Evergreen Teachers Association
Engaging Students, Involving Families, & Empowering Teachers since 1963



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ETA endorses Vince Songcayawon
Evergreen School Board

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Opportunity to Work Initiative - Info / Committment

Board Comments 10-13-16
Retro by J. Beckley

Good Evening Trustees, Colleagues, and Community Members,
Part of the job of a union is to give feedback on decisions made by management in terms of how they affect both employees and, in our line of work, students. Last month the school board was given an enrollment report, but I wanted to fill in some missing details because I'm never sure what Trustees are actually told about the "business" of running a school district. Besides, this was not a normal year.
I begin by giving credit to Superintendent Gomez for allowing me to participate in the daily enrollment meetings for the first two weeks of school every year. My primary role, as I see it, is to advocate for additional teachers where needed. This year was very different due to a decision made by management over the summer. Worried about the potential for an even larger loss of students, Evergreen School District announced a hiring freeze in July and, for the first time ever, started the year with non-credentialed substitutes in classrooms around the district.
Four kindergartens were indeed closed after school started - Dove Hill, Millbrook, Montgomery, and Whaley. In all four cases there were three classrooms with somewhat lower enrollment. Imagine the possibilities if those smaller student/teacher ratios were allowed to continue, especially given three sites Title I status. Instead, at each school, the proposal was made to eliminate one, load the other two to the maximum of 25, and overflow the extra students. It was presented as the only choice since those substitute teachers could not continue, and there was no one else available to hire because of the ongoing teacher shortage. Unfortunately, the situation worsened. In addition to moving a Montgomery kindergarten teacher to the 5th grade spot occupied by one of those subs, another upper grade teacher was pulled out, and two combination classes were created - a 4/5 and a 5/6.
As you can see by the chart provided to you, this was not a normal year. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding my notations. Besides the Kindergarten situation, in a normal year, I would have also advocated for additional primary teachers at Millbrook, Evergreen, and JF Smith because they were impacted. Instead, everyone was loaded to the maximum, and excess students were overflowed to Norwood Creek, Carolyn Clark, and Laurelwood respectively.
Understand, I'm not disputing the reality of the teacher shortage here in San Jose, California, and throughout the nation. What I am greatly concerned about is the effect the decision to freeze hiring had on the overall health of our district. Back in July, there still were teachers interested in working in Evergreen, including some of our own recently released from their temporary contracts. By the end of August, they were long gone, having been hired elsewhere, and we were out of options.
I do realize carrying more teachers would increase expenditures, which is not a decision to be taken lightly. However, in a normal year, having a substantial reserve gives Trustees the flexibility to examine the situation and balance the future financial needs of the district with the current academic and social emotional needs of the students we serve. I also realize we are a declining enrollment school district, and that can be very scary. I'm concerned the reactionary decision to freeze hiring actually exacerbated the problem by increasing the likelihood of parents removing students from a district with so much turmoil and uncertainty.
Finally, I realize there's very little to be done about the situation for the current school year. However, I feel confident in saying the class size issue will be brought to the bargaining table. This was not normal, and one of ETA's goals is to work to ensure it never happens again.
Thank you

Postscript: Trustees agreed to agendize enrollment for a future meeting

Brian Wheatley, ETA President
408-272-0601 ext. 215

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Dates to Remember

EBoard - Nov. 1 (Mt. Ham @ 3:45 PM)
Election Day - Nov. 8
Rep Council - Nov. 8 (TBD @ 3:45 PM)
School Board - Nov. 10 (BR @ 6:30 PM)