A Failure To Communicate

School District To Teachers: Don’t Show Up for Work Monday

The day after thousands of South Coast high school students celebrated graduation ceremonies this Thursday, about 80 temporary teachers with the Santa Barbara Unified School District were startled to discover they’d been sent notices they needn’t show up for work next Monday and Tuesday and that the time off would not be compensated. For the teachers, the news came as a surprise and a shock, prompting calls by their union president Layne Wheeler to district administrators. The whole thing, Wheeler would discover, was an unfortunate mistake. “It was an internal communication mistake. We’re very sorry that it happened,” said Margaret Christiansen, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources. “I have no excuse. I take full responsibility.”

Wheeler expressed satisfaction that the district corrected the mistake in a timely manner. “The timing was bad,” he said. “The outcome was good.” Aside from the dollars involved, the issue is significant because the two days in question were to be dedicated to training teachers in how to teach the new curriculum—Common Core State Standards—that the district will be implementing for the first time next fall. At some point, it turned out, a decision was made not to include the temporary teachers in the training time and not to pay them for the time required. This decision, however, was arrived at only after the temporary teachers had signed up for the training. At no time prior to the e-mail notice that the district sent out Thursday evening were they told they would not be involved.

Aside from that, the issue touched a raw nerve with district teachers who have been forced to accept many unpaid days off — furlough days — in recent years in response to the state’s ongoing budget shortfalls, as well as with those who don’t even know if they will get their jobs back in the fall. This school year, the teachers were initially scheduled to have seven furlough days. But with the passage of Prop 30 earlier this year — the statewide ballot measure to increase school funding — many of the cuts initially projected early in the year proved unnecessary. As a result, five of the seven furlough days were restored for all teachers, but the two additional training days were not guaranteed to temporary teachers.

UPDATE:District business officer Meg Jette said she had always budgeted for all teachers to attend the training.

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