A chance for change: Foothill Tech teachers aim to renegotiate contracts


Kaelyn Savard

Foothill Technology High School teachers have began to push for a change in their contracts, due to the fact that they were not being compensated appropriately for working more school periods than other teachers in the Ventura Unified School District.

Chloe Scofield, Adler Striegel, and Siena Hager

Starting during the 2020-2021 school year, Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) teachers have begun the process to push to change a clause in their work contracts that states that Foothill Tech teachers work more periods for the same pay as the other teachers in the Ventura Unified School District (Ventura Unified). Contract renegotiations can be held every three years and consist of a process through the teacher unions, School District and a teacher vote.

In the most recent VUEA Ventura Unified Agreement that was put into action in 2018, Foothill Tech teachers agreed to the clause stating that, “no teacher shall have more than six (6} assigned classes.” This clause has been in place since the establishment of Foothill Tech and has not changed since 2000.

In contrast, Ventura and Buena High School teachers signed a different clause stating that they, “shall not be required to have more than five (5} assigned classes.” 

According to Foothill Tech teacher, Heather Ferris, “right now with online learning, we are on the same schedule as Buena and Ventura [High School].” 

“They’re teaching five 60 minute courses, we’re teaching six 60 minute courses […] for the same pay. Our class sizes aren’t smaller, there’s no reason to legitimize that,” explained Ferris.

Foothill Tech guidance counselor, Steve Boyd, talked about how circumstances have changed since the original context of the contract, saying, “the original principal had a gentleman’s agreement: you’ll teach 6 classes but they’ll all be smaller, so you’ll be fine. And that worked for a year or two and since then that really hasn’t been the case at all.”

There are two possible changes that are being discussed. Teachers could either be paid the same amount for five periods (as other comprehensive high school teachers) or, “if there needs to be sixth class, then they’d be paid 20 percent more.” If this contract change were to happen, Foothill Tech teachers would be paid the same amount for the same amount of work as the teachers at Buena High School and Ventura High School.

According to Foothill Tech counselor Steve Boyd, “The request [for a contract change] was made to the union and now the union negotiations team has to be able to present that to the School District Office.” If the School District approves the contract change, the teachers in Ventura Unified will then vote on it.

The negotiation teams for both of the teacher unions are made up of five union members, while the School District negotiations team is made up of eight officials.

Some of the concerns people have about these contract changes are whether or not these schedule changes would affect certain Foothill Tech specific programs, such as Bioscience and D-Tech. However, Ferris explains that it is more complicated than that.

“We also would need support of those special programs from the district, and that support obviously means money, because we need to not lose them and that would require either teachers getting paid an additional percentage to teach those extra periods, which is what happens at the other high schools, or hiring of additional teachers,” explained Ferris. 

Teachers’ Union President, Dan Nelson, expressed his desire to maintain the quality of education that is represented at Foothill Tech, saying, “I just want those great teachers to be able to do another however many years and if they start to burn out because it’s so hard, then we’re not doing the right thing for the kids who come after.”

Currently, to adjust the teacher’s workload for the future, Foothill Techn is now presenting the district with a 55 minute period schedule for the new hybrid plan. The teachers would still be teaching six periods, but on a smaller time frame than the other comprehensive high schools who would remain teaching 60 minute periods.

What do you think?