Teacher union president heads back to school

Michelle Nelson

After 11 years

dealing with everybody’s problems,

as she good-humoredly coined it, the veteran president of the
Gilroy Teachers Association is shifting gears in preparation for a
new, but familiar arena.
After 11 years “dealing with everybody’s problems,” as she good-humoredly coined it, the veteran president of the Gilroy Teachers Association is shifting gears in preparation for a new, but familiar arena.

To whom the buck will be passed or how important duties will be divvied up after Michelle Nelson settles in as a science teacher at Christopher High School next year is undetermined.

“Being in a classroom is a lot more of a positive environment,” said the educator who taught middle school in Gilroy for 20 years before taking temporary leave in 2000 to shoulder the GTA presidential responsibilities.

Though she’s been out of the classroom, CHS Principal John Perales explained Nelson is classified as teacher on leave, or special assignment.

While Nelson is released from teaching full time to facilitate association business, Perales explained GUSD hires a teacher under temporary status until Nelson returns to the classroom.

As for how the change will affect GTA leadership, the transition plan is in early stages. When released full time from teaching to oversee association business, the GTA President is paid up to 100 percent of his/her normal teaching salary. A new teacher is then hired on to temporarily fill the vacant position.

The district pays for 20 percent of this temporary replacement, and the GTA pays 80 percent.

Still, assuming full costs for the president’s replacement is something Nelson said the GTA is willing leverage in exchange for a cork on class sizes.

“I told the district we will agree to pay for the full cost of whoever is in this position, if GUSD will finally agree to put a limit on class size. That’s the trade.”

GUSD Superintendent Debbie Flores confirmed the topic is under consideration in formal negotiations between the GTA and the District.

Whether a new, full-time president should be appointed or the responsibility spread out and shared is undetermined. Nelson will be sending out a survey to gather teachers’ opinion on how the situation should be handled.

One possibility is “farming out” various duties and assigning tasks to different GTA members.

“We haven’t put the survey out yet,” reminded Nelson. “We’re still looking at what reasonable stipends would be for sharing different jobs.”

Nelson, who does currently not receive any stipends, added “this is not a moneymaking venture.”

Continuing to bear an undetermined portion of GTA’s workload could be in the cards, but as of next year, the classroom will be her first priority.

She mentioned the possibility of staying involved with GTA duties “maybe a day a week,” or having somebody else assume a full-time position while she brings them up to speed on membership, handling grievances, contract enforcement/questions and “holding the district accountable.”

With two decades of teaching under her belt, Nelson will be brushing up come summer with supplemental classes to help refresh her memory and “get with the program.”

Perales said there will be an adjustment period but had no doubt his new freshman environmental sciences teacher will be a “wonderful” addition to CHS.

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