Stay the Course
A ‘bullheaded group’ inspired by students is hard to stop
By John Rosales
It was three days before Thursday’s regular 7 p.m. board meeting in the Selah School District (SSD) of Washington state. People in this close-knit community near Yakima can set their watches by the long-standing gathering.
On that Monday morning in April, members of the Selah Education Support Personnel (SESP) and Selah Educational Office Personnel (SEOP) posted fliers on bulletin boards at five schools and the administration office announcing their Rally for Respect starting at 5:30 p.m. on the day of the meeting.
“They Can Run But They Can’t Hide,” the fliers read.
Tensions were already high. For 18 months, both unions and SSD had been bargaining a joint contract. Notices of the rally strained negotiations further since it called for protesters to assemble just outside the board room building.
“We wanted board members to see all the support we had as they entered the parking lot,” says Cindy Huntamer, SEOP president. “We made signs and buttons…ordered pizza and sodas.”
But when it came time for the 7 p.m. meeting, the board room was deserted. School administrators had changed the meeting’s start time. It had already taken place—at 7 a.m.
Solidarity Wins the Day
District officials had apparently ignored a Washington state law requiring state agencies to provide 20 days notice to change a regularly scheduled meeting of this type.
“[They] claimed the decision was made the week before, but they didn’t announce it until the day before,” says Huntamer, a federal programs secretary at the district’s early learning center.
“We found out by email,” Huntamer adds. “We were not pleased over the sudden change or that the meeting was now at a time when most people are at work.”
Unfazed, some members attended the early part of the meeting before checking in at work. Similarly, union officials decided to proceed with the demonstration.
“We’re a pretty bullheaded group,” says Butch Thompson, the district’s lead custodian and a former SESP president. “We had strong community support for that rally, so we decided to see it through.”
Despite knowing the board meeting was cancelled, more than 50 determined education support professionals (ESPs), teachers, parents, students, and community members appeared later in the day—closer to the rally’s planned start time. They carried signs, chanted, and passed out leaflets as planned.
“That rally was one example of how the community got behind us,” says Thompson, chair of the bargaining committee. Within weeks of the rally, a three-year agreement was reached.
“They had a large cash reserve and just didn’t want to give any of it to us,” Thompson says. “They (district negotiators) were more willing to talk after they saw what was happening.”
Great Letter sent in Solidarity from the AFL-CIO to Ms. O'Donnell
Dear Ms. O'Donnell:
We write in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the BOCES TA and share their frustration of the pace of bargaining for a fair new contract.
Over 1,000 days is too long to wait for a new contract. SW BOCES is an integral part of our community and the BTA services some of the most vulnerable students in Westchester County. The BTA is being faced with increasing demands and decreasing benefits.
We urge you to respect your teachers and staff. We also call on you to respect the collective bargaining process, end the delays, and come to the table in good faith to resolve the remaining contract issues.
The Westchester/Putnam Central Labor Body AFL-CIO
Attached is a flyer announcing a forum scheduled for Monday, September 25 at the Mahopac Public Library. The forum is sponsored by the League of Women Voters in Putnam County. NYSUT Regional Political Organizer, Mike Grubiak, will be on the panel.
The League of Women Voters has publicly stated their support for a convention. We ask that you attend to show your support of Mike and the importance to VOTE NO on the Constitutional convention!
the BTA Political Action Team!
SEPTEMBER 2017 ISSUE - APPR/TEACHER EVALUATION
AUGUST 30, 2017NYSUT: Return teacher evals to local control
Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT UnitedNo more tinkering or fixing.
It's time to scrap the state's Annual Professional Performance Review law entirely — and return control to local school districts and teachers unions to develop their own evaluation plans.
"Using student test scores derived from a broken testing system to measure teachers is not only grossly unfair, it's inaccurate," said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. "This must change now."
As the new school year begins and we enter the third year of a four-year moratorium on the use of state grades 3–8 tests in teacher evaluation, NYSUT wants policymakers to develop a new state system that allows school districts and local unions to decide how to evaluate teachers.
The new system should:
The resolutions note the current APPR law has created significant anxiety and controversy at the local level, over-emphasizing state standardized tests and sparking the largest opt-out movement in the nation. They also point out that the current data-driven law has been invalidated by both the courts and national researchers.
"NYSUT's legal team has already won court and arbitration battles exposing the fatal flaws of APPR and confirming the need to change this obnoxious evaluation system," one resolution states. "No other profession is subject to such a demeaning process of evaluation."
NYSUT's campaign will first get the word out to the Regents and the State Education Department, which are working this fall to devise recommendations for a new system. The federal government no longer requires the use of state standardized tests in teacher evaluations, so this gives states considerably more leeway to devise their own systems.
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has promised to take a slow and deliberative approach on APPR, with a workgroup including teams of teachers and administrators.
She likened the process to diffusing a bomb: "This is going to be very careful work. Like in the movies when you see a bomb is there and somebody has a clipper and they're trying to decide whether to go red or green," she said.
