Friday, April 11, 2014


William Shakespeare memorably asked "What's in a name?  That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet."   And, if the C.O.R.E. waiver that FUSD teachers were asked to study back on Feb. 3rd was as sweet-smelling as a rose, we might not care what the C.O.R.E. acronym stands for, or what its actual status where public education is concerned.

But the fact of the matter is, there are things in the C.O.R.E. waiver proposal that don't smell all that sweet to the teaching profession:  longer hours, more days of instruction, the use of standardized test scores as part of teacher evaluations.  

Don't be deceived:  the reason why the district wants these items is because they are near and dear to the heart of Superintendent Michael Hanson. 

This is Mr. Hanson's agenda, and despite what he and other district spokespeople have claimed, the real reason why negotiations have dragged on as long as they have, is because Mr. Hanson is the President of C.O.R.E.  Our superintendent has to get certain concessions from Fresno teachers in order to do the things that his group, the so-called "California Office to Reform Education" said it would do in their application to the federal government.

Well, lots of luck with that, Mr. Hanson, because there is nothing you or any of the other 'C.O.R.E. districts' can do to compel teachers to voluntarily waive their contractual rights.

Ironically, none of the other districts in that C.O.R.E. waiver put the proposed language about the '20/40 schools' into their contracts.   None of the other districts attempted to include student test scores as part of teacher evaluations.   Only Fresno Unified has attempted to do this.   Bit by bit, the waiver has come under attack and the institutions that have promoted it are beginning, to, um, WAVER.   For example:

Long Beach Unified came to a new agreement without getting the C.O.R.E. waiver-promised student tests scores (see Article XII, pg. 3 of the PDF file copy of their agreement in the previous link).

Sacramento City Unified, meanwhile, has announced they will not be participating in the C.O.R.E. waiver next year due to the very vocal opposition of their teachers.   As they announced:

"SCTA, along with many community groups, has been consistently opposed to the NCLB waiver as submitted by our former Superintendent and the California Office to Reform Education with no true input from stakeholders.  While the waiver did bring some flexibility in how the district could spend supplemental education service funds, the cost of the waiver and some of the requirements established within the application were detrimental to our schools and the students they serve. The way the application process was handled by those involved was unacceptable to our members and the community, which is one of the reasons why we have steadfastly opposed the waiver and those behind it......We applaud the district’s decision not to seek a renewal of the waiver and look forward to working with them without this divisive topic hanging over all our conversations."

Following SCTA's example, Oakland Unified teachers have notified their district that they intend to oppose the renewal of the C.O.R.E. waiver, as well.   FTA's return of the C.O.R.E. waiver books is of course 'old news' to our membership, but our Association will now join the Oakland and Sacramento teachers in formally requesting the end of the waiver.

One of the things that makes it easier for teacher's groups to more aggressively oppose the waiver is the criticism that has been brought against C.O.R.E. by the very same federal Department of Education that granted the waiver in the first place. 

Their preliminary evaluation of C.O.R.E. indicates that the organization has largely failed to meet their own target goals and conditions for the waiver's renewal.   A copy of the Department of Education's evaluation of the C.O.R.E. waiver is available here.

So, with support for the C.O.R.E. waiver crumbling, why is Fresno Unified 'doubling down' on some of the waiver-inspired provisions in bargaining?   

For that matter, why was Fresno Unified the only one of the ten C.O.R.E. districts to even attempt to seek waiver-inspired provisions, topics that were subject to bargaining?   I'm not a mind reader, but the fact that FUSD Superintendent Michael Hanson is the President of C.O.R.E. might have something to do with the district's intransigence.   As the outfit's leader, he might be reluctant not to have an outcome that would affirm his ability to lead.

If that's the case, that's just too bad.   Mr. Hanson and the Board have been 'fishing' for nearly a year, asking for 'takebacks' in the contract.   They've failed to capture the interest of FTA leaders or their rank-and-file membership.   If you can't fish, you better cut bait.


Colleagues:  we have now entered FTA's election season.   As if we didn't already have enough to do!   We teachers are BUSY:
  • teaching . . .
  • planning lessons . . .
  • attempting to incorporate new paradigms like Common Core . . .
  • 'testing the test' by piloting SBAC . . .
  • and (last but definitely not least) working together to build our organization during this critical negotiations period . . .
That's plenty for anyone's plate. 

But here's the thing: participation in our Association's elections sends a signal to the district.   

The district doesn't care who wins the election that much;  what they care about is how many of us actually vote.   High levels of participation will show that our membership is getting organized and informed, which increases our leverage at the bargaining tables:

The voting period begins TODAY and continues through Spring Break.   If you have not received your ballot, please call me at 916-0777 and I will make sure you get it.  It is extremely important that we participate in elections.

Monday, March 17, 2014


On March 12, 2014, more than five hundred members of the Fresno Teachers Association attended that evening's scheduled meeting of the FUSD Board of Trustees.   

First, they met outside the District offices on Tulare.   As they did, they waved signs, stacked up copies of the 'C.O.R.E. waiver books' into piles and (while waiting for the meeting to begin) gathered in large numbers in a restaurant across the street.   Most of these teachers arrived well before 6:00 and had to purchase parking, but that didn't deter them from attending:

This is what teacher power looks like, gradually building steam...

