A group of approximately 50 concerned parents wearing stickers with ‘Parents Have Rights’ on their lapels, attended the Tuesday Feb. 14 Culver City Unified School District Board meeting to ask the school board and district for help saving their parent-funded volunteer positions.
On the table is a threat of a lawsuit by Culver City’s Association of Classified Employees (ACE). Parents were recently informed that ACE President Debbie Hamme filed a grievance, seeking to force all parent-funded booster clubs to cease and desist the employment of paid classroom volunteers.
Moreover, due to union and district requirements, the current paid volunteers are likely to be fired and replaced. Alternatively the current paid volunteers would be forced to join the union. Because the current wages of the paid volunteers are raised 100 percent by the parents - at zero cost to the district - the union further wants the booster clubs to continue to fundraise and send the money directly to the district to pay union employees. Because the unions require that all employees be paid the union scale, the booster clubs would have to raise significantly more money to pay the higher wages.
The booster clubs are expected to continue paying for the programs, but lose all rights of hiring, control, supervision or decision-making.
“I am begging you,” said Linwood E. Howe parent Patrick Meighay to the school board, “please let us help our own kids in the classroom. Show some real leadership.”
Parents with children at El Marino, La Ballona, Farragut, Linwood E. Howe, Culver City Middle School and Culver City High School joined forces to ask the school board to write a policy that would protect their booster club funded paid and non-paid volunteers. Parents, who spoke individually, asked the school board to allow their successful programs to continue, as well as support future parent-funded programs.
The parents also asked the school board to fight ACE’s threatened lawsuit, pointing out that should the district buckle under the threat, successful programs would end or be severely reduced, and children would lose beneficial programs.
Parents Have Rights - a parent-run website in support of Culver City booster clubs - states that parents want the school district to treat the parents at the schools equitably. Furthermore, the site states that the school district must give parents at all schools the right to fundraise for positions and then give them the option to have those positions managed by their nonprofit in coordination with the site principal.
GinaMarie Walker, president of El Marino’s nonprofit booster club called Advocates for Language Learning El Marino (ALLEM) said that she and ALLEM’s board were told about the threat back in September 2011, but were strongly advised that there was no need to tell their paid volunteers, teachers and the parents about it because it would create a panic.
For over 23 years, ALLEM, a parent-run organization, has raised funds to provide target language support providers called Adjuncts, in each classroom. There are currently 20 Adjuncts working in 33 classrooms and serving 762 students. Walker said that if the union demand were realized, the Adjunct services would be drastically decreased, because ALLEM will not be able to pay for 20 Adjuncts at union wages.
The parent-funded booster club at Linwood E. Howe raised enough money this school year to pay the wages of six classroom aides. Under threat of the union, the booster club was forced to pay their aides union wages, thus reducing the number of aids to three. The club was only able to add a fourth classroom aide within the past few weeks.
ACE language states that no non-union employee may do the work of a union employee. But the parents and the booster clubs maintain that the current paid volunteers are doing work that union employees do not currently do. For example, the role of the Adjuncts at El Marino is to aid the teacher in modeling either Spanish or Japanese. El Marino is a language immersion school, which is a method of teaching a second language in which the target language (in this case Spanish and Japanese) is used for instruction. Students are “immersed” and taught core subjects like math, history and social studies in the target language, as if they are learning in English. The Adjuncts spend one to three hours a day assisting the teacher and speaking with the more formal speech that adults use to show the students the proper use of "polite" Spanish and Japanese. Other parent-supported positions at schools include “Growing Great” docents and librarians.
When asked why, after 23 years, ACE has decided to file a grievance against the El Marino Adjunct program, Walker said, “I think that at the core is Debbie Hamme’s misunderstanding that the Adjuncts perform the work of an instructional assistant when in fact they do not.”
Alan Elmont, a CCUSD parent, told the board that forcing parent run organizations to yield their funds to the district for ACE works to the disadvantage of the schools, the students and the paid volunteers. He said that the booster club at Farragut raised money to support the full time wages of their school librarian. When they were forced to unionize the position and turn the funds over to the district, the parents could no longer afford to pay one person the union mandated wage. Now the parents can only raise enough money to pay two part-time librarians, and the students and the school lost a valuable resource.
Culver City parent Sandi Levin said that the union’s position presumes that parents will donate directly to the district, and simply trust the district to use the money wisely, that parents will pay any additional overhead and that the district will somehow find the resources to administer and supervise the programs. She said that she has spoken with many parents and the consensus is that parents will not continue to fund under those circumstances.
Walker pointed out the only identifiable benefit to the union action stating, “In light of all the turmoil, parents from all the schools are creating, communicating and collaborating. We want that to continue.”
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