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Teachers' union takes action after CCSD revises system that affects pay increases

Jackie Valley
Jackie Valley

The Clark County Education Association has filed an unfair labor charge against the Clark County School District over a situation school officials chalk up to human error.

The teachers' union, which represents 18,000 educators and licensed professionals in the district, filed the charge Wednesday morning with the Employee Management Relations Board, the state entity that resolves disputes among local governments, unions and employees.

The action followed a memo the school district sent to staff April 6 that announced revisions made to what’s known as the Professional Growth Reference Guide, which spells out what learning activities — such as college courses or professional training — accrue credits that count toward pay increases. CCEA argues the “unilateral changes” negatively affect educators who’ve already invested their time and money into certain professional development opportunities.

The changes reduce the number of credits tied to salary increases that educators can earn from completing college coursework and also eliminate credits for taking massive open online courses (MOOCs). Special education teachers working in self-contained classrooms also won’t move up in the salary schedule until they've worked three years instead of two.

CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita said the changes could affect thousands of teachers and licensed professionals whose Professional Growth Plan, approved by their supervisors, includes items that were revised.

“What that means for educators is the rules of the game changed mid-stream,” he said. “It puts serious question in some cases as to whether or not the growth plan that somebody marked out has been so significantly altered that the outcome they wanted may not be achievable.”

The teachers’ union and school district worked together during contract negotiations in 2015 to create the Professional Growth System, which was implemented this school year, Vellardita said. Under the new system, educators are rewarded for continued professional development that aligns with their practice area. The goal is to improve instruction methods and, thus, enhance student learning.

In other words, a teacher can’t enroll in a random college course and expect to receive a pay boost if it has no bearing on what he or she teaches.

Vellardita said the changes announced by the school district could erode educators’ trust in the new system.

Deanna Wright, president of the Clark County School Board of Trustees, called the changes an “unfortunate situation” that arose out of mistakes entered into the reference guide, which was posted online. The contract itself was not altered, she said.

The memo sent to district staff referenced that distinction: “A new version of the Professional Growth System Reference Guide, dated April 6, 2017, has been created to update the language and guidelines to be consistent with the 2015-2017 Negotiation Agreement between the Clark County School District and the Clark County Education Association,” the memo states. “The guidelines contained in this version of the Professional Growth System Reference Guide supersede the information in all previous versions.”

Wright said the misinformation included in the previous reference guide was not a malicious act but rather an honest mistake. Employees’ workload has increased this year because of the reorganization effort, and this is an example of something that slipped through the cracks, she said.

“There’s only so many hours in the day and so many people to get the work done, and this is the unfortunate result of not having enough bodies to do the work,” she said. “We would never try to bait and switch with our teachers. That is not our style.”

The school district’s administrative office released a statement that reiterated it’s simply adhering to the terms of the negotiated contract.

“We are ensuring that there is compliance with the Negotiated Agreement ratified by the Board of School Trustees, the same agreement the CCEA told us their membership also ratified,” district officials said in a statement. “We have collaborated with the CCEA on the implementation of the (Professional Growth System) for two years, and we look forward to continuing to improve this innovative system.”

Vellardita said the union is hopeful further discussions with the school district may yield a solution.

Feature photo caption: John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, stands in front of the CCEA office on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Photo by Jeff Scheid.


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