“It’s time for a change”: Foothill Tech teachers push for a “teach 5 model” schedule for the 2023-24 school year


Olivia Mowad

As students and administration spend time standing in the sunny quad conversing during their lunchtime, teachers are advocating a switch of the school schedule to bring equality to all the teachers in the Ventura Unified School District.

Emma Ippolito, Assignment Editor

After reviewing Foothill Tech staff comments, they present various issues and concerns with continuing the “teach 6 model” while other district high schools run on a “teach 5 model.” (Emma Ippolito)

With Ventura High School (Ventura High) adopting a block schedule mirroring that of Foothill Technology High School’s (Foothill Tech) own block scheduling policy for the 2022-23 school year and Buena High School (Buena High) currently in the process of the change, the question of whether Foothill Tech should alter their own after 23 years has been brought to attention.

After much hesitation, Buena High began working towards adopting Ventura High’s exact schedule. However, there is much processing that must be done before this is completed. 

Before Nov. 1, the decision process must begin with a scheduling proposal discussed at a staff meeting. Voting through a secret ballot, it must pass one third of the majority where it is then submitted to the School Site Council before Dec. 1. Before Jan. 15 the School Site Council must act on the proposal and then submit the proposal to the District Steering Council who will then vote to either reject or approve the proposal. If approved, the final site election will be held on Feb. 15. Finally, there is another sit vote that must have two thirds majority to pass.

If this is completed, the three high schools in the Ventura Unified School District (Ventura Unified) would be on a block schedule, with both Buena High and Ventura High having the same schedule. But what about Foothill Tech? The changes have granted an opportunity to give equity to Foothill Tech teachers by switching to the same scheduling policy.

Currently, Foothill Tech teachers are in a “teach 6 model” while Buena and Ventura teachers are in a  “teach 5 model.” Some Foothill Tech teachers wish to go to a “teach 5 model” to bring equity to all at Foothill Tech.

In an email sent out to the Ventura Unified Education Association (VUEA) president, the Ventura Unified School Board and district administration back in October, Heather Ferris, a teacher at Foothill Tech, informed them on the desired change. Ferris wrote: “Faculty and staff members recently voted to pursue changing the teaching load at Foothill Technology High School to a ‘teach 5 model’ like VHS and BHS. Of 49 staff members who voted, 91.8% are in favor of this change.” 

Ferris continued in the email explaining: “Last year, VUSD had Dr. Bayless create a document for FTHS staff to portray what might need to change if we move forward with the change. Our staff strongly considered this and still decided we wanted to pursue the change. We were led to believe it was a site based decision and were well-prepared to do this starting with the School Site Council meeting on October 20.” 

“Foothill Tech has been overlooked and used. It’s time for a change.”

— Heather Ferris

The teachers were then told on Oct. 19, the day before the meeting, that this was not a site based issue and that they had to go through negotiations. In response, on Oct. 20 a Foothill Tech union representative sent an email to VUEA requesting the “teach 5” change through negotiations. But, Ferris explained in the email that, “We believe this request didn’t reach VUEA in time for the negotiating team to be aware of our request and would like to have the recent temporary agreement for Article 8 renegotiated.”

Ferris finished the email with: “This is a formal request to reopen negotiations of Article 8 as it relates to the number of periods assigned to faculty at FTHS because it’s the right thing to do.”

When speaking to Ferris months after this process, it has been confirmed Foothill Tech did not meet the deadlines, making it so the push for the teach 5 schedule change is now in the works for the 2023-24 school year. 

Ferris explained she is unsure of what the justification for keeping this 23 year old schedule is. “When you’re talking about equity and teachers’ overall workload, we absolutely do not have smaller class sizes,” Ferris explained, and now Foothill Tech has more qualities, such as sports, than when it first opened in 2000. 

When comparing the two schedules of Foothill Tech and Ventura High, some inequities have been highlighted and present an issue with Foothill Tech’s scheduling policy. (Emma Ippolito)

Ferris explained other issues with having a “teach 6 model” mentioning that, “Teachers at Foothill, because our school is smaller, often have many more preps than our colleagues. The fact that we teach an additional sum of around 30-40 students in our workload, those student contacts, the extra prep period, the possible extra subject, is overwhelming and is overwhelmingly inequitable.”

Teachers at Foothill Tech also have significantly less student free minutes, which is the time teachers can use to prepare for classes, grade work and handle other interactions.

“I absolutely love teaching at Foothill Tech, but yes I often think about leaving this school and it is a hundred percent linked to the teach 5 versus teach 6 issue,” Ferris explained.

The stamina of staff activism has also faltered every few years. Ferris further explained this issue saying, “Over the past few decades or so, we started to talk about it as a staff.” Ferris continued explaining, “but then we start looking at how a teach 5 might affect our students and programs.”

However, this concern has already become partly a reality with the removal of the coordinating periods, causing some programs to alter their classes. With this change, programs were affected, even without the change to a “teach 5 model” schedule. 

The push for this schedule change however has been brought back to life, and Ferris is confident it will not be going away until there is real change. Ferris explained that during COVID-19, the disparity between schools was very clear and because Ventura High adopting Foothill Tech’s exact schedule, aside from FIRE, change can be enacted with the guidance of Foothill Tech and a teacher committee.

“It highlights the disparity and the teacher preparation workload.” 

— Heather Ferris

Another reason for the pushed change is Buena High’s adoption of the block scheduling policy. Ferris clarified that many people in the district told Foothill Tech that Buena High would never switch to a block schedule, and partly because of this, Foothill Tech did not seek the switch in time.  

However, this scheduling policy is not the only inequity amongst the schools. If a teacher at Foothill Tech teaches a seventh period, they get paid 117 percent of their pay. However, if a teacher at Buena or Ventura High teaches an extra period, which would be six, they receive 120 percent. Teachers at Foothill Tech are also getting underpaid for when they sub another period, brought into light when Ventura High switched to block. 

Aside from this, some teachers are experiencing teacher burnout. Ferris explained in an email: “The teach 6 model, however, is burning many teachers out and I’m worried we will be unable to sustain what we’re currently doing.  About 8 years ago we had a WASC accreditation visit and the team of evaluators warned our staff about burn out based on what they observed. They were right!”

With Buena High adopting Ventura High’s exact block schedule, Foothill Tech has the opportunity to do the same, potentially preventing the inequity from continuing to burnout that staff, such as Ferris, have warned against. 

What do you think?