LAND O'LAKES — United School Employees of Pasco president Lynne Webb on Tuesday accused the Pasco school district administration of violating teachers' recently approved contract in two key areas.
Some teachers are being required to hold multiple lengthy meetings with their "professional learning community" groups, rather than one 40-minute session as agreed upon, Webb told the board. The district also is forcing teachers to complete 41-item self-assessments of their work, Webb added, when the contract deal stated that self-assessments would not be required.
"We didn't spend a whole summer at the table … and two years before" hashing out rules for teacher evaluations and performance "for key elements to be overlooked," she said. Teachers feel abused and stressed, she said, adding that the USEP would take legal action to enforce the contract, if needed.
Superintendent Kurt Browning took personal offense to Webb's words.
"I totally disagree with the characterization that we are abusing our teachers," Browning told the board.
"I said a year ago this week, when I became superintendent, the major initiative of this administration would be to move students further down the academic line," he continued. "I am not going to be sidetracked about all this discussion about what we are doing and what we are not doing. … (But ) I am not going to willfully violate the terms of a contract that we have agreed to."
He asked Kevin Shibley, executive director for administration, to explain how the district is complying with the agreement while pursuing its goals.
Shibley said he worked with USEP leaders in crafting the directions for the self-assessment and was shocked by the negative reaction. He added that most schools are following the rules on "professional learning community" meetings, and the administration is addressing specific concerns as they arise.
Assistant superintendent Amelia Larson next defended the district's efforts to change its way of doing business.
"A PLC is not a meeting. It is a way of living," Larson told the board, explaining that teachers needed to change their mind-set to work more collaboratively. "I ask the board not to vacillate from the support you have given us. We cannot reach every kid if we do not reach every adult."
Webb returned to the podium at the end of the meeting.
She reiterated her complaints, noting that she had come to speak for teachers who could not attend at 9:30 a.m.
"I do believe Mr. Browning is very sincere in his efforts," she said. But "when you spend so much time concentrating on the future and don't give them time to take care of the present … they begin to feel like indentured servants."
She reminded the administration that contracts carry weight.
"You may be a new superintendent," Webb said, "but you cannot reinterpret 30 years of contract language and practice."
The USEP has told teachers not to follow district instructions on these two areas until the issues can be resolved.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com.