Thursday, April 28, 2011
The Monterey Unified district community continues to rumble with the salary increases approved for administrators last week, and it will be interesting to see how they play out in November's election: Board President Diane Creasey, and trustee Debra Gramespacher are up for reelection. (Also for re-election is the seat now occupied by Richard Glenn, who was just appointed but abstained from voting on the salary increase.)
Already, Monterey High teachers sent a letter to the Monterey County Weekly asking trustees to resign in the wake of the vote. Claims of intimidation are becoming increasingly louder, and some teachers -- usually reluctant to complain -- are speaking out. Like in this letter from La Mesa Teacher Patti Gibler-Tai, who "is mad as hell, but still taking it."
Still a long ways until November, but somehow, I don't see this issue going away. It's been almost two weeks, and the anger is still in the air. Besides, it's not new: it's been a while people at MPUSD have been complaining, but now there's a more tangible issue, something workers can really hang on to.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Take for instance Carmen McCoy. After working at the district for 30 years, she has to pay $600 in health insurance, which leaves her $1,400 a month take home. Which is $16,800 (if she works 12 months out of the year). And when you put $16,800 side by side with the $120,000 -- $209,000 administrators are making, well, it stings.
“I make more than a lot of people in this office, and they work their butts off,” McCoy told me. “If we can’t have classified in the district, the school would not be able to function as well as it does. I love working here but it’s very discouraging to get your check every month and know it’s going to be that amount.”
And when McCoy and about 10 more other employees – janitors, bus drivers, food service employees – spoke at the board meeting last week, they felt as if they had not been heard. They told of having to work longer hours now to keep the classrooms clean. More responsibility, longer hours, same pay. But it was as if the board members had made up their minds, come prepared with what they were going to say and how they were going to justify the increases. And voted yes.
And to add salt to the wound, they felt that my story in the Herald did not truly reflect the anger and frustration the workers felt. Still feel. (In my defense, the meeting went on very late, and I had to file my story in order to make deadline. So here it is, trying to put out there what my story lacked)
Yes, the superintendent’s cabinet is working more now than before. So are the rest of the employees. Yes, the administrators hadn’t had a raise in years. Neither has McCoy, or anybody who’s already reached step 22, the highest in the union’s scale. Yes, the district needs stability, and stable administrators. How about stable classified employees? Don’t they count as a “stable” workforce – they wonder.
This goes beyond money, this anger and frustration. The sense you get from MPUSD employees – from many workers throughout the county, since this decision has been making waves everywhere – is that all that talk about budget cuts and austerity is empty. That the only ones who are being required to make real sacrifices are the people at the bottom. That no matter how bad the economy is, the people on top are always going to remain on top – or land on their feet. Statistically speaking, is true, but when workers have it rubbed on their faces, it’s really hard to take.
And that’s what MBTA president Dennis Wright meant when he said the raise was “bad timing.”
“I’d never gone to a board meeting before,” McCoy told me. “It’s the first time I've spoken to any supervisor or to board about any or my feelings. But I said I cannot longer complain to my coworkers if I don't say something.”
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
“These are some of the most professional drivers in the state, and they’re passionate about what they do,” CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said. “I applaud them for their extraordinary safety record, and the pride they take every day in the safe transportation of California’s children.”
School bus drivers will tell you their primary goal is pupil safety. They are extensively trained and rigorously tested to ensure this goal remains first and foremost in their thinking and actions when transporting children. While crashes may occur, school bus drivers have traveled millions of collision-free miles over the years.
Despite the number of school buses being operated throughout the state, school buses remain one of the safest modes of school transportation. In fact, California has not experienced a pupil-passenger fatality in 15 years. This is can be attributed to the school bus drivers’ commitment to safety, their excellent driving skills and attention to detail.
Though school bus drivers do their part to safely transport school children to and from their destinations, the motoring public has an obligation to do their part as well. Most school bus-related injuries and fatalities occur around or near the school bus during the loading and unloading process. Therefore, it is essential the motoring public be reminded to exercise due caution when driving near schools and school buses. Slow to 25 mph in school zones unless a lower speed is posted and stop behind a school bus when the flashing red lights and stop arm are activated.
So, take a moment to recognize your bus driver, and to give him/her a hearty thanks for keeping precious cargo safe.
