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Fresno Unified trustee Claudia Cazares says teachers who have been doing the “bare minimum” as negotiated in the distance learning contract amendment need to do more teaching for their students.

“When the bare minimum is being done to outreach to our kids, it’s not enough. It’s just not enough.”trustee Claudia Cazares

Trustee Claudia Cazares

“Students are not being taught. They’re being given a list of homework scheduled for the week, and then there is no outreach to actually teach them how to do that,” she said at Wednesday’s board meeting.

“When the bare minimum is being done to outreach to our kids, it’s not enough. It’s just not enough.”

Cazares prefaced her remarks by thanking those teachers who have “gone above and beyond” to connect with their students.

Student Trustees Would Like More Teacher Outreach

The district’s two student trustees, Richard Romero and Joshua Camarillo, said more teacher contact would be preferable to what they’ve seen so far, eight weeks into the schools’ shutdown.

“I would agree with trustee Cazares, that teachers need to do more of an outreach, after they give the work that’s due, so the students have some type of structure throughout the week,” said Romero, a Fresno High student. “So it’s not just, ‘here’s the work, get it done by this.’ “

Superintendent Bob Nelson said the district is gathering data on student and parent contacts by teachers, and the number of times and amount of time students are logged in. Nelson the trustees will receive an update on whether teachers are doing more than the bare minimum.

“We will have more information before next week’s board meeting,” he told the trustees.

COVID-19 Forced Distance Learning

“We can’t say if it’s 50-50, or 70-30, or something else,” she said. “I think at this point we don’t know.” trustee Claudia Cazares

Fresno Unified and other districts had to shift to the distance learning model of instruction in mid-March after schools were closed to stem the spread of COVID-19, which is highly contagious.

The district and teachers union negotiated a contract amendment to specify what work would be expected of teachers in distance learning, which includes at least one contact per week.

Manuel Bonilla, president of Fresno Teachers Association, could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

Cazares said Thursday that she is concerned and also disappointed that some Fresno Unified teachers have only provided the minimum required instruction to students.

She’s also concerned that no one has a handle on how many teachers have done so.

“We can’t say if it’s 50-50, or 70-30, or something else,” she said. “I think at this point we don’t know.”

Provide Mentors to Teachers

Cazares said she realizes that teachers also face some of the same struggles as parents who are trying to earn an income while sheltering at home with their families, and taking on the role of teacher.

“We know that some students and families have seen less contact and less direct, live instruction than they would like.”spokeswoman Nikki Henry

She said she would like the district to offer mentoring or other assistance to teachers who may be struggling to provide more outreach to their students.

Parents, especially those who don’t speak English fluently, face particular challenges in trying to help their children with their schoolwork, so the more assistance and outreach from teachers, the better, Cazares said.

As a trustee and a parent, Cazares said, she sympathizes with parents who are juggling work while trying to help their kids tackle their schoolwork, and added: “I can only Google so much.”

District Says Its Lessons Not ‘Bare Minimum’

In response to a query from GV Wire, Fresno Unified spokeswoman Nikki Henry said teachers have been doing more than the bare minimum.

The “TLC” and SPED agreements were crafted to set expectations, not minimums or maximums for instruction, because district officials knew that families and instructors would all face challenges unique to their personal situations, Henry said.

The “TLC” agreement sets once-weekly goals of providing learning opportunities and following up with students, and also engaging with students.

Henry acknowledged that teachers have not provided the same level of service across the board.

The district faced criticism from parents and also trustees as weeks went by before some teachers contacted their students, claims that the district has addressed, she said.

Families Want More Live Instruction

“We know the learning curve has been slower for some, and we know that not every teacher is in the same circumstances at this time,” she said. “We know that some students and families have seen less contact and less direct, live instruction than they would like.”

Teachers have had the autonomy to prepare their own class lesson plans that are in addition to the standardized per-grade curriculum that the district started posting on its website days after the schools closed, Henry said.

Most teachers are providing live and recorded lessons, individual assistance, and office hours, she said.

