Teachers union seeks concessions for move to full-day kindergarten

Union requested to bargain shortly after board approval of new model

UPDATE: The school board took no reportable action after a second closed-session meeting on Thursday, Oct. 6, according to board President Heidi Emberling. The trustees will meet again in closed session on Thursday, Oct. 13, at 8 a.m. at the district office.

With only days left before the launch of full-day kindergarten in Palo Alto schools, the teachers union and school district are engaged in closed-door negotiations over unspecified resources requested by the union to implement the new program.

The school board met in a special closed-session meeting Tuesday morning and will meet again Friday to discuss the request from the teachers union. The district is set to roll out the full-day schedule this Monday at the district’s 12 elementary schools.

Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association, told the Weekly that the union filed a request to bargain in late May, almost immediately after the school board voted to move all elementary schools to a full kindergarten day, despite strong opposition from some teachers and parents.

"It's a change in working conditions and it’s also a change for students so we’re trying to basically do what’s best for our students and hopefully get some small-group instruction time in there,” Baldwin said, declining to provide more details about what specifically the union asked the district for.

Baldwin said that additional remediation the district provided as part of the move to the full day — a guaranteed 10 hours each week of instructional aide time and remediation funds for classrooms with more than 20 students — was insufficient for many schools that already had close to that amount of aide time.

Neither the union nor the school district publicly disclosed the union’s request. The Weekly learned of it last week from a school district source. No one would comment on what negotiations, if any, took place between May and now, nor what action the union might take if it cannot reach agreement with the district. An unfair labor practice complaint would typically be filed with the state Public Employment Relations Board.

Superintendent Max McGee declined to comment on the union's request, citing the confidentiality of contract negotiations. He and Associate Superintendent for Human Resources Scott Bowers met with the union's negotiations team last Thursday, Sept. 29. Bowers also declined to comment.

Board President Heidi Emberling told the Weekly that she doesn’t see this as an "adversarial conversation" and that "whenever you make a change to a teacher's day, the teachers have a right to bargain the effects of that decision."

"With all change, issues come up and we just have to keep student outcomes in the forefront of our decision making and support our teachers as much as we can with any change," she added.

The district failed to notice this newspaper at least 24 hours in advance of the board's special meeting on Tuesday, which it is required to do by state law and board bylaw. McGee said Tuesday that this was a staff "oversight" and was "certainly not intentional."

The board will meet for a second closed-session meeting on impact bargaining this Friday, Oct. 7, at 8 a.m.

While Barron Park and Palo Verde elementary schools already offer a full day, the majority of Palo Alto’s elementary schools operate an "extended-day" model. Half of the kindergarten class stays for a longer day, until around 2 p.m., two days each week, allowing teachers to work with students in smaller groups on a regular basis.

In late May, the board approved full-day kindergarten in a 4-1 vote, with Trustee Camille Townsend dissenting. While the change had the backing of McGee, all 12 elementary-school principals and many teachers who already teach under the full-day model, several kindergarten teachers (including Baldwin, a longtime kindergarten teacher) and parents spoke out publicly against the decision.

While proponents say the extra time makes for a more balanced and enriching school day for both students and teachers, opponents worried about losing the small-group instruction time the district’s extended-day model allows for.

Baldwin, who said she was speaking as a kindergarten teacher and not union president, told the board on May 24 that as someone who has taught a half, full and extended day, she placed high value on the one-on-one time teachers get with students in the extended day.

The kindergarten think tank, a group of kindergarten teachers and administrators tasked with researching the full day and developing potential models for the district, "kept stressing that one of those non-negotiables was small group instruction," Baldwin told the board, "and that’s not on the table now."


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42 people like this
Posted by Vote them out
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 4, 2016 at 9:15 pm

Those comments by Heidi Emberling, so embarrassing. How did you ever vote her in? Her comments are essentially bargaining comments. I cannot think of a recent board member with such consistently poor performance. This proves fake it until you make it doesn't work.

And then PAEA muscle Teri Baldwin wanting more, more, more. These folks are making a lot of money, not Google money, but a lot of money. Please, can our kindergarten teachers get back to work? They still teach your six year olds for less time than the first grade six year olds.