In other words, there were lots of people here to express their displeasure with the district's failure to negotiate and its participation in the 'C.O.R.E. waiver'.   Two days later, FUSD Deputy Superintendent Ruth Quinto went on the airwaves with KMJ's Ray Appleton and implied that there might possibly be a 'disconnect' between FTA's leadership (which numbers about 175 people, including all the Reps) and the general membership of FTA.  That is, the 'rank-and-file', Quinto seemed to hint, doesn't really agree with or support this protest.

Quinto's assertion does not match the reality, which is that at least three hundred of the members in attendance were not part of leadership, but simply expressing their support for FTA's stance.   In fact, so many were present that most had to wait outside the Board chambers, in the foyer and in the stairwell, craning their ears to hear what was said, and, (every now and then) cheering statements that supported the teachers and their concerns.

During open communications, FTA President Eva Ruiz addressed the Board and spelled out the things in the waiver that FTA's members found disturbing, and lectured the Board for failing to meet its responsibilities to the community:

FTA Bargaining Team member Scott Hatfield (Bullard High) spoke next, providing the teacher's perspective on how the (C.O.R.E. waiver-inspired) District proposals on additional minutes and days would affect the lives of teachers:

FTA Bargaining Team member Felicia Burrell (Tehipite Middle School) then laid out the financial disparities between teachers and the District.   The district's financial health is outstanding ($60 million-plus annual surpluses, and oodles of projected new funding), whereas teachers have had effective wage cuts due to furlough days, slashed benefits and hikes in the cost of living:

FTA Bargaining Team member George Zepeda (Kirk Elementary School) then lit into the failure of FUSD's own team of negotiators.  Not only are they engaging in 'surface bargaining' without any clear authority of their own to negotiate, the District's "team" has often taken three-four months to provide any response to FTA's proposals:

The entire time these team members spoke, other FTA members quietly brought in piles of the C.O.R.E. waiver books and stacked them, without comment, on the dais directly in front of the Board:

Thursday, February 20, 2014


The FUSD School Board has authorized district administration to unilaterally request impasse.   Apparently, Fresno Unified would rather talk about the teachers, rather than talk to them, and so we are entering a new phase of negotiations on a bitter note.

FUSD teachers were sent links to this video in their email this week, so this may not be much of news to anyone, but I thought I would embed the thing so anyone who views this post can place it in context:

Fresno Unified 2013 - 2014 Negotiations Press Conference from Fresno Unified on Vimeo.

Looks pretty slick, doesn't it?  It was certainly a calculated move on the part of the district,which planned the whole thing well in advance of Thursday's negotiations. This press conference was being set up and materials were being mailed to the press while FTA's Negotiating Team was still at the table, still in the same building where the press conference took place.   So, really, any talk about us being at the 'bargaining table' on Thursday, Feb. 13th is a sham.  

Rather, the FUSD School Board has decided that they do not wish to negotiate any further with FTA.  On Thursday afternoon, we were told, in essence, "Take it or leave it."  Rather than continuing negotiation, the FUSD School Board has decided to start the process required under state law that could lead to a strike.    A detailed summary of the first part of that process can be found here.

I think this bears repeating:  it is not FTA that has taken the step.  The district has done so, and done so over FTA's objections.   We are certainly willing to fight, if it comes to it.   But make no mistake: it is FUSD's School Board that is choosing not to negotiate, rather than the other way around.

Friday, February 14, 2014


In another district-wide display of teacher unity, FTA members congregated at their sites before the beginning of the school day on February 13th.   Members wore black and proudly wore stickers that read, "Count Me In!" to show their support for their Bargaining team.   This post just shows some of the images from just three sites in the Bullard area.

Bullard High School

Slater and Starr Elementary Schools

I make that at least SEVENTY-FIVE strong teaching professionals in black!   Great job!   In fact, there were so many teachers at my site that a student from the school newspaper (the Charger) interviewed me, to ask what all the fuss was about:

The high level of participation is very comparable to what we saw on Feb. 3rd, our 'Day of Mourning.'   

This was Hoover High's cafeteria on that day:

How many teachers in this picture can you find NOT wearing black?   Great job, Hoover area.

And here's what the Roosevelt-area gathering looked like:

Darker room, and....lots of people, wearing dark clothes and the FTA message!

Here are more pictures from elementary school sites:

 Fresno Unified, are you paying attention?

Monday, February 3, 2014


It seems that more teachers than anyone had a right to expect wore black to their Buyback sessions.   Every regional site was dominated by one color.   That means that the majority of the teachers in this district are beginning to wake up, and beginning to realize that they really can (and should) make their interests known.

Channel 30 seems to realize this is a story that won't go away:

Thursday, January 30, 2014



It's 'ALL HANDS ON DECK' this Monday, Feb. 3rd.

FTA is strongly urging all members to dress in BLACK during our District 'Buy-Back', which as you probably know concerns the District's attempted roll-out of the CORE waiver. *

We are wearing BLACK, as a 'Day of Mourning' to express our disappointment with FUSD's treatment of teaching professionals.   Speaking as a colleague, I encourage all FTA members in the Bullard area to 'spread the word' among your colleagues:  it's time to stand up and be counted.

Need more info?  Leave a question in the comments, or (if you prefer), you can contact the author at:

*  You can learn more about what California teacher's unions actually think about the 'C.O.R.E. waiver' HERE.