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Guest blogger Camille Zombro, president of the San Diego Education Association, is arguing today about why she believes the school district needs to add a “maintenance of standards” clause to teachers’ contract. Confused? Read the background on this debate here.

These are her opinions, not mine, so if you have questions, comments or counterarguments, feel free to post them here in the blog or e-mail Camille directly at zombro_c@sdea.net. Don’t forget to tell her if she can use your name to respond to your points in a blog post! We’ve also got a counterblogger lined up for tomorrow.

EMILY ALPERT

Among the rumors that seem to persistently surround contract negotiations between the San Diego Education Association and the San Diego Unified School District, there is one allegation that is as troubling as it is untrue. This is the notion that SDEA is attempting to sneak some sort of Machiavellian “veto power” language into the contract under the guise of a “maintenance of standards” clause.

Critics have alleged that maintenance of standards would produce catastrophic effects ranging from the somewhat mundane (slower textbook adoptions) to the truly obscene (all education reforms would have to be blessed by the union).

The extent to which the maintenance of standards hysteria has gained traction indicates that those who propagate these rumors are at best intentionally ill-informed and at worse maliciously anti-educator. The facts about SDEA’s maintenance of standards proposal are readily accessible, and in no way resemble what we have just described. When we bargain for the working conditions of educators, we are bargaining for an improved learning environment for San Diego’s children. We take this dual role very seriously.

San Diego’s Educators Discuss What It Takes to Meet the Needs of Our Students

All of SDEA’s bargaining proposals, including maintenance of standards, grew out of a series of listening sessions including over 5,000 educators at over 170 school sites. What we heard time and again, from pre-K through grade twelve, from nurses to counselors, from librarians to speech pathologists, was that the workload that educators contend with on a day-to-day basis has gone from merely excessive to truly unmanageable – and it’s getting worse.

Even before the most recent round of slashed budgets, class size increases and cuts to support staff, the District’s roller coaster strategy of reform piled atop untested reform has left San Diego’s educators struggling to meet the revolving door of new requirements – let alone actually teaching the students sitting in front of us every day.

When, for example, the District decided to change to a new report card which required at least 20 more hours to prepare, no consideration was given to providing teachers extra time. When counselors had “test coordination” added to their myriad duties, administration refused to consider which of their other duties should be taken away. When nurses were forced to fill out layers and layers of new forms, the District failed to plan for how they would complete this work while continuing to provide quality care for the students in their charge.

And when preschool educators were forced to track stacks of new paperwork, the District disregarded how that would add hours of secretarial work to their teaching day. The bottom line is that our plates are already full and spilling over from state, local and federal mandates. And the changes keep coming.

Bargaining to Restore Sanity in Our Classrooms

As SDEA looked to bargain a reasonable workload model into our contract, we used a standard piece of contract language that is common in many districts and workplaces across the country: “Maintenance of Standards.”

To explain the concept simply, maintenance of standards means is that if a teacher is required to complete tasks X, Y and Z during the current school year, the District cannot arbitrarily and unilaterally decide that the teacher is now required to complete tasks X, Y, Z and L during the following year (L representing a large quantity of additional hours of work) without either being compensated for task L, or having X, Y or Z removed from the teacher’s plate.

Not only is this fair to educators, but more importantly, it’s best for kids. The more our time is wrestled away from the classroom, the less our students learn.

Under maintenance of standards language, staff will not gain “veto power” and we will not suddenly abandon our duties with children. We will continue to do what we do every day for every child. We will do what it takes to meet the needs of the next generation of Americans because that is what we have always done.

Maintenance of standards will help the District and educators to prioritize our work and balance our time. With all we have given to generations of children, educators have certainly earned the right to have our time respected by our administration.

— CAMILLE ZOMBRO

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