California Teachers Union Demands that PUSD Immediately Cease its Plan for ‘Unlawful Reopening’

Student sits at desk. | File photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

On Tuesday, the California Teachers Association (CTA) sent a letter to Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Brian McDonald, in an effort to stop in-person instruction that they believe is unlawful and puts educators and students at risk

Union members are concerned over the lack of adequate safety preparation at school sites.

Here is the letter from CTA Staff Counsel Stephanie Joseph:

I write to you on behalf of the United Teachers of Pasadena (UTP) to notify the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) that its plan to reopen grades TK-5 for in-person instruction on March 29, 2021 is unlawful because it is being done in violation of the parties’ clear and binding agreements. PUSD must cease its unlawful reopening.

The parties’ December 4, 2020 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding Hybrid Simultaneous Model School Reopening During COVID-19 Pandemic, explicitly states, “… the parties shall determine the dates when unit members shall be permitted to conduct three (3) days of Asynchronous Instruction to prepare classrooms for social distancing requirements.” (Dec. 4, 2020 MOU at 3).

On March 11, 2021, the day after receiving UTP’s counterproposal regarding dates for asynchronous instruction, PUSD’s Chief Human Resources Officer, Steven Miller, notified UPT President Allison Steppes that teachers were required to report to work on March 18, 18 and 19, 2021, “for the purpose of organizing their classrooms in preparation for the eventual return to inclassroom instruction.” On March 14, 2021, PUSD Superintendent Brian McDonald disseminated a message to PUSD families and the PUSD community, notifying them that teaching and learning would be conducted asynchronously on March 17, 18 and 19, 2021, to allow teachers an “opportunity to organize their classrooms” as the District “prepare[s] for the eventual return to in-person learning…” At no time prior to the issuance of the March 11, 2021 letter or the March 14, 2021 message did UTP agree to the March 17-19 dates for asynchronous instruction. Rather, the District ignored UTP’s counterproposal, repudiated the parties’ agreement, and set the dates unilaterally.

As you are aware, Article 3.a of the parties’ MOU states that, “Unit members will return to work locations ten (10) working days following preparation of the classrooms.” (Id. at 3.a). By unilaterally determining the days on which asynchronous instruction would take place without UTP’s agreement, the District has unilaterally set the date for the reopening of school sites. Brian McDonald, Superintendent March 15, 2021 page 2 These acts constitute an unlawful repudiation of the parties MOU in violation of the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA). (Gov. Code § 3540 et seq.).

We demand that PUSD immediately cease its plan for unlawful reopening for in-person instruction, and confirm that it will first meet with UTP to jointly determine the dates when unit members will be permitted to conduct three days of asynchronous instruction. We also demand that PUSD immediately cease its plan to return teaches to the classroom for in-person instruction on March 29, 2021, until which time it has complied with Article 3 of the MOU.

If these issues are not resolved at the bargaining table, we reserve the right to pursue all available legal remedies.

March 16, 2021

About Author

tmiller Terry Miller has been in the newspaper business for 35 plus years, following in the footsteps of his father who was a Foreign Correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph when the family sailed to New York from London abroad the Queen Mary. When not shooting pictures, chasing a breaking news story. or playing drums, Miller spends entirely too much time and effort with Little British Sports Cars like his beloved 74 MGB...more like an addiction, says his wife of 22 years.

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “California Teachers Union Demands that PUSD Immediately Cease its Plan for ‘Unlawful Reopening’”

  1. Meredith says:

    Believe me, I get that parents have to get back to work and are dealing with frustrated kids. However, I worked as a speech pathologist in the district for several years quite a few years ago and here are my suspicions. First, I’d never gotten as ill as I did during the course of my tenure in special ed, both at the district and working for a private company in group homes, schools, and adult day facilities. My first serious illness came on suddenly at a district school, ending in pneumonia; thought I was going to die. The unfortunate reality is that many of the facilities I worked in were old and difficult to clean. Add to that kids whose hygiene isn’t the best and it’s a recipe for disaster. Having had kids myself and volunteered in their schools, I never gave it a second thought before getting so sick several times after that initial severe flu. You can, as our brave custodians and I did routinely, wipe everything down with a 10% bleach solution and use sanitizer, but the kids still wipe noses on sleeves, fail to wash up after using the restroom, and play outside, and when you reach out to redirect them or hand them something, you’re exposed to everything they’ve been exposed to at home, daycare, on the playground, sports, etc. The concern expressed isn’t an idle worry but a real threat to the health of everyone in each district school.

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