“We know that the vast majority of our teachers are making meaningful, regular contact with their students and providing learning opportunities through a multitude of formats,” she said. “We’re incredibly proud of the resilience and innovation our teachers and our students have shown over this time.”

Livestream on Grades, Testing

Meanwhile, representatives of the district are scheduled to appear in a livestream on Facebook, Instagram Live, and the district’s website on Friday to talk about grading and testing.

Nelson, Cazares, Camarillo and others will talk about the importance of students continuing to engage in learning for the rest of the school year, with a special focus on high schoolers.

The half-hour livestream is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday.

5 Responses

  1. Andyfab

    My daughter attends Fresno City College and her instructors give live, online instruction every day using the camera on their laptop and the ZOOM program to stream live to their students. They haven’t missed a beat and are able to talk to their students through text messaging should the students have questions for their teachers
    The teachers hand out assignments and the students do them and email them back to the teacher. Why isn’t Fresno Unified doing this same thing? Teachers do have laptops as do the students. Why aren’t our teachers back in the classroom teaching? I’m tired of feeling sorry for teachers. They’re getting a check. Time for them to return to their classrooms and earn it.

    Reply
  2. Andyfab

    With the $46,000 the trustees approved for membership with the Council of Great City Schools, the District could’ve purchased high definition webcams for all of their classrooms. I think the Board needs to stop wasting money on lobbyists and focus more on student/classroom learning. Tax dollars are tight and our students of today should be the first priority because they have no tomorrow.

    Reply
  3. V. Rivera, Teacher FUSD

    Administrators can actually can track what teachers are doing to support their students while learning at home. As a teacher, I can go on my Clever page to the Analytics tool and see in real time how many of my students are logged in and what educational resources they are using for learning. In addition to the Clever app, administrators can monitor activity on Office365 and the Microsoft Teams App. There is an abundance of data that can confirm that the vast majority of teachers are indeed providing educational support to their students. Fresno Unified Teachers as a group should not be accused of doing, “the bare minimum.” Let’s make sure we are using ALL of the data available before making accusations. Let’s also understand the highly complex circumstances that educators, parents, and students have been thrust into.
    It takes a little time to build a jumbo jet in the sky.

    Reply
  4. Joe Barron

    It’s a doable, but we need coordination of effort, and when you are talking about how kids are engaged, we need to make sure that the bandwidth is ready for the increased congestion. Not all Internet connections & cellular connections are the same, certain parts of Fresno, students, depending on who their parents are[income wise] can afford Fiber optic connections ,or Broadband, while others have DSL, or only Cellular 4g. Some may have 5g. We have to look at what our assets are. Finally, online classroom instruction is fine, if you are at the college level, but when you need that interaction for your students to move towards proficiency, well , you have to come up with some out of the box thinking. Not impossible, but we have never been in a space like this before, but we are learning. The tragedy is SPED and ELL students who needed additional supports, are not getting them now, so what happens to them?

    Reply
    • Joe Barron

      And I’m sorry, I don’t need a cheerleader in the form of Ms. Henry. Some pragmatic talk on the part of the District’s Chief Academic Officer, the Selpa Director, and the Head of English Language Learner Services might carry a bit more substance in the dialogue. She’s just the latest in a long list of CIOs to try and produce a narrative that is the proverbial “lipstick on a pig.” We know that there are systemic gaps, but there are also surges in innovation that are coming out of this, the most I’ve seen in 30 years of teaching in this District. Here’s the thing, there is no accountability piece for live lectures\presentations, so kids who can’t show up, don’t. However, if the video is uploaded to a place, and they view it and do the enrichment work, we do get feedback in office hours, the Remind App, and E-Mail. This is a new space, so we’re in what the Chief Tech Officer would call a Beta Testing Phase, and the public, the staff and the kids are our Quality Assurance Teams. Tell me, what product rolls off the line ready to go on it’s first attempt? How many updates do people get on their Android phones daily? Windows? Progress, while it yields benefits, it also takes time and patience, but most of all, it take teamwork, in this case a Village.

      Reply

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