Today is the last contract day for educators in Granite School District. Completion of the 2019-20 school year would have fizzled out quietly if not for educators and administrators organizing makeshift graduation celebrations, parades in neighborhoods, and celebration lines in front of elementary schools. GEA honors Westbrook and Sandburg Elementary teachers, administrators, and staff as they said goodbye to their respective buildings as well as students. Change is difficult, but they made it special just the same.
GEA is also saying farewell with gratitude to the over 100 career educators and dedicated members who are retiring this year. Bittersweet to be sure.
As reported in a recent blog post, Granite School District Board of Directors and Superintendency continue to honor the ratified agreement which included a 5% COLA and 3% One-time Bonus. A huge lift to be sure as the state legislature meets today in its Public Education Appropriation Committee to discuss how the education budget should be reduced. In February and March many of GEA’s association representatives held school walk-ins to speak out loud the need for adequate funding for our schools and students. Teachers wore Red and organized both parents and students to join the walk-ins in support for increased funding. Before closing the 2020 Utah Legislative Session, legislators enacted a 6% increase to the Weighted Pupil Unit which honored the desperate need of funding for our public schools. Now, even though Utah is last in the nation for per pupil funding, the legislature is looking at taking back its promised increase due to state economic loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand some budgetary adjustments must be made, but strongly plea that public education is held harmless.
In a recent letter to Utah legislators, UEA President, Heidi Matthews urges, “The UEA disputes the assumption that the discussion must begin with budget reduction scenarios of 2%, 5% and 10% from the base budget. No cuts should be considered until revenue projections are fully understood and every option for backfilling any budget shortfalls has been explored. Use of bonding, rainy day funds, federal CARES Act monies, non-lapsing balances, and any other potential revenue source or expense deferral must all be considered BEFORE making ANY cuts to public education.” So, even though the official contract year is coming to an end, the advocacy work of GEA and UEA continues 24/7. We believe our public educators and students deserve more than last place for funding. Educators at all levels are working harder than ever to provide a robust distance learning platform for students during this pandemic. In anticipation of a potential continued school dismissal in the fall, educators will be adjusting curriculum and lesson material to prepare and polish the work they have done on the fly since March of this year.
GEA believes that public education should be the last place, not the first, where state leaders focus budget cuts in the troubled economic times we face. The multi-million dollar rainy day fund should be utilized to fill budget shortfalls. Utah’s rainy day fund ranks 19th in the nation, and the state is healthy financially because of this prudence in savings. However, being last in the nation for per pupil funding, and NOT utilize the rainy day fund but further cut public education funding is backward-thinking at best. Perhaps if the legislature is looking in every nook and cranny for funding cuts, it should consider the $6 million voucher bill it passed in a recent special session. Just saying.
What a year to end a brilliant and fulfilling career in teaching! GEA would like to recognize and honor the many teachers who have supported the Association throughout their career, as well as changed multiple lives through their gift of teaching! “Thanks” just doesn’t say enough – what we have gained as an organization is due to your hard work. We stand on your shoulders and teachers coming behind you will forever be rewarded by the gifts you’ve shared.
Robyn Allred, Upland Terrace Elementary
Mary Alsop, Cottonwood High
Michelle Asay, Granger High
Heather Ashton, Fremont Elementary
Sandra Baker, Orchard Elementary
David Barton, Olympus High
Seydou Bengaly, Granger High
Carol Bethers, Moss Elementary
Lisa Bouwhuis, Driggs Elementary
Robert Brough, Olympus Jr. High
Marilyn Brown, Eisenhower Jr. High
Michelle Butterfield, Educational Technology
Bonnie Call, Bonneville Jr. High
Phillip Cannon, Cottonwood High School
Susan Cannon, Y.E.S.S. Program
Leslie Chatelain, Morningside Elementary
Miriam Childs, Hunter Elementary
Jerry Corbett, Hunter High
Patricia Creager, West Valley Elementary
Judy Cutler, Crestview Elementary
Kenneth Dilley, Granite Park Jr. High
Lloyd Earl, Bonneville Jr. High
Carolyn England, Silver Hills Elementary
Renee Evans, Bennion Elementary
Tammy Farnsworth, West Valley Elementary
Gina Felt, Woodstock Elementary
Kristin Fisher, Lake Ridge Elementary
Julie Ford, Sandberg Elementary
Scott Fowler, Granite Technical Institute
Robert Fratto, Cyprus High School
Sandra Funk, Bennion Elementary
Suzanne Gaeta, Westbrook Elementary
Shanna Garso, Roosevelt Elementary
Tammy Giles, Penn Elementary
Bradely Goffe, Olympus High School
Elizabeth Goold, Oakwood Elementary
Sue Gray, Morningside Elementary
