Dear PAEA members,
In light of the recent article in the Palo Alto Weekly, we would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight about the grievance that PAEA filed against the Gunn principal.
We realize this issue may have made your job more difficult, as misconceptions and misinformation persist, and certain members of the community use the controversy to criticize teachers without knowing all the facts. For this, we apologize. Our intent in filing the grievance was simple: to protect our members from actions that violate our contract with the district.
Here are the facts of the matter.
Our current contract requires secondary teachers to post class materials, test dates, etc. online for the benefit of students. Although most teachers use Schoology, the contract does not require it. Some opt for their own web sites or other electronic means.
During the fall semester, PAEA had several discussions with Gunn Principal Denise Herrmann about her attempts to require teachers to use Schoology. We offered solutions that would meet the needs of students and parents, some of which went beyond the mandates of our contract. Our intent was to keep the dialogue open, yet in October, Herrmann sent a letter to Gunn parents, saying that while she can’t force teachers to use Schoology, she was “challenging” them to use it.
This action had two consequences. 1) It publicly made teachers look bad if they didn’t use Schoology and 2) it made public an issue that was being actively negotiated by PAEA and the district during ongoing bargaining talks. In characterizing the issue the way she did, Herrmann violated accepted bargaining practice. As a district representative, her actions influenced a sensitive bargaining issue and caused our talks to stall.
Dr. Herrmann also issued another directive to teachers to use Schoology exclusively after the letter to the parents and our many conversations. This action is what brought forth our grievance.
Much has been made about the timing of the grievance filing and how it happened shortly after one of the Gunn suicides. Please know PAEA had no option here. Under our contract, grievances must be filed in a timely manner. Our grievance was filed 2 days before the required deadline, as PAEA was still trying to work things out with Herrmann before filing a grievance.
Again, we regret any complications this may have caused you at work, and we were very unhappy by the unfair portrayal in the Palo Alto Weekly, as well as the stinging, hurtful comments made about teachers on the message boards.
While this is the first grievance PAEA has filed in 11 years, we do take our responsibility to protect teachers seriously. If we don’t protect our contract, why bother having one? We would ask you how you would feel if you were personally impacted by a decision that violated something that was mutually agreed upon in our contract, and the majority of the membership didn’t support you in a grievance. Union values call for collective action and support, which sometimes means we may not agree when a grievance is filed, but we must support the right of the union or an individual to do so. An injury to one is an injury to all.
We hope this clears things up. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or concerns.
Executive Board, Palo Alto Education Association