Last week, I submitted a letter to the Dispatch that explained
our reasons for filing an unfair labor practice charge against the
Gilroy Unified School District. In that letter, I focused on the
extra time that has been required to fully implement the
Last week, I submitted a letter to the Dispatch that explained our reasons for filing an unfair labor practice charge against the Gilroy Unified School District. In that letter, I focused on the extra time that has been required to fully implement the Accountability Plan. This week, I would like to address the district’s claim that the teachers themselves, working collaboratively with the administration, devised the plans that are being implemented.
The Association has begun a survey of all the teachers who are participating in the Accountability Plan. The purpose of the survey is to determine the level of teacher input into the final school plans as well as to gauge the amount of extra work the plans have created.
The survey consists of seven multiple choice questions, with room for comments. It is anonymous, but each participant is required to sign in as the survey is handed to the union representative.
Here, with over half of the teachers surveyed so far, are the preliminary results:
• 63 percent either felt they had no input into the process or the decisions were made mostly by the administration.
• 83 percent felt that the chosen strategies were district-driven rather than teacher-driven.
• 48 percent understood very little about the plan as they were working on it. One teacher commented that she “had to ask a lot of questions to understand the intent.”
• 65 percent stated there wasn’t any time spent discussing how much time this new initiative would take.
• 41 percent stated that they are already participating in some sort of class or training. Their schedules are already quite full. The district did not take this into consideration.
• 84 percent stated that the strategies for their school were increasing the workload.
So what went wrong with the plan to involve teachers in the process?
For one thing, the district did not give the Association the opportunity to carefully review the plans as they were being developed. Instead of being able to identify any concerns and work collaboratively with the district to address them prior to their approval, the Association was compelled to take legal action.
The Dispatch, in its Feb. 22 editorial, characterized our action as “unwarranted” and questioned why we didn’t go through the usual steps of filing grievances. The sheer number and complexity of the school plans makes the filing of multiple grievances impractical. The issue of time, which is districtwide and not specific to one site, needs to be resolved as quickly as possible, not drawn out further.
Having said that, it is unfortunate that the Association must continually point out to the administration what it has done wrong. It seems that the game is for the administration to try and get away with something, then wait for us to respond. If we don’t respond, they feel they can continue to pile on the work with impunity. If we do respond, they call foul and call us “unprofessional” and question our commitment to educating the children of Gilroy, when they are not the ones in the classroom doing the educating.
Another problem with this latest initiative has to do with communication, or the lack thereof. Instead of one clear set of expectations that is communicated to everyone at the same time, it is left to the principals to disseminate information. The principal may not have fully understood the intent, or may not have communicated it its entirety. It should not be a surprise that the level of input that teachers had in the process varies so much depending on the school.
Finally, there are some administrators, which are fortunately few in number, who have retaliated against staff members for speaking their minds. What is more disturbing is that the district office knows it and has done very little to support the teachers. It was completely unrealistic for the teachers at those schools, who have learned to stay under the radar, to question anything the administrator said during this “collaborative” process.
So where do we go from here? While the unfair labor practice charge makes its way through the system, we will continue to discuss the issue with the district. We are just as anxious as the administration is to resolve this, but we will not give up our legal rights in order to do so.
Michelle Nelson, President, Gilroy Teachers Association