Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Where Do Educators Go From Here???

Desperately needing a cup of coffee while sitting at home when I "should have" been teaching in my own classroom, I reached for a coffee mug one of my former First Grade students gave me:

Do All Teachers Have Class?
Yes, it's true... "Teachers Have Class!"  But, what happens when a Teacher no longer has a "Class" to "Teach?"  What do Teachers do when they have been laid off after many years devoted to this profession? How do they redirect the talents and abilities God has given them? How can these talents be put to good use while financially supporting their families?  Where do we go from here? 

As the New Year rapidly approaches, these are many of the questions floating through my mind. Do we try to "reinvent ourselves" to keep busy or do we succumb to substitute teaching in someone else's classroom while the "real" Teacher takes the day off ? Yes, it is less work, but it is significantly less pay without the perks of medical insurance and an established schedule. Not withstanding, I can't forget the main reason why many of us "Teach".... We love to work with the little ones and their parents in our own Classrooms!

Yes, some "Teachers Have Class!", but not this Teacher! So, where do we go from here? Our economy is not getting better and our nation's focus is clearly not on education. Consequently, class size reduction will not be happening any time soon and school districts have no need for "seasoned and experienced" Teachers like me with their limited budgets.

I know there are thousands of unemployed Teachers throughout our nation (with 37,000 in the State of California) asking the same questions. So, any suggestions on where good Teachers go from here would be greatly appreciated.

Bring On Your Comments and Thanks In Advance For Listening.  :)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bilingualism: The System Doesn't Meet The Needs!!!

Bilingual teachers should never have been riffed as Bilingual Teachers ARE Special Education Teachers!  In this day and age, with the influx of immigrants flooding our country, the "system no longer meets the needs!" We have lots of "willing learners" but not enough bilingual teachers to communicate with them! The system, taking federal funding from No Child Left Behind, and using it towards other means is nothing less than a crime!

As I "surfed the internet", looking for links and quotes to use in my blog, I've discovered many laid off teachers are no longer "blogging" about their experiences. I'd assume it is either because they wish to remain "employable" and are fearful there will be ramifications if they express their true feelings on how their new state of unemployment has affected them, or they are over being educators, have given up, and "moved on" other professions. Or, perhaps they are just "nice people", co-dependents, who don't want to stir up trouble, decidedly submitted to their employers' decisions, and hoping for the best.

Although I see myself in nearly all  these assumptions, I have realized over my past 14 months of "silence" that I can't merely sit back and do nothing anymore! While I have appeased myself by keeping busy in other venues, I still "feel like" a teacher and I'm still a "child magnet", attracting young learners everywhere I go!  How can I be otherwise as this is what I did for 21 consecutive years before being laid off due to California State budget cuts?

I Have Kept Silent Too Long!
It is not my own selfish ambitions driving me to keep posting my thoughts, Yes, I admit, I have been wronged and would love to see justice. But, I blog for the thousands of ELL students across our nation who have been affected by teacher layoffs and for the children on Catalina Island, a place I once called "home." Let's face it, immigrant children coming to a new country speaking their native tongue need good bilingual teachers to help them assimilate into our public education system. They need bilingual teachers to both calm their fears and help them learn English to prepare them for successful futures in America. How can they rise above jobs of blue collar workers if they can't effectively communicate with their customers? What chance do they have to succeed in "American" life without English? Who will speak for these children?

I am not advocating for or against the thousands of immigrants flooding our borders everyday. But, I am advocating for the immigrant children who are pulled from their homeland, tossed into our public school system, and expected to assimilate into our culture. These children need bilingual teachers, "language specialists" with BCLAD certificates they can talk to. And, I know for a fact they will listen when a blonde-haired, blue eyed Spanish speaker like me tells them, "When I was in school, I learned how to speak Spanish, so you can learn how to speak English too!" 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My RIF Defense Part II: California Education Code 44955

Sadly, as Long Beach Unified School District, the 3rd largest District in the State of California, is situated in Los Angeles County, I taught in one of the areas where reductions in the teacher workforce were the most affected. As shown in dark blue on our California map below, Los Angeles County suffered a tremendous hit, with a "weighted average of 15 percent" reduction in teachers according to the California State Legislature's Office.
Los Angeles County's 15% Teacher Reduction 
As I was laid off during the first phase of Long Beach Unified School District Layoffs during the summer of 2010, there were bound to be mistakes and I don't blame LBUSD for laying off their teachers as it was inevitable due to State budget reductions. But, the criteria used in their layoff process causes me to debate whether I should have been laid off at all!

