Lake Elsinore chapter supports young writers workshop


With help from Lake Elsinore Teachers Association (LETA) and a California Teachers Association (CTA) Community Engagement Grant, Lake Elsinore parents have teamed up with University of California Riverside’s Inland Area Writing Project (IAWP) to offer after-school enrichment that strengthens elementary students’ skills and connects them to the joy of self-expression through writing.

Parents, concerned their students had access to writing strategies that engage them in English, approached LETA to partner with the Lake Elsinore Parent Network to gauge interest in such a project. LETA President Bill Cavanaugh was pleased to offer financial support for the eight-week program.

Amy Rose, Co-director of the Inland Area Writing Project UC Riverside, explained that students are provided a unique opportunity where opinions and ideas are validated through writing and sharing their work with other students.

Lake Elsinore Elementary teachers Alyssa Modymam and Adrienne Bohanan who worked with students through the eight-week project have seen positive results. They are hopeful more class time for writing will be an outcome of the project.

After participating, students’ confidence in their skills was apparent as they shared original stories to a crowded auditorium of proud parents, teachers and district officials.

Fifth-grade student Emoree Smith explained that each visit students are given a different assignment to write about. For her parents Kevin and Tosh Smith, they have seen a vast improvement in Emoree’s writing ability. She has significant improvement in sequencing her ideas into clearer messages. It has also increased her confidence.

Another participant, Angelina Herrera (who designed the cover of the anthology published by the workshop) enjoyed the three-word essay assignment and chose the words “bicycle, tomato, and fish” to write about in her short essay.

A CTA grant helped finance the endeavor and LETA provided the training facility for students and educators to meet during the eight-week writing project.

Ninetta Papadomichelaki, IAWP Managing Director, was on hand during the awards assembly and pleased to see Lake Elsinore district officials, board members and administrators working in collaboration in the interests of the community and its children. “We can accomplish so much when we are all working together”, she said.

Billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos tapped to lead Department of Education


With President-Elect Trump’s selection of billionaire Betsy DeVos, an heir to the multi-level marketing fortune Amway International, one must consider her bona fides for the highest education policy position in the U.S. Government. Unfortunately for those of us looking for experienced leadership, they are nearly non-existent.

Ms. DeVos has no personal or professional experience in public schools. She attended private Christian schools as did all her children. She has neither educational leadership experience as an educator nor school administrator.

It appears her 5 billion dollar fortune and willingness to donate to pro-voucher and anti-public education causes, including support of the plaintiff in CTA vs Friedrich’s Supreme Court case, are the attributes that qualify her for the position.

We know as a benefactor she has:

Given with her spouse at least 2.7 million dollars this year to conservative candidates;

Supports vouchers to address “…a broken education system.”;

A bachelor’s degree from Calvin College in Michigan;

Insisted her family (not she) has bankrolled anti-LGBT causes such as support of Proposition 8 in California;

Given millions to both open new and fund existing private Christian schools.

Read more here.


Coachella teachers give school board a failing grade


Coachella Valley Teachers Association (CVTA) packed Tuesday’s Coachella Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) board meeting Tuesday night to protest CVUSD’s unwillingness to negotiate a settlement that is now in the fact-finding phase after mediation failed to bring settlement in June. The contract dispute threatens to drag into a third calendar year.

Before the meeting, a continuous stream of several hundred teachers and parents filled the elementary lunchroom converted for the night’s larger crowd. CVTA teachers looked intent as they carried their signs and filled the rows. As the board members found their seats, CVTA members chanted, “Do the right thing!” Sign-waving teachers, their frustrations emboldening them, became increasingly boisterous as it grew closer to the start of the meeting.

CVTA President Richard Razo spoke directly to the CVUSD board members and explained, “In 2015 when we started, the teachers asked for three things for the benefit of our students; collaboration time, salaries that will keep teachers from leaving, and preparation time to create inspiring lessons for our students. How can the district afford to constantly train teachers and then allow them to leave for better pay in Palm Springs, Desert Sands, Morongo, and Beaumont?”