Monday, April 25, 2011
York School Senior Teo Lamiot was awarded “Best High School Delegate” at the World Affairs Council’s Congress on Challenges to American Power last month. Lamiot’s earned the accolade with his participation in the policy simulation "What method(s) should the global community use to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons?" His award included a certificate, an autographed book by a conference speaker, and lunch with New York Times’ columnist David Sanger.
Lamiot, who will be a freshman at Stanford University in the fall, is one of those amazing kids that roam the halls and hills of York: he is President of the York Student Council; President of Model UN; Secretary of Junior State; a member of Shield, the York student ambassador organization; and a member of the York Cross-Country and Track Team. The National Security Language Initiative for Youth awarded him a scholarship to attend language school in Turkey during the summer of 2010. He has volunteered for more than 1,000 hours with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. And no doubt, he’s also an amazing person.
The World Affairs Council explores in-depth the many regional challenges that are unfolding in the context of a fluid and dynamic global economic and environmental landscape that raises serious policy concerns. Forty-one students who share a keen interest in international affairs and policy and 4 educators received the scholarship. About two-thirds of the students were from various high schools across northern California, and one- third were from universities such as Yale, UC Berkeley, UCLA, CSU Sacramento, University of the Pacific, and University of Santa Clara.
Friday, April 22, 2011
If you think cubbies are a luxury, you've never seen a room full of children. And their backpacks.
Crews of students from Rancho Cielo, a program that helps at-risk youth get vocational training and a high school diploma, helped students of the Youth Orchestra Salinas by building cubbies at Sherwood Hall, where YOSAL students take their music lessons every day. YOSAL serves more than 40 school children every school day at Sherwood Hall and at a couple of other sites in the Salinas City Elementary School District.
The Rancho Cielo Youth Corps is a paid crew-based job program for youths aged 18-24, preparing them for regular full-time employment. The crews work together to build furniture in their woodshop. For more information and photos of furniture for sale, click here. www.ranchocieloyc.org.
YOSAL is growing this summer, starting a second site in Salinas, and a nucleo in King City in the fall. Over time, they plan to expand both the geographies served as well as the age range of the students. The mission of El Sistema USA/Salinas is to transform the lives of our youth and our communities through the inspiration, discipline and performance of classical orchestral music.For more information: http://www.youthorchestrasalinas.org
Thursday, April 21, 2011
The Vital Signs report, compares students math and science proficiency state by state, and in conjunction with the report, CEOs, members of the national non-profit organization Change the Equation (CTEq), alerted governors to the reports’ findings. Most states have not set the bar high enough when measuring student proficiency in STEM subjects -- for instance, while many states report that most students are meeting state standards, results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show only 38 percent of 4th graders and a third of 8th graders are proficient or advanced in math. The CEOs added that states must strengthen instructional supports to ensure students clear a higher bar.
That's the case in California: while 66 percent of fourth graders score at or above proficient in state testing, only 30 percent reach that milestone in national testing. In the eight grade, 30 percent score proficient or advanced in state tests, while only 23 percent do so in national testings.
The CEO's group are advocating science, technology, math education throughout the United States. They're beginning with 100 programs. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact 100 programs can have.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Here's the letter:
I have been directed by Monterey Bay Teachers Association (MBTA) representative council to express to the public and the members of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD) Board of Education our concerns regarding an upcoming recommendation to approve a 6-step salary schedule for the District's top 5 management positions also known as the District Cabinet. These Consent Agenda Items (L-19 and L-20) are to be voted on at the April 18 school board meeting.
It has been said that perception is nine-tenths of reality. It is our concern as to how this action will be perceived and the impression it will make on both the employees and the community. We appreciate that recently the Board approved some of the one-time federal jobs funds to offset some of the increased costs in health care for all employees. We also appreciate that the board recently used some of the one-time Federal jobs funds to avoid employee lay-offs for the 2011-2012 school year. These, however, are one-time only monies for one-time commitments, whereas a salary increase for the district cabinet will be an ongoing expense of approximately $56,000 starting with the 2010-2011 school year. While that may not be much when compared with a $55,000,000 overall budget, our larger concern with the District Cabinet salary increase proposal has more to do with the message it will send to the employees and the community than it does with any actual cost involved. Simply put, it's not the money so much as it's the message and the timing.