Part 2: California Education Code Defense

Section 44955 of California State Education Code (d) (1) states, "A school district may deviate from terminating a certificated employee in order of seniority for either of the following reasons: The district demonstrates a specific need for personnel to teach a specific course or course of study and that the certificated employee has special training and experience necessary to teach that course of study or to provide those services, which others with more seniority do not possess.

My services were greatly needed as a Kindergarten teacher on Catalina Island because 75% of the Kindergartners were learning the English language. Many of these immigrant children came to school for the first time that year without Preschool preparation as there was no Head Start Program on our Island! Furthermore, they could not afford the local Preschool as most of these students were from low income families.

My ability to speak the Spanish language, holding a California State Bilingual Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development (BCLAD) Credential, coupled with 9 years experience teaching the Structured English Immersion (SEI) Program to second language learners appeared to be the perfect fit. Taking things one step further was the fact that my Master's Degree Thesis was based on "A Comparative Study of First Grade Structured English Immersion Students and English Only Students", using results from the same Open Court Curriculum used by Long Beach Unified School District!

Throughout the LBUSD 2010 Hearings, my husband and I attempted to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I had special training and experience which others with more seniority do not possess. Besides a copy of my Master's Thesis, we presented LBUSD evidence demonstrating my 20 Kindergartners' Reading Benchmark Levels and Mathematics Test Scores were well above LBUSD District levels in both subjects!

By the conclusion of the 2010 Hearings, we had clearly proven I had special training and experience that others with more seniority do not possess. Yet, the judge laid me off like everyone else solely based on my position on LBUSD's Seniority List, contrary to California State Education Code 44955. I promptly appealed this decision based on the same Code (above), but the appeal was denied and LBUSD's attorneys wouldn't even hear my appeal. 

The following 2010-2011 school year, a LBUSD teacher with more seniority took my place in my Catalina Island Kindergarten classroom. I discovered a former English and Physical Education Middle School/5th Grade teacher hired one year before me with no knowledge of the Spanish language nor experience teaching lower Elementary English Language Learners had been assigned to my Kindergarten classroom! Apparently, Human Resources chose her because she was "next in line" for a teaching assignment without regard for her former teaching experience and in clear violation of State Education Code 44955!

Rather than choosing to live among the Island community as I did, this displaced teacher commuted to and from the Island every day, affecting both her classroom environment and parental repore. As you can imagine, the ending results were disastrous, as this former upper grade teacher had no idea how to create a classroom environment conducive to the teaching of  young minds nor the patience to do so! Although she clearly had seniority over me, she did not possess the special training and experience necessary to teach My Catalina Island Kindergartners! (More to follow in my next post.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My RIF Hearing Defense Part I: No Child Left Behind

You may wonder why I continue to Blog about my feelings while other wonderful "Rifffed Writers" have stopped writing several years ago. It is because my case never received a proper judgement and is, in my mind, still unresolved. It wasn't because I didn't try to keep my job. My dear husband did his best to represent me at the Long Beach Unified School District hearings. In fact, he did such a great job that teachers swarmed him after our presentations, requesting he represent them instead of the Teachers Association of Long Beach. While these were honorable requests, they were quickly denied, as my husband is merely a highly educated man and not an attorney!

I asked my husband to represent me because my case was different from all the other Riffed Teachers in the LBUSD Hearings of 2010. Unlike others solely based on Seniority, the basis of my case was a combination of our Federal No Child Left Behind Act and Section 44955 of California State Education Code. So, with a softcover copy of each book on hand, we proceeded to present my case. I'd love to hear what you think about it!  :)

 Part 1: My No Child Left Behind Defense.

In our nationally-adopted No Child Left Behind Act, Title I- Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged cites its Statement of Purpose in Section 1001 as follows: "The purpose of this title is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments. This purpose can be accomplished by meeting the educational needs of low-achieving children in our Nation's highest-poverty schools, limited English proficient children, migratory children, children with disabilities, Indian children, neglected or delinquent children, or young children of reading assistance."

