Sunday, July 22, 2018

May - July Newsletter

Dear Friends of TUSD:

I hope this message finds you well.  I have not written since we learned that the #REDforED movement was successful.  I hope I haven’t left you hanging!  There is much info to share, but I tried to be brief.

If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out, as always.

Prioritizing Educators in the Budget
On May 1, 2018, the board discussed “prioritizing educators in TUSD,” (as mentioned in my last newsletter).  You can watch our conversation here, at minute 1:56:30: http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video/ctl/view/itemid/184151?returnurl=http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video.  I am interested in your feedback if you listen/watch first-hand.  I was surprised that some of the other board members were against considering the ideas. 

Board Dynamics
Mr. Hicks and I got together last week in an effort to find a middle ground, which I believe we did.  I hope and trust that the community will see a marked (positive) difference in the way we interact at meetings.  We are both dedicated to serving the TUSD community to the best of our abilities.   

#REDforED
Arizona Educators United (AEU) showed everyone how to work together to “git ‘er done” this year.  Although the legislature did not come through with the funds that AEU requested (to restore 2008 school funding levels and more, as discussed in the last newsletter), the legislature did vote to adopt the “20 by 2020 Plan.”  The Plan’s central promise is to raise teacher salaries by 19% by 2020. 

To begin honoring the Plan, the Az legislature sent TUSD a total of $15,095,093 and, on May 22, 2018, the board voted on how to allocate this “REDforED money.”  Nine per cent, a total of $11,295,903, was to be dedicated to teacher raises.  The board voted to give the 9% raises to teachers, by way of a $3000 payout to each.  I voted against the proposal because I wanted the board to allocate the money differently, in terms of a percentage raise and not a flat payout. 

The legislature also sent us additional money for capital improvements, in the form of District Additional Assistance (DAA), totaling $3,800,000.  The board voted to spend this DAA on salary raises for the members of each bargaining unit.  I did not think that we should have focused on entire bargaining units; instead, I wanted to differentiate among the highest and lowest paid members of each unit. 

It was my understanding that all board members agreed that no option that the administration put forward was ideal as it was.  Each option needed “tweaking.”  But the board voted to approve an option presented (#2) in its entirety, without any tweaking.  You can watch our discussion here, at minute 2:42:00: http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video/ctl/view/itemid/184430?returnurl=http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video.  You can see the options that the administration presented here: http://govboard.tusd1.org/Portals/TUSD1/GovBoard/docs/packets/packet05-22-18/5-22-18-BAI11-Presentation.pdf.  I would have used the funds to reallocate priorities, as evidenced by salary schedules (as discussed at the school board meeting on May 1). 

The Deseg Tax
When the legislature voted for the 20 by 2020 Plan, the legislature also voted to saddle Pima County voters with higher taxes.  Read about it here: https://www.azpm.org/s/57355-pima-sups-approve-plan-for-tusd-desegregation-tax/ and https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/arizona/articles/2018-05-28/tucson-school-districts-desegregation-funding-threatened.  We should fight the decision because it is not constitutional in Arizona, according to many legal scholars.  

I hope you will join us in doing your part to discourage the legislature from trying to shift State-level fiscal burdens onto local taxpayers.  I understand that public charters are funded at 80%—and public districts, like TUSD, are funded at 15%—of the State District Additional Assistance, which is paid to districts because of a court case.  The new legislation does not change that.  

It may actually make it worse.  The legislature has given with one hand (about $15 million in additional aid), but it has taken away with the other (about $17 million in tax monies) by way of this “deseg tax” in Pima County.  The board will continue to discuss the matter and decide how to proceed.  Please reach out and share your perspective with us. 

Finally, please, before you vote this August-November, read about the candidates, and look up their voting record (for example, here: https://www.azcleanelections.gov/en/voter-dashboard?addr=85701 (type in your address and you can where to vote, what is on your ballot, and more) or here: https://votesmart.org/officials/AZ/L/arizona-state-legislative#.W1S4ONgzqnh.  (If you click on a candidate’s name, you get info about how they voted on various issues)).  The blame for TUSD’s woes does not lay entirely with the legislature, but that does not excuse any State representative for displaying animosity toward a public school or resident of Pima County because we are not improving fast enough.  We need fiscal support, not micromanaging.

TEA Consensus Agreement
On June 12, 2018, the board discussed the TEA Consensus Agreement (CA).  I voted against approving it, though the document was approved by the board (3-2).  I did not vote for the CA last year either.  The issues I identified last year and again this year, with the help of those under TEA’s purview, were not addressed.  Nor were those of other board members.  You can watch the conversation at minute 1:31:10 at: http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video/ctl/view/itemid/184542?returnurl=http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video.

Code of Conduct
TUSD has a new Code of Conduct (CC) for 2018-19.  I did note vote in favor of approving it, though I believe it is a major improvement over the CC that was previously in place (“Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities”).  You can watch the conversation here, at minute 3:43:35: http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video/ctl/view/itemid/184754?returnurl=http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video.   

Teachers have additional rights under the 2018-19 CC, which is good.  It is now written that teachers may send disruptive students out of the classroom to Positive Intervention Centers (PICs) that will be established in some schools.  The document is also shorter and easier to read and signals a move toward better customer service. 

