By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
A letter sent to parents on behalf of teachers at Palisades Charter High School in mid-August has alleged a track record of issues and a call for what they feel is a fair contract.
“We can be as excellent, successful and prestigious as we choose to be. That is the beauty of an independent charter school,” the letter states. “However, during the last few years, your PCHS teachers have been demoralized, divided and deprived of positive support.”
The final editors of the letter, Dave Suarez and Stephen Klima, have taught at the school for over 20 years and are Pali High’s UTLA representatives. Klima reported that a “vast majority” of teachers at the school support the efforts brought forth in the letter.
According to the letter, teachers report that they have been negotiating a contract since the fall of 2018 and working without one since July 1, 2019. The teachers in the letter are asking the administrative team to finalize the contract, including them in the “dialogue and decision making for educational best practices.”
The letter also addresses the difficulties teachers faced as they prepared for the 2020-21 academic school year virtually, reporting that staff was left to configure professional development themselves and voluntarily offer faculty-wide workshops because nothing substantial was offered by the administration.
The Pali High Board of trustees sent a schoolwide letter on August 23, saying that PCHS offered “personalized one-to-one training for teachers during the summer and continues to offer such training on a daily basis.”
The email reports that the school is continuing to provide ongoing professional development through the Academic Achievement Team, which is comprised of Pali teachers.
Additionally teachers had negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding agreement in regards to eLearning before reportedly being “overridden” by Pali’s administration at a Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, August 13, which allowed policies that contradicted the previously discussed MOU to pass.
“Charter schools were originally created to provide opportunities for teacher leadership,” Klima said to the Palisadian-Post. “Yet we had the Board of Trustees … composed primarily of parents and community members, who may not have an education background, voting to approve grading policies … taking away teachers’ voices in this.”
Teachers behind the letter said this has forced them to move to Work-to-Rule, meaning they will not be volunteering extra hours of their time outside of their contractual work day until a fair agreement is met. The letter states that this includes writing letters of recommendation—sparking parent and student concerns.
“The collective bargaining teams for UTLA-PCHS and PCHS last met on August 26,” Principal Dr. Pamela Magee said. “The meeting was a productive one. The process is confidential so neither party can share details, but I can report that we made progress toward reaching a final agreement.”
The next mediation meeting will be on Thursday, September 10. This is the second time the school has gone into state mediations in a six-year period.
“Pali teachers deserve respect. We have continuously gone above and beyond,” Klima wrote in a letter to the Board of Trustees. “The treatment by the BOT and the administration has made us finally say enough is enough.”
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