NCLB's Remote Island Community
By receiving federal funding, school districts are obligated to adhere to NCLB's Statement of Purpose and there is no better description of our Nation's highest-poverty or limited English proficient children than the youth on Catalina Island. Cynthia Reeves, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, lays out the challenges to implementing the No Child Left Behind Act in Rural Communities in her 2003 paper, "Implementing the No Child Left Behind Act: Implications for Rural Schools and Districts."

Ms. Reeves' Executive Summary states: "The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) presents challenges for schools and districts to ensure that all students meet state standards for proficiency by 2014 and that, by 2006, all teachers are highly qualified. Because of small student populations and geographic isolation, these requirements are uniquely problematic for rural schools and districts. While the challenges are not insurmountable, rural schools and districts will require assistance and guidance from federal and state policymakers to effectively build the local capacity necessary to comply with No Child Left Behind."

There are funds made available by the federal government to assist in this process through Title IV of NCLB and the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP). Ms. Reeves indicates they "have taken an important first step toward addressing the specific challenges associated with being a small and rural school. Continued federal support, combined with state policies and programs targeting the unique needs of rural areas, will be helpful as rural schools and districts work to comply with NCLB." 

Some of Ms. Reeves' rural community needs and "challenges" include small geographical isolation affecting access to resources, small populations, declining enrollments, low-income residents, no alternative within the district for school choice (in the case of Avalon, students live on an Island), transportation issues for supplemental services, and teacher recruitment and retention.  
Interestingly, she states, "Small schools, many of which are rural, are in greater danger of being mislabeled as “in need of improvement” than large schools due to the volatile nature of school-level reporting from year to year (Figlio, 2002; Kane & Staiger, 2002; Linn et al., 2002)"; citing student mobility, an influx of immigrants, and teacher turnover can "cause dramatic fluctuations in annual average test scores."

Finally, teacher recruitment and retention were cited as major inhibitors to student progress, "Many rural schools already have difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers, particularly teachers who have credentials in several subject areas, special education teachers, foreign language teachers, and teachers for LEP and bilingual programs. Geographically isolated communities have difficulty attracting teachers to their communities because of lower pay and social and professional isolation."

As it is so difficult to retain teachers in remote locations, Ms. Reeves went to great lengths to address this issue, "One approach to improving retention frequently used in rural districts is to recruit and train teachers from the local community. By targeting individuals who have ties to the community and the qualities to be good teachers, school are less likely to lose those teachers after only a few years. Under NCLB, rural districts will have to ensure that teachers recruited from the community are certified, or have access to a teacher certification program before they enter the classroom in 2005-2006."

As a side note, I was hired by LBUSD the 2005-2006 school year to teach on Catalina Island as a foreign language teacher in a High School Spanish classroom, several classes of LEP (ELL) Middle School students, and an 8th Grade English class. The following years, I used my Spanish to teach Kindergarten Spanish-Speaking ELL students who came to me with "blank slates" as there is No Island Head Start Program. Do meet NCLB's criteria?

Finally, Collins (1999) is cited, "The degree to which a rural teacher becomes involved in the community influences his or her decision to leave or stay; therefore, retention requires a coordinated school-community effort. A school-community orientation helps new teachers overcome feelings of isolation, acquire a sense of community security, and develop professional competence." 

After working and living for 5 years on Catalina Island, I overcame all the above feelings and established working relationships with my parents, students, and colleagues. In all instances except one (lower pay), Ms. Reeves has amazingly described Avalon Schools. However, the end result was much different for me. Although many of the above factors were presented during my hearing, Long Beach Unified School District made no attempt to consider the challenges of an employee working and living in a remote Island community! Instead of retaining me as a contributing, qualified teacher in this rural community, I was laid off the same as any other teacher! And, contrary to the wishes of Ms. Reeves and the U.S. Department of Education, to this day the Island teacher turnover has continued to be an educational nightmare for LBUSD on Catalina Island!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

California Immigration & The English Language Learner

Statistics from May of 2013 show California has more immigrants than any other state and they represent more than 30% of the population of Los Angeles County. Now that the borders are no longer closed to our great State, one can only imagine how much higher this percentage will be in another year!