28 people like this
Posted by Annoyed
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 5, 2016 at 7:45 am

What a bad decision that was to approve all day kinder. The teachers didn't supporrt it, the majority of parents didn't support it, the only person that supported it was Dr. McGee and he pulled the board along with him. Just another little budget fiasco.

15 people like this
Posted by A Better Way
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2016 at 12:51 pm

The forced change to all day kinder classes does not appear to take into account the 5 year olds in the classroom. Parents and Kinder Teachers were against the change. The board and Dr. McGu offered as concession aid time in other classes while increasing instructional minutes to tired 5 year olds. The kinders were not prioritized.

The forced change was to increase instructional minutes which results in Dr McGu and principals gaining what? They eliminated small group settings which are prioritized by professional close to the kinders.

The forced change does not honor the discussion Dr McGu hosted last spring with teachers. He paid a group of professionals to provide guidance and feedback but did not accept their suggestions. He offered a concession that already existed with increased aid time. Great negotiator if you don't take in to account what is best for the kinders.

Teacher don't want more money, they want a better teaching environment so the students can be successful. That is not the goal at Google. It is a far superior goal than any business model in the valley.

28 people like this
Posted by TeachersUnionsVacuum
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 5, 2016 at 1:03 pm

The teachers' unions are the bane of public education in this country, constantly obstructing progress. Every. Single. Turn.

While many teachers are respectable responsible individuals, I can scarcely think of an organization that I despise more.

[Portion removed.]

21 people like this
Posted by Mycupof tea
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 5, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Years ago Kindergarden teachers affiliated with the National Association for the education of Young Children, because they wanted children to get a gentle introduction to elementary School. As a Retired Nursery School Director, I still feel we are pushing this aged child. Academics are for older children. Social, and imaginative activities for Kindergardeners are a precursor for enthusing children to learn. I still feel the schools are bending to the needs of parents rather than the sucess of introducing 5/6 year olds to formal education.

11 people like this
Posted by GraceBrown
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2016 at 8:11 pm

GraceBrown is a registered user.


I'm interested to learn more about why you despise teacher unions. Is it a union thing or a teacher thing?

For example, do you cheer on your favorite player from the NFL, the NBA, MLB?
Have you been cared for at PAMF or at Stanford Hospitals?
Has the PAPD responded to your 911 call?
Or perhaps the PAFD arrived just in time during a medical emergency?
Can you read about, and participate in, the current presidential election? The local Assembly one? Or even the PAUSD school board race?

More broadly, I wonder if the road that you drove to work on was paved, and if the aircraft and crew that flew you to your most recent business meeting or dream vacation arrived safely?

If you responded with a yes to any of these queries, then a union member made it happen.

Something to think about (?)



8 people like this
Posted by Vote them out
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 5, 2016 at 10:56 pm

Stop acting like PAEA is comparable to MLB ball players. You're nothing like those multimillionaires, and when they are not effective, they are quickly dismissed, fired, or sent to the minors. You sound more like coal miners. If you don't want to work a professional day, and you want to return to punching in and punching out, then get out of our classrooms and get in the mines. If not, grow up and act like a professional teacher.

9 people like this
Posted by be professional
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 5, 2016 at 11:11 pm

I agree. Teachers want to be respected as professionals (and I think they should be), but then they only want to work exactly to a union contract.
Had to stay late for Back to School Night? Then need a half day off.
Truly the expanded kindergarten day is not that burdensome. Time to act like professionals not blue collar clock watchers.

9 people like this
Posted by Be Professional - get a clue
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 6, 2016 at 12:11 am

Dear "be professional" and other well-meaning but ignorant posters here:

Teachers are not highly paid. Their hourly rate is humble. They deserve the salaries they were promised.

Additionally, both federal and state labor law require that all employees with very few exceptions, and teachers generally do not fall within those exceptions, are entitled to overtime and breaks as a matter of law, not as a matter of opinion.

These legal rights are embodied in the labor agreements that the district APPROVED. These labor agreements were the result of months of negotiation. During those months, teachers went without the full salaries they were promised. When they received their backpay, they generally received it without interest.