However, I believe that the CC could be stronger, which is why I did not vote for it.  I also have questions about new reporting requirements—principals and assistant principals are required to meet often with district-level supervisors.  Some of the reporting requirements do not seem to work in the environment of a school, where administrators often have to think on their feet and “put out fires” as quickly as possible.  I think it is best for supervisors to spend their time with administrators on establishing and improving discipline and instructional systems that work to prevent issues, rather than on authorizing decisions principals made in the past. 

Also, teacher rights are not adequately outlined in the CC.  The TEA Consensus Agreement and statute are clear about what teachers may do to maintain the learning environment.  But the CC makes it seem as though teachers can only send students out of the classroom to PICs.  The issues that teachers share with me often revolved around a lack of administrative support.  Adding the PICs should help, but they will only be on some campuses, and there is a question about who will staff the centers and for what purpose, whether PIC students will engage in academic or socio-emotional or other kinds of instruction.  In the end, I do not think that adding reporting and supervision requirements for administrators, without more, is the best way to make sure administrators support their teachers and students.     

Budget
The Board approved the proposed budget for next year on June 26, 2018.  We approved the final budget for next year on July 10, 2018.  We will revisit the budget in a budget study session soon.  This is the second year that the board will have budget study sessions, so we are still learning how to best format them to achieve our goals.  As to the budget we authorized, there is concern about a small carry-forward, questions about how the administration plans to proceed taking substitutes back in-house, and more.  (More about the subs below, under ESI and TUSD Substitute Teachers).  I think the key is embracing technology to be as efficient as possible.

Innovation and Efficiency Measures
I am told that the district is going to consider partnerships with innovative companies in an effort to increase efficiency and effectiveness while spending less.  The name of the game is: Do More With Less.  We must innovate, and there are companies that can help us.

Pima County may also be able to help, as Mark Stegeman has pointed out.  I have joined him in asking about how the County may be able to assist TUSD with finance functions.  The Arizona Auditor General reported that TUSD’s Finance Dept. was over-spending last year.  Although we have made cuts in Finance, and the district is moving toward a more decentralized model (though not to the extent of previous years), and spending for finance related matters will be reflected at the school level to provide a more accurate picture, we must do all we can. 

ESI and TUSD Substitute Teachers
The board voted to not renew a large portion of a contract with an employee staffing company we previously used to find and employ substitutes (ESI).  The subs have been lobbying the board for some time, sharing with us reports of poor working conditions and asking to return as TUSD employees.  The board voted to outsource subs from ESI under the previous administration.  Ms.  Dolores de Vera began lobbying board members in early 2017, if not before, and she was joined by Jerry Schuster and many others at least a year ago.  So, on June 26, 2018, when the ESI contract came up for a vote (after extensive discussion at previous board meetings), four out of five members voted to not renew the contract.  Watch our conversation, beginning at mark 4:19:50, at http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video/ctl/view/itemid/184754?returnurl=http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video. 

The administration needs more time to determine its next steps in a way that the board will approve.  The plan needs to be efficient and effective, probably relying on technology over human resources.  So, the board voted on July 10, 2018, to extend the old ESI contract for one semester to give Human Resources more time to set plans to take the subs back in-house by January 2019.

“Philosophy 101”
On July 10, 2018, the board did not discuss the matter of approving a course introduced as Philosophy 101: Ethics, Economy, and Entrepreneurship.  Teachers brought the course forward, apparently at the prompting of the administration, because the board voted to discontinue the course last year.  The board had never voted to approve the course before it was offered, and community members had concerns about the textbook used in the course, Ethics, Economy & Entrepreneurship

The textbook is reputed to be far-right-wing, based on libertarian ideals, and biased.  At least one teacher claims that the course is not biased, and it simply gave students an opportunity to study entrepreneurship.  Students use the skills they develop in the process to develop an idea for starting a small business, ideally one that will improve lives, and present the idea in “Shark Tank style” to an audience.

The class and textbook came to the board on July 10, 2018 for discussion and a vote.  We voted to remove consideration of the textbook until after it had gone through a 60-day review, as required by policy IJJ.  The board then voted to postpone discussion of several agenda items, including Phil 101.  I was content to postpone the class discussion until after the book had been through its 60-day review.  You can watch the conversation here, at mark 33:00: http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video/ctl/view/itemid/184801?returnurl=http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video.  Community members and a teacher spoke at the call to the audience, beginning at mark 43:27: http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video/ctl/view/itemid/184801?returnurl=http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video.

Since then, I requested that the matter of the course come back to the board when the 60-day review period ends.  I believe that the teacher and students who wanted to offer and take the course deserve proper consideration.  I think they deserve the chance to hear what board members think and how we would vote on authorizing the course, in case they want to bring it back for discussion at another time. 

District-Wide Reorganization Plans
TUSD continues to focus on downsizing its administration and investing more into the classroom.  Efficiency and customer service, along with improved systems of communication and higher student achievement rates are the goal.  Please reach out and let us know how you think we are doing.

Sit & Chat
I will host a small gathering on July 28, 2018 at CeeDee’s Jamaican Kitchen on Speedway from 1:30 – 3PM.  Please let me know if you plan on joining us.  I hope you can make it (children are welcome).


Enjoy your evening.

Sincerely,
Rachael Sedgwick
Read this newsletter and others online at: http://sedgwick4tusd.blogspot.com/2018/07/may-july-newsletter.html 


-- 
It always seems impossible until it's done. --N. Mandela

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