William S. Hart Union High School District Teachers Association
President’s speech to governing board 9.15.21
September 16, 2021Michael Coombe0 Comments
President’s speech to governing board 9.15.21
Good evening school board, student board member President Dr. Moore Superintendent Kuhlman and staff. Thank you as usual for having me here tonight.
I usually start on a positive note and so I would like to address the relationship between the Union and administration as we enter what I believe to be the fifth iteration of “Teaching in the Pandemic.” Anecdotally, it has come up in the CTA office quite often as to how each district is crafting their individual MOU’s to address all the changes that have come in this pestilence. I often respond to the others that our district has already agreed to that. The open lines of communication among leadership teams has made much of this dire situation manageable.
But to that end I look out at the crowd and I don’t see many happy campers. Our staff is exhausted and demoralized due to the constant change, increased requirements, and lack of support. Above and beyond the educational part of our job in the time of this disease, is the constant worry of monitoring the safety protocols. Although we have seen members of HDTA in the news representing different stances in this battle, we as an association encourage vigilance in working with the given mandates. Just having Covid cases casts no shadows. But, ignoring protocols, or a lack of adherence to such, is a blight on our district.
But the elephant in the room is obviously salary. I see jaws drop when I tell people we have received only 1% in salary increases since 2015. We continue to fall behind the cost of living on an annual and arithmetic basis, we are struggling.
Yet, so is the district as a whole, unable to fill positions with qualified personnel if anyone at all. Teachers are retiring early, switching districts, or moving out of state due to financial concerns. Heck, retirees get an automatic 2% per year.
Many of our new teachers are interns, PIP’s, or STIP’s. I know the board may not comment here, but Mr. Webb can surely give you a very informed explanation. In layman’s terms, it’s about the same as walking down the street, asking an individual if they have a BA, and then offering them a job if they’ll sign up for an education program.
Another reason we are struggling can be evidenced in the LA County salary survey of comparables which came out on Monday. The Hart District was ranked last or next to last in almost every salary category listed.****This just exacerbates the situation, that of hiring and morale.
Again if we go back a number of years when the first cacklings of doomsday occurred and compare those long term budgets with reality, these dire predictions have not materialized. Ending balances from 2015/16-2020/21 (List and hold up graphs) are averaging around 36M for those years. I find it hard to believe that some sort of raise in these years would even put a blip on the radar.
I’m no CPA, but I don’t see how a budget study is anything but a self affirmation of a subjective presumptuous document containing the priorities of those in a position to influence the situation and control the document.
There needs to be a change in mindset. First and foremost, take care of your staff, they will take care of the teaching and learning no matter the situation in which they are placed. But as Brian Breslin once said,”We don’t give away the product.”
We went without new textbooks and made it work. We worked in crumbling schools and made it work. We worked in overcrowded schools and made it work, all the while test scores were rising. We now work in a situation where the rules seem to change every quarter if not weekly. But, your teachers and all educational staff have made it work. With our current situation and the lack of coherent direction and leadership, morale continues to slip. Members are asking, “What next?”
As a whole we are very stressed out but we continue to keep our heads above the surface. But lurking below the surface are the stressors of our home lives that begin to creep in as we spend our time attempting to adapt to the ever changing situations and then the really important things in life are left in the lurch. There needs to be change in this district, an unmistakable and tangible recognition of the herculean efforts of all the different groups that make up HDTA.
It really boggles my mind as we look at the issue of substitute shortages. What was the first solution that came from the district??? MONEY – Let’s double their pay and then they’ll come back to us. If you don’t think we’re seeing the same thing in the profession as a whole, obvious teacher shortages, poor salaries, and difficult working conditions, your head is in the sand. The simple answer is: fair wages and positive working conditions. It took less than a week to figure this out for subs, yet we haven’t had a contract since 2018-19.
So, as I stand before you today I’m somewhat embarrassed even humiliated as it seems like I come to the podium with a hat in my hand. We shouldn’t have to beg for what is right. And, as you see the crowd of HDTA members assembled, I see a group of people that want to fight for what is right, not beg for scraps.
The number one priority should be teaching and learning which comes down to the people that make it happen.
We care about our students, you need to care about us.