Bargaining Unit Members,
Today I will give information from our last bargaining meeting and other pieces of info that I have received.
VUTA President Meetings
As the VUTA President, it is my intention to meet with every school site (hope I don’t miss anyone) this week. That is roughly 45 sites. I will have a meeting with each high school, 2 middle schools at a time and 2-4 elementary sites at a time. The idea is that each school can hear a short update (10 minutes) and spend the rest of the time (50 minutes) asking me questions. I will do my best to answer. Each of you deserve the opportunity to have your own Q & A. There are 2 meetings Monday and many more during the week, so keep your eyes on your email for the date and time of your site meeting with me!! All invitations will be sent by tomorrow at 5:00pm.
You may hear the District make decisions and they may announce them. To be clear, many of these “announcements” have not been bargained and we will continue to bargain items for our VUSD educators. It is not an easy task and there are many issues yet to be decided. My special thanks to our VUTA Bargaining Team who have spent countless hours bargaining the special rules for this crazy pandemic and how we will teach this year!
Although the District office has announced the intention to use the A/B hybrid schedule as the regular daily schedule for Distance Learning, VUTA has not agreed to that schedule. That schedule can change our working conditions in multiple ways. We expect to discuss those issues this week. We have at least 2 bargaining sessions this week.
I have received MANY questions about being required to come to physical school on Monday, August 10th for the convocation. What I hear repeatedly is: if it's not safe for students, and the School Board won't meet in person, then how can it be safe for ALL of us to show up at school? So, even though teachers will choose to teach in their classrooms, they will only go their own classrooms. They will not be meeting in groups, which we have been told by VUSD not to do. The complaint I hear is that we will be required to have ALL teachers to be at school at the same time. The thought of bringing so many educators to their school site at once is causing educators additional stress. Also, broken up into small groups in a small space is another complain we have heard. We will discuss this issue during the upcoming week.
There was a rumor moving around that said we would not be able to have two-way video with our students. I received many responses from upset educators asking if that was true. IT ISN’T TRUE!! We confirmed with the District bargaining team that teachers will be able to function with our students in a manner similar to the classroom. That means that you can see your students, they can see you and the students can see and interact with other students. YOU will be able to control the video Zoom call with all students. You can put students on mute, shut down their video, and have many other Zoom Pro tools at your disposal. Also, contrary to some rumors, you will NOT be expected to record your live video classes. You may record some lessons asynchronously (a pre-recorded lesson).
Full Distance Learning (semester or year) and the Classroom
Our understanding is that teachers will be able to keep their classrooms if they are selected for Full Distance Learning to the greatest extent possible. So, if we go into the hybrid, your classroom may be needed as someone will have to teach the students that are at your site. So, if your room is needed, you may have to clean out your room. Nothing is static, everything will be fluid. We will be providing more information/options for educators who request Full Distance Learning but are not selected for Full Distance Learning in the near future.
What happens to my teaching position (2020-21) after this year?
It is both VUSD and VUTA’s intention that everyone would return to the position they had as the 2020-21 school year begins (before anyone was placed on Full Distance Learning). The caveat is school enrollment might change after the pandemic. If that happens, we will follow the Collective Bargaining Agreement as we would in any normal year.
We want to remind everyone that teachers may be moved around due to some teachers being placed in FULL Distance Learning. Things may look different at your site as student enrollment changes around the District. We predict a few teachers may get involuntarily transferred (moved to a new school) and some may be involuntarily reassigned (change of grade level or department). As I mentioned in the last paragraph, the intent is that everyone returns to their 2020-21 position when we begin 2021-22. This is certain to be part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that we are negotiating.
Working from school or working for home, or both!!
In our last bargaining session, we discussed whether teachers can work from school, home or either. The consensus reached was that educators would be allowed to do all of the above. There are some guidelines:
You must have stable internet
Instructional environment conducive to student learning.
You are using District approved laptops
You must have all the tools to teach effectively at either location
You must be available for District contact during all school hours.
Expect to spend several hours per day in synchronous instruction (whole class or small group) via Zoom.
If you do not have the following items above in place, you may be directed to teach from your school site. You would get an opportunity to adhere to the guidelines before you were asked to return to the site for your teaching assignment. We should all be aware that the public is watching and we need to keep our very best teaching practices at the forefront of everything we do.
VUTA has an express interest in making sure conditions for students and educators (all staff and students) are safe. You will hear about temperature checks. The truth is that a temperature is just one symptom of Covid-19. Scores of people do not have temperatures but are Covid-19 positive. However, this is an example of a possible protocol for Visalia Unified. So, that creates big questions if we want to make protocols like that happen daily in VUSD. There is also a question of teachers being tested for Covid-19 if and when we return to the hybrid model. We spent nearly a whole bargaining session on safety, but didn’t get very far…
I put in a request today for more clarity on what is paid training and what you “volunteer” to do. We need to know information to make informed choices. It seems like many teachers are struggling with getting trained and/or bracing for the onslaught of new programs. Add to that we begin school in Distance Learning and it will create new challenges for many of us. That’s why we are asking for the clarity on expectations. Remember, you are still on Summer Break and nothing can be required of you until August 10th…!!
Stay well, stay calm,
We can do this.
I rest easy knowing that each of our VUSD/VUTA teachers will create and deliver for our students.