Granted, there may never be a good time to propose a salary increase for public school administrators, but;
* At a time when one one can predict what the budget for public education will look like for the foreseeable future
* At a time when all employees are expected to take on one third more work because of one third less state funding
* At a time when the voters supported Measure P with the understanding that the District would direct any savings into the General Fund for use in the classrooms.
* And at a time when we are asking the public to support no more cuts to public education
We are concerned that taking this action now will be sending precisely the wrong message to the public at precisely the wrong time.
It is our hope that the School Board will consider the possible consequences that may occur and not approve this proposal at this time. We ask that the board take into consideration the long term ramifications this action may have on future labor/management relations. MBTA and MPUSD have made significant progress recently in working collaboratively on a variety of issues: Measure P, Secondary Instructional Schedules and Student Assessments to name but a few. We would hate to see the progress we have made together placed into jeopardy. Quite frankly, we are concerned that should the Board approve this proposal at this time, it will simultaneously increase resentment and lower morale for all but 5 of the district's employees.
I encourage the members of the MPUSD school board to take the time to speak with me or any of the teachers about our concerns prior to taking any action on this issue.
Dennis Wright -- MBTA President.
Monday, April 18, 2011
The board of trustees of MPUSD is scheduled to negotiate with the superintendent and her cabinet during tonight's board meeting. Members of the Monterey Bay Teachers Association are upset because they say the administrators are in line for a big pay raise.
Not so, says board president Diane Creasey in a letter to the district community. There won't be salary raises. Rather, there may be some changes (Creasey's a bit circumspect on this) because administrators were originally hired to work 222 days out of the year and now, with so many positions having been eliminated, now work 230 days out of the year. They're working hard to keep the district running, she says in not so few words. And no, Measure P funds won't be used, she says.
Here's the letter in its entirety.
In keeping with the Board’s commitment to remain transparent, I would like to provide the rationale for the negotiated contract changes with the Superintendent and Cabinet level administrators that will appear on the Board agenda this Monday, April 18.
The Superintendent’s contracted salary that the Board will be taking action on will not result in an increased cost to the District’s budget. Last year, the Superintendent’s salary was adjusted to include $8300 in health and welfare benefits which is the same for all MPUSD employees. With this change, the Superintendent became personally responsible for paying her own health and welfare benefits. Health and welfare costs, along with other expenses that were listed separately from the Superintendent’s base salary in years past, are now included in the base salary.
An additional change to the Superintendent’s contract is an increase to the number of contracted work days from 222 to 230 days. Since 2007, the Superintendent has been working an average of 8 additional days per year and as per the contract has been paid for these additional days at the end of each fiscal year. The Superintendent has served as the Chief Business Official (CBO) since the position was eliminated last year. This same scenario is also true of the Cabinet level administrators. As administrative staff continues to be reduced in order to keep reductions away from the classroom, job duties and requirements must be assumed by remaining administrative staff members. The current contract requires payment for these additional days at the end of each fiscal year. These additional days are now being included as normal workdays in the new contract agreement. Cabinet level administrators will now be expected to work 230 days as part of their normally contracted work year.
The practice of compensating employees for additional hours and work days is applied at all levels in MPUSD. This year, MPUSD budgeted $1,375,776 and has currently paid $943,135 to employees for participating in professional development and additional work agreements. The District also uses categorical grant funds to provide extra and co-curricular stipends, summer school, and extended learning work wages to employees. MPUSD will also be providing teachers with one additional day of compensation by returning the teacher work year to 184 days for the 2011-2012 school year.
MPUSD is in the fortunate position to not have to impose furlough days, salary reductions, or a freeze in step or column for any employee. Additionally, the District offered, and bargaining units have accepted, an increased $400,000 District contribution through the 2011-2012 school year for Dental insurance premium coverage. As a result, our employees will not face an increase cost for dental insurance. These positive outcomes that ensure fiscal solvency and security for MPUSD employees are the direct result of sound business practices and strong leadership.
The Board has worked with the Superintendent to create equity and stability at all levels of our District. As part of this effort, a salary schedule for Cabinet level administrators has been developed that mirrors the same advancement in steps as other administrators and management staff, salary increments up to six steps. To date, the Superintendent and Cabinet administrators are the only MPUSD employees that do not receive an annual step increase. MBTA, CSEA, and Confidential eligible employees are all entitled to annual step movements. The budgeted step and column for certificated employees for 2011-2012 is over $1.1 million with the classified and management step increases budgeted at $400,000.
