After fourteen months of difficult negotiations, the Park City Education Association (PCEA) is pleased a three-year agreement (2012-2015) has been reached with the school district. We feel the contract is a fair compromise and hope the new compensation package continues to attract and retain quality classroom teachers, a central component to maintaining a first-class school district. Now that we have a contractual resolution, we can move forward and continue to pursue our shared goal of academic excellence and create the best learning environment for the greatest number of students.
However, if the Park City community wants to maintain a first-class school district, there is still work to be done. And as we end one school year and begin planning for the next, the PCEA leadership, believes, if a first-class school district is the goal, the following issues need to be prioritized:
1. A return to reasonable class sizes
The heart of any school district is the instructional classroom. This is where direct instruction occurs and has the greatest impact on students. Reasonable class size should be a district priority. Since the school district cut the number of classroom teachers two years ago, there has been an increase in class size.
Do not be fooled by the 23:1 student-to-teacher ratio our district claims. As of this writing, Park City High School, for the 2013-14 school year, has scheduled approximately 75 classes of 30 or more students. Classes of this size have a negative impact on student learning and compromise the shared community goal of academic excellence.
Teachers consistently confronting class sizes of 30 or more students cannot be as effective in the classroom. Simply put, reasonable class sizes do make a difference. Does saving money by increasing class sizes make economic sense? Maybe, but in a highly educated community that demands academic excellence, increasing class sizes above 30 is shortsighted. Are you willing to cut corners on your child's education? The Park City School District should do the right thing and strive to reduce class size.
2. Teachers need to have more input into the professional development process
The PCEA recognizes that a teacher's professional development is essential to quality schools. We also recognize state and federal mandates exist which the district has no choice but to institute. However, despite these demands, lost classroom instructional time should be minimized (during the 2011-12 school year, middle school math teachers lost 20 days of classroom instruction to professional development). In addition, teacher autonomy and creativity should not fall victim to an overemphasis on professional standardization.
To avoid these pitfalls, teachers need to have more input into the professional development decision-making process. The current process marginalizes teachers, creating an environment of resentment and distrust between teachers and the district office. This top-down model is not conducive to a good working relationship. Teacher input is a missing component in a process that needs serious reconstruction.
As the co-presidents of the Park City Education Association, we share in the community's sense of relief simply to have reached a new long-term teacher contract and having hired a new superintendent, but let's not gloss over the fact that there is still much work to be done. The Park City Teachers Association looks forward to reinstating the important collaborative decision-making process, rejuvenating lines of communication with the district office, and working in a unified direction. This community and our students deserve no less.