SCTA’s Proposal to Safely Re-Open Schools: Vaccinations, COVID Testing, Resources for Students, Implicit Bias Training
After weeks of waiting for Superintendent Aguilar and the SCUSD Bargaining to present the District’s plan to reopen schools, teachers presented our proposal on August 17th, which you can view here.
We have raised our concerns regarding the lack of preparation and responsiveness of the District’s bargaining team, including its failure to make a written proposal to safely reopen schools. While he has not yet participated directly in negotiations, Superintendent Aguilar confirmed in a bewildering letter, the District has no intention of providing an actual proposal and demands that SCTA inform the District of the matters that it is obligated to negotiate over. Despite spending millions on Lozano Smith, the District’s outside law firm, Mr. Aguilar still seems oblivious to the fact that California labor law requires an Employer to notify the Union in writing of any potential change in working conditions, PRIOR to its implementation. We have informed the District that we will be taking further legal action against the District for Mr. Aguilar’s continued unlawful actions.
Hoping to surmount the District’s dysfunction and lack of leadership, SCTA’s proposal addresses many of the known issues that teachers, support staff, parents and students believe should be addressed before school starts on September 2. The new proposal from SCTA follows up on the framework teachers presented on June 8, 2021, “Back to School Better,” that the SCUSD bargaining team still has not addressed.
At the heart of SCTA’s proposal is the health and safety of students and staff:
- Vaccinations and Required Testing: Consistent with Governor Newsom’s August 11, 2021 Executive Order, staff must show proof of vaccination or be tested regularly. Additionally, following the model set forth by the Los Angeles Unified School District, staff and students would be tested at least weekly, regardless of vaccination status.
- Ventilation and Filtration: Our proposal extends the pathbreaking improvements to ventilation and filtration, including the inclusion of portable, scientifically proven HEPA filters and CO2 monitors for classrooms, those protections would be guaranteed and enforceable during the 2021-22 school year. Inexplicable, the District is balking at extending this provision.
- Viable Options to In-Person Instruction: Since the spring, SCTA has been urging SCUSD to create a virtual learning academy like neighboring school districts to allow a broader range of learning options for students who may not feel safe returning to in-person instruction. SCUSD failed to respond and is now scrambling to create an independent study option as mandated by state law. Opposition from educators and parents to the District’s initial plans have already resulted in significant changes to the District’s plans, but the District’s “plan” remains vague and undeveloped, and the District still has not put an actual proposal in writing regarding the independent study program. With two weeks to go before the commencement of the new school year, SCUSD faces a massive teacher shortage with more than 125 teacher vacancies, not including the dozens of educators who will have to be added to staff the new independent study program.
- Mandatory anti-Racist, Implicit Bias Training for All Staff: The SCTA Equity team developed a two-day training for all staff prior to the commencement of classes that includes two modules of implicit bias training for all staff. Since 2016, it has been SCUSD school board policy that staff receives this training, but still more than five years later, the District remains out of compliance with school board policy. The District’s in-house counsel acknowledged that the District was non-compliant, yet the District’s bargaining team still rejected our professional development proposal.
- Additional resources to improve student outcomes, addressing the staffing crisis: SCTA has also proposed the addition of school nurses, social workers and other professional support, including academic intervention specialists. SCUSD states in the spring it authorized more than 140 new positions to be paid out of COVID funds. When asked if the positions had been posted, Chief Acacemic Office Christine Baeta stated dozens of the positions have gone unposted because the District has not created new job descriptions for the positions, and as a result the positions would not be filled when classes begin. She declined to provide a timeline when a draft of the job descriptions would be completed. In addition, we pointed out that while surrounding districts are offering bonuses and other incentives to recruit and retain staff, SCUSD is demanding a $750 PER MONTH reduction in the take-home pay for the average SCUSD educator, which hardly makes SCUSD an attractive place to work.
We continue to invite Superintendent Aguilar and a member of the school board to attend at least a portion of the negotiations to see the lack of preparation and responsiveness from the District’s bargaining team. Unfortunately, as shown in this recent letter from School Board President Christina Pritchett, she fully supports the District’s direction and “trusts the District’s negotiations team and has faith in the team to represent the District’s goals and guiding principles for student success.”