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MHFT Newsletter -- May 18, 2016

Offers of Employment

In the April 2016 HR Insider, the following statement was made about contracts:

"Typically, offers of employment (contracts) for the 2016-17 school year go out to your school sites the first week of May. This year, due to a recent Call to Action by MHFT, Human Resources is reviewing our annual process. We do not want teachers and site staff to be in an uncomfortable situation. Meanwhile, please know that teachers in probationary and permanent status, unless they have already been notified, ‘shall be continued in the position.’ (Ed Code 44951).”

The District has decided to send out letters that ensure each employee that they have a position with MHUSD in 2016-2017. The letter also includes your step and column for next year, but without a signature line. This notification implies a passive acceptance of an offer of employment.  If you do nothing before June 30, you are accepting a contract for the 2016 - 2017 school year.


If you fail to notify MHUSD before June 30, you will be under contract with MHUSD, and must resign for the 16-17 school year before you accept a new position. If you choose to resign after June 30, the District does not have to accept your resignation.

Mushroom Mardi Gras

This fun event is coming up May 28-29! All sites will be staffing the MHFT booth.  Please check with your Building Rep to find out when your school’s shift is. Of course, we will enjoy your company in the booth anytime!

In the booth, we will be sharing our Mindset Handouts and candidate information, as well as answering questions from community members about our schools.

MHFT Scholarship Winners

The following students, all dependents of current or retired MHFT members, each received a modest scholarship in order to help in some small way with their college expenses and to offer encouragement as they begin their higher education.

  • Annalicia Anaya
  • Nicole Sheets
  • Rhyleigh Thompson
  • Caitlin Westmoreland


Congratulations to Sobrato High School’s Howard Barnes, who was selected from a field of outstanding teachers throughout the district to be
Morgan Hill Unified’s 2016 Teacher-of-the-Year.

Congratulations also to the following site Teachers-of-the-Year, all of whom were selected by their colleagues as models of excellence:

  • Barrett: Kelly Parker
  • Britton: Jim Levis
  • Central: Nicole Dietmeier
  • El Toro: Debbie Baker
  • Jackson (JAMM): Amanda Knudtzon
  • Los Paseos: Michelle Grgich
  • Live Oak: Ken Repp
  • Martin Murphy: Heather Wallace
  • P.A. Walsh STEAM Academy: Ellen Miller
  • Nordstrom: Anna Goble
  • Paradise Valley: Susan Wagner
  • San Martin/Gwinn: Vee Zabala

Congratulations to all of these teachers, and thank you for the outstanding work that you do every day. You elevate the profession, and shine a positive light on our schools because of your dedication and skill.

School Board Special Election (June 7)

The June 7 election is important to MHFT and MHUSD because voters will decide who will fill the board seat left vacant when Amy Porter resigned in November.  The board was unable to decide on a replacement, so the voters will decide who will serve on the board from July - December.

Two candidates, who on the surface seem to have similar views, are running for this seat, Pam Torrisi and Tom Arnett. While the two candidates sound similar, we want voters to know that they are very different and that only Pam Torrisi will be a true advocate for public education in Morgan Hill.

Pam Torrisi, a retired MHUSD classroom aide, has been endorsed (following an in-depth questionnaire & interview process) by South Bay Labor Council (SBLC) and by MHFT. Torrisi is also endorsed by Porter Jensen, and by current MHUSD Board Members Bob Benevento, Ron Woolf, and Donna Foster Reubusch.

Mr. Arnett is endorsed by David Gerard, Rick Badillo, and Gino Borgioli, and though he is quick to point out that he did not seek their endorsement, it seems clear that this is really a choice about settling the divide in our local board in favor of one side or the other. Arnett lists Teach for America's political arm, Leadership for Educational Equity, as a campaign consultant and contributor.

Also distinguishing Pam Torrisi is that she will bring 34 years of classroom experience to the board.  She gained this expertise as a para-educator, which means she will also add her deep knowledge of special education to her work as a trustee. And as the former president of the classified employees, Pam understands district budgeting and programs. She has been attending board meetings and understands that the conflict on our present board stymies the work of the board and the district.  Pam has voiced her support for the choice we provide families through focus academies and the K-8 and 6-8 configuration models.  She has said that the District must not only give parents choice, but must also make sure to hear the voices of all parents and community members.

On the other hand, Mr. Arnett gained his two years of teaching experience as a Teach for America corps member.  He uses this limited classroom experience, and his bachelors in economics and an MBA, in his job at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation. This should mean something to you.

From their own website: “Disruptive innovation, a term of art coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.”

In education, disruptive innovation is code for charter schools, usually based on “blended learning,” i.e. computer-based instruction. As our teachers try to find innovative ways to use technology as a tool for learning, Mr. Arnett would be promoting technology as the means to learning. And given the favorable listing of Rocketship and numerous other area charter schools on the Christensen Institute’s website, we could anticipate that he would be in favor of renewed efforts to open up our district to corporate charters.

MHUSD has had enough disruption from our board; we need our board to give educators the resources to transform our students' lives. Our Executive Council interviewed both candidates, and voted to endorse Pam Torrisi.

The election will be June 7. Our endorsement was announced on our MHFT Facebook page. Please like and share via facebook and let your friends and neighbors know that Pam is the candidate who will be most supportive of our students and schools.

How You Can Help

All teachers have received flyers for Pam, with talking points to use when speaking with relatives, friends and neighbors.  Also, please join us for walking neighborhoods in Morgan Hill this  Saturday, May 21st.  Bring a friend and come to the MHFT Office at 9:30 am (16450 S. Monterey Rd. Suite #5) to pick up handouts and directions.  Let us know if you live in a busy neighborhood and can put a sign in your yard!

