When most people go to work they get off work by a certain time or if they are required to work more hours they get paid for overtime.
But apparently Turlock Unified School District administration feels teachers district-wide should be required to stay after school until school site principals determine they can leave.
“[TUSD administration] may have found a way to make TUSD teachers go on strike,” said Turlock Teachers Association (TTA) President Julie Shipman. “This is the way to do it.”
During last Tuesday’s TUSD Board of Trustees, meeting Shipman revealed that during labor contract negotiations district administration made the demand.
According to Shipman, TUSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Hedi Lawler, who serves on behalf of the district in labor negotiations, indicated that principals at each school site would determine what time teachers could leave school — only after the teachers completed their professional duties, which Shipman described as “open-ended, uncalled for and micro-management”.
To determine if this was an accurate statement from TTA, TurlockCityNews.com contacted Lawler, who said, “I cannot address that specifically because of the nature of negotiations.”
It is fair to say that teachers have one of the more unique professions in that the vast majority of teachers often work “off the clock” performing professional duties such as grading papers and tests, and preparing lesson plans on their own time.
Shipman made the point that teachers have lives.
“They are grading papers while doing laundry and making dinner. They have kids to pick up from school or daycare , soccer practice, dentist and doctor appointments,” she said. “For them to leave it open-ended just shows their level of respect for us as people and professionals.”
Teacher Morale Low, Finger Pointed at Superintendent Da Marto
A Turlock High School math teacher for more than 30 years, Kathlyn Donaldson says moral amongst teachers is the lowest she has ever seen.
“We feel undervalued and underappreciated,” she said.
While just one of the 700+ teachers in TUSD, Donaldson directly pointed to the ongoing failure to reach terms in collective bargaining.
District administration and TTA have failed to reach terms for the 2014-15 school year contract, which the TTA first “sun shined” in January. It is nearly November and normally the TTA would sunshine the 2015-16 contract proposals in about three months.
“We are essentially working without a contract,” Donaldson noted.
Meanwhile, Turlock teachers have slipped from routinely being the top or near the top of the pay scale for all school districts in Stanislaus County to eighth.
Shipman says TUSD and TTA are “not even close to resolving this year’s contract,” and that now next year’s contract is in doubt.
Lawler explained that TUSD and TTA are currently going through each and every article to review the language of the contract and the process can be lengthy.
“You know, they say they value their employees but they don’t because their actions say otherwise. Put your money where your mouth is. They don’t value our time, our opinion and they have no respect for us. That attitude and the direction comes from Superintendent Sonny Da Marto,” added Shipman.
When it was pointed out that Da Marto was a National Finalist for Superintendent of the Year by the National Association of School Superintendents, Shipman replied, matter of factly, “They didn’t ask for teacher input.”
However Lawler paints a different picture from the district’s perspective.
“We have always valued teacher’s opinions. There is so much evidence we do value their opinions and actively solicit their input,” said Lawler, who pointed to the ongoing Common Core planning and development which includes teacher input, and that teachers are even included in the hiring process for new teachers.
Where is TUSD Board of Trustees?
In the past Da Marto has been outright criticized for keeping information from the TUSD Board of Trustees, who have been publically blindsided several times by serious parent complaints and accusations brought to light by TurlockCityNews.com.
“I don’t think they [the Board] are given a clear picture of what is going on in the district,” said Shipman.
Trustee Deborah Martin admitted she was not fully aware of the particulars of the negotiations, however she commented, “I’ve been hearing there’s good progress, but like I said I’m not in the negotiations.”
Martin noted the importance of teachers to TUSD.
“Teachers are very selfless people who work very hard to help our children have a better life.”
A teacher for 13 years and an aide for three, Trustee Eileen Hamilton provided some comment, but cautioned that she had been on vacation for several weeks prior to Tuesday’s Board meeting and had not been caught up to speed. When asked about the after-school restriction on teacher’s leaving school she said, “I think that might have been a bit skewed a little bit but I really don’t know,” she said. “I know that when I was teaching I wouldn’t have liked behind told when I could leave. I would stay until I felt I was done with my work.”
She also commented that Donaldson’s remarks about teacher morale.
“Yes, I am concerned about what she said.”
Trustee Frank Lima did not return a phone call for comment and Trustee Barney Gordon declined comment.
Trustee Jennifer Carter declined comment other than, “Not until I get all of the facts. Again, I take everything said at our meetings very seriously and ask follow up as needed. I think it would be premature without additional information.”
Board President Bob Weaver says that the inference that morale is low amongst teachers is a concern.
“I can’t say if it’s one teacher, or it’s a reflection of the majority of teachers,” he said. “I wholeheartedly don’t believe we will reach the point of a strike.”
Weaver noted that after TTA requested TUSD sunshine’s its contract proposal they did so quickly and TTA “was not available” for three months.
“We didn’t meet again until I think early September” said Weaver.