Questions about our CalSTRS benefits

Several teachers have been in contact regarding their CalSTRS accounts. Have you checked yours lately? Some teachers have expressed concern that they did not receive 1 year of Service Credit for teaching at CAVA during any given year. This may have to do with the way that your salary is reported to CalSTRS. The Service Credit is your reported Earnings divided by your Earnables. If your salary is divided into more than one Employer/Assignment, then you may not be receiving the correct Service Credits.
To determine if you were credited correctly follow this link to the CalSTRS website:
1.  Create a new account or log into your account.
2.  Click on View Your Retirement Progress Reports.
3.  Click on the Employer Details for each year that you have been with CAVA.
CalSTRS will round anything at or above 0.9995 to 1 year of Service Credit at the time of retirement.
If you see any problems, here are a couple of action options:
1.  If you would like us to look into your case further, you can take a screen shot, label them with the year being disputed, and send them to the Organizing Committee ( with the Subject: CalSTRS Discrepancy
2.  If you believe there is a problem, on the CalSTRS website you can go to Services, Online Messaging, Create Message, and state your concern(s). This will prompt an internal review of your account with CalSTRS.
During the 2012 – 2013 School Year, teachers were contracted for 200 days at 8 hours per day. This equates to 1,600 hours. CAVA reports the minimum number of hours needed to constitute 1 year of Service Credit. Anything over the minimum should be credited to your DBS Contribution (Defined Benefit Supplement).
This is important for two main reasons. It is critical that you are receiving the correct number of Service Credits each year, with additional Credits rolling over into your DBS Contribution, so that you can retire on your schedule. It is also important, because if you retire without the proper number of years credited to you, you will receive a lower monthly benefit amount.
Your information will be kept confidential and will not be shared with anyone outside of CalSTRS. We want to be sure that ALL teachers are getting ALL of the credit they are due for their hard work at CAVA.

What to do if you’ve been fired/not offered a new contract by CAVA

We are now in year to year employment contract season. This is a time of anxiety for many non-union charter teachers throughout the state because it is when we learn whether or not we will be rehired for the next school year. Here at CAVA, the contracts are slowly arriving. We hope everyone who wants to return receives a contract. Unfortunately, each year, some members of our community are not asked back– often for no good reason. We have assembled steps to take in the event that you do not receive the employment contract you deserve:

1) Put together any evidence or documents you might need. It is especially important to save copies of your evaluation from this year and previous years and any discipline letters (not on your CAVA computer).
2) File for unemployment. Unless they gave a reason when they fired you, you’ve been laid off – put “contract ended” on the application. Be prepared to have a case, though, in the event CAVA tries to contest it. If you end up taking this to a hearing with a judge, they really like evidence and exhibits, so save anything that might be relevant. You can read the benefit determination guide here: – this is the manual that the EDD uses to decide whether or not you qualify for benefits.
3) Sign up for the national employment law project’s newsletter to get updates on federal extensions of unemployment and other legislation affecting the unemployed.
4) Research whether you fall into a protected category and consider filing a complaint if you think you were treated in a discriminatory fashion. The paperwork from this claim can also be submitted as evidence in an EDD hearing.
5) Think about coworkers that might be willing to write a letter of reference for you. Make sure you have non-cava contact information for them.

7) If you were on the union organizing committee or believe you may have been discriminated against for union activity, please let the organizing committee know. Please save any evidence you have that you were involved with the union.

As professional educators, we believe our co-workers should not have to go through this period of anxiety each year. We look forward to bargaining a union contract that has employment protections, so our hard working colleagues cannot be let go without cause. Year to year contracts and arbitrary employment decisions harm our school, our students and our profession.

If you have any more tips for your colleagues, please send them to us at:

Where the Money Goes

Education dollars should be invested in our classrooms, not sent out of state to fund exorbitant executive salaries


How much better off would our students be if class sizes were smaller, we had less teacher turnover, and CAVA teachers had time to focus more on instruction than on our ever-changing and expanding administrative responsibilities?


CAVA generally receives the same ADA as traditional brick and mortar schools in California. This is more than enough public money to reduce class sizes and allow teachers to spend more time focused on instruction. Unfortunately, too large a share of those resources (money that comes from California tax payer pockets) are shipped out of state each year to K-12 for curriculum, technology, and management services.


