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Stop, Drop, and Breathe

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A UTW Work Your Contract Initiative

What?

We have officially initiated a work your contract initiative encouraging teachers to Stop, Drop, and Breathe.

The tentative deadline of this initiative is when the entire bargaining unit votes on the tentative agreement

Why?

We are attempting to address three critical concerns in our district: safety, workload, and salary.

In regards to safety, we recognize that there is no perfect solution, but we also recognize that we must do our best to protect our colleagues, our students, and the community.

To that end, we have consistently argued that the district needed to follow the KSDE gating criteria. That has obviously not happened. We love our students and desperately want to be safely in the classroom with them, but this virus is clearly getting out of control in our county. We do not understand why the district continues to move the goal post and play games with the data, but we're not playing games. This virus is real, it poses a very real threat, and we refuse to allow the district to place anyone in unnecessary risk.

As for workload, we are clearly at a breaking point. SRGs, combo classes, overload teaching, remote teaching, safety protocols, and more.

For too long, we have begrudgingly accepted more and more on our plates because we reasoned that it was for the good of the kids, but it is time that we challenged that notion. Teacher burnout and mental health problems are crippling our profession. There is absolutely no way that we can uphold the mythological image of teachers as super heroes. This pandemic has been a brutal reminder that we don't have super powers and we deserve to be fully realized individuals.

Lastly, we do not see how the district can be ok with allowing 1/3 of teachers to not receive any type of increase in salary. We know times are tough, they usually are in education, but just like the district needs to keep their lights on, we believe that adequately compensating staff should be a default, not a question.

Using the district's own numbers, we have clearly argued that since they spent money from general funds on covid related expenses, they ought to replenish that general fund with money from the contingency fund which is expressly used for emergency financial relief. Once that money is replenished, it would be all too easy to at least offer teachers a cost of living increase on the base salary.

We're not asking for anything excessive. If anything, given the circumstances, the district ought to be finding ways to provide hazard pay for face-to-face teachers and increasing benefits to encourage teachers to stay in the district.

How?

For guidance and resources (click here)

But we think a larger question that needs to be answered is, "How could this actually affect change?"

There is a lack of established studies on the effectiveness of work your contract initiatives, so we can generally only speculate, but with the combined knowledge of veteran teachers and the creative ideas of new teachers, we believe that our efforts will be NOTICED and act as a CATALYST for change.

The largest difficulty, outside teachers feeling guilty for not doing enough, of a successful work your contract initiative is getting the district to notice.

So, how do we get them to notice. One solution is definitely in having a large percentage of teacher that are committed to truly work their contract. We all know that our out-of-contract work is the only thing truly keeping our educational system afloat. Pure numbers may be enough to get the district to notice.

That said, even without a huge percentage, there are other things we can do like redirecting complaints and issues to building administration, publicly declaring our pledge to work our contract, collecting data on how many participants we have, and bringing solutions to the BOE on how to improve our educational system.

Ultimately, this work-your-contract initiative could be enough of a wake up call for the BOE and the community that it acts as a catalyst towards systemic reform of how we engage with the district.

We don't like the seemingly hostile relationship between teachers and the district any more than anyone else, and we believe the solution is found in allowing our teachers to have a legitimate seat at the table to not only discuss salary, but to impact workload and safety decisions in our district.

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