Written by 34 EA Hall Middle School staff members
We are writing to help inform the public about the Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) negotiations.
This is coming from the teachers. We are the people who see students every day, whether they’re having a good day or a bad day. We are the people who make ourselves available on the bad days so that students know they are safe and have someone to talk to. We are the people who try to prepare them for a successful future. We are the people who often sacrifice time with our own families to make sure students have everything they need for the next day. We are the people who prepare innovative and interactive lessons so students learn all the information they need to be successful in our education system We are the people that grade hundreds of essays, worksheets and homework assignments to make sure students are staying on track. We are the people who make phone calls to parents every week and answer emails constantly. We are the people who meet with parents when there are concerns and come up with plans to help students be successful. We are the people who wish to continue working together with parents and families to ensure a quality education for all of our students. We are the people who care about our community deeply and enjoy working with students every day.
But there is a problem here in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District that starts with compensation. Management and administration were able to give themselves a 7% raise this year with no strings attached. We, the teachers, were offered a 7% raise as well, and now have been portrayed as greedy because we did not accept it. What the public needs to know is that the 7% raise came with stipulations. We would have lost preparation time and would have no hope for class size reduction if we accepted that offer. In the Register Pajaronian September 10th article, PVUSD Chief Business Officer Brett McFadden seemed shocked that we turned down this offer and said that the district is weary to negotiate these other requests, claiming, “We have to be prudent.” That prudence didn’t seem to be involved when giving a raise to management. To put the teacher pay scale into perspective, Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers (PVFT) has compared our district to 37 other districts in the state that are about the same size and serve the same demographics. Out of those 37 districts, only one pays their teachers less than PVUSD. Because our compensation scale is so low, we lose qualified, motivating teachers every year to districts that pay more. Our request for a raise without stipulations is a reasonable one. We have not received one for years.
Our focus is not just compensation. We also have to improve other working conditions. Adequate preparation time is essential to plan the kinds of lessons that promote student engagement and learning. Preparation time is also used to make sure we can grade and assess our students with timely feedback to track their progress and make sure they are informed of their grades as up to date as possible. It may be public perception that teachers are done working at 3:30, but the truth is that many teachers are staying on site until 5:00 or 6:00 to fulfill these important responsibilities. This often goes unnoticed because some teachers stay later than administrators. All of these responsibilities are expected of us even though it is accomplished on our own time, off the clock. Losing any more preparation time would be an extreme hindrance for us and have a deep impact on your children’s education.
Another area of concern for us is the current class size in the district. It is true that PVUSD has agreed to start class size reduction, but in 1st grade only. Having 35 students in each of your classes in middle school is overwhelming. We need to lower class sizes at every level, not just in one grade in elementary. Teaching a class with 35 students, or 50 students in PE, is not effective or safe. Group work, projects, and innovative lessons are nearly impossible, although required by the new Common Core Standards. Individual students are not getting the attention and support that they need and deserve, however hard we teachers are trying to provide that. In negotiations, we have been asking that class sizes be reduced at all levels, specifically from 35 to 32 at the middle school level.
With our current working conditions, there is no way we teachers can do our jobs effectively to the best of our abilities. Can anyone in management demonstrate how to prep, grade and teach multiple classes of 35, sometimes for a total of over 200 students, with the amount of prep time we are given?
Our decision to stick to contract hours, or “work to rule”, is to send a message to the district, not to punish our students. What really hurts our students is cramming them into classes of 35 and giving them overworked teachers who don’t have adequate time to prepare high quality lessons. The district has the responsibility to provide a quality education to our students and it’s only happening now because of the extra time the teachers are giving.
We have made many of these sacrifices over the years without expecting recognition or compensation when the district faced a lot of budget cuts. The truth of the matter is that the district currently has $40 million dollars in reserves and much more additional money coming in from Props 30 and 39 and Measure L. Because they have money right now, we have been surprised at their unwillingness to negotiate about these very important issues. It is essential that the district provide these better working conditions, for the benefit of teachers and students, because they can afford to now.
Our requests of fair compensation, lower class sizes, and adequate preparation time is just as much for our students and the community as it is for us teachers. We don’t believe that we are asking for too much. We are asking for a 7% raise for this year. We are asking for class sizes with a maximum of 32 students at the middle school level. We are asking to keep all of our preparation time protected. We are asking for what is essential and needed for our students.