Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Why it is Harder to Find Jobs: and Why it Oughtn't be Ex-Teachers vs. Subs”

By Anonymous

This is my third year being a substitute teacher for OUSD. I try to work as many days as I can, up to five days a week. And each year it seems incrementally harder to find work than the last. Talking to older subs, I have heard them say that they used to get tons of calls for jobs, back when it was all done telephonically, when the demand for needed substitute positions far exceeded the supply of substitute professionals, before the recession. But this year has been special. And although not an expert on the subject, I can tell you some of "what" has changed and also some of the "why.”

At the OEA Substitute Caucus two years ago, I remember sitting in on a Bargaining Session (with the same team in 2008/2009 as now in 2010/2011!!!) when there was talk about trying to "bargain" into the OUSD-OEA contract some "language" for rewarding long-time subs with some sort of benefits package. This idea was based on a precedent set in Los Angeles that substitute teachers who work at least 100 days in the previous year are awarded a form of benefits if they continue to work a certain amount of days the following year. Uninsured, this was and still is a very important issue for me. Ultimately the Bargaining team had to back off of this proposal. The following school year (2009/2010) there was a large number of teacher lay-offs in LA, and these laid-off teachers were given priority status over (regular) substitute teachers for acquiring substitute jobs within their district. At the time, this was a big deal because it became harder for long-time subs to maintain their benefits package through working consistently. This generated some animosity between the two groups. I don't know what has become of that situation today...

So, mirroring LA last year, OUSD has laid off a large number of teachers this year. I received a memo in the mail with some confusing jargon about teacher lay-offs that I thought was unrelated to how I go about getting jobs in this district. A fair number of my jobs come from teachers I have subbed for before, requesting me to come back, who put my employee ID directly into the system. Sometimes the secretary or assistant principal does this for them. But as I now understand it, this year there has been a change in the way substitute jobs are created. This request-method may have been replaced with a system where all jobs are listed on the Smartfind Express website to be offered first to laid-off teachers and second to (regular) substitute teachers. SO. That may be why there are less jobs on the system these days. This is what I believe the memo, which you may or may not have received, was trying to communicate.

A final point: This obviously won't generate the same ex-teacher vs. sub animosity it did in LA, particularly because benefits aren’t on the line. I still believe that this is neither groups’ fault. With no official contract and an attempted imposed contract still looming from last year (and the year before that), it is especially important to stick together as coworkers in the crazy profession of teaching: substitute or otherwise.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Where is the site administrator?

by Bill McCune

Because I am married to someone with a good job I was just able to take a couple of days off. Even so I compulsively checked the computer for work. I do this a dozen times a day from very early morning until quite late at night. Because I do this so constantly I work often but it means that I spend about 8-12 non-classroom hours a week in pursuit of work. But this is not what this entry is about.

Yesterday at 8:30 am there were two jobs available that day. These two jobs just sat. I checked back again and again, I even opened the entries and found the opportunity to accept the jobs. 9 am, 10 am and finally after 11 am the jobs were gone.

Why in the depths of this depression when many subs are saying they aren’t finding enough work to pay the rent and phone bill were these jobs going untaken?

Having worked at both schools and decided not to go back I think the word must have finally gotten out. Too bad the central administration can’t figure this out. Subs are the canaries in the mine. Zillions of dollars and hours could be saved by replacing every principal whose school takes more than 30 minutes to find a sub.

If you work at a school more than once and have never seen the site administrator (principal) and have never had an assistant principal or principal stick their head in the room and check you and your students out very carefully then you very likely have found a failing school. If you have disruptive students that are sent right back to the classroom or choose on campus suspension because it is so poorly supervised that it is more fun than the classroom you have a better sense of the school failing than all of the standardized tests in the world could provide. If subs don’t get support at a school I am sure that you will find that third of the schools students are failing and that it has more to do with an environment not suitable for learning than the efforts of teachers.

And the same principle applies to those supervising principals. A district with more than 4 or 5% failing principals needs to replace central administrators and school board members. I don’t think this requires spending boat loads of money just a little American activism. Much improvement could occur in a single year or election.

So what’s the fuss and spending about testing, laying blame on individual teachers and endless charter school chatter all about? It must be the money and political careers to be made promoting testing, antiunion opinion and charter (read corporate) schools.