Teachers ring bell in schedule fight with district

Visalia Unified Teachers Association hosted a car rally Aug. 11 in protest of the district’s current hybrid model of distance learning

VISALIA – Another protest took place in Visalia last Tuesday, but this one was led by the city’s educators. The Visalia Unified Teachers Association (VUTA) hosted a car rally in the Sears parking lot on Aug. 11, to support a better instructional schedule for students and teachers.

Due to its status on California’s COVID-19 monitoring list, Tulare County schools have been forced to begin the school year with a distance learning model. Different districts within the county have formulated their own plans for how they’re going to operate within that model. The Visalia Unified School District (VUSD) solidified their schedule at the July 28 school board meeting, but educators within the VUTA were not happy with it.

“[This rally] is a referendum on teachers wanting a different schedule. Something that is better for kids and teachers. After what they had to deal with in the spring, they deserve something really good,” VUTA president Greg Price said.

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Many teachers brought their families and were asking the district to push back the start of school to give teachers more time to learn the software, so that they can more effectively teach it to students.Photo by Jermaine Johnson II

With the current schedule, the main issue is that teachers do not have enough time. There isn’t enough time to learn the new software, there’s not enough face-to-face instruction time with students, and there is not enough time for teachers to prep their lessons throughout the day.

“Teachers are going to be exhausted and they won’t be able to sustain doing that program,” Price said. “If you look at every single district all around us, nobody has this crazy A/B hybrid plan for distance learning like we do. Other districts are giving their teachers time to prepare and giving their kids more face time with their teacher.”

Educators are asking for the ability to negotiate with VUSD in order to find the best schedule for the kids and teachers. According to Price, the district hasn’t tried to negotiate at all.

“We proposed in July that we go to a full distance model. That’s what we proposed in the July 14 school board meeting but they ignored us,” Price said. “The district had no intention to move off of this [hybrid] model that they made. They’re going to tell you that they made it with teachers, but they never approved it with the union.”

VUSD president Tamara Ravalin stated that the A/B schedule was developed for both distance learning and for when the district is able to return to school using social distancing.

“There were five scheduling committees that explored various models. The committees had input from elementary, middle school, and high school teachers including those who serve students with special needs. The teacher’s union president was part of the scheduling committee. Parents, students, and other staff were also part of the planning,” Ravalin said. “On, August 3, 2020, the Visalia Unified Teachers Association approved the memorandum of understanding for reopening the school year under COVID-19. It is disappointing that after working collaboratively to come to an agreement, which is signed by both parties, that there would now be an effort to thwart the progress we have made.”

Despite the disagreement over scheduling, the VUSD school year began two days following the car rally. Educators still felt the rally was necessary to help find a better way to serve students.

“We’re going to make sure the students don’t lose instruction time. The problem is we’re not sure if the district wants to make sure of that, because of the short sightedness of this all,” VUTA vice president Larry Johnson said. “We’re out here for the kids. We’re going to support the kids and the parents, that is our job.”

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