Photo by Paul Chinn / San Francisco Chronicle / Polaris
A San Francisco Bay Area district will offer "student support hubs" when conditions allow to help students access resources to help them learn from home.

At Gov. Gavin Newsom’s urging, school labor and management groups agreed Wednesday on principles to guide them as they switch to distance learning and continue providing meals for students in the months ahead.

The 3-page “framework for labor-management collaboration” is not a mandate. By itself it won’t resolve acrimonious disputes over employee expectations, safety issues, hours and benefits that have slowed progress in distance learning in districts like Yuba City Unified and Sacramento City Unified. However, the document’s preface says, it could “spur collaboration” so that districts can get on with confronting the havoc created by the coronavirus.

“All districts and exclusive representatives should work together to find the best path for the students, the staff and communities,” it states.

Signers include the major associations representing school administrators, school boards and business administrators, and unions representing teachers and support staff of hourly employees (see agreement for the full list),

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond led the talks over the past month, together with Ben Chida, Newsom’s chief deputy cabinet secretary. The talks were difficult, and at one point came close to breaking down, according to some close to the discussions. Meanwhile, on their own, many districts reached either formal agreements or informal understandings on how to deal with safety threats and education challenges from the coronavirus that weren’t covered under existing contracts. These include work expectations for distance learning, and issues like supplying protective equipment for school maintenance and paying for internet access for teachers who lack it.

Other districts, particularly small and rural districts, have adopted distance learning plans that assume all teachers will follow them, said Wesley Smith, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators.

“While not legally binding, the spirit of cooperation in the document could help move things along between districts and their labor partners,” said Smith.

Reaching a deal was important for Newsom and Thurmond. Both said this week that districts should plan on schools not reopening this academic year and instead turn full attention to creating quality online instruction for all students. The agreement implies that negotiations shouldn’t hold up the need to provide “essential service to the public” — whether instruction or meal delivery — “to the extent practicable” while also maintaining employee safety.

Parents who have been waiting for the state to issue uniform requirements for what distance learning should look like won’t find that in the document. It’s unclear whether the California Department of Education plans to issue guidance on issues such as how long an online school day should be, whether the content offered should be enrichment or completion of courses students had already started, or whether teachers should set aside daily time for student and parent meetings.

Unions and management groups appear to have made concessions, although there are gray areas in the agreement’s  language.

  • Teachers and classified staff “may need to perform functions that are reasonably similar” to what they have been expected to do before the coronavirus crisis. Districts could argue, for example, that  virtual instruction is another form of teaching, and all teachers must adapt to it, and for custodians that disinfecting schools is consistent with their previous duties.
  • Time off as a result of coronavirus-related health complications should not count toward an employee’s medical leave.
  • Districts should offer to pay for child care so that teachers and support staff don’t have to take personal leaves.
  • Districts should consult with unions to determine staff assignments, health issues and workloads. While districts have the authority to determine curriculum, unions argue distance learning affects working conditions and time commitments that are negotiable.

Bargaining and collaboration are critical, California Teachers Association president E. Toby Boyd said in a statement. “The districts and schools that are working most effectively are those in which teachers were part of the discussions and involved in the distance learning planning every step of the way.”

There have been wide variations in the districts’ distance learning plans and in requirements of teachers and staff. For example, most districts are not paying teachers and hourly workers more beyond their standard pay, which Newsom guaranteed will be paid under an executive order last month. However, some districts are paying kitchen help and custodians time-and-a-half for hours performed at school.

Some districts are requiring a week of teacher training in distance learning; others are requiring a day or letting teachers determine how much training they wish to participate in. Some are providing four to six hours of virtual instruction per day, while others have set a limit of half that much.

The framework issued Wednesday won’t alter past agreements and will leave it up to local districts to interpret the language moving ahead. Smith predicts unions and management groups may read the document differently.  “It will depend on who’s reading it and how they are using it, because the decisions will be local,” ACSA’s Smith said.

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  1. Kelli Chairez 4 months ago4 months ago

    I don’ t expect to be paid, I just want to be treated fairly. Students aren’t safe at school but employees are? Ridiculous!!

