“Classified workers tend to be the best tools in the tool box when educating a child,”

May 25, 2013

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Keeping students and teachers focused on instruction

Keeping up a school is not like maintaining a commercial property—it takes everyday experts who understand the unique needs of our schools and what it takes to keep them running smoothly. Groundskeepers (read more) keep grass areas safe for sports and other recreational activities. Skilled maintenance workers (read more) troubleshoot problems in school buildings and proactively ensure that facilities function properly.

Because of a continued decline in funds over the last several years, many school districts have reduced their maintenance and operations staff to a bare minimum. Still, these workers—many of whom are skilled in various trades, ranging from plumbing and electrical to carpentry and ventilation—handle daily emergencies and perform routine maintenance and major overhauls on aging school facilities. When the number of hours in a workday don’t allow for the completion of everything that needs attention, some tasks have to be put off.

“We have always had a skeleton maintenance crew as it was,” said Robert Rainey, a maintenance worker for Savanna Chapter 322. Rainey said that the number of staff is so limited that on any given day, he might have to take on custodial duties or have to deal with a clogged toilet, or a fallen tree and still be ready for any other emergency. “One guy can’t do it all,” he said. “It seems like everyone at the school district who is classified wears 20 hats. Even if we aren’t the ones being cut, we’re the ones who will be cleaning up the mess that remains.”

“You’ll see things like having classrooms vacuumed maybe once a week instead of twice a week,” Rainey said. “You get to a point where you’re just running around putting out fires, because there are safety issues that you have to take care of and that’s all you have time for.”

When handling emergencies and fixing what’s broken is all maintenance and operations workers can do, Kasey Oliver, a maintenance worker at State Center Community College, said it ends up costing school districts money in the long run.

“If you don’t do preventative maintenance, you’ll have to replace equipment after five years instead of after 15 years,” said Oliver, a member of State Center College Chapter 379. “Preventative maintenance is a huge part of our job.”

Ricardo Garcia, a member of Corona Norco Chapter 369, is a filter technician. His job is to maintain all of the air conditioners in the school district. He checks the equipment for damage daily and changes the filters as needed. Without this preventative maintenance, his district would probably face hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment replacement costs each year, not to mention the poor air quality that could result from not replacing filters regularly.

“The air quality would be so bad that allergies and asthma would flair up in the children and teachers,” he said. “In the past, there have been lawsuits against school districts because of mold build-up due to a lack of maintenance.”

Whether they change ventilation system filters, fix leaking faucets or remodel entire school buildings, maintenance workers all agree that their main role is to keep students and teachers focused on instruction instead of the condition of aging school facilities.

“Classified workers tend to be the best tools in the tool box when educating a child,” Rainey said. “When you take away the support system that allows the teachers to do their job, you also get to a point where you are sacrificing safety and hygiene.”


“, but it becomes their best subject.”

May 24, 2013

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Giving students needed attention

Paraeducators work directly with children. Some help the teacher (read more) in the classroom and work with the children who need one-on-one attention. Others assist in computer labs and some even reach out to families in their homes. They make sure students get help when they need it. They support and enhance (read more) the work of teachers in all components of the education process

Were it not for special education paraeducators, many students wouldn’t receive the personal attention necessary to achieve daily milestones.

Debbie Gieseman is a paraeducator with Vista Unified School District. She busily works seven periods a day with special education students in subjects including math, reading, social studies and language. Throughout these classes, Gieseman, a job steward with Vista Unified 389, works directly with kids to practice their skills and increase their retention.

Gieseman also maintains daily behavior/reward systems, prepares attendance reports, inputs information for Individual Education Plans, calls parents and enhances curriculum, among other things. With the wealth of tasks to complete, Gieseman is very busy all day long. But she does it all for the kids.

“I know that what I do has a very positive effect on my students,” Gieseman said. “I spend the most time with the lowest performing students, and I see the changes. They go from hating math to maybe not loving it, but it becomes their best subject.”

She explained that paraeducators work a lot with students who have behavioral issues, helping them to deal with anger issues or other disruptive problems. Gieseman said that she sees her job as not only preparing students for high school, but also for life.

“In many ways, I am like a second mom—not intimidating like the teacher,” she said.

Gieseman said that being a paraeducator is akin to devoting your life to helping students reach their full potential.

“We are all dedicated. We work too hard, for too little money, to be anything but dedicated,” Gieseman said.

Paraeducators know all the routines and curricula, and they run the class when the regular teacher is gone, she said. And when they are gone for a day, teachers are hard-pressed to handle all the demands of a classroom full of special education students. Gieseman said paraeducators are definitely a special breed.

“A paraeducator must be able to command as well as they take commands, lead as well as they take directions, and teach as well as they learn,” she said. “That is why a great paraeducator will make a great teacher, but a great teacher may not be a good paraeducator.”

