Share This

MHFT Newsletter -- February 8, 2016

Welcome back, Gemma!

We are happy to report that Gemma is back in the office full time this semester. Joining her as office staff are Lori Shoemaker, Andrea Kusanovich, and Terri Eves-Knudsen, who are released part time, and remain in the classroom (or library) part time.

CFT State Convention

March 11-13, San Francisco

Attending the state convention is a great way to be informed about the work your union does, to learn more about current issues in education, and to connect to other educators throughout California. You can learn more about the CFT state convention at

Based on the size of our local, we can send up to 16 delegates. If you would like to represent your colleagues as a delegate, please email Gemma Abels at by Monday, February 22 . We will be holding elections when we return from the Presidents' Week break.

Growth Mindset Workshop a Big Success

On January 18th, MHFT sponsored a Growth Mindset Workshop. The purpose of the workshop was for families and educators to learn about growth mindset together,  and look deeply at how this concept can improve student success. There was a great turnout, with 60 parents and 20 students attending.

We wish to extend a huge thank you to the following teachers for volunteering at the workshop:

  • Teresa Colbert, Barrett
  • Ashley Stromberg, Barrett
  • Andrea Kusanovich, Sobrato
  • Tracy Murphy, Sobrato
  • Jan Skapik, San Martin–Gwinn
  • Vicki Bridges, Walsh
  • Victoria Santiago, Barrett
  • George Santiago, Barrett

COPE: Committee on Political Education

It is critically important for our union to be involved in politics, as you might imagine. We have a direct interest in who sits on our school board (which ultimately approves our salaries, benefits, class sizes, curricula, and oversees the relationship between district administration and employee groups, and decides whether or not to approve corporate charter schools) and on the County Board of Education (which approved Voices charter school after our local board rejected them).

We have an interest in who represents us in Sacramento (where the bulk of our education funding comes from, charter laws are written, attacks are sometimes launched on teacher pensions, and the entire state ed code and labor code originate) and in Washington, DC (No Child Left Behind, ESEA, Common Core, funding for school breakfast and lunch programs, anti-discrimination programs, attempts to privatize education, and a host of other important issues).

Who is elected at all levels of government either empowers or handicaps our ability to improve education for our students and working conditions for our teachers.

Our political activities, however, are distinct from activities directly representing our members, either in contract negotiations and enforcement, or in providing representation to individual members. In order to participate in the political process, California law requires us to carefully separate these activities, and to maintain separate financial records and even records of time spent on each category. For this reason, we have a COPE (Committee on Political Education) Committee, which is composed of members who are willing to donate their time to study issues and candidates, and make recommendations regarding expenditures of our COPE funds.

We would love to have more members join our COPE Committee! We try to meet once per month, a little more often during election seasons. Responsibilities include interviewing candidates and making endorsement recommendations to our Executive Council and the South Bay Labor Council, and making recommendations about COPE expenditures to our local Executive Council. If you are interested in joining MHFT’s COPE Committee, please contact MHFT President Gemma Abels at

COPE funds come from two sources: individual donations from our members (preferred), and transfers from our local’s general fund (which must be authorized by a vote of the Executive Council, and is only done when there is a specific need). Many of us make a small monthly contribution to COPE through a payroll deduction. The Federation will be starting a COPE fund drive soon to increase our funds to enable us to support high quality school board candidates.

Contract Negotiations

We are beginning a new round of contract negotiations. All teachers should have received an email invitation to complete an online negotiations survey. Thank you for your input to our negotiations team’s first survey. The Federation will "sunshine" at the March 1 school board meeting. This simply means that we will present to the board a list of the contract sections that we intend to open for discussion and negotiation this year. All teachers are invited to attend to show our interest in the negotiations, and our support for our team. Such displays of solidarity generally result in negotiators being taken more seriously at the table.

Elementary Curriculum Council:

K-3 Leveled Literacy Intervention & TK-5 Math Pilot Updates

Teachers are piloting Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) K-3 Reading Intervention at three sites: Barrett, El Toro, & Walsh. Designated teachers at each of these sites are in the process of being trained.

Teachers who are piloting the TK-5 math adoption have met three times so far to discuss their experiences.

