Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 20, 2017

Non-punitive discipline

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

Okay folks, more on the School District.  I know I typically don’t give the school side of the City government this much attention, but I think discussions about the schools will start to ramp up given that the District and the unions are both heading to the bargaining table and the items that have been opened are work day and salary (on the teachers’ side) and class size (on the district side).

The cause for the work day opening might be the full day Kindergarten program which began at the beginning of the school year.  There’s been a lot of mixed feelings from the opening of the full day kindergarten, I imagine most parents like it but the overall sense from teachers is that the day might be a wee bit too long for the students, particularly at the beginning of the year.

Salary was a gimme opener because it’s always been a source of contention in this district with the oft quoted factoid that AUSD teachers are either among the lowest or are the lowest compensated teachers in Alameda County if you include benefits in the total compensation mix.  Ruby Bridges has lost several talented teachers precisely because of compensation alone, so it’s not as though this is a new thing.

The class size opener for the District is an interesting one it may be discussion about class size overages and what to do if a school has one or two extra students over what would be considered a “full” class.

Some of the discussion over Twitter the night of the meeting speculated during the interim financial report discussion that the Superintendent might be looking at closing schools to help balance the projected gap in funding.   To be honest I thought to myself that if that was the conversation that the Superintendent was going to initiate, it would actually show leadership in having a frank conversation about the costs of “neighborhood schools” which truly on exist for some neighborhood in Alameda but definitely not all.  It’s hard to say you have “neighborhood schools” when West End school enrollment has been decimated by schools of choice, district level enrollment shenanigans, and the lack of a traditional middle school on the West End.

But based on the comments from the Superintendent, it doesn’t sound like we’re going to have a real policy driven discussion on neighborhood school and how we promote equity for neighborhood schools, instead it feels like the discussion might be centered more on pitting teachers against one another.  In the video from interim financial report discussion here’s the relevant portion:

We have to run a tight budget.  That aspect, that bullet is very important: Discipline in FTE allocation, meaning full time employee allocation and how we staff schools.  If we continue to staff loosely and don’t staff tightly we then continue to have a leaky budget.  We spent money where we could be saving money and that means money that we can’t spent on salaries.  We just can’t have both things.  I just want the public to understand that.  When people ask that question jokingly, “why can’t we have nice things?” it’s because we have other nice things there are going to be trade offs.  If we don’t follow the enrollment, if we don’t have discipline in FTE allocation, that’s the decision making we’re going to make in the community then we’re ostensibly saying that we’re going to pay people less.

Essentially if teachers want to be paid more, they have to be willing to throw their colleagues (and their schools) under the bus to “tighten” up staffing levels. Where does this leave schools that serve transient populations and need to have some room for enrollment bubbles midyear?  No where I suppose since that would be a “leaky budget” if classrooms are staffed at less than 25 (for K-3) or 32 (4 – 5) widgets each year.

Perhaps we should be asking why we are giving additional money every year to make already attractive schools even more attractive.  Additional money that is supposed to serve our unduplicated student population that has been allocated to schools where the unduplicated population count has been declining.  We talk a lot about equity and what that means, it was even a question for the prospective Board candidates, but in practice we really do it poorly.  Even when it comes to offering equality at the high school level, we fail, let alone promoting equity.

We’ll see how the negotiations progress over the next few months.  I don’t think the salary discussion is going to go away quietly and I don’t think that the strategy of pitting teachers against one another is going to be effective.

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3 Comments »

  1. Tight budget? Lowest teacher salaries in Bay Area? Good teachers leaving for higher pay? Incredible rise in special education costs? Looming crisis in adequately funding employee pensions? Ineffective local politicians unable to get funding levels up? Another loss in a lawsuit coming over the parcel tax? 10% of the student population here illegally? District paying thousands each month for expensive digs? Federal funds threatened by district declaring itself a sanctuary district? Solution: impeach Trump, and everything will get better under President Pence

    Comment by Nowyouknow — March 20, 2017 @ 6:36 am

    • Except for the fact the Impeachment resolution was a City Council action and not the School Board. I would hope you would be able to identify the difference between the two policy making bodies.

      The District declared it to be a “safe haven” not a sanctuary district. I would hope those entrusted with educating our children would not be so eager to hand over children to the government in some misguided policy to purge the US of undocumented immigrants.

      Comment by Lauren Do — March 20, 2017 @ 7:08 am

  2. The class size issue at elementary school level is a tradeoff. Do you want larger class size or diversions? If teachers agree to take a few students (by agreeing to additional compensation) above the contractual limit, then more students would be to stay at their home school.

    As for the neighborhood school issue, it is a real estate issue. The building out of schools in 50s and 60s was done on small footprints. As a result, the physical size of the land limits the number of students per site. Yes we could have as many four less elementary schools and only one high school but finding real estate to house these large school sites would be problematic.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — March 20, 2017 @ 7:52 am


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