With the influx of immigrants comes the need for personnel to educate these English Language Learners in our California public school system. Facts about English learners from the Spring 2014 California Language Census from the California Department of Education indicate, "In the 2013-14 school year, there were 1,413,549 English learners constituting 22.7 percent of the total enrollment in California public schools. Of these English learners, the majority (73 percent) are enrolled in the elementary grades, kindergarten through grade six." Statistics show 84.24% of these English learners speak Spanish and we are told, "A total of 2,685,793 students enrolled in our California public school system speak a language other than English in their homes. This number represents about 43.1 percent of the state's public school enrollment."

We Are 23% Of California's Students
Understandably, the number of English language learners have soared through the years. California Education Code Article 3 Section 52161 of the Bilingual-Bicultural Education Act of 1976 states, "The Legislature finds that there are more than 288,000 school age children who are limited English proficient and who do not have the English language skills necessary to benefit from instruction only in English at a level substantially equivalent to pupils whose primary language is English."

Interestingly, back in 1976 we were educated on the problems our State was facing and is now facing to a further extent as immigrant children flood our borders: "The Legislature recognizes that the school dropout rate is excessive among pupils of limited English proficiency. This represents a tremendous loss in human resources and in potential personal income and tax revenues. Furthermore, high rates of joblessness among these dropouts contribute to the unemployment burden of the state."

It is no wonder California was recently "given a low grade in Education Week's annual state-by-state evaluation of school finances, teacher preparedness, academic achievement and other benchmarks."  Even worse, California was deemed the lowest in the nation with their "subpar financing!"  But wait, there's more! Due to California's current budget crisis, rather than find ways to "fix" the deficit, our government officials decided to reduce their workforce, laying off thousands of teachers while reducing the statewide teacher workforce by 11%!

California's Decline In Teaching Jobs
It is truly a vicious cycle and I speak for many educators who are asking, "What can we do to change the inevitable course of our immigrant children, when the majority (73 percent) of our English learners are Elementary School students and California has raised our class sizes from 20 to 30 students per classroom in grades K-3rd and 35 or more in grades 4th-6th?" Coupled with disregard by some Districts (like LBUSD as the 3rd largest District in California) for Bilingual Teachers to assist the parents as their children learn the English language, our State educational system is destined to fail!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What Good Is It To Be A Bilingual Teacher???

So, what good is it to be a "Bilingual Teacher?" How does bilingualism give you an advantage over others in the public school system who don't "own" a second language? Obviously, Long Beach Unified School District lacked the vision that when you are fluently bilingual you have "special training" (per California State Education Code shown below) that sets you apart from others.

California State Education Code 44995 (d)  (1)   A school district may deviate from terminating a certificated employee in order of seniority for either of the following reasons: The district demonstrates a specific need for personnel to teach a specific course or course of study and that the certificated employee has special training and experience necessary to teach that course of study or to provide those services, which others with more seniority do not possess.

I am proud to say I am Bilingual, with Spanish as my second language, and a Multiple Subject Credential with a Spanish Supplementary Authorization. It took me many years to learn this second language and it was very difficult to pass the State test to be granted a California State Bilingual Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development (BCLAD) Credential in Spanish.

Due to my bilingualism, I was given a bilingual stipend from a former employer of 9 years for using my BCLAD Credential while working with English Language Learners in their Structured English Immersion (SEI) Program. I also heard they did not include BCLAD teachers in their layoffs. Too bad I wasn't still working there! I would have both seniority and a BLAD Credential in my favor!

Upon applying for jobs in Central and Northern California, I was told by one potential employer, "You have a BCLAD Credential? BCLAD Credentials are like gold here and all the teachers with a BCLAD Credential in our District were skipped. You wouldn't have been laid off if you had that Credential here." 
BCLAD Credentials Are Like Gold?
The California State Legislator's Office 2012 Review of the Teacher Layoff Process in California indicates if a teacher "has a language specialization-credential and/or certification (for example, BCLAD)", 35% of the school districts skipped those junior employees. In fact BCLAD credentials were placed at the top of their skipping criteria, second only to a Special Education credential weighing in at 51%. Interestingly, those teaching the AVID, AP, and GATE programs were only skipped with 25% of the respondents and LBUSD placed those programs at the top of their retention list!   

