By Charles Thomas
The Venice Skills Center enters summer with a glimmer of hope after enduring an emotional roller coaster these past several months. This past March, in the wake of across-the-board school budget cuts, the LAUSD school board voted to end all funding for adult education.
Gutting adult ed funding meant no operating funds for our Skills Center. What ensued, as a result of the board vote, was a plethora of rallies and activ- ism to save adult education. We were loud and insis- tent for the board to reinstate adult education, and the persistence may have paid off.
LAUSD has set forth a plan to continue adult ed and the Skills Center. This latest development evi- dently resulted (in large part) from recent successful negotiations between the teachers’ union and the board. At issue was the union’s acceptance of 10 fur- lough days (maximum) for the coming school year. The furlough days, obviously, meant a pay reduction for the teachers, a feisty point of contention.
The union’s communications department says the yearly pay reduction is about 5 percent if the maximum furlough days stand. LAUSD contends that savings generated by pay reductions
is necessary for the budget.
The board and union reached a tentative agreement on June 12 and the union body voted to pass the plan; the vote counted and an- nounced the following Saturday. Only the previous week, Skills Cen- ter teachers attended a special meet- ing and workshop on campus to process their unemployment claims.
An operating plan has been handed down from the board that could keep ten locations of adult ed open for the fall, the Skills Center being one such location.
Accepting the aforementioned furlough days hasn’t created “happy campers” of a number of teachers. Many voted against the plan. How- ever, approximately 58 percent of teachers supported the agreement. Apparently, the majority believed that a 5 percent pay cut was better than a 100 percent cut. As such, it seems the board held adult education “hostage” during this whole process.
David Lyell, a teachers’ union officer says that in previous times when teachers were “pink-slipped” in a similar reduction in force (RIF) issue, the district hired substitute teachers who were paid substantially less for doing the same job.
too. In other cases when teachers were ‘RIF’ed, Lyell knows that principals would often hire those teachers back as substitutes. Those teachers were doing the same job, but were paid substantially less, possibly upwards to 50 percent less in some cases.
Lyell believes these events to be calculated prac- tices on the part of LAUSD to give teachers the “short end of the stick.” He says, “LAUSD embraces irresponsible decisions. They should embrace a more transparent budget process like the County, which has budget hearings. There should be school board meet- ings at night so those who work days can have oppor- tunity to address the board.”
Lyell further asserts, “They are trying to break the union. They want older teachers to retire because they cost more money. They want younger teachers to question seniority . . .” as this could be a method for creating discord in the union.
June 14 was the annual graduation ceremony at the Skills Center. The ceremony was a profound and touching event, with hugs shared and a few tears since we were under the assumption that this could be the last event of its kind. Our guest speaker was Councilmember Bill Rosendahl who spoke at length
of the Center’s importance for providing access to the homeless.
Other teachers have cause for better morale thanks to the steady drone of adult ed activists and those who successfully negotiated the board and un- ion agreement. (Notably among those was Ernest Kettenring, the union representative for adult educa- tion.) I have a friend who is a long time Venice resi- dent and LAUSD teacher. My friend is a tenured teacher, having toiled with LAUSD for many years. She thought she was going to have to declare retire- ment in the wake of all transpiring with the budget crisis. However, thanks to the aforementioned nego- tiations, she now has the option of seeing what is going to happen with her job and then plan accord- ingly in a less stressed way. Negotiations allow her to think things over until the end of August.
As we go to press, it looks as if there will be other Skills Center graduations after all. Please take note that on August 6, the Center will begin its “sign ups” for the fall term. Skills Center administration is confident enough about the improved budget progno- sis to schedule registration for the Fall. Classes will be on a “first come – first serve” basis, so please plan on registering early to secure a seat in class.
Until the school budget is finalized (mandated by the end of the month) we won’t know for sure which classes are offered and which instructors return. We are not offered a summer session (due to the budget) as we have enjoyed in the past. We don’t know how much the budget cuts will impact availability of classes for the fall.
The Center’s website indicates class schedules will be available August 1. The Center’s website is found at http://www.lausd.net/Venice_Skills_Center. The phone is 310-664-5888.
We can breathe a collective, but cautious, sigh of relief and gratitude for the planned continuation of the Skills Center. In light of the averted “100 percent pay cut” alluded to earlier, let’s be grateful that we have something to work with (which is better than nothing).