Robyn Gresh, Hillside Elementary
Laurie Gunkel, Hunter Elementary
Susan Gunn, Sandberg Elementary
Nancy Hansen, Cottonwood Elementary
Michele Hart, Driggs Elementary
Karen Haslam, Westbrook Elementary
Julia Henkes, Wright Elementary
Jessica Hook, Skyline High School
Ann Itchon, Pioneer Elementary
Anthony Ivins, Taylorsville High School
Rosemary Jacklin, Bonneville Jr. High
Tamara Jackman, Hillside Elementary
Teri Jenkins, Taylorsville Elementary
Heidi Jones, Crestview Elementary
Janet Juengel, Wright Elementary
Christine Katsilas, Taylorsville High
Monica Kelley, Plymouth Elementary
Marilyn Kline, Hunter High
Shelley Larson, Oakwood Elementary
Tiffany Lundberg, Special Services
Andrew Marks, Cottonwood High
Kent Mayne, Prevention & Student Placement
Patti Jo Mazanis, Jefferson Jr. High
Paul McClatchy, CCR-Psychologists
Ruth Merrill, Granger High
Pamela Moea’l, Educational Technology
Virginia Moon, Cyprus High
Teina Moore, Rolling Meadows Elementary
Deborah Morris, Farnsworth Elementary
Cynthia Moyle, Educational Technology
Audrey Nelson, Cottonwood High
Paula Nelson, Y.E.S.S. Program
Christy Oaks, Morningside Elementary
Carol Overson, Cyprus High
Janeen Partridge, Arcadia Elementary
Kim Peterson, Redwood Elementary
Cheryl Pietz, Educational Equity
Celia Powell, Educational Technology
Anne Puzey, Bennion Jr. High
Marianne Rankin, Vista Elementary
Katharine Roach, Cyprus High
Julie Rosenlof, Kearns High
Charles Sampson, Western Hills Elementary
Thomas Sharpe, Cottonwood High
Denice Smith, Olympus High
Kathleen Smith, Bennion Jr. High
Corinne Soelberg, Twin Peaks Elementary
Ann Sorenson, Cyprus High
Dirk Sprunt, Elk Run Elementary
Joni Sueoka, Vista Elementary
Joe Szugye, Whittier Elementary
Patricia Taylor, Taylorsville High
Deborah Thomas, Olympus Jr. High
Jo Thompson, Hunter High
Joan Thompson-Harris, Copper Hills Elementary
Valerie Tomer, Special Services
Wendy Wagstaff, Cottonwood Elementary
William Walker, Hunter Jr. High
Sue Weierman, Eisenhower Jr. High
Debra Wessman, Mill Creek Elementary
Ingrid White, Kearns High
Patricia White, Research and Evaluation
Johanna Widdison, Lake Ridge Elementary
Linda Williams, Jackling Elementary
Carolyn Wood, Magna Elementary
Karen Yates, Hunter Elementary
It’s hard enough navigating the end of a school year amid a global pandemic and school dismissal without receiving discouraging news reports that Utah continues to be the last in the nation for per student funding (Reported by Courtney Tanner, SL Tribune, May 12:
This ranking has been a dubious placement for many years. Although the Utah State Legislature, in its recent 2020 general session, moved to address this inequity in funding by enacting a 6% increase to the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) for the 2020-21 school budget year, it’s now considering taking that increase away to fund the state’s economic losses due to the COVID-10 pandemic. A special session will be called sometime this summer to consider how to cut budgets across the board. GEA is hearing anything from 2% for all budget areas up to 9% in others. Public education is reported to not be immune to these cuts and the Legislature went a step further to enact a resolution cautioning school districts to not negotiate increased salary and benefits for public school employees at this time.
In a previous blog, (April 30, 2020, “What’s Up GEA?”) we acknowledged the courage the Granite School Board and District Administration had in meeting GEA for negotiations and reaching an agreement on a 5% cost of living increase, 3% one-time bonus, shift in salary schedule to make the starting salary more appealing for new educators, and several other financial increases. Even amidst the pressure by the state to limit negotiations, Granite continues to stand by their agreement. It’s important for you to know that GEA continues to meet regularly with the Granite district superintendent team and as current as this week, the team reiterates the District’s support for the negotiated agreement and offers assurance to GEA that the District’s budget will support this increase regardless of what state leaders decide to do with public education funding. Kudos to the District for being fiscally responsible as well as conscientious of the incredible effort and professionalism of all educators and special services employees.
In other good news – every year GEA celebrates the hard work GEA building representatives (Association Representatives (AR)) have achieved throughout the year. Beginning with the August New Teacher Orientation, ARs focus on being the voice of GEA teachers in each building. Meeting each month during the year, 100+ ARs gather to hear updates from GEA on what is happening in the District or State that affects educators and public education as a whole. Oftentimes, ARs are given tasks to do in their buildings, i.e. hold GEA meetings, share information, hold and manage elections for GEA leadership, stay up to date on education news, advocate for GEA members in their buildings, represent GEA at the state and national associations, et al. This year GEA threw in a request to plan a building Walk-in to bring the attention to the state legislature on how great our schools are in Granite and the need for at least a 6% increase in funding—and we were able to convince the legislators to do just that!