Despite other Districts' decisions to "skip" their Bilingual Teachers, why did LBUSD decide not to retain all their Bilingual Teachers, considering the fact that Long Beach Unified School District, the third largest District in the State of California, has a huge Spanish speaking population? Although my place on their BCLAD Rehire List afforded me a one year temporary contract in their Dual Immersion Program, in the big scheme of things, it really made little difference that I spoke, read, and wrote fluently in Spanish as I was just another "number" in their seniority-based layoff system!

Recent 09/09/2014 statistics taken from the California Department of Education Demographics Office for the 2010-11 school year, show that among LBUSD's English Learners, the Spanish language was the most spoken by 88.9% of their ELL students. Of this ELL group, 11,084 students were Elementary School students in Kindergarten through 5th Grades.

In direct contrast, LBUSD gave special preference to only 62 BCLAD Teachers who taught ELL students Spanish primary language instruction in their 5 Dual Immersion Schools, of which I was one of them. I am not advocating for or against primary language instruction. However, I do know from years of experience working with the ELL population that there is much more to bilingualism than solely teaching the Dual Immersion Program! That being said, I believe LBUSD should have skipped all their BCLAD teachers, as with many School Districts across the State of California, rather than only those teachers servicing their Dual Immersion Program!

LBUSD had 11,084 Spanish ELL students on their roster that year, meaning thousands of families needing teachers who can speak their language to support them in the educational process at home. As a bilingual teacher, I used my second language during school events such as Back To School Night and parent conferences as well as written correspondence on report cards and clarification on weekly homework assignments. You'd think this "additional specialized skill", that couldn't be provided by a non-Spanish speaker, would account for something... especially with 11,084 students in the primary grades who are still learning English? 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Displacement Chaos In New Teaching Positions

The result of having a "Seniority-Based Rehire List" is what I have termed "Displacement Chaos." This displacement occurs when teachers who are lower on the seniority list are "bumped" out of their classrooms by those with higher seniority numbers. In the case of Long Beach Unified School District, many Elementary School Teachers found their teaching positions bumped by Middle School Teachers who also possess an Elementary School Credential. As their Single Subject Credentials gave them a "boost" on the District Seniority List, an additional Multiple Subject Credential carried extra weight too.

Middle School and High School Teachers had a distinct advantage over the Multiple Subject Teachers. Yet, as mentioned earlier, the mentality of placing an upper grade teacher in an Elementary School classroom may not be beneficial to either the teacher or students.

An Overwhelmed Displaced Teacher
Further "Displacement Chaos" occurred when teachers who had taught as many as 8 years for LBUSD were reassigned to not only another school site, but a new grade level because they were "next in line" for the position of the teacher of less seniority! This placed an added burden on the teacher, as he/she had to learn a new curriculum and accumulate new grade level materials while "moving" to a new school! Psychologists say "moving in itself" is one of the life's greatest stressors. Imagine having to "move" and "leave" your school family behind! Nearly every school in the District was affected when teachers had to say "good-bye" to their students, parents, and colleagues as they packed up their belongings to move to a different school site. Yet, these teachers were the "lucky ones" as they had a job to go to!

It wouldn't have been so bad if these teachers had been allowed to "settle in" to their new assignments and stay awhile. However, with the next group of teachers laid off the following year, these Riffed Teachers were destined to pick up and move again. But, what are the alternatives? To go somewhere else, or like me, to have no job at all? It is overwhelming either way!

Waiting & Hoping On A Rehire List

There were a few opportunities for LBUSD's RIFFED Teachers to work during the first three years after being laid off. This was due to being on a mandatory "3-Year Rehire List" as stated in California Education Code 44956: Any permanent employee whose services have been terminated as provided in Section 44955 shall have the preferred right to reappointment in the order of original employment as determined by the board for the period of 39 months from the date of termination.

I said there were a "few" opportunities for employment because their "Rehire List" grew larger with each passing year! As a result, LBUSD's Rehire List following the third year of layoffs on April 30, 2012 indicated 561 Certificated Teachers still "waiting in line" for the minute possibility to be called back to full time employment. Consequently, teachers like me who were laid off the first year in 2010 stood very little chance of securing full time employment unless, of course, they have experience in the "preferred fields" of upper grade Math and Science and Special Education!

