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Opinion

Changing the Newport-Mesa calendar requires negotiating with the teachers’ union

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Britt Dowdy is president of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers.
(Courtesy of Britt Dowdy)

Fred Navarro, superintendent of Newport Mesa Unified, recently sent an email to employees and parents regarding the school start date in August 2020. Most that read his email believed the start date was officially changed and moved up two weeks.

It is important for everyone to understand the calendar has not been officially changed.

While the school board does have authority to set the academic calendar for students, the teacher work calendar must be negotiated.

In fact, there are legal cases that establish the student calendar and teacher work calendar are so closely related that any change to the start or end date must be negotiated with the union. You may find more information via PERB decision 2444E, available online.

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No agreement has been reached in contract negotiations as of this writing. Teachers have not taken a vote regarding a change to their work calendar.

If the superintendent’s intent was to inform the community there is a possibility of a calendar change, that is correct. Anything is possible in negotiations.

The Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers believes the superintendent’s email was written in a way that misleads the public to think the calendar change was a done deal. We also believe this action was an attempt to make an end run around the negotiations process.

A survey was conducted in November 2017 by Newport-Mesa. Over 8,200 parents, community members, students and employees responded.

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The majority, 64.8%, preferred to leave the calendar as it is. The only stakeholder group that favored moving the calendar before Labor Day was district office employees.

What our teachers care about are the same things the community cares about. We want reasonable class sizes across the district. It is unreasonable to have fifth grade classes of 22 students at Lincoln Elementary while there are 31 at Newport Coast the same year.

We want every teacher and specialist to have locking storage for their equipment. Elementary music teachers purchased equipment with foundation and grant money and can’t secure it.

Social workers don’t have private locations to hold confidential conversations. They need a suitable place to get their work done.

We want all teachers to have a fair amount of planning and grading time.

We want safe schools without sewer gases, rodents or uneven walkways that hurt students and staff. Senior administration takes far too long to repair problems when they are reported.

We want to maintain fair salaries and quality health care plans that allow the majority of our teachers to live within Newport-Mesa and our adjacent cities.

These are teachers’ priorities.

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NMFT is committed to supporting students, teachers, accountability, community and equality in Newport-Mesa. We work hard to be stewards of our schools and community resources. We appreciate your support and trust.

Britt Dowdy is president of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, Local 1794.

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