To provide clarification regarding the use of Measure P funds to pay for salaries, Measure P bond funds cannot be used for staff salaries unless their work is directly related to the projects funded from the bond. The Director of Facilities position, John Silvestrini, which involves the development and implementation of bond projects, is an appropriate use of these funds. The passage of Measure P has relieved the District of debt which has saved over $750,000 in annual payments. In addition, there have been other savings that have enabled MPUSD to have a positive budget, such as reductions of District level positions, increased budget oversight and the building of the District’s capacity to be self-sufficient and less reliant on outsourcing of services.
The Administration will continue its efforts to reduce expenditures to non-public agencies for services such as Speech and Language Specialists by working with MBTA to establish a competitive salary schedule to attract and retain employees in this field, as well as continuing to return programs currently being served by the Monterey County Office of Education. While much has been accomplished there are areas that still need to be improved upon to help us through these challenging times.
The Board of Trustees recognizes the impact of receiving a preliminary layoff notice. Therefore, MPUSD was proactive in offering a fiscal incentive to teachers for early retirement notification to avoid the issuance of unnecessary layoff notices to teachers. As a result, MPUSD did not issue layoff notices to teachers this past March which is an unprecedented accomplishment for a school district in these challenging economic times.
I, along with my fellow Board Members, recognize that some of the decisions that are made may not fully be understood by the District stakeholders. The Board of Trustees is committed to transparency of our actions and we will continue to communicate with you directly on anything that may cause you, our employees, concern.
MPUSD Board President
Friday, April 15, 2011
Which, of course, is very hard to do, given the magnitude of the cuts and their very real results.
Two reports I just had time to pay attention to speak to this issue in frightening detail. The first one, "Free Fall: Educational Opportunities in 2011" by the UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access. The report is based on interviews to 277 high school principals, and narrates the realities many already know well: budgets for professional development have been cut, programs like music and art. Attention to students has declined, so has progress toward graduation and college.
And once you go to the next level, to college, things get harder: a report by The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto de Derechos Civiles at UCLA called "Squeezed from all sides" documents the difficulties students are having once they get into college: many have parents who have lost jobs so now they have to help their families financially. They can't pay rent, so they couch surf. Many have faced foreclosures. The financial situation is squeezing them not just by increased tuition, but by decreased financial opportunities. It's a terrible situation all the way.
Yesterday, thousands of students demonstrated at the CSUs against further cuts. Sometimes, when you're faced with so much difficult situations, it's hard not to whine.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
To the winners of the 5th annual High School Japanese Speech Contest of Monterey County, held at North Salinas High School on March 25. Andy Chuang, a sophomore in Stevenson School, nabbed first prize (in the picture). In second came David Estrada of North Salinas High School, and Brian Lara also of North Salinas High School took third place. Another third place winner was Sara Hamilton of Salinas High School.
The contestants had to show their Japanese language skills in three areas: prepared speech, spontaneous speech, and Q&A session with five judges. First place winner Chuang is now eligible to apply for the the Eighth Annual Aurora Foundation All-USA High School Japanese Speech Contest to be held on May 28 in Los Angeles.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
And there's lots of celebrations going on countywide to honor our little ones. My Museum is deploying its Wheelie Mobiliee up and down Monterey County to offer young ones interactive and educational activities designed to engage the imagination. To find a schedule of activities, click here.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Salinas is celebrating national Library Week with three birthday parties for one of its most famous residents. No, not Steinbeck. At least not John.
It’s the birthday of Snappy, the fabulously popular tortoise that lives in Steinbeck Library. There will be cake, stories, and paper tortoise crafts to fete the city’s favorite pet. All parties are at 4 pm. On Tuesday at John Steinbeck Library, Wednesday at Cesar Chavez, and Thursday at El Gabilan. If you can’t make it to any of the events, visit Snappy here. He has now over 1.3 million views!
Thursday, April 7, 2011
At the national seminar of the Education Writers Association in New Orleans – where I’m writing from – Harvard Graduate School of Education Academic Dean Robert Schwartz defended the report, saying that Europe has a host of programs geared toward young adults that give them the option to follow a technical program rather than a four-year college education.