In May, GEA annually has an “Oscars” award night for ARs to celebrate and recognize ARs who have gone above and beyond to support members in their buildings, increase local capacity and their leadership capabilities. No surprise that choosing our top winners is very difficult and always a close race. One AR will win “AR of the Year” and this individual will receive a plaque and have their GEA/UEA/NEA dues paid by the Association for the next contract year. Following this superstar, there are three to four “runners-up” who receive recognition through a certificate and a $50.00 cash prize. We would like to recognize the 2019-20 GEA Superstars:
The 2019-20 AR of the Year
Jared Newbold, teacher of 4th graders at Twin Peaks Elementary.
JoAnne Brown, Science, Olympus High School
Felicia Walton, teacher of 4th graders at Arcadia Elementary
Lizzie Jolley, teacher of 5th graders at Crestview Elementary
Michele Jones, Mathematics, Cyprus High School
And a big GEA “Thank you” to not only our AR Superstars, but to all the other ARs who volunteer their time to be leaders in their school buildings to support educators’ rights and public education!
As Governor Gary Herbert moved Utah from a COVID-19 Red status to “Orange” many are wondering what “Open for Business” means for public schools. The last order from state government, county health departments, and Granite School District, is that schools would not open physically for the remainder of this school year. With the last day of teaching new instructional material being the week of May 11, and student Chromebook returns scheduled for the following week, this year is pretty much one for the records. However, the state superintendent, Dr. Sydnee Dickson recently sent a letter to local district superintendents outlining what the “orange” status means for public schools. In her letter, she reports having coordinated with the state health department to authorize having “a few students” in school buildings with safety protocols. The reasons Dr. Dickson outlines for students entering school buildings is purported to be for such things as:
At the same time, on May 6th Governor Herbert released the state’s guidelines for the moderate risk (Orange) phase which advises that children do not go to school, but remain learning at home, should not schedule playdates with other children, and closures of all playgrounds are still in effect. Given all this, what does this mean for Granite teachers? The District superintendent and his cabinet of assistant superintendents are reviewing the advice from Dr. Dickson while maintaining caution such as what is outlined from the governor and state health department and will decide how this affects teachers and staff in Granite. GEA has coordinated with the Special Education department administration and they are recommending continued conservative protocols for health and safety reasons. With a backlog of SPED students needing to be evaluated and tested, administration is recommending voluntary participation of teachers, social workers, psychologists, etc. to take on some of the testing one-on-one under strict health protocols and in coordination and agreement with parents. Again, this testing would be done voluntarily and will not be directive at this time. Granite literally has 2.5 weeks of school left on the 2019-20 calendar and its unlikely that a focus will be made to increase physical presence in our school buildings.
Focus in the District right now is on finalizing this year’s student grading, return of Chromebooks, and arranging for continued summer catch-up for students who are facing incompletes. We are also seeing proactive movement to clearing classrooms in schools slated for closure, repair, and reconfiguration. Questions have come up from teachers who are receiving proposed plans from principals on how the collection of Chromebooks and dissemination of students’ personal belongings should be staged. The District protocol recommends that beginning the week of May 18, principals should be scheduling a system for parents to drive-up to the school to drop-off Chromebooks. This curbside process should be in line with the same protocols already set up for lunch distribution. Teachers who are not in high-risk categories or feel safe coming into the school on a staggered schedule will receive bags from administration in which to place individual student’s personal items. Bags will be sealed and labeled with the student’s name. This should happen through the week of May 11-15 with support of school custodians, aides, and administration. Then, during the week of May 18-21st, as mentioned above, a system, similar to lunch distribution, will be arranged. Teachers may volunteer to help with the personal property distribution and collection of school Chromebooks but are not required to be there if health and safety is an issue. GEA believes teachers should not be expected to be at the school, meet separately or one-on-one with students and/or parents during this school closure/exchange.
GEA is also hearing from teachers who fall within the high-risk category for reasons of age or compromised health; in fact, 1/3 of GEA members fall within this category. GEA AdvoCats and Leadership have been in continued conversation with District administration to ensure protection for all teachers, not just our most vulnerable. The District has echoed our concerns and is moving forward with caution as well as communication with us prior to action. This is the respect and relationship GEA has developed over a long history of negotiating and collaborating with the District and its leaders on the school board. Anyone with concerns about rumors they are hearing, directives they’ve been given, or news being reported, should email one of your GEA AdvoCats to discuss and resolve. We got you!
Mike McDonough, GEA President: firstname.lastname@example.org
Star Orullian, GEA Executive Director: Starleen.email@example.com
Cindy Formeller, GEA Assoc. Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
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