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!

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.

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