Walk In for the Education Students Deserve

Every student deserves the supports necessary to ensure their academic success.  Every student deserves the time to learn and our teachers need the time to teach.  Every student deserves a first-class education regardless of zip code.  One could ask anyone, without regard for political persuasion or personal beliefs, if students deserve these things and the answer would always be yes.  So why is it so darn hard to make these things happen if everyone believes them?  There are a whole host of answers and theories to that question ranging from money interest in politics and education to people wanting these things for our kids but refusing to pay for them with taxes.  This all may be true, but on May 4th teachers at Heritage High School and Mill Plain Elementary School invited not just EEA members, but the community, parents, principals, students, and anyone else who has an interest in public education to participate in a “Walk-in,” where all interested people could celebrate what is great about our public schools, talk about the needs our schools have, commit to doing their part to better our schools, and walk into the building together.

At Heritage High School, about 100 people gathered at 6:55am to talk about how great their school is as well as point out that there are some tools that are missing and a program being cut that denies the first class education the students at HHS deserve.  Heritage High School had traditionally been an AVID school.  AVID programs throughout the country help the typical student, who with a little push, succeed in school and go on to earn a college degree.  AVID was funded by a grant that dried up.  In an effort to provide this service to students, a new program was formed at HHS called Gateway to College.  Unfortunately, with that program being grant funded as well, and not funded by the district or the state, a decision was made to end the Gateway to College program at HHS.  Dozens of students were at the Walk-in with signs asking to save the program.  A couple students took to the mic, asking the district to step up and fund this program, meeting their needs as students.

Not just programs, but additional tools are needed to give Heritage students the education they deserve.  Right now there are around 1,800 students at HHS but only five counselors.  In addition to counseling students thus improving their mental wellbeing so school can be a priority, these same counselors are asked to do everything from monitoring grades, making sure graduation requirements are met, helping students with their college applications, writing letters of recommendation, covering classes when there are no substitutes, and even proctoring standardized tests.  We simply don’t have enough of these individuals to help our students succeed.

Similar messages of love for their school but the need for improvement were expressed at Mill Plain Elementary school.  Right now it is “testing season” and Rachel, a 5th grade student at Mill Plain, took to the mic and explained that she does not need more testing, she instead needs the time that is used for testing to be educated by her teacher and to have more access to the arts.  Furthermore she expressed that every child should have access to a fully stocked library and to a high quality librarian.

Everyone has to decide what role they are going to play in helping our students get the first-class education they deserve, regardless of their zip code.  For our part at EEA, being a bargaining year, we have proposed several bargaining proposals that we think will aid in this endeavor.  A few examples include:

  • We ask the district to commit to providing quality curriculum for every class.
  • Additional counselors in our schools
  • We ask the district to commit to maintaining the current practices we have around Librarian staffing.
  • Additional Nurses
  • Smaller caseloads for our special education teachers.
  • A guarantee that if a severe special education student needs a staff assistant to help him/her, one will be employed.
  • Additional non-teaching staff to work with special needs students who transition into the everyday classroom.
  • An end to unnecessary assessments
  • We ask the district to commit to providing equitable resources in each building for our PE, Music, and Library programs.

We all love our schools here in the Evergreen School District and we all must do our part to protect and promote public education and to continue to work toward giving our students the first class education they deserve!

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The Sub Shortage is costing you money and is hurting YOUR kid!