NYSUT urges the Regents to develop a legislative proposal for the 2018 session to get rid of the current APPR and bring back a locally negotiated teacher evaluation system that focuses on strengthening professional practice.
NYSUT wants the Regents and Legislature to allow districts to develop an evaluation system that meets their needs.
"We're not against evaluations," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango, the union's liaison with the Regents and SED. "But the time has come to reduce test anxiety for students and create a meaningful evaluation process that actually supports teachers and students."
Join the fight to get rid of the current APPR
Go to NYSUT's Member Action Center, mac.nysut.org, and sign a petition pledging to join educators and parents in the fight to end the current APPR.
Dear Certified Staff Members,
The BOCES Teachers Association Benefits Trust is committed to providing the best benefits possible to our members. We continuously review all the factors which affect our union members and the Trust's financial status. Unfortunately, the significant increase in member premiums, as well as no change in BOCES contribution since 2011, has greatly impacted our ability to continue all benefits at the present rate. Without a new contract, there can be no increase in contribution to the fund. In order to safeguard the trusts ability to continue, we have made changes to the following benefits:
Due to the ever increasing dental expenses, as of July 1, 2017, the Delta Dental Plan yearly maximum of $1,800 has been decreased to the old rate of $1,500 per family member per year. We must stress the importance of using a (PPO) dentist as they have contracted rates with Delta Dental. Also, there will be an increase in the co-pay to $50 (Single) and $100 (Family) per year. Please see the attached brochure for specific details or visit our website bocesta.net. Details can be found under the benefits tab.
Additionally, we must terminate the Davis Vision Plan. The benefit has been extremely underutilized (20% usage). Given our financial situation, it is imperative that we preserve those benefits that best assist our members and their families. If you have not yet taken advantage of this benefit, or are eligible to again, we urge you to do so BEFORE the plans termination date of September 30, 2017. For specific details visit our website bocesta.net. Details can be found under the benefits tab.
If you have any questions regarding the Delta Dental or Davis Vision Plans, please visit bocesta.net or call 914-923-3450.
Benefits Trust Chairperson
Gerry Murphy's address to the BOCES Board on June 7th.
For the past 36 years I have been the face of BOCES /your hospitality. The students form Culinary have prepared food for every event the Board has celebrated. My time with BOCES has been a thrill and honor.
I am here tonight for two reasons.
One of the reasons I am here tonight is to say thank you for your service to education.
The second reason is Compensation.
In years past your leadership team was local; they knew the issues and they knew the concerns of parents, students and staff of our region.
They and you where fair and SW BOCES grew.
I never thought it necessary in the past to speak to you about compensation issues. This is my first time, in my 36 years, to speak on a compensation issue.
I am retiring this year. At a reception celebrating my retirement I was reminded, by my programs first guidance counselor, that the ratio of students with IEP’s was about 5% I also spoke to another guidance counselor about IEP issues in secondary day programs and he said the ratio was about 5%. Today at the career center we have about 70% students with IEP’s in the shops.
What does that say about BOCES?
It says you have a tremendous teaching staff that has adapted to the needs of the community.
It says the educational community of Westchester knows that SW BOCES can and does get the job done.
Remember the students we have today in the past were often in institutions.
Districts could not educate these students. Districts said, “So let’s send them to BOCES and let’s see what can happen.”
Happily, in most cases, a miracle happened. Your teaching staff enjoys the confidence of the Westchester educational community.
I truly think your leadership team at this time is out of touch with Westchester and your staff.
The teaching staff has been told the districts say no to this or that. That they don’t do certain things for their own staff and therefore the BOCES staff cannot enjoy any extras.
But I wonder why the same rule is not applied to leadership? I am OK if No is No top to bottom.
Sadly that is not the case; leadership rewards itself annually.
I do not know if it is a good idea to listen to what the districts say or request. I have always thought of BOCES as the leader on all issues pertaining to education.
I know of one issue when the districts/superintendent’s all sent a signed letter to the newspaper saying not to hire a new COO. …you chose not to listen ...
Again thank you for your service to education and for giving me the opportunity to serve.
Long time advocate and union activist, Gerry Murphy, and President, Melissa Barreto, spoke out for the just treatment of members and called for the settlement of a fair contract at the June 7th BOCES Board Meeting. The meeting was attended by more than 30 additional members who came out, on short notice, for a show of solidarity.
President Barreto's statements:
I want to thank the board for providing me the opportunity to make a statement on behalf of the BTA. We are here today to let you know that we have been without a contract since 2014.
As divisions around us receive raises and base salaries increase, we have not received raises since 2012. We are asking for a fair and equitable contract. The memorandum of agreement was voted down 175-15. This clearly speaks to my members frustrations; and they have made their voices heard, past and present.
I want to thank the retirees who are here for their support. We have worked collaboratively with administration to create the APPR plan, the professional development plan and the summer school side letter all in good faith with the same passion to move BOCES ahead.
We applaud and appreciate the financial means put forth in consultants and contracts to invest in this organization to make it an educational leader. What we ask is that you invest in us, your employees who make that difference in the lives of children each and everyday!
Melissa Barreto, President BTA