Education Austin’s members and staff worked hard in the 2014-15 school year. It was a tumultuous year, as former superintendent Meria Carstarphen had left the district to take the helm in Atlanta’s public school system. This left AISD in the hands of the new interim superintendent, former assistant superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz.
Also, in the fall semester of 2014, there was a shakeup on the AISD school board. 5 board members’ terms had come up, and an election was looming. Education Austin’s Executive Board grilled all of the candidates, and after hearing testimony from each, endorsed one candidate for each of these seats. Come election time, 4 of the 5 candidates that Education Austin endorsed had won their seats. With those 5, that meant that 7 out of the 9 AISD board members had been elected to their positions thanks to the support of Education Austin members. This was a watershed moment. Not only was the board overwhelmingly positive towards what Education Austin saw as important, but the new interim superintendent, Dr. Cruz, had also shown a willingness to work together with us.
Thanks to the culture shift in AISD’s upper administration, and thanks to our members’ amazing hard work, we were able to make some tremendous accomplishments.
- Won 3-year contracts for ALL certified employees
- AISD certified staff had 3-year contracts before Meria Carstarphen took over as superintendent. At that time, most of the board members were people endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce and thought that a school district should be run more like a business. Carstarphen deftly convinced the board to eliminate 3-year contracts (and in practically the same breath, convinced them to give her a 5-year contract). Thanks to our work flipping the school board, we were able to restore 3-year contracts for certified employees after a long, hard-fought battle.
- Won stipends for qualifying bilingual employees
- Many certified employees, particularly bilingual school counselors, found themselves being asked to perform a number of extra duties. Because they were bilingual, they were being asked to act as translators in conversations with non-English-speaking parents, to translate documents, and much more. None of these things fell within the realm of their contractual duties, and they weren’t being paid extra for all the extra work that was being asked of them. After organizing counselors, bringing them to speak to the school board, and work with administration, we were able to secure a yearly stipend of $2,500 for employees who could pass a Spanish language proficiency test.
- Co-sponsored the ADELANTE Conference for bilingual and dual language teachers
- The ADELANTE conference is the first of its kind in the Austin area. It is now an annual summer event where bilingual and dual language teachers can gather to compare notes, swap strategies for dealing with their increasingly difficult and growing English-language-learner population, and get great resources from organizations that support ELL learning. The conference is unique in that it is planned, run, and presented by the educators themselves.
- Won Domestic Partnership Insurance for qualified individuals
- Through our officers’ meeting with district administration as the sole consultation agents, we were able to win a consultation agreement securing domestic partnership insurance.
- Certified 40 Education Austin Stewards
- Education Austin Stewards go through a three-month training, where they learn how to create power in the workplace, how to organize to work on issues, and how to make change at the district level. As of the end of the 2014-15 school year, 40 of our members have completed this training.
- Sponsored a Citizenship Drive and helped 116 people complete applications to become U.S. citizens
- Provided information to 680 people about DACA/DAPA at 18 forums
- DACA/DAPA is President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals/Parent Arrivals program. We held 18 informational forums across the district which were attended by almost 700 people.
- Helped 80 people complete DACA applications at three clinics
- In addition to the informational forums, we also held DACA clinics with help from pro-bono lawyers. There, we helped 80 eligible people put together their applications, including all of the paperwork they’d need to apply for deferred action.
- Awarded five scholarships to students to help them obtain their DACA authorization
- Won an agreement to provide translation of directives or evaluations for classified employees whose native language is not English
- Many of our Spanish-speaking members came to us with an issue: they were receiving directives, write-ups, and evaluations solely in English. This is unfair to those workers, as they may only be able to read in Spanish, and couldn’t read the English directives. We proposed a consultation agreement requiring that the district provide translations of directives, evaluations, etc. into the employee’s native language.
- Won a 2% pay increase for all AISD employees
- We have been largely responsible for EVERY raise that AISD employees have received since Education Austin was created by the merger of two previous educators’ organizations in 1999.
We had a great year and are looking forward to another one in 2015-16. So if you haven’t already, JOIN EDUCATION AUSTIN and help support all of the work that we do.