For those of us with children who attend our public schools, our teachers play the MOST important role in our children's lives -- second only to the role, we, their parents play. We respect and appreciate our teachers, most of whom could not dream of affording to live in our tony, exclusive neighborhood -- a neighborhood that people like you deliberately keep exclusive in order to keep out working class laborers like these most important people, teachers.

Teachers make me proud to live in Palo Alto. You, "be professional," make me ashamed.

A mom.

12 people like this
Posted by Vote them out
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 6, 2016 at 7:39 am

Teachers are not highly paid, but PAEA teachers are highly paid. Hitting the $100,000 salary comes only after a few years,and no, that salary will not allow you to buy a house next to Zuck. You could live in EPA. I know many teachers that do, so I hope that address isn't beneath you. This fight about more money is just that. Everyone needs more money, that is undeniable, but PAEA teachers make a lot of money, and they receive tremendous support from not only we the parents, but we the homeowners who voted overwhelmingly to pay them indirectly with the parcel tax. At any point will PAEA (and Teri Baldwin) and our Briones teachers show some leadership and lead our district in the area of instruction? Must it be about our kindergarten teachers not wanting to work the same as the first grade teachers? This is embarrassing.

1 person likes this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 6, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Considering how two-income professional households are the only ones who can even dream of buying a house around here, it's either full-day kindergarten or extended day followed by private childcare. This addresses parents' needs.

1 person likes this
Posted by sick of pa
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 6, 2016 at 9:41 pm

Vote them out: you have a funny way of showing support. Bashing the union that protects the teachers you say you value (while you say you hate them in the same breath). Nice. Your argument is quite revealing of some deep seated inadequacies. You are incorrect about your assessment of six figure pay. Next time, I invite you to look before you leap.

Exactly what other unions do you dislike besides the teachers union? Cops? Nurses?

Let's be fair, would you rather have your kids in public school here or in San Francisco?

By the way, what is your pay? Teacher's pay is published in the newspaper. Your diatribe against my union makes me wonder why I work so hard with such an unappreciative community as the segment that reflects itself in the angry speech noted here. I guess you cut history class when learning about individuals who, through collective bargaining, worked to ensure that employees previously victimized by heavy handed management had a say in their own employment. So sorry that your property values don't reflect this positive effect of good schools....ooops...oh right...record home prices...why is that again?

9 people like this
Posted by Vote them out
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 6, 2016 at 11:02 pm

That's awkward, the above post, I don't think it is from a teacher. It unfairly makes them look bad. I've had some great teachers for my kids, but I've had a couple duds, just flat, or off their game for that year. We have great teachers in PAUSD, but PAEA's fatal flaw is that it perpetuates a system of paying folks just for sticking around so that my kid's teacher who has been teaching a few years is paid half as much as my other kid's teacher who has been teaching a dozen years, and the latter gets paid over $100,000. It's called step and column. Every year you get an automatic raise, even when there is no official raise. And the most important thing to do as a new teacher is move over to the last column of units taken, because each column gets you a rise, too. Yes, I looked for decades before I leapt into this thread. Call up Scott Bowers for a current salary schedule, not the two-year-old one on the district web site.

1 person likes this
Posted by Daycare
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 7, 2016 at 4:34 am

As a local taxpayer/homeowner/resident, what I see is I am subsidizing someone else's childcare, which I never got. What a racket. Also not surprised the teacher's union demands more "resources" ($$$) - of course!
What's more, five year olds don't need full time school. A high quality kindergarten teacher is important, should have age appropriate teaching hours, should receive recognition if appropriate to higher status "master teacher" label and promotion (yes, with more money). My idea. Raises should not be on the teachers union "schedule" based on years of service. There should be much more differentiation of teacher pay based on performance.

1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2016 at 5:53 am

From my recollections of kindergarten, granted a while ago now, kindergarten teachers are with the children all day every day apart from recess and lunch. They teach the children music, art, pe and take them to library, all things that the older elementary grades have specialist teachers doing. I believe 1st grade and up have music and art teachers which means that the classroom teachers get free time for grading or class prep (or an extension of their lunch break). Since kindergarten teachers don't get these breaks, I imagine that their classroom time hours would end up being about the same numbers of hours per week as first grade teachers who get breaks during pe and music time.

2 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 7, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Teachers have tenure. What are they complaining about?

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