March 28, 2020
Substitute Teachers, Corona Virus Resources, HPS Links, WEA, Negotiated Agreements, Your Concerns, Cell Phones. (And-Yes-Spring Break Still Starts Next Week!)
Dear HEA Members,
For those who have reached out to share your fears as family members are now falling ill, my heart goes out to you…. Or in the case of some of our substitute teachers, your nightmare of a disappearing bank account keeps me awake thinking of ways the union can support you. Beyond sympathy, please know that HEA leaders are working tirelessly to ensure flexibility in your work schedules and access to leave, should remote work no longer be an option for you. Please email HSD Human Resources and your administrator if you need to access leave anytime during this health crisis. We have also been raising the issue of substitute teacher pay at every meeting, and some positive gains have been achieved which I describe below.
If you ever need any support through these difficult times, please contact me so we can be responsive to your needs. Just hit reply to this newsletter. That is what is meant by solidarity. That is what belonging to a union through good times and hard times means.
To your good health and that of your family, friends, and roommates!
All my best,
P.S. Spring Break will not be cancelled!
Resources for Substitute Teachers. Many daily substitutes are eligible for unemployment benefits for the first time, thanks to lobbying efforts by the WEA. Remember, substitutes with leave replacement contracts are being retained per their annual contracts with full salary and benefits. In addition, HEA has negotiated to retain and pay many long-term substitutes until the return of the educator who they are replacing. We encourage all substitute teachers to sign up for updates from Employment Security, as changes designed to expand unemployment eligibility continue to roll out. Please look into the recent federal Coronavirus Relief Bill which could also provide up to $600/week for four months to substitutes forced out of work. WEA is analyzing that bill now, and more information will follow. Finally, HPS will continue paying their portion of SEBB benefits for all substitutes who have already been on SEBB, and will either collect or temporarily cover the substitute’s portion so they will not lose coverage during the school closure. If you are a substitute teacher and have been denied unemployment payments, please email me.
Resources for those with COVID-19. If you are ill or caring for someone who is ill, here is important information from the state. If you are too ill to continue working remotely, or are unable to work because you are caring for a family member who is ill, please contact Highline Human Resources to explore your leave options. In addition to the usual contractual leave provisions, HEA has negotiated additional COVID-19 leave that may apply, and there are additional state and federal options that may be available, as well.
HPS Guidance and Resources. Please stay up-to-date with the changing dynamics of education and service delivery within Highline Public Schools due to Coronavirus. Be sure to look for daily staff update emails that address immediate concerns members have raised. HEA and HPS are also exploring the use of a Q&A page to address the many questions we are receiving.
WEA: Working Everyday Always. WEA’s priorities during this Washington school closure have been safety and flexibility. Our leaders, President Larry Delaney and Vice-president Janie White, along with our staff, are engaged in on-going conversations with the governor, his office, OSPI and state agencies like Employment Security to ensure our members are taken care of during this crisis. There have been numerous issues and we continue to work diligently to address them. The governor has reached out to ensure our members maintain pay and maintain their certification. We want our districts to use common sense and not put our members at risk. Monday’s guidance from OSPI has been a huge shift, but we are building off the foundation WEA has laid. One thing is clear from OSPI: districts have a responsibility to create common sense and compassionate ways to engage families and support learning during the closure. Keep informed and access state and national C-19 resources through the WEA website.
Negotiated Agreements. While some surrounding districts have negotiated and renegotiated specific memorandums of understanding, HEA and HPS have chosen to use broad agreements and ongoing communication to create guidelines that allow flexibility both to address members’ personal needs and to respond to changing OSPI expectations.
As the requirements of our work become clearer, greater clarity regarding time and responsibilities will be negotiated and communicated. HEA leadership understands that principals will be working with and supporting staff in implementing directives communicated by Teaching, Learning, and Leadership. In addition, while we are still discussing how typical meetings (such as IPT, SLT, PBIS and PCT) will look during this school closure period, it is reasonable for administrators to join any virtual team meeting to better understand how to support your efforts in providing learning opportunities for students. More information is coming out next week.
In the meantime, HEA members should NOT engage in bargaining for our working conditions at the building level. Any major changes to our working conditions must be negotiated through HEA leadership – and we are in the midst of some very major changes! Finally, please be aware that members have asked that we avoid sending or forwarding email messages that include the phrase "THIS IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED" as this sends a mixed message that can shame or embarrass. Please keep in the forefront of your mind that not all colleagues have the same level of time and flexibility in their schedules now that they must carry out all their work at home.
Addressing Concerns. If you have concerns that directives you are receiving from an administrator or member leader do not align with the March 17 joint agreements, please reach out to one of your HEA Reps to express your concerns. HEA Reps will be attending a HEA Rep Council Zoom Meeting at 4:15 Monday and may be able to get clarification at that meeting and/or share your concerns for future follow-up by HEA leaders.
Use of Cell Phones. By Thursday evening, all members should have received a joint HEA/HSD memo clarifying use of personal cell phones for everyone in the district. In the meantime, we have requested the district provide you with additional clarification on the use of personal computers, particularly for those employees who are working on IEPs. That information will be forthcoming. In general, however, guidelines for personal computer use are the same as personal cell phones. Avoid using, if possible, and we strongly discourage you from saving any work-related information on any of your personal devices.