A surprising amount goes to subsidize K-12 executive salaries that are off the charts. Recently, the Center for Media and Democracy came out with a report that identified ex-K12 CEO Ron Packard as the “country’s highest paid teacher.” Though calling Packard a “teacher” is debatable, the report’s numbers are important to read:


“Packard made more than $19 million in compensation between 2009 and 2013, despite the alarming fact that only 28 percent of K12 Inc. cyber schools met state standards in 2010-2011, compared to 52 percent of public schools. Center for Media and Democracy estimates that K12 Inc. makes 86 percent of its revenue from the taxpayers.”(


When our workload increases, our students receive less attention. Additionally, our hard working CAVA colleagues have compensation packages that are approximately half of what surrounding district teachers make. The work stress combined with low compensation means high turnover—a problem that creates further instability in the classroom.


In this context, it’s hard to imagine how K12 can justify having paid Packard such an exorbitant sum of money. Shouldn’t our public resources be focused on the classroom, not used to pad K-12 executive salaries?


By organizing our union at CAVA, we will help CAVA/K-12 reprioritize and focus resources were they are needed- in the classroom.


We need your input!


Make sure to fill out the bargaining survey to help identify our priorities for how resources should best be used (let us know if you need to be added to the mailing list to receive surveys). Please check back here frequently for updates about our union organizing.


First Survey Sent!

Our first survey went out this morning, so please check your personal email address. If you did not receive one, or would like to be added to our mailing list please let us know:

Please take a moment to complete the survey as this will guide our conversations for bargaining preparations. Thanks for your input!

*Progress Update

Last week we reported that administration took the first step towards following California law and posted the required notice announcing our request for union recognition.  This week it looks like they are trying to take a different path.  Rather than respecting our right to unionize, they may be trying to use legal maneuvers to try and delay our efforts to organize.  In a recent letter from their notoriously anti-union and anti-educator law firm, they have suggested that CAVA should be considered 11 different schools that are totally independent (even though we all have the same management structure, policies and procedures, teach the same students,  and so on).  Furthermore, they have indicated that they should be considered a private company.  This latter point runs contrary to CAVA’s entire revenue model which is dependent on public funding and we are concerned could potentially endanger their standing with the state of California.


We are not surprised that CAVA is trying to delay the process and expected they would likely try both of these tactics.  We do however believe they should act responsibly, respect teachers’ right to organize, and avoid endangering our students and our school.  In the meantime we will continue to build our union and get ready to make the changes that are needed at our school.


If you have any questions about these latest developments, be sure to contact our committee and keep checking our website for further updates.

Bargaining Preparation Survey Coming Soon

While we realize there might be a bit of survey fatigue among our colleagues this season, we feel it is important to gain broad-based input from as many teachers as possible as we prepare for the bargaining phase.  Our initial survey will come out soon, and all CAVA teachers will be invited to participate. If you know someone who does not get the link please have them send us their personal email address.


Survey questions are created by a team of organizing committee members from K-8, High School, and Special Education with the hope that they will generate valid and valued responses from all segments of our teaching staff.  We hope to hear back from every teacher – both those who participated in the signature drive and those who did not.  All teacher feedback will be considered as we move forward.


Check your e-mail in-box this week for an invitation to complete this survey.  (Please add to your contacts to make sure our e-mails stay out of your spam folder.)  Our initial survey will come out this week.  We will have additional surveys, meetings, and other ways to contribute your input during the months ahead.  We look forward to seeing what you have to say!


Contracts are Coming!

Some of our colleagues have asked whether we should still sign our employment contracts now that we are unionizing. The answer is yes, we should. Now that we have decided to unionize, we are preparing to begin the process of negotiating a union contract. However, that process will not start immediately. In the meantime, CAVA administration is obligated to proceed as per their normal procedures. That includes offering us yearly employment contracts. Once we have negotiated and then ratified our union contract, it will supersede our year-to-year contracts. If you have any questions about this part of the process, please feel free to contact an organizing committee member or email us at:

The Posting is Up (how to find it)

According to California law, when teachers request union recognition, their school administration is supposed to post a specific notice in a public place that acknowledges the teachers’ request. As of May 27, CAVA administration posted the appropriate document. Though the notice itself is not the most interesting reading material, we are pleased our school is following the law. If you are interested in checking it out for yourself, log into Edmodo, look in the staff lounge folders, go to the one titled “Human Resources: Docs”, and it should be the one at the top. It is required to be posted until 6/16/14, so if you look for it after that you may need to ask a committee member for a copy. You can also find it below.

Next steps in the process include the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) verifying our majority support for unionization, and an input process in which everyone will have an opportunity to identify the improvements that are most important for our school!