News from the President

2/7/24 - CALL TO ACTION!!!!!

VAESP is asking all union members and supporters of education to attend the VPS board meeting on Tuesday, February 13th. Vancouver Public Schools has projected an 8 - 10% Reduction In Force and the VPS Board will soon decide where the cuts on staff should come from. The upcoming meeting is critical, and the VPS Board needs to hear from us.

TAKE A STAND — Here are four things you can do to support VAESP professionals: 1) Please attend and fill up the board room, 2) Sign up to share once you enter the meeting. Each person has three minutes. 3) Let the board know how the Reduction In Force will negatively impact your classroom, students and workplace and 4) Let the board know how the RIF will affect your life personally.

WEAR RED — Our VAESP Board is working on getting us new t-shirts. We hope they will be ready by Tuesday. More information to come.

As a Media Clerk, I've been through a Furlough during the pandemic and prior to that, I received a call from a co-worker that my position would be eliminated for the 2019-2020 school year. The cuts involved 19 media clerks: 7 counseling clerks and 4 wing clerks. I was in Spokane WA at the time, doing union work. It was difficult to hear but that call gave me an incentive to advocate for our jobs like never before!

The union was relentless! WEA, our state union, sent us a financial expert to look into the district's finances, they gave us skilled union leaders and all the necessary resources to assist our union local, we showed up at the board meetings and the picket lines. Thank God, we ended up keeping our jobs the upcoming school year. For as long as I've worked in education, we've always had to prove our worth as employees, bargain and continuously advocate for our jobs in order to get better wages and working conditions.

These are difficult times and emotions are high, let's remember to stand with each other because we are stronger as one, and be respectful to others.

Thank you ~ Chipo Sowards

Update on the RIF January 31st Meeting! 2/3/24

The Superintendent met with all three union presidents and our directors, Lynn Davidson and I (VAESP), SEIU and VEA. The principal who represents all school principals in the district was also at the meeting and a few VPS representatives who are involved in the RIF discussion. Dr. Snell gave a recap on the Reduction In Force plan from the conversation he had with us before going on winter break. It refers to my first posting that I shared on the VAESP FB page and VAESP website regarding the RIF. VPS shared at the first meeting, they will no longer receive Covid Fund dollars. As a result of the budget deficit, the school Board identified a Reduction In Force of 8-10% staffing.

The Superintendent shared that we are looking at an imminent RIF. He said, at the next school board meeting on Tuesday, February 13th, the board will have a conversation on coming up with a plan and for the RIF to be done sooner than later. In March, VPS will finalize the path towards a Reduction In Force and will begin notifying staff. He said the key date is March 12 and it will be done before spring break. I encourage everyone to attend the next school board meeting and wear red. We need to stand together and advocate for every job as it is essential for our students' success! We need to let the school board know the impact of these decisions. Many of us cannot survive or feed our families if we don't have jobs.

Dr. Snell said, if the district reduces Federal funded programs, VPS will lose funding. He said VPS will identify and set aside protected positions such as SPED Positions, Dual Language and CTE etc. He said there would be possible "Bumping" depending upon the Collective Bargaining agreement with the union.

I would like to explain the process since the word "Bumping" does not appear in our contract. If VPS goes through with their plan to lay off employees, we are going to have a classification list for the RIF. Please take a look at Article 3:16A Seniority on page 22 of our contract. The possible "Bumping" will be based upon seniority in each classification. On 3.16A Job Categories. Box 1. Secretaries - only a secretary can bump another secretary. The same applies on box 2. Enrollment Clerks etc. Only an enrollment clerk can bump another enrollment clerk. Box 3. Clerks, only a media clerk can bump another media clerk, box 4. Paraeducator, only a special program paraeducator can bump another special program paraeducator. Box 5. Technology Support Specialist can only bump another tech support in the classification.

Dr. Snell said the district stopped filing positions at the Central Office and there's a reduction on non-staff related costs. He expressed that the school Board would like VPS to work closely with the labor unions. We will still see job postings depending on the funding of the program. As you may know, VAESP does not agree with the RIF. I asked Dr. Snell some questions on how the district used the temporary Covid dollars, the impact on our schools and how the Levy money is being used. We will work closely with WEA and our union partners to achieve the best possible outcome for our members.

The district will have a follow-up meeting with our unions this upcoming week on February 7. I will share more as the district provides us with the necessary information.

Like many of you, my heart is heavy. This was hard to write. Let's continue to stand together, we are the strongest when we stand as one. Thank you for your support.

~ Chipo Sowards VAESP President

Update On the RIF Meeting 1/28/24 

VPS requested to meet with VAESP in order to discuss the process of Employee Layoff and Recall concerning Classified staff. Lynn Davidson, our union director and I, met with HR. One of the principals who sits at the table, representing all principals in the school district, was also present. HR told us they do not have the specifics on which positions will be affected but they wanted to meet with Lynn and I to go over the Layoff and Recall procedure as stated in Article 4.2 - 4 F of our contract.