  2. Kelli R. Chairez R Chairez 4 months ago4 months ago

    I am a part-time yard duty supervisor. I am not essential, I do not see why we are being forced to go back when there are no students to supervise. I have two high-risk family members. I do not feel safe at all! I am not a Guinea Pig to experiment with. I know a lot of people who feel this way. I will probably give up my job. It is unreasonable and unfair. I … Read More

    I am a part-time yard duty supervisor. I am not essential, I do not see why we are being forced to go back when there are no students to supervise. I have two high-risk family members. I do not feel safe at all! I am not a Guinea Pig to experiment with. I know a lot of people who feel this way. I will probably give up my job. It is unreasonable and unfair.

    I believe that it will be in most schools after the first two weeks, then we will close down again after we have been exposed. Insane!!

  3. Teacher 6 months ago6 months ago

    Is it actually legal to require teachers work from home, close campus and not reimburse teachers for some portion of internet or cell phone use? San Mateo County schools have decided they can save money by closing campus and requiring teachers to be available by cellphone and email; in corporate America, this is paid for in some small way. Yet another cost it is assumed teachers will absorb?? How can we get legal help with … Read More

    Is it actually legal to require teachers work from home, close campus and not reimburse teachers for some portion of internet or cell phone use? San Mateo County schools have decided they can save money by closing campus and requiring teachers to be available by cellphone and email; in corporate America, this is paid for in some small way.

    Yet another cost it is assumed teachers will absorb?? How can we get legal help with this?? No way are these districts doing the right or legal thing here.

  4. confused 8 months ago8 months ago

    The governor has ordered stay at home for all non essential jobs. School has been cancelled for the rest of the school year so teachers are all working from home, but the district insists that classified employees still work at the sites. It seems to me that classified employees do not matter to the district or the teachers would be in their classrooms too – they can just as easily do their online teaching from … Read More

    The governor has ordered stay at home for all non essential jobs. School has been cancelled for the rest of the school year so teachers are all working from home, but the district insists that classified employees still work at the sites.

    It seems to me that classified employees do not matter to the district or the teachers would be in their classrooms too – they can just as easily do their online teaching from an empty classroom as they can from their kitchen at home.

    What is essential about an aide being at the school with no children there to help, no teacher to assist? What is essential about custodians working full-time with no employees or children at the school? What is safe about making 20 people show up to an empty school with nothing to do?

    This is a very dangerous time in our lives but it seems more important to make classified employees go to work when it’s not needed and risk their heath and their family members health and possibly lives because they are getting paid.

    Everyone is getting paid thru the end of the school year but only classified need to risk their health and go out in public just to get to what is now an empty school? It seems quite obvious that the only reason classified have to show up to a vacant school is because they are getting paid to be home. Some districts are giving time and a half for their employees if they must work but not this one. If this is such a problem, why don’t they just furlough everyone and spare them the stress and worry of if and or when they might catch this terrible virus. Just remember. This is not about money! All of our lives matter!

    Replies

    • P&T 8 months ago8 months ago

      The district where I work has it figured out. Custodians only show up in the morning to assist with "grab-n-go" food services. Night custodians are home on call, as well as any rover custodians. Maintenance workers work 1 day a week each. Schools still need to be monitored, safety checks performed and high priority work orders must be done. You can't just shut the doors on millions of dollars worth of facilities and equipment and … Read More

      The district where I work has it figured out. Custodians only show up in the morning to assist with “grab-n-go” food services. Night custodians are home on call, as well as any rover custodians. Maintenance workers work 1 day a week each. Schools still need to be monitored, safety checks performed and high priority work orders must be done. You can’t just shut the doors on millions of dollars worth of facilities and equipment and expect everything to be A.O.K. when it’s time to open back up. We still have to be good stewards of the taxpayers investment. That’s part of what makes classified employees “essential.”

  5. SD Parent 8 months ago8 months ago

    The most important stakeholder wasn't consulted on this framework, the various agreements between school districts and their employees, or the CDE guidelines. Students--and their parents (who are home trying to work their jobs without childcare and will very likely be expected to supervise their child's education during "distance learning")--have had no input and zero support from state leadership that the education students receive will be quality. Where is the leadership to meaningfully represent … Read More

    The most important stakeholder wasn’t consulted on this framework, the various agreements between school districts and their employees, or the CDE guidelines. Students–and their parents (who are home trying to work their jobs without childcare and will very likely be expected to supervise their child’s education during “distance learning”)–have had no input and zero support from state leadership that the education students receive will be quality.