The above is selected material from CSEA

CSEW continues through Saturday, and I plan to conclude this series with more profiles and stories about the work that we do.


“…we’re used to people expecting us to do the impossible,”

May 23, 2013

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Ensuring student safety everyday

In the 21st century, classified employees are becoming integral parts of school safety teams. In a guide to crisis planning released by the federal Department of Education this year, school districts are urged to conduct regular, comprehensive training with teachers and staff on handling emergency situations.

“Knowing how to respond quickly and efficiently in a crisis is critical to ensuring the safety of our schools and students,” U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said. “The midst of a crisis is not the time to start figuring out who ought to do what. At that moment, everyone involved—from top to bottom—should know the drill and know each other.”

Andre Edwards, a head custodian (read more) with Belmont Chapter 308, always lends a hand when asked to help. After 20 years with the district, he’s seen it all. That’s why the district has invited him to participate in crisis planning meetings.

“Safety is a big part of my job as a custodian. My input is very valuable,” Edwards said. “I’d like to think after being around here for 20 years, the district would listen read more

CSEA members maintain safe environments

Students arrive safely at school, lights turn on when a switch is flipped, a nutritious lunch is served to hungry kids, computers transmit important information across a school district, and cool air comes out of vents during late spring days.

These essential services occur because of the diligence and dedication of classified school employees—and they are things people definitely would notice if they didn’t happen.

The safety of students and staff is the top priority of a school. School districts employ CSEA members to maintain safe environments, remove disruptive students and prevent dangerous situations.

That’s the magic of classified school employees. When they are on the job, they often go unnoticed. From behind the scenes, classified employees provide services vital to the everyday operation of schools. Without these services, school districts across California would grind to a halt.

It’s important for schools to provide an environment conducive to learning. Patti Regan, lead custodian at Romoland School District, said read more

On scene as first responders

Campus security (read more) monitors are the first responders for any type of emergency, including medical calls. Five years ago, there was a shooting at the college, and the monitors had to evacuate students from buildings until police arrived—all while wondering whether they would encounter the shooter themselves.

“We had the responsibility of making sure the students were safe despite the fact that we’re not armed,” Majtenyi said. “We have an all-encompassing job.”

Maes said he puts himself in danger every time he steps in to break up a gang fight or other altercation. He’s worked in the district for eight years and was once injured breaking up a fight.

“Sometimes, we don’t think about whether we could get hurt in a situation, because we’re used to people expecting us to do the impossible,” Maes said. “I’m campus security, but they expect me to be a custodian, a secretary, a counselor and a teacher!”

“I’m a rules enforcer, but I build a relationship with these kids, too.”

Williams, a member of Vallejo Chapter 199, has a method read more

Kids look up to security personnel

“The kids look at us as friends, parents, counselors—as someone they can talk to and confide in,” she said. “They listen to us.”Williams added that campus supervisors serve that essential day-to-day role of disciplinarians that would otherwise be the responsibility of administrators.

“If schools didn’t have us, administrators wouldn’t be able to do anything. If campus supervisors didn’t intervene, every little thing that happens in schools with behavior would go to them.”

At Los Banos Community Day School, campus liaison Rosendo Ambriz is the first one to respond to discipline problems or to offer advice.

“Talking to them seems to be the best thing to do,” he said. “We try to approach the students  level and not come off as the big authority. We try to be there for them one on one, we never put them on the spot in front of others, and we talk to them about consequences.”

Ambriz, a member of Merced County Office of Education Chapter 541, said that although one of his main goals is to keep conflicts from escalating, he also wants to make sure that the students don’t lose out on education.

“We’re the enforcers, but we’re also like counselors,” he said, adding that he always tries to build a rapport and to make sure that each student is calm before leaving his sight.

Students, in turn, appreciate the extra effort that Ambriz and other campus supervisors, officers and  security staff put into their jobs.

“I’ve had students who graduated, became somebody and came back to say ‘thank you for the help that you gave me,’” Ambriz said. “It’s a good feeling when you can make a difference in at least one kid’s future.”


“…get them in a positive routine so they aren’t late all of the time.”

May 22, 2013

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School Office and Clerical Services

CSEA is proud to represent thousands of administrative professionals in public schools and community colleges. At the school site, these classified employees are the link between parents, teachers and administrators. They ensure that the rest of the school staff has the information and materials to do their job efficiently. They guide school personnel in following federal and state regulations and they listen to parents and students and aid them with their concerns.

The technology keeps changing, but secretaries (read more) are still the people who keep our schools running smoothly. The same holds true for all administrative support staff, whether they work the front desk at an elementary school or manage files at the county office.

The accounting staff (read more) crunches the numbers, and school secretaries help students with their medications. Whether they are registering thousands of students at a large community college or explaining the afternoon bus route to the parent of a first-grader, office workers are vital to the success of our schools.