Lynn made it clear that VAESP does not agree with VPS direction and plans to lay off school district employees. We also discussed the concerns with 1:1 Paraeducators who have students on IEPs. The Layoff will reduce the number of adults available to assist students. In addition, the union received messages from VAESP employees who shared that a group of them were called in the office by their principal and were told they will not have jobs next year due to budget cuts in their school. Another building reached out to Lynn and I expressing similar concerns. These incidents have brought some of our members to tears, causing anxiety and fear due to the uncertainty of losing their jobs. The principal we met with said he was concerned if staff members were being given that type of information. He said we will not know the jobs that will be affected until March. VAESP requested for Principals to not share specifics regarding the RIF since we do not have the details, and nothing is concrete.

VAESP, VEA and SEIU have been invited to another RIF meeting scheduled on January 31st by the school district. As promised, I will keep you informed as new information unfolds and we hear from the district and VPS School Board.

I encourage every union member to have a copy of our contract since we will be discussing these issues in the upcoming months. The contract language needs to be worked on and improved during our full Bargain in the 2024 -2025 school year since some areas of our contract might be confusing and difficult to understand. It is premature to answer questions regarding layoffs during this time, but we will work through it together as we advocate for every position that will be affected. The Comprehensive Professional Agreement was given to building representatives in every school. It is also posted in VERN and on our VAESP website. As always, the union is actively working on all buildings to have a union rep so you can receive important information in a timely manner. Please let us know if there's anyone who is interested in becoming a building rep in your school and feel free to make copies of the contract if you need one.

Let's continue to support each other and stand strong.

Chipo Sowards

News from President Chipo Sowards regarding inclement weather closure 1/16/24

I wanted to let you know that we have been monitoring the situation regarding the ice storm warning from weather forecasters. Several members from JPC and the Warehouse reached out to me expressing their concerns since Ten (10) and Twelve (12) month employees are still expected to report to work unless they make alternative arrangements according to our contract unless the Superintendent officially closes the Administrative Office and auxiliary sites.

It would have been much easier if VPS officially closed all the buildings and sites in light of the experts warning us of dangerous road conditions but for now, that is not the case. Our VAESP Union Director Lynn Davidson, has reached out to the Superintendent and HR expressing our concerns. We will keep you updated once we hear from VPS.

For now, I encourage everyone to take every precaution to be safe and make alternative arrangements according to our contract.

3.25A Nine (9) month employees assigned to school buildings should not report for duty. The school day will be rescheduled, and the time will be worked on the make-up day.

Ten (10) and Twelve (12) month employees assigned to the Administrative office and auxiliary sites (e.g. Propstra Pool, Jim Parsley Center, Maintenance, Transportation, and Warehouse) are to report for duty as soon as driving conditions allow unless the Superintendent officially closes the Administrative Office and auxiliary sites.

If conditions preclude reporting for duty, employees have the choice to make-up the missed time, take uncompensated leave, personal leave, or vacation.

Please email your Building Administrator and communicate your preference.

Clearly, we will need to work on our contract with the district when Bargaining allows for changes to be made. If school buildings are closed due to unsafe road conditions, the same should apply to staff who are expected to report for work.

Chipo Sowards
VAESP President

Message from the VAESP President 12/11/23:

Hello VAESP members
My name is Chipo Sowards. As you may know, Barb Plymate, our union President, retired on 11/30/2023. I have since transitioned from my position as Vice President to President pursuant to our Bylaws and Constitution. I look forward to serving you in this capacity and will work hard to advocate for you in the workplace and our students’ needs.   

I wanted to inform you that Vancouver Public School invited VAESP, VEA and SEIU leadership to a Reduction In Force (RIF) meeting on Friday, December 8, 2023. VPS informed us of their plan to cut jobs effective in the 2024-2025 school year. The district stated, “Federal COVID relief funds are phasing out, Enrollment – larger graduating classes and smaller kindergarten cohorts and it is unlikely to see dramatic increases in K-12 funding for 2024 in the Legislative session.  

VPS School Board will meet on Tuesday, December 12, 2023 to set a 5-10% target for the projections. In January, 2024, VPS will review enrollment and the projections. In February,  2024, VPS will invite all 3 local unions, VAESP, VEA and SEIU for a labor check-in. In March, 2024, VPS will start identifying the positions to be cut and our unions will be invited for a discussion.  
I would like to assure that VAESP will work together with our union partners, VEA and SEIU, to advocate for the jobs that will be affected. We will also invite WEA, our state union, to assist by providing their financial experts to assist in making assessments on VPS finances.  We currently do not have enough information to act on and we will have to for the school Board to make their final decision.  

I did not want to send you off on Holiday Break on such a difficult topic but I wanted to be transparent as your union. We will stand strong together! Please attend the school board meeting and wear red. We will keep you informed as new information is shared.

Thank you.  
Chipo Sowards