Palm Springs Teachers Association Vice President Karen Johnson spoke openly about her district’s hiring of former CVUSD employees, stating “On the one hand, I am here to thank you for the dozens of quality teachers you have sent our way due to the dysfunction of your bargaining and your unwillingness to compromise with the Coachella Valley Teachers Association. On the other hand, I feel saddened that you have failed to put the educational needs of your district’s students first.”

Before the meeting’s end, several teachers shared classroom stories of successful student support systems they have implemented and the lives changed by those innovative programs. Board members were reminded that teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty every day find it increasingly hard to do their work when the district refuses to do what is right.

Once the State Fact-finder’s report is issued CVUSD and CVTA will consider difficult decisions regarding additional bargaining, acceptance of the report, the imposition of the district’s Last, Best, and Final contract offer, and/or concerted job actions including a potential strike by CVTA.

-Autumn Carberry and Edward Sibby

Temecula Valley Legacy Project engages returning teachers


To strengthen its local chapter, Temecula Valley Educators Association (TVEA) worked with the local school district to acknowledge nearly 100 graduates who have joined the profession and taken teaching positions in Temecula Valley Unified School District (TVUSD).

In 1985, Temecula Valley High School would open its doors as the first comprehensive high school built in the not yet incorporated City of Temecula. The community included horse ranches, open skies and rolling hills- and not much else. About 15,000 people lived in what was then called Rancho California- today over 110,000 people call Temecula home. Where one comprehensive high school once served it, the city now has five including independent and alternative sites.

Every returning educator received a certificate acknowledging their status as a former graduate of the district and thanks from school board members and superintendents for their commitment to the local education community.

For first graduating class member Michelle Truax (TVHS Class of 1988) the ceremony was an opportunity to share her thanks for the exceptional public school education she received growing up locally. “Temecula is a special place and that’s why I chose to bring my kids up here and become a teacher” she explained. The event provided an opportunity to reminisce with old friends- and to make new ones.

TVEA President Jeff Kingsberg explained that their chapter’s goal is to recognize those who are “Paying it forward” by giving back in serving the students of the district from where they graduated.

“We are approaching a generational cycle of our most senior alumni having graduated thirty years ago.  It is appropriate we identify and honor this set of community leaders who will drive our schools forward for the next fifteen to thirty years”, he said.

Authentic relationship building opportunities that celebrate member commitment and educator impact reinforce our work as educators in our communities and facilitate development of future leaders for our local chapters.

Coachella Valley Teachers Association rallies at mediation session


Over two hundred members of the Coachella Valley Teachers Association (CVTA) rallied Wednesday night to support their bargaining team in mediation with the Coachella Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) over increasing planning, preparation time, and pay that will assure educators do not leave for better pay and benefits elsewhere.

Members gathered at 3:00pm as a show of unity with their bargaining team that has worked many months to fashion a fair contract for CVTA. Speakers reminded the district that Coachella has always operated as a family- a value that the district has tested over this period of prolonged negotiation. To win a better contract, CVTA leaders reminded members they must continue to turn out to support the team and their collective priorities.

Members and leaders took turns speaking and leading chants before receiving a general update, and thanks from the team for their support. Mediation is ongoing between CVTA and CVUSD and will continue while progress is being made.

If the state-appointed mediator is unsuccessful, the remaining issues will next be addressed through a state fact-finding procedure.

Perris teachers rally at mediation session

Perris Elementary Teachers Association (PETA) members were joined by parents and students at a rally supporting their bargaining team during the state mediation session held at the Perris Elementary School District office.  After many months of negotiations, PETA is at impasse with Perris Elementary School District (PESD). Teachers chanted their support while sharing  concerns that substandard pay in Perris will not be competitive with surrounding districts as PESD competes to recruit new teachers. Without intervention, those problems bringing the next generation of teachers to Perris will only worsen.

Confidentiality agreements prevent negotiators from divulging any details of the proceedings. Mediation may end in an agreement or the certification of the impasse to an official State Factfinder if mediation proves unsuccessful.