Statewide Petition Delivery Calling for Change at CAVA

On June 28th, members of California Virtual Educators United (CVEU) and other CTA affiliated unions took to the streets of Palo Alto, CA and Simi Valley, CA.

June 28 Palo Alto

The purpose of our Palo Alto action was to deliver our petition to Jake Reynolds, General Partner at Technology Crossover Ventures and Member of the K12 Board of Directors. K12 has direct influence over the management at CAVA including allocation of resources and school wide goals. CAVA teachers hand delivered the petition to Jake Reynolds’ office in the hopes of gaining an audience with Jake Reynolds and to open a line of communication between our union and K12. After speaking with Mr. Reynolds’ assistant it was made clear that he would not have time to meet with our representatives.

 

Our purpose for the Simi Valley action was to deliver our petition to Katrina Abston, Head of Schools for CAVA/K12. K12 has direct influence over the management at CAVA including allocation of resources and school wide goals. CVEU hand delivered the petition to Katrina Abston’s office in the hopes of directly speaking with Ms. Abston about the numerous issues affecting our teachers and students. We were greeted by CAVA’s receptionist.  It was made clear that Ms. Abston was out of the office on June 28th. We were disappointed regarding Ms. Abston’s absence from CAVA’s main office so close to the end of the 2015-16 school year.

June 28 Simi Valley

We have tried for two years to meet and speak with members of K12 and its board to express concerns over poor management at CAVA. Low student performance, high teacher turnover, and low enrollment are all key indications that the management at CAVA is sorely lacking clear guidance and the ability to lead and inspire the teachers. The changes we are requesting at CAVA will not only help teachers and students but it will also help CAVA as a whole grow and flourish.

 

With the recent PERB decision officially certifying our union, as well as the recent settlement between K12, Inc. and the California Attorney General, CAVA must sit down and work with teachers to make our school better.  We look forward to that process.

 

The petition is still open for you to encourage your family and friends to join fellow teachers in showing support for your students and your school. CAVA has the support of over 325,000 active and retired CTA members and the support of colleagues from across the nation. #fixCAVAnow

http://educationvotes.nea.org/2016/02/23/end-the-delays-work-with-your-teachers-to-fix-cava-now/

PERB Ruling: WE WON!

 

On June 28th, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) issued a terrific ruling that validated CAVA teachers long struggle to improve our school by unionizing with the California Teachers Association.  What follows is a summary of what the agreement says and what it means for our colleagues who want to make CAVA the best possible place to teach and learn.

CVEU Tweet

First, some background: PERB is a government agency that oversees certain aspects of labor relations pertaining to public sector workers in California.  One important function of PERB is that they oversee the unionization process when public school employees decide to organize.  PERB also adjudicates disputes between the union and management when either party violates the appropriate laws (EERA).   CAVA is a public charter school, and thus falls under the EERA and the jurisdiction of PERB.

In May of 2014, CAVA teachers began the organizing process by collecting signatures from a super-majority of CAVA teachers expressing support for unionization and submitted them to PERB.  We decided to unionize to fix many of the problems at CAVA and knew that if teachers had a stronger voice, they could make CAVA work better for our entire community.

In July, 2014, PERB verified that the majority of CAVA teachers supported unionization.  At this point, almost all charter schools respect teachers’ democratic decision and recognize their union. Unfortunately, CAVA chose instead to contest our decision. They argued that we were not one statewide school, but rather 10 individual schools and therefore would have to be 10 different unions and bargain 10 different contracts.  This didn’t make sense given the way CAVA is set-up.  Furthermore, we were concerned that CAVA administration was making this claim to delay the start of bargaining in the hopes that CAVA teachers would give up on our dream of making CAVA a better school for students and teachers.  But we were determined and will never give up.

After a five day hearing in March 2015, the PERB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) determined that we were one statewide bargaining unit and officially certified our union in October of 2015. Unfortunately, rather than accepting the ALJ’s decision, CAVA administration filed an appeal with the entire PERB Board. The PERB board, makes the final decisions concerning disputes of EERA.

