A new fight is brewing between Williams Unified School District teachers and the Williams Unified Board of Trustees.
The school board on May 17 approved a resolution that would allow Superintendent Edgar Lampkin to give signing bonuses of up to $10,000 to teachers who have the Bilingual, Cross-cultural, Language and Academic Development (BCLAD) certificate for the district’s new Dual Immersion program.
Dual Immersion is a program highly touted by Williams Unified officials in which students will receive instruction next year in equal parts Spanish and English as soon as they start school.
How to implement the program has been at the heart of the battle between the teachers at the Elementary School and the superintendent, as well as between the community and the school board for most of the past year.
Also at the May 17 meeting, Sylvia Vaca and George Simmons were served with a second notice of recall, but, like the first time, those calling for the recall failed to file their intent with the Colusa County Elections Department, which invalidated the recall effort.
Recall notices must be filed within seven days of notification to the elected official, said Clerk Record Rose Gallo-Vasquez.
Tamara Conry, an education advocate with the California Teachers Association cautioned the school board not to approve the resolution authorizing the signing bonuses.
Conry argued that the previous board-approved salary increase for new teachers, after negotiations for across-the-board pay increases failed, should have been all the incentive the district needed to hire qualified new teachers.
“This is what should attract BCLAD teachers, not a hiring bonus of up to $10,000,” Conry said.
In a vote of 3-2, with trustees Kelly Lewis and Yareli Mora dissenting, the board approved the incentive because BCLAD-credentialed teachers are in such high demand since the passage of Proposition 58, the California Multilingual Education Act, approved by voters in 2016. The law effectively repealed the English-only requirement of Proposition 227, which voters approved in 1998, officials said.
Lampkin said the school is getting prepared to start the 50/50 Spanish-English Dual Immersion program at the Elementary School in the fall in which students will receive equal instruction in both English and Spanish from day one.
“The goal is for all students to reach fluency and literacy in both languages,” Lampkin said.
Bilingual education should also increase performance among the district’s English learners, and that is just the beginning, Lampkin said.
Lampkin said he would like the district to eventually immerse students in a third and fourth language, possibly Chinese and Korean.
“Our goal is to prepare students for living and working in the 21st century,” he said. “California is an agriculture state that imports food throughout the Pacific Rim.”
Teachers, however, have fought the school board every step of the way, and have publically called Lampkin a dictator and a bully.
At the last meeting, longtime Kindergarten teacher Keri Lovelady resigned to take a position in the Pierce Joint Unified School District.
“I’m one of the 18 that have taken a job elsewhere,” Lovelady said. “If (the school board) doesn’t change direction, at least 10 more teachers will leave the district before the next school year.”
Lovelady said it was a difficult decision to leave Williams because she has poured her heart and soul into the school district.
“Every student that has touched my life has been a blessing,” she said. “I have treasured every single day that I was fortunate to teach here.”
Others also objected to the direction the school board is taking.
“One of the things I have a problem with is how the district is going to implement Dual Immersion with (Transitional kindergarten),” said Meghan Miller. “It is my understanding that there isn’t anyone signed up for it yet, but they are already dictating to the teachers that they are not qualified to teach it and are assigning them elsewhere unnecessarily. I don’t think that is a great way to start a program. There is such hostility with the community, and teachers are being forced in other directions.”
The Williams Teachers Association also questioned the legality of the board policy authorizing the $10,000 bonus, which Conry said was not the policy the school board approved in April.
She also said that once the district pays the incentive, the school district would have essentially hired the teacher, who is then a member of the union.
‘We are the exclusive bargaining representative for our unit, and therefor only we can bargain salaries and stipends,” she said
Williams Unified’s attorney Mary Hernandez disagreed, and said the incentives would be paid prior to a contract, and therefore would not be a bargaining issue.
Conry said the union plans to immediately serve a demand for the district to follow a uniform salary for all certificated members, and for the district to pay the nine BCLAD-credentialed teachers the district currently has on staff the same bonus. n