Teachers union asked for smaller classes, more aides for full-day kindergarten

Cost of bargaining requests estimated at more than $700,000

Just one week after the Palo Alto school board voted to approve full-day kindergarten for all elementary schools in May, the teacher's union made an official request to bargain the impact of this change, including asking for lower class-size caps, more time with aides and a schedule that would allow for more small-group instruction, according to an email provided to the Palo Alto Weekly through a Public Records Act request.

Six months later, several weeks into the launch of full-day kindergarten, the school board and teachers' union are still negotiating these requests. The board has met in closed session at least five times to discuss negotiations since early October and will again do so at tonight's board meeting.

Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educator's Association, wrote to Associate Superintendent for Human Resources Scott Bowers on May 31 to make several contractual requests related to full-day kindergarten:

- Class sizes will not exceed 18 students, but if they do, remediation funds per each student over the limit will be provided to the classroom;

- A minimum of 15 hours of aide time per week, not counting recess duty;

- Morning recess duty to be covered by aides or other staff; teachers will cover extra recess in the late afternoons;

- 30 minutes of PE, library and music per week as teacher prep time;

- An additional three hours of PE, library and music each week (two 90-minute blocks for half the class at a time), allowing each half of the class to also have 90 minutes per week of small-group instruction;

- One extra parent-conference day (bringing it to five conference days per year). "Kinder parents like to meet more often than the two conferences" in the fall and spring, Baldwin wrote, and the conferences usually take longer than in other grades since it is children's first year in school.

Baldwin told the Weekly last month 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.

She wrote in an email Tuesday that the union's demands were driven by the fact that "kindergarten teachers valued small-group instruction to provide more individualized instructional time, which can be lost in a larger group."

The estimated cost of the union's requests is more than $700,000, according to Bowers. Bringing class sizes down to 18 students requires four additional teachers, he wrote in an email. The average cost of one full-time teacher, including salary and benefits, is $131,467, according to the district.

The requested increase in aide time would mean an additional $200,000 and the extra conference day about $12,000, according to Bowers. The district did not price the cost of having aides supervise morning recess, and the cost of the teacher prep time was already included in the board-approved program.

While "nothing has been agreed to yet" in negotiations, Superintendent Max McGee said Monday, the roll-out of full-day kindergarten is going "exceedingly well." He noted that only one family in the district has opted out of the longer school day, despite strong opposition from some parents before adoption.

While Barron Park and Palo Verde elementary schools already offered a full day, the majority of Palo Alto's elementary schools operated an "extended-day" model until last month. In that model, half of the kindergarten class stayed 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. Teachers who opposed moving to the full day worried it would mean the loss of this regular time with smaller groups, the "gold standard" of Palo Alto's kindergarten program, they said.

McGee said Tuesday, however, that elementary school teachers "by and large, at least what they're saying to us and I think we're hearing from the parents, is the upside is having more time to teach the existing curriculum, and the kids do have more time for more choice and more play."


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5 people like this
Posted by So not true!
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 1, 2016 at 4:39 pm

McGee is so not being honest! In my Kinder's class alone there are TWO kids who have opted out of the full day! Clearly his statement is not true.

However, I think the Teacher's Union is asking for way more than is reasonable? Why should they get special coverage for yard duty -- all teacher's do yard duty. And an extra day of conferences is not necessary either.

Increased Aide time to 15/week is a good idea - and could easily be implemented now. That is money well spent.

28 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2016 at 9:34 pm

With a $4,200,000 deficit, and the need for more high school teachers, and now the full day kinder program asking for $700,000 more in money, those me-too, multi-year raises for the administrators show the lack of budgeting skills by Melissa, and Heidi, incumbents running for re-election.

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2016 at 2:51 am

The Circle of Life.

One step forward, two steps backwards.

Let the youngest spend more time in their home environs without rules and regulations that suit a classroom rather than a home. Let the children have time to dream, to play without having to take turns, without having to share their special possessions and without having to tidy up their wonderful creation, because the bell and the clock tells them it is time to move on to the next activity.