I understand California is not the only state where educators take a back seat. A July 12, 2013 Blog from The Notebook in Philadelphia cited, "3,800 teachers and support staff laid off in June still do not know whether they will be back at work in the fall" in their article titled, "For laid-off Philly teachers, it's a mix of waiting-hoping-and-leaving." Teachers here in Long Beach know this feeling all too well!

Waiting, Hoping, Leaving

Those fortunate enough to be given full time teaching contracts within the 39 month time frame received "one year temporary teaching contracts" rather than permanent full time employment. During my first year of unemployment, I secured a position in a bilingual teaching assignment due to my placement on their BCLAD Rehire List. Lucky me, as it was the only time being Bilingual served a purpose in the Long Beach Unified School District!

Our employment didn't last long because, as with me, teachers investing their lives into these new positions lived with the inevitable fear of receiving yet another pink slip. And, as more teachers found themselves laid off at the end of that 2011 school year, I rose higher and higher into the rehire list. By the time 2012 came around, my number had risen to the rehire rank of 301 out of 561 potential teaching candidates and I knew my chances of securing work the following school year would be nearly impossible!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

California Education Code & Teacher Retention Criteria

Long Beach Unified School District in conjunction with the Teacher's Association of Long Beach based their Teacher Layoffs on Section 44955 of California State Education Code pertaining to Reduction In Number of Employees. Their case for showing preferential treatment to those with Single Subject Credentials (especially towards those with a Math or Science emphasis) and Multiple Subject teachers with a Special Education Credential is examined below:

(d) (1) A school district may deviate from from terminating a certificated employee in order of seniority for either of the following reasons: The district demonstrates a specific need for personnel to teach a specific course or course of study and that the certificated employee has special training and experience necessary to teach that course of study or to provide those services, which others with more seniority do not possess.

A March 22, 2012 Review of the Teacher Layoff Process in California from the California State Legislator's Office gave the results of a survey on "skipping" criteria used by several Districts. It was explained, "State law allows school districts to retain certain junior employees if the district can prove certain types of trained and experienced teachers meet a specific need within the district. The most common types of teachers protected under this skipping criteria are special education teachers and language specialists (see the light bars in Figure 6).

Skipping Criteria Used By Schools Districts To Retain Junior Teachers

Although there were many very qualified teachers like me with a Master's Degree in Education and California State Bilingual Teaching Certificate (BCLAD) (affording me the title of Language Specialist),  LBUSD's emphasis was clearly on the Mathematics, Science, and Special Education "courses of study." As a result, junior teachers with credentials in these three specialized areas were able to "skip" over senior teachers who had been employed in the District longer than they had.

Additionally, special consideration was given to teaching AP (Advanced Placement) courses and completing a 1 day AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) class, both geared towards Middle and High School students, and GATE (Gifted and Talented Education). Can you imagine a 1 day AVID class taking precedence over a BLAD Certificate that takes years of study while acquiring a second language? It's almost unbelievable, yet so sadly true!

Finally, Single Subject teachers without those course qualifications who also had Multiple Subject Credentials (Multiple Credentials) were given "extra" weight in LBUSD's layoff criteria. As a result, teachers holding solely a Multiple Subjects Credential with less than 8 years experience, who taught the youngest students in Long Beach Unified School District, took the greatest "hit." 

Not only our teachers suffered due to LBUSD's massive layoffs, our students were also affected when class sizes increased from 20 to 30 students in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade and up to 35 students in every 4th and 5th Grade classroom in September of 2011!  Can you imagine trying to pacify 30 Kindergartners on the first day of school with no teacher's aide?  "It ain't easy!"

Take Heed Lest Our Youth Become Mere Numbers!
Besides the heart-wrenching feeling affecting every Reduction in Force (RIF) teacher, students have been left with overcrowded classrooms and less individual attention. This layoff process, beginning in 2010 and still continuing into 2014, has clearly not been beneficial to anyone!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Heavy-Handed Teacher's Unions

Since when is it just and fair for all Certificated Teachers from Kindergarten through High School (including  School Librarians and Counselors) to be thrown into one "Certificated Teacher Layoff Pot?" Are our personalities and teaching styles so similar that we will be instinctively molded and shaped into the best teachers for our students in any teaching assignment that comes our way? 

