Dear Editor – Pink Slips and Perceptions

Dear Editor, and other concerned members of the Culver City community:

I appreciate everyone’s concern for our students and our teachers. Indeed, our students are my primary concern, and I take pride in knowing we have one of the best teaching staffs around. I’d like to try to sort through some of the misleading sound bites I’ve listened to from the teacher’s union leader over the past number of weeks.

First of all, let’s look at the administrative staff. The district office has a superintendent and has been shaved down to 4.4 certificated administrators. That’s it. For a student body of over 6,500 and an organization with over 500 employees. Those are the folks that would need March 15th notices. All the other certificated administrators are either principals or assistant principals. Classified administrators and staff require only 45 days notice; not the March 15th notice.

Now, let’s look at LAUSD’s administrative notices. The sound bite is that LAUSD lays off its entire administrative staff annually. Actually, these notices, according to our superintendent who has spoken to LAUSD officials, are merely notices to LAUSD administrators that they may be transferred to another site or another administrative position. Transferred. This is the part of the sound bite that you’ve not heard (until now), and the omission of this little bit of information creates a great misperception in terms of what LAUSD is doing and what is being advocated that we should be doing here in CCUSD.

Within LAUSD, a district that has over 100 times as many students as our district, this maneuver makes sense. They need the flexibility to move a director or assistant principal or (fill in the blank) from one ‘local district’ to another, from one middle or high school to another, etc. Our district has only one middle school. Thus, obviously, we’re not exactly going to transfer an assistant principal from one middle school to another like LAUSD does.

Next, let’s look at the concept of advocating emulating something a district 100x the size of ours is doing. Note this only occurs when it’s convenient for whatever the union leader is arguing, and usually is unrelated to the reality of a district the size of CCUSD. A fair tactic, but remember to take what you’re reading (even now, of course) with a grain of salt, or with some folks, whose primary focus is to advocate for their members, perhaps the whole shaker. For example, LAUSD has a police force to handle school security. A police force. Note that the union leader doesn’t refer to LAUSD policy and practice when suggesting what we need to do with our CCUSD security force. (The suggestion: “reorganizing the security department with security officers reporting to site principals, instead of to a security supervisor.”) That’s because it doesn’t translate. (It also makes no sense, at least if we want our kids to continue to be safe, but that’s an entirely different story.) Neither does the suggestion regarding so-called LAUSD administrative layoffs. It doesn’t translate, but it sure did make a great sound bite!

Now let’s look more specifically at the March 15th layoff notices that unfortunately some of our amazing teaching staff have received. Don’t for a minute think this is an action the Board wanted to take, or takes lightly. However, the union did nothing to help us prevent this. I sincerely hope that intelligent people on our teaching staff and in our Culver City community are not conflating what’s going on in Wisconsin and other states with what’s going on in our district. I support people’s rights to collectively bargain. I can’t speak for the entire Board, but I’d bet that’s something all of us actually agree on.

In fact, this Board sent its opening negotiation offer to the union in July. That’s July, 2010. We tried to move early and quickly in anticipation of and in the face of the severe budget crisis in Sacramento in order to come up with a viable solution and avoid as many March 15th “pink slip” notices as possible. There’s no avoiding the impact of what’s going on in Sacramento, despite the Culver City community cushioning the blow a bit by passing Measure EE. We knew this, but somehow it appears that the union did not. We asked the union to meet with the negotiation team in August. And September. And October… But the union came to the table and gave its first response in January. That’s January, 2011. And if the union doesn’t start negotiating until January, we’re not going to have a contract ready prior to the March 15th noticing time. And as a result, we had to send out March 15th notices. It’s just that simple.

Let that information settle in your mind for a minute. We have an unavoidable fiscal crisis due to the State’s deficit issues. Foreseeable; coming at us like a train barreling down the track. We try to negotiate early to avoid as many layoffs as possible, by trying to find another way to deal with the gap in the CCUSD budget. The union doesn’t come to the table in time to negotiate a contract by the March 15th “pink slip” deadline, and all of a sudden the Board is being berated for not giving lay off notices to 4.4 certificated administrators or our principals? Seriously? Seriously. At this point, shake your fist at the Board if you like, but call and write to your legislators in Sacramento; they’re the ones that control the real purse strings. And continue to ask questions of, and send emails to, the Board as well, but if at this point you don’t also have a few more questions for the teacher’s union and its leadership than you did before reading this, you should.

Sincerely,

Kathy Paspalis

www.culvercitysymphony.org

2 Comments

  1. Dear Editor,
    Thank you for publishing this well reasoned explanation. It gives a very different perspective that we all need to consider as we make up our minds about these issues.

  2. Thank you very much for your informative article Kathy. We have a lot to consider concerning these isues. I thought this quote was interesting.Thomas Jefferson: 1822 October 21. (to C.C. Blatchly) “I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue, and advancing the happiness of man.” hmmm, what would he have to say about the current condition of America’s public school system? I wonder?

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