We only get 180 days of instruction, and we need every one of them! For this reason, high quality subs are of great importance. With the ever increasing demands on our teachers and the school system as a whole, there are three major factors that play into why there is a sub shortage.
1.) There are some critics out there who want to point to numbers that show that teachers only teach for 180 days, yet they tend to be out of the classroom for 10% of those days. What those numbers don’t tell you is that because the state has cut the professional development days that used to be paid for, districts are instead opting to pull teachers from the classroom to give them professional development, so they don’t have to pay them extra money. Consequently, some teachers are not in the classroom for 10-20 days in a year, not by their choice, but rather because the district needs to pull them out in order to train them. In any given day in the Evergreen School district, 80 teachers being pulled from the classroom for professional development is not unusual.
2.) As the pressure and expectations continue to mount on our education professionals, health is diminishing. It is not unusual for teachers to e-mail the EEA office at 1:00am in the morning. Why that late? By the time a teacher does her job in the classroom, goes home to her family, gets the kids to bed, and does her 2nd job of grading and planning, it is 1:00am when she gets a chance to communicate to her union. When working these types of hours, it should not be surprising that health is failing, resulting in more sick leave usage.
3.) Subs make very little money! A day to day substitute in Evergreen Public Schools makes $132.07 per day, with a maximum opportunity to work 180 days. A yearly wage of $23,772.60 is not going to be satisfactory when the individual has student loan debt that was taken in order to earn a teaching degree that needs to be paid off. Consequently, unless an individual is in an economic place in his/her life where the money is not needed, they rarely stick around to do the job. They instead take their college degree and do something else. After all, if someone can manage 26 kindergarteners who are strangers to them when they walk in the door, they can supervise a few employees for a small business.

So here is a math story problem for everyone… If eighty teachers are pulled out of the classroom for professional development and several teachers are out ill with not enough substitute teachers to cover your first grade daughter’s class, what does the school do? The current answer, take away one of the two things your first grade daughter loves, their specialist time. Ask any elementary kid what their favorite things were for that day at school and (s)he will probably first say recess/lunch and then name what they did in Music, or read at the library, or did in PE class. However, since someone is needed in the classroom, the PE teacher will not be teaching PE that day, (s)he will now be teaching in a classroom for the day. The other option that is sometimes utilized, split a class up and put them in other classes for the day. Sometimes, students are sent to classes that aren’t even their own grade level.

This all has costs! When canceling specialist, students will not enjoy their school experience as much. Student burnout for the day, especially at the younger grades, will increase. There is already so very little room left in the elementary schedule for anything other than literacy and math, cutting out the little bit of physical activity a 1st grader gets or cutting out the creative outlet the music class provides is detrimental to the well being of our children.

Furthermore, there are actual financial costs. Right now, a sub costs $132.07 for the day, while buying the planning time of the nine teachers who can’t send their kids to the music class because the music teacher is subbing costs $185.40 for the day, never mind the fact that the teacher who was supposed to be teaching music is now getting a full teacher’s day of pay for subbing. As for the practice of sending your child to another classroom for the day, all this does is result in your child being warehoused in a classroom, thus missing out on instruction. While it might be fun for the fifth grader to spend the day in the first grade class, helping the students, that fifth grade student didn’t get his/her education for the day.

There is no easy answer for solving the sub crisis. Society has made the teaching profession less desirable, consequently there are not extra teachers to serve as substitutes. The EEA recommends three things to help mitigate this problem:
1. Pay substitute teachers a living wage so they can afford to do the job.
2. Lighten the workload on our teachers so they can keep their physical and mental health, thus needing less time out of the classroom.
3. Have less professional development during the school day. Offering more evening and weekend trainings and pay staff to attend might be preferential to many teachers.

The lack of substitutes is not just hurting teachers, it’s hurting your kids as well. We recommend that parents demand that the district aggressively work to mitigate the sub shortage problem.

Extra-Curricular and Fairness

Over the years the Evergreen School District has had very successful extra-curricular programs ranging from athletic state championship teams to the cultivating of a student’s love for government and civic involvement via ASB participation. Most of us owe a great deal to our teachers in the classroom for our education, but the ones we often times remember most are the coaches and advisors we worked closely with in our extra-curricular activities, making us feel like we had a unique skill and something to offer to society in the future. At this time, the coaches and extra-curricular advisors in Evergreen Public Schools have failed to reach an agreement with the district for a contract, even after negotiating since December of 2014. The major sticking points: Safety, equal access to success for all, and appropriate compensation.
Safety: During the great recession, like most school districts, cuts took place in the extra-curricular arena. Many sports found themselves without an assistant coach, resulting in some sub-varsity teams being cut. Even worse, some sports were expected to continue with “business as usual,” such as track, all while having implements like javelins, discusses, and shot puts, flying through the air. The EEA was never comfortable with this risk, but now there is no excuse for it.

