the High Schools
Below is an updated list describing the current stage of the process towards potentially changing to a new schedule at the high schools.
Simple majority vote to send to negotiations:
132 ballots cast
88 Yes 67.7%
42 No 32.3%
Mary Schoenthaler serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.