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VUEA closes Article VIII negotiations with VUSD

Saanvi Joshi
The Teach 5 Proposition and the end to VUEA negotiations impacted many teachers and staff throughout the Ventura Unified School District. With Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) faculty reflecting on this scheduling inequity, the struggle is ongoing for a final solution to benefit all parties, including students.

Jan. 23, 2024 was a monumental day for the teachers of Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) as Article VIII negotiations were officially closed after a series of proposals between Ventura Unified Education Association (VUEA) and Ventura Unified School District (VUSD). Article VIII, also known as Teach 5/7, was a proposal focused on fixing the inequities between the respective high schools in VUSD: Foothill Tech, Buena High School (Buena) and Ventura High School (Ventura), specifically on the discrepancy between prep periods and minutes taught. Negotiated through the teachers union, the article was hoped to move Foothill Tech to a “Teach 5/7” model instead of the current “Teach 6/7.” 

When the contract language between Ventura and Buena versus Foothill Tech begins to be compared, it becomes clear that there is a “glaring inequity,” Bioscience Academy teacher Daniel Baker said. Teachers at both Buena and Ventura teach a total of five class periods and are subsequently given two “prep periods,” which is invaluable time that teachers use to grade homework and plan lessons for their classes. However, teachers at Foothill Tech are required contractually to teach six class periods and proctor a Foothill Intervention-Reinforcement Education (FIRE) class, a 30 minute advisory period for freshmen and other struggling students. 

I would like to get what I feel like we deserve, which is to be able to really teach.

— Jason Dinkler

Despite the difference, teachers at Foothill Tech are paid the same wages as those at Buena and Ventura, as “all VUSD teachers are/must be paid the same regardless of level/the nature of their full-time assignment,” according to Dr. Greg Bayless, the assistant superintendent of VUSD. Additionally, teachers at Foothill Tech are given less overall preparation time due to this requirement. Baker stated, “I have 40 more students and four-and-a-half hours less time a week to tend to it.” This leaves the teachers of Foothill Tech feeling undervalued, despite working hard to provide a diverse and engaging learning environment for their students. 

The lack of preparation time compared to time dedicated to teaching affects not only teachers, but also students as the conflicting block schedules make it difficult for students who take classes at both Foothill Tech and Buena or Ventura. Given that all VUSD high schools would be on the same schedule, both teachers and students schedules would be eased as it would be ultimately beneficial to the general student population. 

Saanvi Joshi

When Article VIII was first introduced to VUSD on Jan. 17, 2024, Foothill Tech teachers hoped it would lead the way for a triumphant end to a long battle. “If all things are the same, how can you be unfair?” Foothill Tech counselor Steven Boyd rationalized. However, it soon became apparent with VUSD’s three counter proposals that the Teach 6 model that Foothill Tech was operating under was not leaving without a fight. VUEA’s original proposal was that “bargaining unit members shall not be required to have more than five (5) assigned classes,” and that their work day of seven hours and 15 minutes would “include a preparation period equivalent to a regular instructional period.” This system would replace the current one at Foothill Tech, where teachers have no more than six assigned classes to teach. 

However, the district countered VUEA’s initial model, stating, “All comprehensive high schools will maintain an approved 7 period instructional day bell schedule,” including that each teacher shall continue to maintain their previous acquirement of one “preparation period,” with a duration “equivalent to one instructional period.” This back and forth between the district and the union occurred six times until the union saw no foreseeable future including a fair compromise, ultimately making the difficult decision to close negotiations and return to original contract language. Despite this, Bayless assured that both the union and the district engaged in “good faith bargaining.”

A large part of the halting of these negotiations can be attributed to the district’s final counter-negotiations, contracts that involved extensive change not just to the Foothill Tech campus but to Buena and Ventura’s as well. In VUSD’s third counter proposal, described by Baker as a “poison pill,” they stated that for Foothill Teach to move to a Teach 5 model, all high schools would have to acquire an additional period of prep. This secondary period of prep would be “for educational duties,” decided at the principal’s discretion. 

“The district started putting all these demands that Buena and Ventura had to change. So instead of Foothill [Tech] matching their schedule, they had to match our schedule and that’s beyond the scope of what negotiations can be,” Boyd said.  

Baker shared his idea that the district “could have just accepted this and realized that there’s inequity and they didn’t, they instead offered something that our union wouldn’t negotiate,” leaving VUEA no choice but to close negotiations; adding that the district was “harming Foothill [Tech] students by making [the decision]” to renegotiate Article VIII. 

The disparity was obvious. Same schedule, different amount of prep time.

— Daniel Baker

Although the negotiations are fairly recent, the fight for schedule equality has been a point of discussion for years as Foothill Tech teachers had hoped they would be on a Teach 5 model by the 2023-2024 school year. The contract between VUSD and Foothill Tech “is a 23 year old sentence … that essentially holds FTHS teachers hostage to something that is not justifiable anymore,” Foothill Tech psychology teacher Heather Ferris said. This discussion was reopened with the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year as the student school site council voted against completely eliminating FIRE from Foothill Tech’s campus, and finally negotiated through the teachers union. 

For many of the Foothill Tech teachers, the negotiations have begun to affect their relationship with the district as a whole. As art teacher Justin Frazier put it, “In the past couple of years there’s a real lack of trust between the teachers and the district and […] it was never like that [before].” This lack of trust not only impacts teachers but students as well, as their quality of learning is at stake in this situation.

Ferris also shared, “I am still a bit in shock that VUSD would allow the inequity to exist in our employment contract. I am angry, and feel demoralized and betrayed by VUSD administration.” Ferris’ sentiments seem to embody the frustration Foothill Tech teachers feel regarding the situation. Additionally, the lack of adequate preparation time and the amount of classes, has left some teachers feeling burned out. “I have a choice between prepping, which I like to do and making a fulfilling curriculum for my students, and I also have to grade; and so one of those has to give,” Baker reflected.

This feeling of burnout is becoming more prevalent among teachers and is only continuing to develop given the lack of support from the district. The current model Foothill Tech is under is not sustainable for teachers or students, especially if Foothill Tech is expected to “keep this high level of academic rigor and project based learning that’s collaborative and integrated across disciplines. There is absolutely no time to do any of that and it will go away,” Baker said. 

While the failed attempt to change the contract language is disappointing to Foothill teachers, they will persevere and continue to hold hope for change towards more equity within the school system, “hopefully the right people who hear this from enough of us [will] realize that it just needs to be changed,” English teacher Jason Dinkler said.

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About the Contributors
Amber Duhs
Amber Duhs, Writer
Second-year writer, chai latte lover and autumn enthusiast.
Audrey Szijj
Audrey Szijj, Writer
I'm a sophomore and a singer/songwriter/guitarist/pianist. Also I like strawberries.
Saanvi Joshi
Saanvi Joshi, Videographer
Another day, another step. I just need to get out of bed first.

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    MonicaFeb 17, 2024 at 2:43 pm

    Well written article. We need everyone in Ventura to know what is happening to one of our beloved high schools. Equity for FTHS!