Op-Ed: Teachers March for a Better Future in San Jose’s Evergreen School District

Acrimonious negotiations are once again underway in the Evergreen School District. Sadly, this has become the norm over the last six years.

Maybe it’s what’s been happening in other states, but it feels very different this time around. It could be members of the Evergreen Teachers Association (ETA) are sick and tired of constantly having to battle for what’s best for their students and themselves.

Brian Wheatley speaks at the May 10 rally.

Bargaining for the 2017-18 school year has dragged on for more than a year with no end in sight. We are currently at the fact finding stage. If the two sides are not able to reach an agreement, management, describing its own proposal as “draconian,” will be able to impose, and ETA, asking for a modest 0.5 percent raise and more preparation time, will be legally authorized to strike.

Teachers, community members and allies came together for a March for Evergreen’s Future and held a rally before the May 10 school board meeting. O.B. Whaley Elementary School teacher and ETA poet laureate Jeff Beckley summed up teacher frustration and the spirit of last week’s demonstration in his poem entitled, “Spring Has Sprung.”

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

Summer is very close at hand
And our district seems intent once again
On informational sleight of hand

You tell only one side of the story
Through district channels reserved only for you
If you had any confidence your story was right
You’d let teachers use these channels, too

But we know that you won’t allow that
Because you know your story is full of holes
And the PR that’s being put out now
Is totally out of control

Especially when the district is given credit
That is truly not theirs to receive
Telling families the district is committed to keeping health cost affordable
Is nothing but pretend and pure make believe

The facts are that the district
Was going to cut our pay
In the form of a health benefits retrogression
Saying they could not possibly find another way

Point of fact, ‘twas a teacher that did all the hard leg work
That the board and district could and should have done
And a teacher who found and researched this new health package
It was a teacher, as usual, who helped everyone

A teacher who helped this district and board
Whose only solution had been to take
From the parents, children, and teachers
Those who have so much at stake

Another statement that needs redress
Concerns FAQ clarification on the district’s website
Again this amounts to district dirty pool
Allowing only what you call the truth out into the light

Why does this letter not explain
Why the district has not closed two schools
The community knows that this should have been done
Yet you continue to treat us like fools

And when the letter talks about the raises
That we earned and had to fight you for
These raises were not provided graciously
From Evergreen’s deep financial reservoir

For the story really goes
That the district fought to give much less
Using the backs of students and teachers
To clean up their financial mess

In not so many words
The letter basically called teachers liars
Is this how PR is used
To put out Evergreen’s many fires

Just because we tell the side that you don’t
Does not make it a misstatement or untruth
And to even suggest this as a fact
Is not only libelous, but terribly uncouth

Once again Evergreen is bargaining in public
No wonder interest-based bargaining did not work
For it to do so you actually have to care
About the people you underpay and overwork

The letter to Evergreen’s families
Was a low blow to all teachers who strive
To provide the families and children of Evergreen
An excellent education to help them all thrive

And even lower still is for this district
To consider stopping funding the trust
A promise was made to the workers here
And keeping your promise is a must

Especially when you are paying into it
With money that should be in our pay
We gave you back the money in 2004
That you pay our trust with today

So if you decide to stop the funding
Of that which was promised to us
You should then expect there to be repercussions
A possibility of a large legal fuss

But all of this could be avoided
Nobody has to be nonplussed
All you have to do is quit bargaining in public
Because you should only be bargaining with us

What happens next? The district, projecting budget deficits and claiming its teachers are well-paid, must prepare a 2018-19 budget and work to get its parcel tax renewed.

Teachers, worrying trustees aren’t doing enough to ensure financial stability and wondering whether they can afford to stay in Evergreen, will focus on our classrooms and bring this school year to a close because students are at the center of everything we do.

If there is a strike—something no teacher wants—it won’t happen until next year.

Brian Wheatley, a father of two and teacher for more than three decades, is the president of the Evergreen Teachers Association and a candidate for the San Jose Unified School District. Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Want to submit an op-ed? Email pitches to [email protected].

8 Comments

  1. What do we want?

    Charter Schools!

    When do we want them?

    NOW!

    What do we want?

    School Vouchers!

    When do we want them?

    NOW!

    When you stop trying to engineer society and start teaching kids how to think not what to think, then maybe you’ll get support. Go ahead strike, take the whole 2018-19 year off, at least then you will stay away from our kids! And maybe parents will have to wake up and take some initiative on what they are learning. The dumbing down of the Bay Area may turn into a Renaissance of free thought.

  2. The California Teachers Association has been flooding the airways with commercials denouncing charter schools for 2 months now. The irony is that those charter schools are proliferating precisely because of the incompetence of too many teachers, and the intransigence of the CTA in failing to allow those incompetent teachers to be terminated. The school boards are complicit in not standing up to the CTA on that issue during contract negotiations. Teachers who do not produce results should be terminated.
    For decades, a post on a school district board has been the first stepping stone to a political career. The utter failure of school boards to provide an education (California is near the bottom in student test scores in math and English) makes them all unqualified to hold political office. I won’t vote for any candidate who lists service on a school board among her/his qualifications.

  3. > It could be members of the Evergreen Teachers Association (ETA) are sick and tired of constantly having to battle for what’s best for their students and themselves.

    HAH!

    “When school children start paying union dues, that ‘s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.

    — Albert Shanker, president, United Federation of Teachers

  4. Do these teachers really deserve a salary increase when a large part of a class has problems with math fundamentals like fractions, division, and multiplication? These are math concepts that should have been routinely covered in the upper elementary grade levels. The students that I am referring to attend what is considered to be a top school in the evergreen school district.

  5. Only about 1/3 of Evergreen Black 8th graders meet or exceed standards on the state math test in 2017 and only 1/5 of 8th grade Hispanics and English Learners meet standards on the state math test. So folks are correct. If you want a pay raise then get results for students because that is the way that it works in the real world. Oh wait, it may be that the Evergreen School district teachers and administrators don’t believe in state testing or accountability! And who can blame them as they get plenty of cover from the corrupt SCCOE and the State Board.

    It is a hopeless situation. Going to a charter school is a crap shoot for parents. So sad. You can see math and ELA results for all school districts in Santa Clara on the Data Visualizations page at http://sipbigpicture.com. None of the school district leaders sent me a thank you not for this wonderful and free organization of data! Hmmm. I wonder why. I even added some joie de vivre to the effort by conducting an Academic Olympics on the site as well. Oh wait. Our totally effeminized school system eschews competition. So sorry. Can’t we all just get along while our children fall further and further behind?

  6. If you want good teachers, you need to pay for them. For all the people blaming the teachers, I have one question: where do you propose finding better teachers at the meager salaries being offered?

    It’s that simple. Do the math and start paying teachers what they deserve if you want quality ones.

  7. > If you want good teachers, you need to pay for them.

    All the teachers teaching in California schools are good teachers.

    They all have teaching credentials and are certified by the State of California to be competent.

    They show up for work. They’re happy to work for what they are being paid.

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