BUSD Must Move Up Its Hiring Timeline

The following speech was given at the April 6, 2016, Board of Education meeting by BFT President Cathy Campbell.

Good Evening Board Members and Superintendent Evans,

My name is Cathy Campbell and I am the President of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers.

I want to speak with you tonight about the critical issue of our teacher hiring timeline in BUSD.

We believe there is nothing more important to our ability to serve the students and families of Berkeley than having schools that are fully staffed with excellent teachers on day one of the school year. Retaining our very skilled instructors, and being able to recruit fabulous, talented, highly skilled new employees should be, and we believe is, a top priority for this Board and your staff.

In addition, as you have heard over and over again this year from the community, and repeatedly in past years from teachers and parents, we must increase our efforts, and change some of our basic timelines, to recruit more teachers of color in BUSD.

We are now at the critical time of the year when these goals must become concrete actions. The prime hiring season for teachers is quickly upon us. BUSD must take steps to seize the opportunities before us.

We believe that this is THE year to significantly move up our hiring timeline. As you know, ALL of the first year teachers in BUSD have received a letter telling them that they are released from BUSD employment as of June 17, 2016. In past years these teachers have not been rehired until early June. The email to these teachers inviting them to come to HR and sign a new contract last year was delivered on June 5, 2015. NEW teachers cannot generally receive an actual contract until AFTER the temp teachers are rehired, meaning that this has also not started in earnest until May or June in past years.

As you know, we are now living in a period of an extremely tight labor market for teachers. BUSD must change its timelines or we risk both not starting the school year fully staffed AND not having the opportunity to hire the most qualified candidates. For the first time in many years, BUSD did NOT start out this current school year fully staffed. This causes harm to students and makes the start of school a more stressful experience for all.

This is THE year to seize this opportunity because we do not need to wait for the May Revise to make hiring decisions. If anything the state budget will get BETTER in the May Revise; it is clear it is not going to get worse. We need to seize the day.

We very much appreciate staff’s highlighting of this issue in the LCAP document you have before you tonight, and the hard work that has gone into bringing you this document earlier than in past years. As staff writes in the document: “The purpose of examining the 16-17 expenditures separately is in an effort to expedite direction that will impact some hiring timelines for 16-17.”

These are the steps where the Board can provide direction on in order to move up the BUSD hiring timeline:

1) We urge you to give your blessing to the NOT NEW LCAP-funded positions that are being presented to you tonight. This will be incredibly helpful in being able to begin the hiring process.

2) We urge the Board to encourage staff to begin the hiring process without waiting for the May Revise.

3) We urge staff to take steps so that Site Plans are not an impediment to expediting the hiring process.

4) We urge the Board to vote on NEW LCAP-funded positions as early as possible. It would be ideal to vote on as many of these positions as possible at the May 4th Board meeting.

On a somewhat related note, we want to say that we are very supportive of the proposal in the document before you tonight to move toward a model of having FULL TIME, BUSD employees offering restorative practices and direct services that serve as alternatives to suspension and support with positive school climate. As you know, that is the direction in which BFT thinks we need to go and we appreciate the proposal to use that structure at our middle schools.

Lastly, we appreciate the proposal in the LCAP document to further address the needs of larger schools. The proposal includes a specific proposal to provide more RtI FTE at Malcolm X. This is an issue that affects multiple sites and we encourage the Board to think carefully about how LCAP funds can be used to address this challenge.