Teachers fear they lack a voice and representation in RJUHSD

Initiatives implemented without staff consultation

The+new+district+superintendent+has+passed+14+initiatives.+Teachers+want+these+initiatives+to+succeed+but+feel+they+are+not+allowed+to+question+them+or+vote+on+them

GraniteBayToday.org illustration/ ASHLEY YUNG

The new district superintendent has passed 14 initiatives. Teachers want these initiatives to succeed but feel they are not allowed to question them or vote on them

For some teachers who work in the Roseville Joint Union High School District, the general attitude and relationship between the district and its educators is tense.

The dissatisfaction of some RJUHSD teachers isn’t overwhelming, but a recent vote on a teacher contract proposal exposed some of the frustrations teachers are feeling.

Recently, all teachers across the district voted on a contract proposal that would increase teachers’ pay by 2 percent. 

While the proposal easily passed, the vote was quite close among teachers at Roseville High, and a majority of Oakmont teachers actually voted against the proposal.

For Roseville teacher John Coleman, the result of the district-wide vote surprised him – but he thought even more teachers would vote against the district’s salary offer, and he added that the contract proposal wasn’t properly handled by either the district or teachers.

“The results did not surprise me,” Coleman said. “What surprised me is that there weren’t more teachers who voted against the contract. It feels like we take the money and fail to negotiate better language in our contract.” 

The district is currently undergoing more negotiations with teachers but, according to Coleman, the purpose of voting against the contract for many teachers was to send a clear message to the district. 

But I feel like the district doesn’t really care about the vote, as long as (it) passes and everything remains status quo.”

— John Coleman

I hope it was received at the district level,” Coleman said. “But I feel like the district doesn’t really care about the vote, as long as (it) passes and everything remains status quo.”

Coleman is not alone in his belief that contract issues in the district are not communicated properly to rank-and-file teachers. He and others said teachers across the district need  better opportunities to understand contract offers from the district while also taking into consideration accessibility issues when it comes to gathering teachers from across the district’s five comprehensive campuses.

Granite Bay High government teacher Jarrod Westberg said he actively looks for information regarding the district’s latest policies or initiatives, but other teachers complain they are left with little information and insufficient communication.

“I find out about things because I look for it, versus it being kind of opened up to everybody,” Westberg said.

The problem isn’t necessarily what the district is trying to implement, but rather how it goes about the process.  The main argument teachers are making is the need for clearer communication from the district.

GBHS senior Ashley Lucia, who has sat in on meetings between the district and teachers, said most of the tension between the district and teachers is “rooted in a lack of overall communication, which in return leads to a misinterpretation of intent on either side.”

They’ll always say that they talked to the teachers, but it doesn’t very often feel like they get a lot of input from us before implementing things,”

— Jarrod Westberg

As more and more district initiatives are put on the table, and as policies are introduced, teachers argue a lack of communication makes them feel as though their voices are not heard on the district level. 

“They’ll always say that they talked to the teachers, but it doesn’t very often feel like they get a lot of input from us before implementing things,” Westberg said.

The lack of input from teachers, and the lack of classroom teaching experience on the district administrative level creates a barrier for the new initiatives. They are often implemented but never followed through, or they don’t work out because of  the ever-changing school environment.

Another concern teachers have with new district policies is how long the creators of these policies have been out of the classroom. That lack of recent classroom experience, according to teacher critics, sets up many new initiatives for failure.

Many district employees may forget who they once were – teachers –  creating a lack of understanding of their position and point of view,” Lucia said. “I believe some teachers feel as though they do not have a voice in the many significant changes, and as a result have communicated they feel treated unfairly.”

The whole purpose of these initiatives and policies is to improve the lives of not only students, but also teachers. And while there is frustration with their implementation, teachers are still rooting for their success. 

“I just think (the initiatives would be successful) if they would actually have their initiatives be vetted through a large group of teachers,” Westberg said. ”Not just teachers that say yes to everything, but teachers that will question and teachers that will give them some understanding of what it looks like.”

The dissatisfaction between the district can be felt on many levels, and it affects students at all the district’s schools.

“I believe the relationship between the district and teachers significantly (affects) students, because where communication is lacking, results are inadequate,” Lucia said.

This district-teacher tension is something that can be fixed, and better communication would go a long way toward improving things.

“Some good contract language would help,” Coleman said. “Showing some genuine concern for the faculty and staff would be delightful.”

And delighted teachers would be better for students.

 “Teachers create the curriculum, work directly with students, and are instrumental in their growth and success every day,” Lucia said. “Their voices deserve to be heard.”

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