Although an experienced Middle School teacher has a Multiple Subjects Credential, does that make her an outstanding Elementary School teacher? Does this upper grade teacher know how to relate to the mind of a Kindergarten student? Let's take it one step further, how about a High School teacher? Should he/she be able to "bump" an Elementary School teacher out of a teaching position due to  District-Based Seniority over that teacher?

All of the above happened during the Long Beach Unified School District Certificated Teacher layoff process and the Teacher's Association of Long Beach was the driving force behind it!

A Teacher Union's Heavy Hand

Here in the State of California, Seniority is not based upon how many years you have been teaching within the State, rather how long you have worked for a particular School District. Sadly, when I left my former employer to move to Catalina Island, I was unable to transfer my prior 15 years experience to my total years of service. Even sadder is that although LBUSD gave me 12 salary years credit when I began working for them, TALB refused to acknowledge those years during the layoffs! When the hearings were over and TALB got their way, I realized if I had been teaching in another State, I'd still be employed!

Let's Back Up A Few Years: LBUSD's 2010 Layoffs

Long Beach Unified School District's Teacher Layoff process resulted in a devastating blow to over 1,000 teachers and particularly those teachers who were vested in the Elementary School level. LBUSD's November 12, 2010 Certificated Seniority List of 4,664 teachers showed my ranking with only 5 years in their District as "Number 513." However, their massive layoff affected teachers with rankings into the 1,300's and hiring dates as early as the summer of 2002 who suddenly found themselves thrown into the fire of:

"LBUSD's Certificated Layoff Pot."

We were appalled to learn about the process used by LBUSD and the Teacher's Association of Long Beach (TALB) to determine who was to be laid off and who was allowed to remain teaching for their District. To our dismay, Elementary School teachers learned among the 1,300 plus Certificated Teachers on LBUSD's Seniority Layoff List that many High School and Middle School Single Subject teachers were not included in their Layoff process! Furthermore, teachers hired with me in 2005 to teach the older students on Catalina Island found themselves exempt from LBUSD's teacher layoffs!  How could that be?

Making matters worse, it was discovered during LBUSD's hearings that some Elementary School teachers were further eliminated from the layoff process due to having acquired a Single Subject or Special Education Credential in addition to their Multiple Subject Credential. Who would have known if we studied to be an upper grade teacher (especially those with an emphasis on Mathematics or Science), we would be looked upon as "more valuable teachers" than those of us who have a heart for the "little ones!"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I've Finally Returned To Post My Thoughts!!!

Two summers and one school year later with NO teaching contract, I return to my Blog!  After all, I don't have anything to lose as I am STILL Unemployed!  :(

I wish to extend my sincerest apologies to all of you who "dropped by" during my absence. I just didn't want to post what I really felt as I still had hope I'd be rehired by my former employer and didn't want to "eat" my words. However, our school year begins tomorrow in Long Beach, California and I didn't even receive a phone call to fill in as an "Overflow Teacher" as I did last year.

Don't You Love This Job?

Following my last blog post in July of 2013, I was given a temporary one month assignment by LBUSD to open the 2013-2014 school year in September. This was due to having been on their mandatory "3 Year Rehire List" as stated in California Education Code 44956: Any permanent employee whose services have been terminated as provided in Section 44955 shall have the preferred right to reappointment in the order of original employment as determined by the board for the period of 39 months from the date of termination.

Apparently, LBUSD had an unusually large number of students not yet assigned to teachers and I was "next in line" to be given an opportunity to teach. I obliged and found myself shuffled around with a group of students before finally landing an air conditioned computer lab as my classroom. Although I was assigned a 6th Grade class at one of their Middle Schools and I was used to teaching Kindergarten through 3rd Grade students, I didn't complain because for some crazy reason, "I Love To Teach!"

I am reminded of my favorite coffee mug that states:

"The Little Joys Of Teaching Are Without Number."

I guess "Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher" and it just plain hurts not to be given a teaching contract this year! Obviously, a Master's Degree in Education, 21 years teaching experience, and the ability to speak Spanish when there are so many immigrant children coming into our country doesn't make any difference! And, I would wager, we will have some of these children coming to our schools because Long Beach Unified School District is the third largest district in the State of California, with 81,155 enrolled students in the 2013-14 school year! However, instead of going to bed early in anticipation of greeting my new class tomorrow, I am writing to you on this Blog!  Figure that one out.....