Where’s the collaboration?

CUSD must stop the duplicitous behaviors

The author is a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University and has been a special-education teacher for 14 years. He currently teaches preschool special education in the CUSD.

Four years ago, when I was deciding whether to leave my job with Butte County Office of Education for a position in Chico, I was surprised by how cautiously encouraging colleagues were. Although people agreed that working close to home or working in the same school district that my son attended would have its advantages, veteran teachers from Chico Unified School District and BCOE stated that CUSD was particularly political and was not particularly collaborative with its teachers.

It was not until the spring 2008 layoff process began that I saw for myself what others had warned me about. The pink-slip proceedings cast an unnecessarily wide net and were costly for the district, both relationship-wise and financially. However, I think what affected me most then and continues to be apparent now is how CUSD uses hyperbolic declarations (often about financial matters) to justify its autocratic decision making.

In an Aug. 8 Chico News & Review article, Assistant Superintendent Bob Feaster, commenting on the trend of certain parents leaving district schools for charters, is quoted as saying, “Taken to the illogical extreme, one could see where we would be Chico Unified EL [English learners]/Special Ed.” Hyperbole aside, this is not an illogical conclusion. It is entirely logical that employees and consumers who are systematically shut out of a collaborative process will not support those who do the shutting out.

If duplicitous behaviors like stonewalling contract negotiations or dragging exaggerated numbers of teachers through a layoff process are policy and procedure, then the charter trend is logical and even justifiable.

It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone, including CUSD upper administration, that many parents who are savvy about school choice choose to leave the district for schools that they perceive to be more responsive to their family’s wants and needs. Superintendent Kelly Staley herself started off this school year by calling for greater customer service.

Teachers are ready to shoulder additional reasonable burdens; we have demonstrated this already by teaching more students per class, doing without classroom budgets and paying more for our health coverage. I encourage the CUSD Board of Trustees and its administration to do business differently by seeking out collaborative and innovative solutions to the challenges facing our public schools.

— Aaron Sauberan