That many teenagers are bored with high school, and drop out because they can’t fathom completing high school so they can just go on with four more years of the same boredom. These are the students who need different options, he says.
Yes, Kati Haycock of the Education Trust says. There needs to be more options, but whatever new ideas come forth to increase technical education should not be meant to channel one set of students (i.e. low income children of color) on a technical career path while others are funneled to college. As she told Schwartz “funny how the prescription offered for your children is different from the prescription offered for other people’s children.” And that’s a battle that many in the community of color have been fighting for years: they don’t want their children to be pushed into a technical career. They want their children to go to college.
But what if college is not for everybody? What if there are children who need different challenges? What if some children would do better in a one-year program? Some people would say this is a racist way to look at the world, but, why not give it a chance?
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
So cross your fingers the weather holds up. The first one: the YMCA of the Monterey Peninsula is hosting Healthy Kids Day on Saturday, April 9th from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Jewell Park in Pacific Grove during Good Old Days.
Healthy Kids Day is the Ys national initiative to improve the health and well-being of kids and families and is the largest event of its kind in the nation. At nearly 1,600 events across the country, the Y will provide fun activities and educational demonstrations on how to be more active and incorporate healthier habits at home.
In this day and age of childhood obesity and abundant, cheap food, it’s not always easy to make the choices that will keep children healthy and fit. So come by to get some tips from the pros. As the Y says, by helping families get on track to healthier living, we can significantly improve the health and well-being of kids.
Also celebrating kids and healthy habits is the Marina Farmer’s Market, which is hosting a Kid’s Day Celebration Sunday from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. With guest appearance of My Museum’s Wheelie Mobliee and its family fun activity carts and tables, families can dig into 50 pounds of Moon Sand, experiment with magnetism, and solar energy. And here comes the healthy part: cooking demonstrations run by CSUMB students and local Marina youth. Also: inter-active drum workshops, and creative painting for kids. All event activities are free. For more info call 384-6961. At the Marina Village Shopping Center, 215 Reservation Rd.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Sixteen remarkable youth were recognized for their leadership in the first ever Building Healthy Communities/LULAC leadership award. It was a huge party where nearly 300 people gathered at the renovated Hartnell College Center to fete the 16 youth – and their scholarships. The youth were recognized for their participation in the planning and implementing process of Building Healthy Communities, an initiative to transform the Alisal.
The awardees were: Hector Isaiah Sandoval, Cesar Guadalupe Galvan, Arturo Ramirez, Cristian Andre Trujillo, Yajaira Medrano, Fernanda Estefania Ocana, Jorge Quiroz, Karla Guillen, Ivan Sandoval, Omar Mendoza, Araceli Arementa Salazar, Yesenia Duran, Jose Guadalupe Nolasco, Elizabeth Ruvalcaba, Josue David Rubio, Bryan Perez.
Also at the event were recognized grassroots organizations that provide services to young people, including: Dan Lujan and the Salinas Boxing Club, Jose Gil and the Gil Basketball Academy, Kymm Navarette and the Salinas American Little League, Chad Parker and the Salinas National Little League, Javier Tamayo & Omar Murillo and the Alisal Percussion, and Jim Pia & Ivan Sandoval for the Breadbox Recreation Center & Alisal Skate Club.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011
For almost three weeks -- since a 40-foot section of the road fell into the Pacific Ocean, Principal Paula Terui and six teachers stayed at Ripplewood Resort, while the bus drivers stayed at the River Inn -- the drive south on Highway 1 through San Luis Obispo made it practically impossible for teachers to go back home every day. Now they board a district bus that takes them to one end of the slide and they walk across where another district bus is waiting for them.
The district originally believed 100 students would be affected by the slide, but that included 25 who live in the Palo Colorado area who were not affected. About 12 students went to school Wednesday, taking advantage of the new Caltrans opening, and 42 returned home the same day.
For the three weeks the town was practically incommunicado, three to eight students a day used Captain Cooper as a help center, said Paul Behan, director of communications for the district. Now that students can cross, the service will not longer be available, Behan said.
In the photo, provided by Behan, Captain Cooper teachers are about to cross the road to board the bus at the other side of the slide.