On June 28th, the full PERB board issued a decision that vindicated CAVA teachers’ long struggle to unionize.  They officially certified our union and ruled that we are one statewide community that will bargain one collective bargaining agreement that includes all CAVA teachers statewide.  We are very happy with the decision.  If you have any more questions about specifics within this latest decision, please contact us.  Or feel free to read it here [link].

What happens next: Now that we are certified, CAVA administration has 10 days to post the notice of the decision on Share Point and it shall remain posted for 15 days.  Our union organizing committee has been putting together bargaining proposals in preparation for this decision for sometime, and we will be requesting bargaining dates from CAVA administration so we can commence bargaining this summer.  CAVA is now obligated to bargain in good faith.  We look forward to them now, finally, working with CAVA teachers to make urgently needed improvements to enhance the stability of our school. We believe working with management at the bargaining table to negotiate a fair contract is the best way to protect the interests of CAVA students and its teachers.

Much of our proposal creation is based on the extensive surveys and discussions we have had with our colleagues over the past year.  More input and participation will be needed.  Please email us if we don’t have your personal contact info, and also, let us know if you want to play a bigger role in this next phase of our important journey to #fixCAVAnow!

Teacher Appreciation from Administration

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, some of our administrators have sent emails with student’s sharing their We love Teachersappreciation, quotes from philosophers, and a limited few stated how important we are to them and our school. Those of us who have been here awhile know these emails are often sent during Teacher Appreciation Week.  While we appreciate sentiment, we are frustrated that the compassion expressed this one week of the year rarely translates to policies and treatment that express true appreciation for the contributions CAVA teachers make every day. In fact, if our administration truly meant what they stated in their emails, then they would stop their delay tactics and meet us at the bargaining table.

Deanna Haynie said, [Our] dedication, support, care, and love are truly what makes our students the luckiest in the state!”  She’s right!  We are some of the most dedicated educators in California!  We noticed problems within our school and began to find ways to improve the education of our students.  To quote Cathy Andrew from an email she sent on the topic of Teacher Appreciation, “Our students are with us for only a short time, yet that time is powerful – the connections that we make, the school culture that we build, the instruction that we provide – they set the tone for the future”.  We agree with Cathy and would like to begin plans for a better future for our students instead of continual delays by the administration and K12.  April Warren thanked us for the grace we have extended to her when she lets us down, “Thank you for grace you extend to others, including me, when they or I let you down”. April Warren, we ask you to not let us down when it comes to our students and school.  It is time for all administration to put aside their differences and come together for the betterment of the school.

As we eagerly await our Teacher Appreciation email from our Head of Schools, Katrina Abston, we will continue to hope that this year Teacher Appreciation Week will end differently than it has in years past. As stated further in April’s Teacher Appreciation email, “…[making] a commitment to change is difficult for everyone and the uncertainty that change brings causes all of us to question ‘am I up for this?’  When I asked myself that question I came to the understanding that it isn’t about if ‘I am up for this?’ It is about ‘we.’”  This year, we hope our gift from the administration is not a bunch of nice words, but an invitation to work together and meet at the bargaining table. We ask the administrators to stand by their words in these emails, listen to the voices of the teachers, and bargain in good faith for a fair contract.

The time is now for the CAVA administration to show their true appreciation for teachers.

On the Air

The Labor Radio station, a pro-worker show that airs on numerous radio stations in dozens of states, interviewed California Virtual radioAcademies (CAVA) teacher Sarah Vigrass and aired a segment April 29th about our unionizing fight at CAVA. The story also promotes our drive to get the public to sign our #fixCAVAnow petition demanding that management come to the bargaining table and stop delays. The Labor Radio station is part of the Workers Independent News operation based in Wisconsin.

K12 Earnings Call

This week CAVA’s management company K12 Inc. held its third quarter earnings call with executives, reporting revenue growth of 4 percent “year over year” and operating income (profit) of just about $19 million for the quarter.  On the conference call, recently-hired CEO Stuart Udell expressed his delight with being one of the newest members of the K12 executive team as well as his excitement about what he sees as K12’s potential to deliver for students.  It’s no surprise that Udell, whose pay and employment depends on improving K12’s stock performance and investor satisfaction, presented an extremely optimistic front as he speculated that K12’s fourth quarter will be even better.

