Despite the promise at the start of the school year, the struggles and difficulties posed by the pandemic have proven stronger. Students and staff both continue to show signs of trauma, burnout, or both. Furthermore, District mandates pushed through despite these issues are overwhelming building level staff. The staff shortages–most significant in SPED classrooms–have made educating students difficult for all of us, but has had an outsized impact on the most marginalized students and the staff who spend the majority of their time working with them. The addition of too few subs has wreaked havoc on staff ability to take needed sick time and too often left students under-supervised. To add insult to injury, there have been repeated payroll issues and other problems circulating through the District office, and the District refuses to allow staff access to a COVID sick-leave bank without first exhausting all other leave. Needless to say, all of these issues have taken their toll and all stakeholders have suffered as a result.
As in every school year and throughout the summers, your elected union leaders have met with District leadership and School Board directors regularly. We have filed multiple grievances, letters of complaint, and demand to bargain letters. We have written letters to the Board that have worked to spur action by District leadership and to ensure a paper trail exists documenting a number of problems facing students and staff. We have worked to highlight maintenance and safety issues, and brought individual member concerns and payroll issues forward on a daily basis. We have held listening sessions with various groups upon request, helped guide several caucuses as they formed, and fought tirelessly for staff at Four Corners, who’s CTP program was forced to move mid-summer to a building that is still not fully finished. In addition, REA worked with OSEA to address the Superintendent Goal Performance Measures, Student Outcome Goals, and Board and Superintendent Guardrails. All of this work is ongoing and we will continue to stand for you at every turn.
While we have made progress in some areas, we continue to have a great deal of work ahead of us. These progresses, however, have felt overshadowed by setbacks that have proven beyond leadership’s reach alone. In order to make more significant gains, we believe your assistance will be necessary. As such, your Representative Assembly has requested the REA Organizing Team put together some actions for members starting in January. Please keep your eyes open for opportunities coming to your personal email and from your Building Reps to make your voice heard.
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Finally, we are now approaching Winter Break, a time to rest and recharge for most staff. It’s a time to be with family and friends. It’s time, for most of us, for celebration. But as we are painfully aware, it is a time of fear and trepidation for many students. A time without the safety and routine of school, with too little access to food, and sometimes worse. While we are all stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed, it is important to remember that many students are struggling even more. Their anxiety may be high and they may act out, but our kindness, generosity, and patience is integral to their success.
Thank you for all you do for our students. Thank you for all you do for our community. Thank you for all you do for our union. We are strong when we are united. We are strong when we are one. Together, we can make real, positive changes to our working conditions and students' learning conditions.