Office Assistant Linda Rambeau-Jaime, who has worked for Antioch Unified for 12 years, handles attendance issues, orders supplies for the classroom and makes sure that the copy machines used to print class handouts are functioning properly at Antioch’s Lone Tree Elementary School. She answers parents’ inquiries, and receives medicine and lunches that parents drop off for students. She also performs first-aid on students when necessary.

“Sometimes if these students don’t get patched up, they are going to miss the instructional minutes,” she said. “If they are late, I like to give them tips on what to do to get to school on time. I try to give them some steps they can take to get them in a positive routine so they aren’t late all of the time.”

Classified employees in the office do just about everything. They maintain attendance records, answer the phones, pay the bills and communicate with parents and administrators—all while keeping pace with advances in computer, telephone and document reproduction technology.

The above is selected material from CSEA

During CSEW, I plan to continue with more profiles and stories about the work that we do.


“The well nourished school child is a better student.”

May 21, 2013

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Food Service Professionals

For food service workers, safety is the name of the game. These workers need to provide nutritious meals to students multiple times a day, and make sure that the food is prepared according to food safety laws. More than 29 million children eat lunch at public schools everyday.

Research shows that good nutrition enables students to meet their educational and physical potential. However, it’s the people in the kitchen (read more) that really make the state’s food programs work. CSEA is proud to represent thousands of food service employees statewide.

President Harry S. Truman signed the National School Lunch Act into law in 1946. “The well nourished school child is a better student.” Truman said. “He is healthier and more alert. He is developing good food habits that will benefit him for the rest of his life. In short, he is a better asset for his country in every way.”

Our school cafeterias, food preparation centers and the caring employees who work in them all play a critical role in the educational process by providing nutritious meals for children.

Cooks, servers, clerks and delivery drivers all work hard to cut costs and maintain efficient, safe and healthy food service programs. In fact, more than 95 percent of all California school menus analyzed by the government met or exceeded federal targets for important vitamins and nutrients.

Many times the meal students receive at school are the best or only meal they will get each day. Without food, they cannot learn. Research shows good nutrition enables students to meet their educational and physical potential.

Our schools serve more meals each day than all the restaurants in the state. However, it’s the people in the kitchens who really make the state’s food programs work. Food service workers prepare meals for thousands of students and then serve it and even clean up afterwards.

During CSEW, I plan to continue with more profiles and stories about the work that we do.


Oppose HR 1406 and Get Better Business Transparency

May 20, 2013

First, a selection from some shared words:

“Corporate Governance may be defined as “A set of systems, processes and principles which ensure that a company is governed in the best interest of all stakeholders.” It ensures Commitment to values and ethical conduct of business; Transparency in business transactions; Statutory and legal compliance; adequate disclosures and effective decision-making to achieve corporate objectives. In other words, Corporate Governance is about promoting corporate fairness, transparency and accountability. Good Corporate Governance is simply Good Business.”

Second, a brief selection about the GNP, from (in brief words) Wiki:

“Basically, GNP is the total value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a particular year, plus income earned by its citizens (including income of those located abroad), minus income of non-residents located in that country. GNP measures the value of goods and services that the country’s citizens produced regardless of their location. GNP is one measure of the economic condition of a country, under the assumption that a higher GNP leads to a higher quality of living, all other things being equal.”

This is why we ask:

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Please contact Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Barbara boxer to ask them to oppose HR 1406, the so-called Working Families Flexibility Act.

HR 1406 would actually allow employers to stop giving workers any extra pay for overtime work and instead substitute “comp time.”

What would HR 1406 mean for most workers?

1. “Comp Time” means a pay cut – Workers compensated with time off rather than cash would see a reduction in their take-home pay.

2. “Comp Time” means mandatory overtime – “Comp time” legislation would make mandatory overtime less expensive for employers. Under “comp time” legislation, employers may be able to receive the benefits of overtime work at no additional cost to themselves.

3. “Comp Time” means more unpredictable work schedules for employees – Making mandatory overtime cheaper for employers would keep workers on the job longer and result in more unpredictable worker schedules and, for workers with children, higher day care costs.

4. “Comp Time” undermines the 40-hour workweek – The only incentive for employers to maintain a 40-hour workweek is the requirement under the Fair Labor Standards Act that they pay a time-and-a-half cash premium for overtime. “Comp time” legislation, by contrast, would encourage employers to demand longer hours by making overtime less expensive.

5. “Comp Time” is not voluntary – Workers can be coerced into accepting “Comp Time” and the employer has the ultimate authority to determine when a worker can use accrued “comp time.”

The AFL-CIO has set up a phone system (below) to call your representative.

Call our Senators today to oppose H.R. 1406: 1-888-866-2561.