7 people like this
Posted by Save our kids
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2016 at 6:10 am

The money is not there. When the School Board went to Full Day K, they must have had further optional budgeting scenarios for extra aides, and other costs. With the deficit, it was not a good time to expand to full day K. Back out of Mgmt raises, and put $$$ to our children. High schoolers really need some equity in the budget.
On pedagogic rationale, our society needs to keep young children healthy and away from toxic stress that does start in K here. Children need time....... no bells, schedules, following the rules, obedience training and being exposed to families with unrealistic pressures put on their own children to succeed at whatever the cost.
My kids went through an eye opening experience for themselves and me.........the PUSH to read, parents pushing 1 1/2 hour of practice reading at home to be a top reader in their K or 1st grade class. Imho, teachers just went along with the certain parents' wishes at the detriment of other families who just wanted a WELL BALANCED, non academic K.
Stop ruining our precious children.

13 people like this
Posted by Full day kindergarten is also free childcare
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 2, 2016 at 7:59 am

Full day kindergarten is also free childcare is a registered user.

@resident, you are assuming that kinders would be home relaxing and playing after school - the reality is that most parents work and that is the real reason for fullime kindergarten, it's also free daycare.

3 people like this
Posted by Weighted check double plus
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2016 at 8:57 am

[Post removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2016 at 9:58 am

Not assuming that they will, just a plea for them to have a few unstructured hours each day at this stage in their childhood. I am against institutionalizing them too early. What a shame, in my opinion.

8 people like this
Posted by Liz
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 2, 2016 at 10:15 am

5 conferences per year? this realistic or overblown?
as recently as last year w/ our K student we were offered 2 conferences and the 2nd one was really described as optional/upon request - i am surprised that K teachers are currently giving 4 parent conf a year for each kid and will need to add a 5th because of all day. are they counting a casual conversation or an email as a conference?
certainly seems like a plan to ask for the max expecting they will come in lower and at the amount of funding you really need

13 people like this
Posted by Kindergarten teacher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2016 at 10:33 am

Kindergarten teachers do have recess duty. Actually, if there is no aide or volunteer support they have it everyday all year. This is not the same as other teachers, it's much more. Some schools have hired aides to help so that there is only one teacher on duty each day and the kindergarten teachers have duty one to two days a week. We don't want that aide time to be counted as our classroom aide time taking away from class support. We aren't asking for no duty. The conference time is actual days to conference with parents, not how many conferences for each parent. We tend to have longer conferences in kindergarten and so 4 days to get through 18-22 parent conferences twice a year isn't enough. I'm lucky to get through max 7 conferences in a day. That's just the two times a year. In kindergarten we tend to meet with some parents more throughout the year. I'm thankful that with full-day my negotiations team is asking for smaller class sizes and more aide time so that we can still have a little bit of our small group instruction that was taken away when we went to full-day.

3 people like this
Posted by Liz
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 2, 2016 at 10:41 am

Kindergarten Teacher - thanks for adding clarity, makes sense now.

11 people like this
Posted by Teacher Evaluation Should Be Annual Practice
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2016 at 10:48 am

Teacher evaluations at the middle and high school levels should be standard practice annually. Evaluations can be designed and implemented in a way to provide longitudinal and constructive student feedback on the teachers. By "longitudinal" I mean the focus is on overall how a teacher is evaluated across several years. Isolated criticism or compliment does not matter so much a pattern of either.

Why do teachers get a free pass (and demand so much) when most professionals get evaluated every year?

One reason students in PAUSD use tutors is because teachers do not know how to teach or they count on private tutors to do their job.

Evaluations help them know their problems and hopefully they'll improve or continue their great work.

7 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 2, 2016 at 12:15 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

sounds like extortion...

6 people like this
Posted by Generous teachers
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 2, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Obviously the union knows that there is a limited pool of money, and is deciding to spend it on making kindergarten better rather than having it available for raises down the road. I think that's great. Maybe they decided that the large raises they just got are good enough for a while.

