By now we all know that, way up the chain of command, CAVA administration doesn’t want us to be union. That is because they know that as a union, CAVA teachers will have a real say in policies at our school and we will be better able to make sure resources stay in our classroom, rather than getting shipped out of state to K-12 Inc. That is why CAVA continues to use legal maneuvers to delay the official certification of our union, and by extension, our bargaining of a contract.
Recently, there have been a few instances of CAVA administration bullying our colleagues in unacceptable ways. In one case, one of our colleagues was written up for engaging in legally protected union activity. In another case, Stacey Preach, a long-time CAVA teacher and union activist, was terminated.
Bullying is never acceptable. In both these cases, we believe it is down-right illegal. That is why we have filed charges with the Public Employment Relations Board, asserting that CAVA broke the law. We expect resolution in the near future.
We view these examples of bullying as a sign of desperation by some in administration who want to protect the status quo here at our school. They believe that actions like those taken against Stacey will scare us into backing down. On the contrary, they demonstrate exactly why our unionizing is so important. Teachers at CAVA must be able to advocate for our school and our students without fear of reprisals.
As an Organizing Committee of CAVA teachers, we stand together in support of Stacey and in support of our legally protected rights, and will work with our union to hold CAVA accountable for their violations of the law.
Special education teachers came back from summer break to discover that both our department heads had resigned. We also discovered we were being assigned additional new work duties that required mastering new websites, policies, and procedures. Neither us nor our supervisors received adequate training, and we lagged at completing the new tasks despite working far past 4 pm everyday. When management responded by threatening to write up anyone who didn’t meet their arbitrary, impossible deadlines, special ed teachers started to quit. A group of concerned special ed teachers started to meet and wrote a letter to the head of school with our concerns. They never wrote a formal reply. Instead of fixing the problems they ended up increasing the size of our homeroom and caseloads even further. Things got so stressful that two teachers were ordered by their doctors to go out on stress leave!
With no sign of the situation abating, and with no action on our special education letters, teachers decided to pursue additional means to fix the problems. We discussed the special ed problems in our visits to legislators and district superintendents. We had discussions with oversight agencies in the California Department of Education. And recently, we consulted with an advocacy group called Worksafe, and decided that workplace stress for SPED teachers had reached such an extreme that it constituted a safety hazard. Teachers filed a complaint with the CAL-OSHA this past Tuesday, detailing how CAVA’s actions have created an unsafe work environment. OSHA will review the complaint, assign it a priority, and investigate whether CAVA has violated the law by not addressing teachers’ concerns.
It is very important that CAVA special education students receive the focused instruction they deserve. As special ed instructors, we believe it is our responsibility to advocate for them, and will continue to do so until these problems are fixed.
Recently, teachers from the CAVA Organizing Committee visited almost every corner of our great state of California! Our travels had a clear purpose. Over the past six weeks, we met with Superintendents from six of the ten school districts that authorize CAVA to operate. The purpose of these meetings was to educate Superintendents about the issues we’re facing at our school and to ask them to make sure CAVA is adhering to their charter as well as CA state laws. According to California’s Ed Code, authorizing districts are responsible for making sure a charter school is doing everything they said they would do when chartered. Not surprisingly, we have found that there is often a big difference between what CAVA administration does and what they said they were going to do. That is why we have asked the Superintendents to help.
A Walnut grove in Sutter County, CA, near one of the districts we visited.
All of the Superintendents we met with expressed serious concerns about how CAVA administration is treating both its students and its teachers, and assured us they will look into the issues we raised. Many of the districts that authorize CAVA’s charters are very small rural districts that seem to have minimal capacity to make sure our schools follow our charter. Many of them also receive a percentage of the ADA that goes to CAVA based on student enrollment. We also made clear to the Superintendents that if the authorizing districts fail to hold CAVA accountable, we’ll have no choice but to ask the State to intervene.
In the meantime, our meetings have already yielded some positive results! When we met with Meridian School District, we told the Superintendent how CAVA teachers are often pressured by administration to back date ISMAs. The Superintendent agreed that this practice was unacceptable and said he would look into it. And lo and behold, two days after our meeting with Meridian, CAVA sent an all staff email teachers that the practice of back dating ISMAs would no longer happen.
In the coming weeks, we will be meeting with the remaining four districts to share our story and ask the districts to take action. If you’re interested in being part of that process, contact the Organizing Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Marty Block is the latest legislator to write to CAVA administration and request that they respect our democratic decision to unionize. His letter follows that of Assembly Members Das Williams and Roger Dickinson. They, along with many other elected officials, are expressing serious concern about CAVA administration’s use of legal delay tactics to slow down the unionization process. They are also critical of the bad treatment of some of our colleagues who are working to improve CAVA. We appreciate the legislators supportive letters and are glad we can count on their continued oversight of our school as we struggle to make CAVA a better place to teach and learn.
To read the letters, click below:
Senator Marty Block
Assembly Member Das Williams
Assembly Member Roger Dickinson