School days restored with $2 million federal grant


A $2 million federal stimulus grant to restore and create
education jobs will eliminate teacher furloughs this school
A $2 million federal stimulus grant to restore and create education jobs will eliminate teacher furloughs this school year.

After months of bargaining, the Gilroy Teachers Association recently agreed to give up four work days – one student instructional day and three staff development days – in an effort to help the Gilroy Unified School District close a multimillion dollar budget gap. The four furlough days equated to a 2 percent salary cut for employees, Superintendent Deborah Flores said.

Using a one-time money granted under the federal Education Jobs Act, GUSD plans to restore the four furlough days, Flores said. Signed into law Aug. 10 by President Barack Obama, the act awarded $1.2 billion to California schools. The district should receive its portion of the money within the next two weeks, Flores said.

Though the news means the school district will be able to restore teacher salaries and bring back the three staff development days and one school day the union advocated for, it changes the school calendar that is already in effect, said GTA President Michelle Nelson.

Restoring the four furlough days will extend the current school year by one week, with the last day of school falling on June 10 instead of June 3. Because a number of teachers have already booked travel for vacation or professional workshops that week, union members need to know how the new calendar will impact their plans before ratifying it, Nelson said.

“Before teachers vote, we need to know what the plan is for taking care of the teachers who have made nonrefundable plans,” she said.

The new end date will also affect families who planned to travel immediately after school lets out. Finals are typically held the last week of school so students will have to stick around for another week, Nelson pointed out.

Under the new calendar, students will have Jan. 3 and 4, Feb. 18 and April 1 off.

After restoring the four teacher furlough days, the district will still have $800,000 left over, but the district has yet to decide how those funds will be allocated, Flores said. Many stakeholders have chimed in, suggesting everything from extra training to hiring more clerical and custodial staff.

“We’ve heard so many ideas for that $800,000, we could spend double that right now,” Flores said.

Though teachers have suggested hiring more teachers to reduce ballooning class sizes, Flores said the district isn’t looking at changing class sizes now that the school year has already begun. The GTA also asked if the district would put some of that money toward lowering teachers’ out-of-pocket costs for benefits, but Nelson said the idea was shot down.

The district is in the process of rolling out an aggressive technology plan that will introduce 1,000 new computers to elementary school classrooms. The schools will need support staff to oversee the implementation and provide training, Flores said. Providing additional teacher training and hiring extra custodial and clerical staff have also been mentioned, said Flores, who was careful to mention that it will be the school board who makes the final decision on how the money is spent.

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