This despite a rough start for the company’s current fiscal year – one that essentially began with a shareholder revolt that resulted in the voting down of K12’s executive compensation proposal, CAVA DC Report Card Large Vert Rallyteachers delivering a report card of straight F’s to K12’s leadership for its failure to invest in students and teachers, the removal of Nate Davis as the company’s CEO, and sharp criticism of the for-profit company following the release of a series of studies pointing to problems with virtual charter schools due to weak oversight and the industry’s misplaced priorities.

But, if you ask Stuart Udell, at K12 everything is awesome.  This is an interesting contrast to the doom and gloom the company sought to broadcast as early as last week in response to the recent articles published by the San Jose Mercury News, which raise very serious questions about how CAVA and K12 are using the public education dollars they receive – millions of dollars intended to provide instruction to our kids but instead funneled out of the state.  CAVA and K12 have yet to respond to the actual merits of the news story, instead opting to blame it all away on teachers who have stood up for our students by forming a union.  Hmmm.

Oh, and speaking of contradictions, did you know that one of K12’s newest ventures is in partnership with – wait for it – a labor union?!  That’s right.  Executives on this week’s conference call also touched on their excitement around K12’s Destinations Career Academy – a new technical education online high school in Wisconsin that offers a construction apprenticeship program in partnership with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139.  Imagine that – K12 seeking to deliver for students in partnership with organized labor.

We sincerely look forward to the day decision-makers at our school embrace a partnership with teachers and our union too – not only for the benefit of shareholders and the bottom line, but for the success of CAVA’s students.  Now, talk about awesome.

CAVA Teacher Raises: A Small Step On the Path to Stability?

ChairRecently we learned that CAVA teachers would be receiving a 5% raise. While our teachers certainly deserve and welcome this news, we can’t help but wonder what the motivation was behind this unexpected increase. Employers (especially those like CAVA who are managed by a for-profit corporation) don’t just give money away without a reason. Some of us question whether this was an attempt to placate teachers and try to weaken support of our union. After all, CAVA and K12 have made it crystal clear they are hostile to teachers have no real voice in decisions.

Whatever the motivation, we believe it is a step in the right direction but not enough. Our colleagues deserve a decent salary. As long as we are compensated well below the average of what teachers receive in California, turnover will remain too high. This destabilizes our school and disrupts our student’s learning. Also, while salary is important to all CAVA teachers trying to make ends meet, it is just one among a host of issues we seek to address in our union contract. Among other concerns raised in recent bargaining surveys that our colleagues filled out:

  • Less administrative duties to allow teachers to focus on teaching.
  • Job security and due process.
  • Clearly defined and communicated policies that remain consistent rather than changing every year and sometimes mid-year.
  • Implementation of a BTSA program to support new teachers.
  • Lack of a professional salary schedule.
  • Standardized evaluation procedure and criteria for raises
  • A clearly laid out salary schedule.
  • The ability to advocate for students without the fear of reprisal.

Currently, CAVA teachers do not have a voice in these matters, or in any aspect of our school operations. We are the ones on the front line. We see how the problems in our school are hampering student success. We would love nothing more than to work with administration to fix these problems; to create a place where students thrive and teachers want to work. We urge our administration to stop delaying and set a date to meet at the bargaining table.

 

New CEO of K12 Inc. Selected: More Focus on Quality?

shipEffective February 8, 2016, K12’s CEO will be Stuart J. Udell.  Udell is a long-time education industry executive, most recently serving as CEO of Catapult Learning, LLC.  He has also worked for a variety of other education firms, including Penn Foster Education Group, Kaplan, and Renaissance Learning.  Udell is currently on the board of the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network, a program of Clemson University focusing on dropout prevention and increasing graduation rates in American high schools.  According to a recent K12 Inc. press release, Udell comes to the company with vast operational experience in the education industry and after having almost doubled Catapult Learning’s revenues “by focusing on maintaining high education quality standards and introducing technology-based offerings”.  Udell replaces Nate Davis, who will become K12’s Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors.