Many think of sports when they think of extra-curricular activities, but let us not forget the ones that often times do not get the large scale public accolades. The Evergreen Public Schools has produced outstanding and award winning drama productions, but these productions do not happen without help. During the recession the district cut the Drama assistant position, forcing schools to fundraise simply to have an extra set of eyes for a large group of kids, let alone choreograph musicals, do lighting, or design sets and costumes.
Equal Access to success for all: The Evergreen Public Schools has faced equal access problems before with respect to Title IX. This is why it is baffling to the Evergreen Education Association that the district cut the Dance Team assistant. There have been state champion and national contending dance teams in our district, but somehow one coach is expected to supervise and coach fifty dancers. As a result, some schools are considering creating a “cut program” where they tell girls who have not had the money to be part of dancing clubs throughout their childhood, sorry young lady, you are not good enough to participate on our team. In a district with over 49% of its students living in poverty, that is unacceptable. In addition to teams now considering limiting access, it is also safety issue. We would never ask a PE teacher to supervise 50 kids in a gym.

Appropriate Compensation: Every coach will tell you they love what they do and that it is like a hobby. The reality is through, as the profession of teaching becomes more and more demanding, time for “hobbies” start to disappear. These coaches and advisors need to be able to justify to their spouse and their children why they are not coming home until 8:00pm that night because they held the extra-long prep session or practice to get his/her competitors ready for that big competition. These coaches need to be able to justify to their spouses why they have to run the fundraiser over the weekend in order for the team to be able to afford to compete at the next competition. These coaches need to be able to justify to their spouses and children why they are gone for the next week at summer camp to prep their team for next year. It might be a fun hobby to the coach, but it is not a fun hobby for his/her family.
Inflation has been above 13% over the last seven years, yet over this same time period the district has increased extra-curricular salaries by only 1.9%. The EEA’s ask of an average of about $72 to be added to each coach/advisor’s annual paycheck each of the next three years does not seem like an unreasonable ask.

The patrons of Evergreen Public Schools have unwavering support for our levies and we look forward to their vote of support in our request for a replacement levy this February. Don’t forget however, these extra-curricular activities are what levy dollars are supposed to pay for. The EEA asks you to e-mail the school board at board.directors@evergreenps.org and ask them to support safety for our students, equal access for all, and respect for our coaches and advisors by settling a fair contract now!

WEA Locals Take Action

What does Seattle, Spokane, Prosser, Pasco, and Kelso all have in common? It’s not their demographics. It’s not their size. It’s not their geography. It’s the fact that all five of these school districts have WEA members who voted for, or is considering voting for, a strike this fall. There are also a couple other common denominators: 1.) They were all failed by their representatives in the legislature to appropriately fund educator salaries and to lower class sizes, as ordered by the Supreme Court. 2.) All these districts received significant funding from the state in other areas such as Materials and Supplies for which they were already paying and therefore they can now afford to more closely pay educators what they deserve.

In the case of Kelso, the district is receiving, from the state, $3.9 million more this year than last, which is an increase of about 12.7%. The district’s statement with respect to why they don’t see the need to appropriately raise salaries, even though the neighboring Longview School district teachers make between two and three thousand more dollars a year was:
“There are lots of factors that go into why teachers teach where they teach. … We don’t think our teachers are seeking to be the highest paid.”

Translation — if you want to be treated as a professional, you don’t get to be paid like one.
In Spokane, the district is receiving, from the state, $23.3 Million more [11.6% increase]. The WEA represents not only Spokane teachers, but also janitors, bus drivers, office workers, and others. Many of these people cannot make ends meet, but the district seems to have little interest in talking about the real money everyone in Spokane deserves.

