Dear Editor – Controversy and Perspective

Dear Editor,
Wow! The right has really done a number on us! Here we are in Culver City, which prides itself on being liberal, and all it takes is a threat of a grievance by the CCUSD classified employee union (ACE) for union-bashing to rear its ugly head, all while people say “I’m not anti-union.”
Can we all please take a very large chill pill?
I am a former El Marino parent who happily paid her ALL dues so that there would be a Spanish-speaking adjunct in my children’s classrooms. I am a teacher for LAUSD who has been very grateful over the years to have a teacher’s assistant in her class. In fact, I don’t think I would have survived my first year teaching without my TA, who I believe is now a teacher herself. I believe in the adjunct program and I would like to see it continue.
However, I believe that there is much, much more to this district than El Marino, and I believe that those of us who value our community’s schools need to consider what Debbie Hamme, ACE president, has said. Maybe she is right. Maybe there is an equity issue when one or two schools can afford to fund-raise for adjuncts so that the children in those schools have more adults in their classrooms while the children in other schools don’t get the additional adult support because their parents simply cannot afford $40-50. Maybe that’s a way that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Maybe, just maybe, we don’t really want to live in a community where that is OK.
Yes, I know that there are some paraprofessionals paid through Title I and Bilingual funding, but I don’t think that they provide the quantity of support that the adjuncts at EMLS provide.
The last I checked, an actual grievance had not actually been filed. It would be great if we all knew the process if a grievance is filed. From what little I have been able to find out the grievance would be filed with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB). PERB would then determine whether the grievance is valid or not. If PERB decides that ACE is right, our school board would need to respond to the PERB decision by making changes recommended by PERB. If PERB decides that the district is OK having adjuncts paid by parent organizations in classrooms, then nothing has to change. That’s why we have an organization like PERB to make these decisions. As a member of UTLA, I know that sometimes PERB agrees with the district, sometimes it agrees with the unions. As parents, we have to trust the process. If I am wrong about the process, I would love to have someone correct me.
Yes, parents have rights. We clearly have the right to volunteer in our children’s classroom. That does not seem to be an issue, even though a lot of dust was kicked up about it. Whether we actually have the right to raise money to pay someone to “volunteer” in the classroom may not be so clear-cut. That’s what PERB will have to figure out.
In the meantime, until an actual grievance has been filed, and until PERB has made a decision, maybe we can all take a deep breath and let the school board work on issues that are actual, current problems like figuring out the budget for next school year.

Chris  Ferreira

The Actors' Gang


  1. Dear Chris, I spent time trying to see Ms. Hamme’s point of view when the “have and have not” issues raised its ugly head. El Marino’s adjunct program and booster club have been around for some twenty years. The La Ballona program (where my daughter attends) and Linwood Howe program is brand new. It is NOT a matter of what parents can and cannot afford. It is a matter of organization and time to grow. You are playing into stereotypes and assumptions.
    In addition to claim that one set of adjuncts isn’t of the same quality? Exactly, how do you know that? Did you know that the adjuncts proposed at La Ballona are the same people at El Marino who just want additional hours. Right now, I have a parent/teacher who comes in of her own time without pay assisting after school doing what I consider to be, a fantastic job. And as any teacher can tell you, I am one of those overly involved pain in the kester parents with very high standards. So please, before you bash parents, you need to inform yourself!

  2. I didn’t say anything about the quality of support from either group of adjuncts. I said quantity, because I don’t know how thinly spread the district-funded TAs are at the schools that do have TAs funded through Title I or bilingual programs.

  3. Thank you Christine for your thoughtful analysis, and while I understand El Marino’s parents pride in their program, I’d like to see us all invest that kind of energy, passion and commitment in our entire school system. What can we all do to insure that the students in all our schools enjoy the same benefits? I urge anyone interested in making our schools better to attend our school board meetings. The next one is this Tuesday night, 7pm, City Hall, Balkman Chambers.

  4. Equity is not the issue. The folks at LinHowe raised money to support a program of classroom helpers that they at one point called curriculum coaches. (I apologize that I do not know what they call them now.) They found 5 wonderful people who were willing to accept one fifth of what the booster club raised for a 10 month obligation. Here’s my understanding of what happened next: ACE got into the act and demanded that the helpers be accorded the protection of the Union (whether they wanted it or not), the District in response took over the payments from the booster club. The wonderful benefit of all of this Union looking out for the poor employees is that the program was slashed and only 3 helpers were hired. (I believe they were able to add a 4th recently.) Where is the equity in that? Why did the kids and the LinHowe community have to give up the benefits of their hard work and fundraising. Where is the fairness in that?

    At La Ballona, the fledgling immersion program is growing and flourishing. They have a fantastically involved parent group even though they are one of the six schools in the district identified as Title I, which means that a certain percentage of their students are socio-economically disadvantaged. Shouldn’t the parents at La Ballona be able to step up and help their kids by hiring helpers or adjuncts? If they can only do this under Union rules, then they lose control of who they (guided by their principal and teachers) would like to hire, are at threat of losing the employee to other schools, and would have to raise significantly more money to reach the Union required financial commitment. Where is the equity in threatening the very formation of a program? Why should the students and the La Ballona community have to give up so much to accede to Union demands?

    Why should any parent group work hard to fundraise under these circumstances? How does any of this benefit the students?

    As to whether a grievance has been formally filled. It does not matter! Talk to any booster club board member and ask them if the District (acting in response to the Union demands)is telling them to either not hire or to plan to comply with Union requirements.

    This is not a Union bashing issue. ACE should keep its focus where it belongs, protecting the rights and benefits of its members. It should not be seeking to take over parent-funded programs!

    I am a former Board member and President of Advocates for Language Learning El Marino, I helped in the application for non-profit status for Panther Partners, ALLEM, and the LinHowe booster club. I am a regular volunteer at the Middle School.

  5. I am late to this discussion, but relieved to find out that there are other reasonable people living in this community like Jim and Chris. It does get lonely when the rest of the populace has a case of mass hysteria.

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