Secondary Curriculum Council Update:

Course Adoptions & Materials ETA
MAP Test Trials

Adoptions follow standards being released by the state, with the first year typically being devoted to examination and piloting of new materials, and the next year adoption. At this time, the district will be reviewing textbooks for World Languages to purchase for next year, Language Arts will follow the next year. We will be waiting for History and Science standards to be revised and approved by the state before we begin those adoptions.

El Toro, Britton, Murphy, and Live Oak have been doing trial assessments using the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) Test for benchmarks in Science, Social Studies, and English. These tests utilize progressive assessments, where questions vary in difficulty based on student ability.

MHUSD School Board Opening

Because our current six-member board was unable to reach agreement on a replacement for Amy Porter-Jensen’s now-vacant seat, the seat will be placed on the ballot in the June 7 election. Interested candidates have until March 16 to file papers. To be eligible, a candidate must reside within the boundaries of the district, and must not be a district employee.

Given the 3-3 divide on virtually every issue, it is important that this seat be filled by someone who values public education, is supportive of teachers, and recognizes the complexity of student needs. If you know of someone who fits the bill, please encourage them to file candidacy papers.

The person who is elected will fill the seat for the remainder of Ms. Porter-Jensen’s term, which expires in December.

Board Meeting Update

At each of the past three regularly scheduled board meetings, the public comment portion has been dominated by speakers condemning David Gerard’s offensive emails, and calling upon him to resign. Teachers, parents, past board members, and community leaders have all come forward. So far, however, Mr. Gerard shows no signs of resigning, nor of apologizing. The number of speakers is smaller at each successive meeting, and it looks like he just plans to wait for the controversy to die down.

At the last regular meeting, Trustee Bob Benevento read a 4-page resolution censuring Gerard. The vote, predictably, was 3-3, and so the resolution did not pass. Prior to the vote, Mr. Gerard gave a 20+ minute speech, in which he referred to his own past hospitalization, stated that he got involved in the district because of the kidnapping of Sierra LaMar, said that his emails were satire, that he has been attacked in emails, and that he considers himself the victim in this situation.

It is possible that Mr. Gerard will hold his seat until his term is up, which is in December of 2018. This means that the upcoming elections for Amy Porter-Jensen’s seat (in June). In November, three seats will be open in our first Trustee Area board election - Trustee Areas A (Benevento), D (Badillo), and E (vacant).

The board adjourned early and announced that a Special Board Meeting would be held to hear public comment on the placement of VOICES in district facilities. This meeting was held on Feb. 10. At this meeting, many parents (from both the District and VOICES) spoke out against VOICES being placed at San Martin Gwinn. Administration from VOICES advocated for placement of their students at former Central campus, which now houses adult ed. This site is not set up for elementary students and houses several programs which would be displaced. The board had a discussion with cabinet that included the limitations of facilities at each site. No decision was made at this meeting. The board asked district staff to work with VOICES to find some compromise on facilities for next year.

Contract Spotlight:

Article 8- Shared Contract
If you are applying for next year, be sure to read this entire contract section:

8.1 Teams of two (2) unit members may submit proposals to share a single full-time contract wherein each teacher will teach less than full-time.

8.2 The proposal shall describe how the two teachers would share a contract and shall include:

  1. a joint statement of the classroom philosophy of the unit members involved which is mutually acceptable and consistent,
  2. a plan which explains tasks, schedules, curriculum responsibilities, individual responsibilities for required staff and curriculum activities, and
  3. a process for establishing reliable communications with each other and with students, staff, parents and administrators, including but not limited to journal notebooks, emails, etc.

8.3 Pairs of unit members requesting such an assignment shall notify their immediate supervisor in writing of their proposal prior to March 1.

Teachers at the Mic:
Building Strong Learning Environments

Thank you to Los Paseos for a great video presentation showcasing their students!

Next up: Nordstrom (March 1)

Upcoming Dates:

Feb 15-19 February Break
Feb 25 Growth Mindset Workshop Follow-up Meeting
March 1 School Board Meeting
March 3 MHFT Exec Council
March 11-13 CFT State Convention, San Francisco
March 14 Elementary Curriculum Council
March 15 School Board Meeting