Furthermore, guess who got an 11.2% pay increase this biennium? That’s right, our state legislators. So why would anyone be surprised when the Pasco Association of Educators demanded that they too receive an 11.2% pay increase? Legislators are quick to point out that they had no choice in getting their 11.2% raise, the law requires a citizen commission to set the salary. Where does this citizen commission get its logic and rationale? They get it by looking at the inflation rate over the years and the time it takes to do the job. The state has fallen about 12% behind inflation over the past six years with respect to teacher salary and any teacher can tell you that the time it takes to do the job has increased significantly over the past half a decade. So for what reason could anyone question Pasco’s demand for a pay increase on par with the state legislators?

If you think these disputes are only happening somewhere else, you need to know that these same problems are happening locally too. While there has not yet been talk of strike in Clark County, as of today the following educators in local school districts are working without a contract: Battle Ground, Ridgefield, Hockinson, and Washougal. I bring all this up for a couple of reasons: 1.) To educate people that there are educators throughout the state, and here in Clark County too, that need support; 2.) To remind everyone that it is not a coincidence that so many strikes are taking place, or are to take place, throughout our state. It is because the state has yet again failed in its paramount duty to fund education; and 3.) To let everyone know that the Evergreen Education Association will begin its bargain with the Evergreen School District this spring. It is my great hope that we will not have to go through these same great lengths to achieve an appropriate contract that values educators and the students they serve.

Education and the Sacrifice Bunt

To the casual watcher of the game of baseball, the most exciting thing to watch is the homerun. The homerun generates excitement, looks impressive, and accomplishes the goal of scoring a run, moving closer to the objective of winning the game. To those who are baseball fans, it is other intricacies that excite them, such as the act of the sacrifice. The sacrifice bunt is the act of purposely tapping the ball lightly, nearly guaranteeing the batter will be put out, so that another runner can get closer to home. This leads to the next batter simply needing to get a single, instead of a homerun to accomplish the goal of scoring a run.
Metaphorically, educators are known for the sacrifice. The premise being that if educators sacrifice, there will be more resources for the children. Without an educated populace, democratic society cannot succeed. Yet, instead of demanding the herculean salary for their important role in our society, educators often go without pay increases. In the state of Washington this has been true for the past seven years. Additionally, while watching healthcare costs soar, educators have sacrificed themselves (and their families) by shouldering more and more of the cost of healthcare.
The thing about the sacrifice bunt is, it only works if there is someone on base to advance. With the narrowing of the educational focus to SBAC tested subjects, no curriculum, failing technology, and 1/3 of the instruction being taken up by preparation for and administrative of standardized tests, kids are not getting a better education, they are not advancing, they are not even on base. Educators are starting to ask, for what am I sacrificing?
My colleagues in both Evergreen and across the state are starting to refuse to lay down sacrifice bunts when no one is on base. Sunset Elementary school, where they have sacrificed copious hours of their lives away from their families is spending a few weeks “working to contract,” refusing to put in more time than is required of them, showing how the extra work demanded is not significantly helping students. Furthermore, educators in several school districts throughout Washington State have voted to go on one day strikes to illustrate that they are done sacrificing their pay while watching their kids not get the attention they need because their classrooms are too crowded.
The question that remains in this baseball analogy is, if educators are the team at bat, who is the opposition in the field? It isn’t the principals who work tirelessly to better their schools. It isn’t the superintendent. It isn’t even the legislature. Like all educators, everyone wants to see all children get a quality education. Even the legislator, with whom I agree the least on education policy, has a great interest in his/her future geriatric doctor getting a high quality education right now. The team in the field, playing defense, is IGNORANCE. Everyone wants what is best for students, but don’t forget, it is our educators that know how to educate our children. Don’t cut out educators in the process of making our education system better, rather let’s all engage in creating a system that works well for children. Educators are not capable of suborning ignorance, and they certainly will not lay down a sacrifice bunt for it.

Facebook:  Evergreen Education Association
5516 NE 107 Avenue, Suite 100 – Vancouver, WA 98662
360-892-1740
http://www.eeaoffice.com