Fresno Unified’s teachers union outlined at a community meeting Wednesday its plan to gain a greater say in how the district spends money – and a greater voice on the district’s board of trustees.
More than 150 people gathered at First Congregational Church in central Fresno to learn more about the Fresno Teachers Association proposals to play a larger part in the district’s decision making.
FTA president Tish Rice and executive director Luis Jamerson stressed the importance of having a say in the way money is spent in schools. To do this, the union offered a 13-step plan to reform how money is spent. Among the goals are reducing class sizes, increasing campus safety assistants and hiring more full-time registered nurses, psychologists and social workers.
“We have to change the system in order to change the outcomes.” Jamerson said. “In order to impact that money, we have to have four votes” on the seven-member school board.
Rice said the union hopes to build a group of 200 to 300 students, parents and community members to hold school trustees accountable. “It’s going to take us, and many of us, to say ‘enough is enough,’ ” she said.
Fresno State professor Sudarshan Kapoor said afterward he believes the union’s concerns are legitimate. “Money should go to teachers and school supplies,” he said.
Security and fully staffed schools were major concerns voiced at the meeting.
“If my child needs a nurse on Tuesday, and Nurse Vicky is not there, I’m worried about what’s going to happen to my child,” Jamerson said. “While I have confidence that other individuals will step in and help, there is a reason why that nurse is a registered nurse.”
Union leaders said the number of students per classroom in Fresno Unified is controlled by ratios, so the possibility for large classroom sizes exists. That’s a concern to the union.
“Larger classrooms are harder to control,” Fresno High School substitute teacher Victor Trejo said after the meeting. “In smaller classes, there can be less of an issue because (disturbances) don’t have a larger opportunity to snowball.”
Fresno Unified trustee Carol Mills, who represents the Fresno High area, focused on what students wanted to see improved at their schools and addressed the public’s concerns during a question-and-answer session.
“The No. 1 thing (students) said that they wanted was more real-world, career-oriented classes” Mills told the group.
“A No. 2 concern was they want improved maintenance and repair of the facilities,” Mills said. “(Thirdly) they are concerned about what’s going on in the classroom. ... Disruptive students are being left in the class too long.”
Wednesday’s meeting was the first of three informational meetings the union is holding on its 13-step plan.
Two more meetings are scheduled before Fresno Unified’s board meets on Feb. 24.
The union’s Jan. 28 meeting will take place at Hope Lutheran Church, 634 E. Barstow Ave., from 5:30 to 7 p.m., and the Feb. 11 meeting will take place near Roosevelt High School from 5 to 7 p.m.