16 people like this
Posted by Surprised PAUSD teacher
a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2016 at 2:21 pm

This is an interesting read. I'm a union member and had no idea this was being negotiated. PAEA is not informing its members about what is going on......maybe they should survey their teachers about how they feel about these demands, we've never been asked. Many teachers think that kinder teachers should work under the same working conditions as everybody else, they are paid the same. All grades are hard to teach....

12 people like this
Posted by a parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 2, 2016 at 3:22 pm

Many parents did not opt out because the way the day was structured, kids would miss fun activities in the afternoon, such as art, PE, music and library. Nor were opt-out options well described or explained to parents who had questions, or may not have known about the possibility of opting out.

FDK should not have been implemented- not only is there no money for it, there is no good rationale. If one looks carefully at the data from PAUSD schools with previous implementation of FDK, it is clear that children subjected to FDK (look carefully at pages 7 and 8) actually did far worse in terms of reading benchmarks in subsequent years:

Web Link

On further review of the literature, essentially no study has shown that FDK leads to any wide ranging academic benefits, and rather, what is typically seen is a quick evaporation of any selective benefit seen. IN addition, there are serious potential negatives from FDK, including worse behavioral problems over time.

The administration, in implementing this in such a hasty and ill-conceived fashion, came across as either disingenuous or incompetent.

I hope that current PAUSD board incumbents reap the benefits of the poor job they have done with this, and do not get re-elected- voters take heed- there have to be better choices out there.

5 people like this
Posted by Kerry55
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 3, 2016 at 11:28 am

Kerry55 is a registered user.

Thank you parent above for explaining why parents did not opt out. It seems like another poorly implemented program without enough time and management spent on all the issues, especially financial ones that were bound to come up. If a majority of K Teachers were not for it, why did the District make a sweeping decision to back Full Day? If it is basically child care for working parents, then a non-working parent should not have to give up art, music, playtime for their K child.

Like this comment
Posted by neighboring districts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 3, 2016 at 7:05 pm

As a Kinder teacher in a neighboring district (though I live in Palo Alto), I'm amazed that Palo Alto kinder teachers have aides AND are getting add'l money for now teaching all day. When our district implemented all day kinder 10+ years ago kinder teachers were not paid any add'l money. The union (other teachers), felt kinder teachers had always been on the same pay scale as other teachers so why should their pay get increased just because they were suddenly spending a full day with children; just like they were. I believe most districts in the state have been having all day kindergarten for several years; it allows more arts and choice time for children.

2 people like this
Posted by Kindergarten Teacher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2016 at 1:58 pm

@Surprised PAUSD teacher I'm surprised you didn't know about the Demand to bargain for kindergarten because PAEA told us about it at the PAEA meeting after the chow down and it was in the newsletter. So PAEA did in fact inform us about this issue. I'm sorry you think we don't all work under the same conditions and I guess in a way you are correct. All the different levels have different items in the contract. For example, middle and high school teachers get more prep time than elementary. The elementary teachers I work with have never complained because we know that there are differences and challenges at all grade levels and we respect the job everyone in our district performs. Most of us probably haven't taught at other school levels, I have never taught middle or high school, yet I respect those teachers just as much as my elementary colleagues and don't want to interfere with what is in the contract for them. I would like a school calendar that starts later in August, but once the need to start earlier so that the semester ends before the winter break for high school students and teachers was explained to us (by our PAEA rep) I totally got behind it. There are differences and always will be. I hope we can accept and respect all of our colleagues and support each other.

12 people like this
Posted by PAEA doesn't represent me
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2016 at 3:07 pm

I am a middle school teacher who doesn't want to pay for tiny classes and extra conference days and extra aides for kinder teachers. What are the chances that we won't hear about this money during our next negotiation? This is on top of having to find a new therapist for my daughter because PAEA negotiated us out of Blue Shield into another HMO.

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