Nicole Barr, Simi Valley Teacher

From the Acorn:

I am writing as an English teacher at Royal High School in the Simi Valley Unified School District.

I think I bring a unique approach to the current crisis facing our schools, state and nation.

I am a product of all California public schools for all levels of my education. I have also taught abroad in the Netherlands. There, I saw the rigor in curriculum and expectations that are so lacking in California schools.

This is mostly because the Netherlands practices what it says it believes in. The Netherlands realizes free education is not free. We do not.

What I did not enjoy about the Netherlands was the lack of job security and benefits. It is ironic that as I write this letter today I have received an initial pink slip after having gained tenure in my district.

As a young teacher, I work tirelessly to develop as an educator and to improve the quality of learning for my students. Now, I worry for the students whose education will be seriously underfunded.

And I worry for myself, since this is what I am meant to do and may not be able to next year. I am also a new homeowner, who might now add to our state’s problems by going on unemployment and possibly losing my home.

In this current situation, it depresses me to my core to see all my students anxious about their education, their school and even my job.

I feel that as a society we have failed them and will continue to fail them until it is too late, while they are voiceless in the background hoping we make the right choices for them. This voiceless group deserves one, which is obviously not being heard by those supposed to act on it.

However, on the May 19 election we, the voters of California, have an opportunity in passing Propositions 1A-1F to show these students where our priorities lie: in their education over a little extra money in our pockets.

I send this letter to inform you how we, the people affected by budget cuts, feel. I send this letter to urge you to do what is right for California. I send this letter not to be political, but to remind you to support schools.
Nicole Barr
Simi Valley

Jamie Snodgrass, Simi Valley Teacher

From the Acorn:

I would like to take this opportunity to express my dissatisfaction over our current educational crisis.

On Fri., March 13, I received my reduction in force letter (pink slip). For me this letter represented disappointment, anxiety, anger and fear.

I am the mother of two young children with a husband who has not been able to find permanent work since last August. Losing my job will lead to tremendous financial hardship for my family.

I have given four years of service to my current high school and two years at a private middle school. Over the last six years I have improved my teaching skills.

I analyze what I do well and what needs to be altered. I attend conferences, trainings, take additional college courses and collaborate with my colleagues. I’ve also had the opportunity to be a Master Teacher, preparing someone else to be an educator.

Unfortunately, due to the organization of our system I am in jeopardy of losing my job with all of my hard work and dedication being dismissed because I am only being judged on my seniority.

Up until a few months ago I had no question about sending my two young children to our local public schools; this has all changed for me. I want the best for my children, and I do not believe that they will receive the best education here in California.

I tell my students daily that my job is to make them educated citizens so that they are able to make educated decisions for themselves as well as their country.

How are they going to be able to become the informed citizens we hope for them to be if they are being stripped of their opportunity to receive a highquality education?

The recently passed state budget cut $11 billion from education. To prevent further cuts and to get us out of these tough economic times we need Propositions 1A1F to pass in the special election on May 19.

Californians need to realize that many of the propositions are dependent on each other, if they fail the state is going to have to create a new budget. If we ignore our current economic crisis our educational system is going to be headed in the wrong direction. Now is the time for change. Now is the time for us to stand up for education.
Jamie Snodgrass
Simi Valley

Simi Valley Teachers Screwed

Interestingly, it seems the same teachers union that’s supposed to protect the employment rights of teachers is screwing the ones without seniority, despite whether or not they have exemplary employment records.  It’s true, in the City of Simi Valley, teachers without seniority are at risk of layoffs even if they outperform senior teachers.

My son attended a public Simi Valley school and we had a very hard time with his teacher.  He faced some behavior challenges in class and his teacher was in her last year before retirement and frankly, didn’t want to deal with him.  She plopped him in a corner and waited for the school year to end, much to our horror.  The next year, he was taught by a much younger, much more passionate and caring teacher who was proactive in turning him around and worked with us to turn him into a star student.  She was exceptional… and she could very well be at risk for losing her job, while the first teacher we experienced ultimately would have kept her job.

THAT is wrong, and Simi Valley students deserve better!

I read this snippet in an article in the Simi Valley Acorn.

“I’m (probably) losing my job when I know I’m putting in 110 percent and somebody else is not,” Snodgrass said. “That’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Moving out of California?

Snodgrass and three other teachers at Royal were hired in August 2005. She was the only one to receive a pink slip, she discovered, because she lost a tiebreaker.

For teachers who were hired at the same time, the district follows seven tiebreakers, including prior tenure and multiple degrees.

“I don’t feel confident at all,” Snodgrass said about her job stability.

Snodgrass has two children, ages 1 and 2. Her husband, Bryan, is an assistant director in the movie business but, she said, his job doesn’t provide a steady stream of income.

Now Snodgrass is thinking about moving her family to New Mexico—a tough decision for the Simi Valley native and Royal High graduate who was thrilled to find a job teaching in her hometown.

“We would not want to move,” she said. “If the situation doesn’t change for us, it might be necessary.”

On May 15, Cameron, Snodgrass and other teachers who received pink slips will learn for sure whether or not their jobs have been eliminated. By state law, that’s the last day SVUSD can terminate positions for the 2009-10 school year.

Since experiencing a bad teaching experience at a Simi Valley school, we’ve been very invested in who teaches our children early in their educational career.  This budgetary crisis and seniority versus performance issue has me concerned as the parent of Simi Valley students.  I suspect many feel the same way.