There is good news and bad news. Let’s get the bad news over with first.
1. The school board has met twice since the school year ended. They decided to make drastic cuts at the June meeting. The reduction of a library position caused a “domino” effect of determining which PEA member was evaluated higher than another, and who was qualified to teach various subjects and grade levels. After the dust cleared, we had one part-time member laid off, and several others reduced from full to part time or reduced in the amount of part time hours. We also lost the building technology coordinator schedule B positions, leaving all technical issues up to the two-person technology department. Several aides and other non-PEA positions were also cut, along with the entire custodial staff. The custodians are being replaced with lower-paid hourly employees from the DM Burr Company. (They started working the week of July 16.) It was also stated at the June meeting that teacher steps (the other half from last year) will cost the district $50,000, but there will be no increases to hourly wages or salaries. This was an odd statement, given that the PEA bargaining team has not even attempted to negotiate salaries. So the bottom line “bad news” is that the district is feeling the budget squeeze more acutely this year than ever before. Even with nearly a half million dollars in cuts, the budget predicts a decrease in the fund balance.
2. At the July board meeting, Mr. Miller informed the board of a Governor Snyder initiative to overhaul school funding completely BEFORE the start of the 2013-2014 school year. His various ideas for “reform” look suspiciously like the voucher proposals trotted out a decade before. If the November elections fail to unseat the legislators hostile to public education, the funding reform will become reality, and the cuts we have seen this summer will look like child’s play. We are all tired of politics, but guess who isn’t tired — the politicians.
Okay, so it’s time for a little good news. First, we had a very positive presence at the annual Kindleberger Festival, with numerous PEA members scooping ice cream and handing out popsicles at the parade. These displays of community support by Parchment teachers are not only great PR, showing our interest and commitment to the district, they are also quite fun. If you weren’t able to participate this year, be sure to mark your calendars for summer 2013.
In other news, the bargaining team has met twice with administration and has reached agreement on a few contract language items. We are also close to finalizing a calendar for next year. We have not yet started to discuss money. The settlement last year included money for steps if the per pupil funding increased. The funding did increase, so those who were on a step last year and only got half the pay will, at the very least, start next year on the same step at the full pay amount.
Finally, we have been informed that the evaluation process will change (again) this year. The administration discovered that it was hard to compare one teacher to another if they were on different forms — summative or formative. So all of us will now be evaluated on a modified summative form. The administration has also promised to provide us with more guidance regarding the types of data (to show student growth) they would like us a gather. If these improvements are made, it will be good news for us all.
Enjoy your summer, and check back here in a month or so for more updates. We would love to have a contract settlement for you when you return.