Our Dedication is Not Temporary!

The following speech was given at the May 23, 2012 Board of Education Meeting by
BFT President Cathy Campbell.

Good Evening Board Members and Superintendent Huyett,

My name is Cathy Campbell and I am the President of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers. As you know, BFT represents over 800 certificated employees here in BUSD.

As you can see, we are here tonight as a collective to speak to you about a policy issue of great importance to our teachers, and to the stability of our teaching force going forward.

Would all of the 1st and 2nd year temporary teachers here tonight please stand?

Thanks.

Would everyone who is here tonight to support temporary teachers please stand?

Thank you.

As you may know, for the first time since anyone can remember, this year the District has hired teachers on the 2nd year of a temporary contract. Prior to this year, all first year temporary teachers were hired on Probationary 2 contracts for the following year.

Temporary teachers are "at will" employees that can be dismissed at any time, even mid-year, with no due process, and they have zero rehire rights in a layoff situation. 

Worse yet, under the California Education Code only ONE year of temporary service can be "counted" toward becoming a permanent teacher in California. A teacher cannot be temporary for 2 or 3 years and then become permanent. They MUST have a year on a "Probationary 2" contract in order to become permanent.

We are here to protest the new policy of keeping teachers in temp status for more than one year, and to ask the Board to return to the prior practice of not keeping teachers in temp status for more than one year.

The District's new practice creates a second-class tier of teachers who are in perpetual limbo. I can tell you in the strongest possible terms that this group of teachers is discouraged and many are considering looking for work in other districtswhere a probationary contract is possible. This new practice hurts morale and sends the message to these talented individuals that they are dispensable.

We have incredibly talented and qualified new teachers; we need to make a commitment to our teachers and provide them with access, in our district, to the path to permanent status that the Ed Code affords. Our teachers deserve the chance to prove themselves and to make a career in our district.

You may hear from staff that this new practice is needed in order to deal with the financially uncertain times we are living in. It is important for the Board to know that in making these temporary teachers probationary next year the Board will lose NONE of its rights to lay off teachers if our district is overstaffed. This is why, even in the four previous years of our current recession, the District has never before hired large numbers of 2nd year temporary teachers. If we were able to make good, strong commitments to our new teachers in the early years of this recession, without putting our District at risk financially, we can do it now, and we should.

Please note that we are not asking the District to have ZERO temporary teachers. Hiring first year teachers on a temporary contract, as has been the practice for some time, does these teachers no harm. Every year for at least the last three years this District has hired between 40 and 50 NEW HIRES. Those hires can provide the District with any critical flexibility they need. There is no reason to believe that this fall will be any different.

Some folks argue that BUSD needs to have a lot of 2nd year temporary teachers so that layoffs can be avoided. However, this year there were more 2nd year temporary teachers in this District than there has EVER been, and layoff notices and a hearing still occurred. Creating a class of perpetually temp teachers will not guarantee that layoff notices are not needed, and if the practice continues we risk losing many, many good teachers. 

We cannot delay on this issue. There are over 60 temporary teachers that were released on March 15th and have not been rehired. They have been in limbo for over 2 months. Of those over 15 are second year temporary teachers who do not have a guarantee that they will not be in a THIRD year of temp status next year. This is unacceptable. We call upon this Board to take swift and decisive action to do the right thing: Rehire these teachers immediately and put them on probationary contracts.

We have amazing teachers who want to make their careers in our district. We have incredible retention of teachers in our district. We call upon you all to take strong action so that these great truths continue.