    Where is the leadership to meaningfully represent the best interests of students? Who is collecting data on when formal distance learning takes place, and what metrics will be used to determine whether students learned anything? Local control now seems more and more to look that it will be local dysfunction and undoubtedly poor educational outcomes for students.

    Replies

    • Araceli Orozco 8 months ago8 months ago

      Thank you so much for your comment, SD Parent. Many parents feel this way. Unfortunately the lack of leadership in our districts and in our state will affect the future of our children especially the most vulnerable.

    • Teacher 6 months ago6 months ago

      No – Parents aren't consulted in our contract negotiations. Were your clients consulted on your work from home hours, pay and other procedures? Do you include clients to decide on your job offer/bonuses/pay/hours/reviews/vacation/safety/ office climate? When teachers aren't making living wages for CA rent, do parents stand up and say we weren't consulted? What about when class sizes increased by at least 5-9 students? Or when districts require staff meetings outside of paid contract hours? … Read More

      No – Parents aren’t consulted in our contract negotiations. Were your clients consulted on your work from home hours, pay and other procedures? Do you include clients to decide on your job offer/bonuses/pay/hours/reviews/vacation/safety/ office climate?

      When teachers aren’t making living wages for CA rent, do parents stand up and say we weren’t consulted? What about when class sizes increased by at least 5-9 students? Or when districts require staff meetings outside of paid contract hours?

      When your teachers have unpaid open houses, back to school nights? Or that early/late conference you need for your schedule?? No extra pay for those. It is assumed that we put in our paid hours then those just because….

      When students in K-3 go to school for more minutes than legally required – reducing time for teachers to prep things for little kids (like tear pages out) so teachers do it for free on the weekends? Are you there then? If your school doesn’t have 3 different schedules for minutes fight for it… if you do? Thank the teachers that fought (and won) for your kid’s development and mental health.

      If you want to be involved with teacher’s contacts get involved for the serious issues we face always. How many times have you fought for the 20 student max again so your student gets more contact time with the teacher (for distance or at school)? Teachers fight class size yearly to benefit your kids – where are the parents then? How about when art gets cut to add an administrator in the district office that doesn’t support your kids? (Or teachers).

      Funny.

      • Parent 5 months ago5 months ago

        Funny. First: I assume you became a teacher to help educate children. What you are complaining about all existed way before this pandemic. Who told you that you would get rich and have all your wants and wishes granted if you became a teacher? No one. Yes, teachers get screwed in a ton of ways, but who forced you to take the job? You complain about the most petty aspects of being a teacher. Tearing out pages on … Read More

        Funny.

        First:

        I assume you became a teacher to help educate children. What you are complaining about all existed way before this pandemic.

        Who told you that you would get rich and have all your wants and wishes granted if you became a teacher? No one.

        Yes, teachers get screwed in a ton of ways, but who forced you to take the job? You complain about the most petty aspects of being a teacher. Tearing out pages on the weekend, really? Grow up, people in all industries take work home with them and don’t get paid for it. However, you don’t ever express concern about the effect this is having on the children or the importance of returning to normal operations. Instead you whine and complain about what’s unfair for teachers. Right now you’re right, we parents don’t give a care about your issues. We care about our children and our jobs. Your children will be fine at home with a teacher for a parent and your job is allowing you to work from distance.

        Second:

        I don’t think parents should be consulted when it comes to a teachers contract negotiations, but the needs of your customers (parents/children) must be considered. When you make decisions that are not amenable to the majority, you go from solving one issue to creating a million more. You talk about CA wages and cost of living, but how many parents do you think are able to stay home and not work so they can assist their children with distance learning? You see there are those of us (essential workers) who didn’t get the option of working from home and are not able to adhere to the policies being put forth without risking our employment.

        What we parents are concerned about, is not the education issues that have been around for decades, but rather what we can do now to combat the unique scenario presented to us. I am at work risking my life everyday, how about you stop crying and get back to doing your job.