It is important that the community hears from teachers directly about this race. People do take our endorsement seriously, and we need to get the word out. Your participation can indeed make a difference in this race. We really hope to see some of you this Saturday.

Negotiations Update

Our negotiations team continues to meet with the district team. In addition they have met with TK and Kindergarten teachers regarding their side letter, and with 6th grade teachers moving to the middle schools. The team has two more meetings on the calendar before summer starts, and is prepared to continue bargaining in the summer if necessary.

Thank you to all who attended the last board meeting to support our efforts to improve teacher salaries. (See below.)

Teachers Appeal to School Board for Salary Relief

Teachers who cannot afford to live in the district, who cannot afford to purchase our health care plans, who have to have roommates, who take on second jobs, who are struggling financially and considering leaving to better-paying districts, were encouraged to come speak before the board at its May 3 meeting.

We had more than 20 teachers speak to the board that night regarding salary and benefits - and about our concern for attracting and keeping excellent teachers in the district.  CFT Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Freitas, CFT Director of Organizing Sandra Weese, and South Bay Labor Council Executive Officer Ben Field also addressed the board on our behalf.  They reminded the board that our teachers have supported Prop. 30 and walked precincts to fight for school funding, and now that the district has received increasing amounts, we deserve to be paid better salaries.

Innaugural Annual Friends & Family Festival

It is so important for us to continuously reach out to the community, and nurture mutually supportive relationships. Thus, on Saturday, April 23, MHFT hosted the First Annual Friends & Family Festival at P.A. Walsh School. It was a wonderful event for students and families, with lots of entertainment, activities and games, and community information booths.

We want to extend a huge thank you to all who came out to support the event, and to the organizing team of Gemma Abels (MHFT President), Lori Shoemaker & Bryan Olson (Walsh STEAM Academy), JoAnne Markowska (Live Oak), Janet Lammers (Barrett), and Elisa Barragan & Mario Araujo (Sobrato).

Upcoming Dates:

May 19 Phone Banking for Endorsed Candidates
South Bay Labor Council
2102 Almaden Road,
Suite 114, San Jose
May 20 District Retirement Celebration
Morgan Hill Community Center Monterey St. at Dunne Ave.
May 21 Walk for Pam Torrisi
MHFT Office, 16450 Monterey St., #3
May 23 Deadline to register to vote in the
Primary Election
May 28 Mushroom Mardi Gras
Downtown Morgan Hill
8:30am -7:00pm
May 29 Mushroom Mardi Gras
Downtown Morgan Hill
9:30am - 6:00pm
June 3 Last Day of School!
June 7 California’s Primary Election
June 30 Last day to notify the district if you do
NOT intend to return in 2016-17

District Year-End Budget Deadlines

Please be mindful of the following deadlines, in order to ensure reimbursement for your expenditures:

March 24 deadline to submit tech purchase order requisitions
April 1 all other (non-technology) purchase order requisitions; reimbursement requests for all travel & mileage as of 2/29
April 8 all personal reimbursement requests for expenses incurred as of 4/8
June 3 all petty cash must be turned in; June time sheets must be hand delivered to the D.O.
June 10 reimbursement requests for all travel & mileage expenses incurred after 2/29; all personal reimbursement requests for expenses incurred as of 6/10
June 30 & July 31 end-of-month paychecks will be mailed

Following is a message from CFT regarding California’s June 7 Primary Election:

CFT endorses Kamala Harris for U.S. Senate

As Attorney General of California, Kamala Harris has taken the lead on a number of issues important to educators. She worked to reduce elementary school truancy and put young students on the right path to educational success; she created the Bureau of Children’s Justice to protect our state’s youngest and most vulnerable population. And she fought hard against the big banks during the foreclosure crisis to defend the communities in which we live and work.

As a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Harris has crafted a platform that puts values shared by CFT at the forefront. These include securing stable funding for early childhood and K-12 education, fighting for free tuition at our community colleges, and making larger Pell Grants available to college students. The CFT urges your vote for Kamala Harris on June 7.

In California, several progressive candidates are in tight races for legislative seats. If you live in these regions, your vote for these education-friendly candidates is particularly important.


  • District 3 Mariko Yamada
  • District 9 Nancy Skinner
  • District 11 Jane Kim
  • District 15 Jim Beall
  • District 25 Anthony Portantino
  • District 35 Warren Furutani


  • District 14 Mae Torlakson
  • District 27 Ash Kalra
  • District 30 Karina Cervantez Alejo

You can find all CFT-endorsed Candidates at:

For local endorsements:

From CFT President, Josh Pechthalt:

As you know, the June 7th California primary election is just a few short weeks away.  For the first time in many years, California will play a significant role in determining who the Democratic nominee for President will be.

AFT has endorsed Hilary Clinton, and the CFT has not taken a position in the Democratic primary.

The member communication effort will soon begin with a simple member poll in the coming days regarding both the California Senate race and the Presidential campaign.

Following the poll, AFT will soon begin a communications program to members about Hilary Clinton.  You may receive mail and phone calls directly from AFT about the primary, and, of course you should feel free to join that effort, or if you are supporting Bernie Sanders to decline to add your support.

They will also be reaching out directly to locals to ask if your local would like to participate in events and volunteer opportunities.

To be clear, this is an AFT program and NOT a CFT communications effort, and this effort will be happening independent of our organization.