 

We hope Udell will seize the opportunity to make needed changes in K12 Inc.’s priorities. More focus and resources must be given to our classrooms. Also, teacher turnover is too high. It is past time that CAVA’s great and professional teachers are compensated fairly. This is especially important now that there is a teacher shortage. So many of our colleagues are leaving to take jobs in either virtual or brick and mortar schools in other districts or charter schools. Teacher turnover creates instability which is bad for our students.

 

We communicated the urgent need for improvements to shareholders when a delegation of CAVA organizing committee members went to Washington DC in December. We see the appointment of a new CEO as a step in the right direction. Though we don’t know what specific plans are in store for CAVA as a result of this change, we believe Stuart Udell should take advantage of the opportunity to work with us to make our school better for our students. We are hopeful, but rest assured, no one in the Organizing Committee HQ is holding their breath!

 

 

CAVA Teachers Go to Washington D.C.

On December 16th, K12 Inc. held its annual shareholder meeting in Washington D.C., and five of our colleagues traveled there to deliver a report card of straight Fs to Nate Davis and the K12 board of directors. Our message was simple: CAVA and K12 are failing our students and teachers, and the time is now to commit to investing in the classroom and to put students above profits. CAVA teachers were joined in an electrifying rally by more than 70 supporters DC Rally 1including allies representing the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and others concerned about K12’s profit-driven model and its negative effect on the students who attend its managed schools.

US History teacher Jason Spadaro and math teacher Kelly Walters both spoke to protesters about the need to hold CAVA and K12 accountable to teachers, students, and taxpayers. They were joined by NEA’s national head of organizing, Jim Testerman, who read aloud a powerful statement of support for CAVA teachers from NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. Speakers explained how K12’s curriculum is outdated and error-riddled, and also spoke about how California tax dollars are being converted into profit for K12 rather than being used to fix our school.

Mark addresses NEAPrior to the shareholder action, special education teacher Mark Holtebeck attended a meeting with NEA staff to share the story of organizing our union. Mark spoke about the critical work charter educators are engaged in to improve opportunities for our students. In a preview of the shareholder rally, the meeting erupted as Mark led a packed room in the chant: “The teachers united will never be defeated!”

DC Rally 2

Special education teacher Kirt Knapp, who owns shares of K12 stock, was able to get inside the meeting to deliver our report card directly to K12 officers. While inside, we learned that shareholders also dissatisfied with K12’s performance rebelled by voting down a proposal to increase executive pay. The shareholder meeting ended abruptly and is scheduled to reconvene on Christmas Eve. Coverage of the shareholder meeting can be found here.

DC Rally 3

Paid Maternity Leave Approved in San Diego Area Teacher Contract

More and more schools are improving standards in order to recruit the best and brightest. We have great teachers here at CAVA, who are committed to our students. But the turnover is to high and that means many of our students cycle through multiple teachers in a single year.

Recently, in a first for a school district in California, the Grossmont Union High School District board in San Diego County approved six weeks of paid maternity leave for district teachers. The move benefits families and students as it will do much to attract and retain qualified educators.

As the statewide demand for teachers intensifies, strategies that seek to attract and retain young professionals are beginning to take shape at negotiating tables in California. Isn’t it time that CAVA make a better effort to create a more stable faculty and make teaching online a more sustainable profession? We think so! To read more about Grossmont Teachers and other recent victories, check out the November edition of CTA’s the educator!

CAVA Teachers in the News!

Boy with newspaper

Our recent victory at the Public Employment Relations Board has caught the attention of several media outlets. One recent article in The American Prospect called the PERB decision, “A major win in the movement to organize charter schools.” The article goes on to discuss how online charter schools, nationwide, are under fire for poor performance as evidenced by three recent research reports. CAVA Organizing Committee members, Stacie Bailey and Jen Shilen, were interviewed for this story and stressed the need for teachers to have more of a voice in school operations in order to begin fixing the problems plaguing our school and hampering our students’ education.   The full article can be found by here.