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Union disputes district claims

Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers says workload concerns do not translate into a desire to eliminate enrichment courses.

December 24, 2013|By Hannah Fry

The Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers has issued a letter denying the school district's claims that the union was responsible for the elimination of a science enrichment program at Kaiser Elementary School in Costa Mesa.

Kimberly Claytor, federation president, on Friday sent a letter to Newport-Mesa Unified School District officials saying the union supports reinstating last year's science schedule and that the district misinterpreted concerns the union brought up regarding educators' workloads.

For years, Kaiser sixth-graders received 90 consecutive minutes of science instruction during normal school hours each week.

Half an hour of that instruction was an enrichment program funded by a group of parents who raise funds on behalf of the Kaiser Woodland Foundation.

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But for the first half of the 2013-14 school year, sixth-graders have not been in the enrichment program because, according to district officials, the union had said that science teachers across the district were being forced to take on too many students.

After parents complained at a Dec. 10 school board meeting about losing the program, which supplements the district's core science curriculum to give students a deeper understanding of the subject, the district decided to offer a replacement before-school program for the rest of the year.

The district expanded its core science curriculum to begin at the third-grade level this year after the union complained that some educators were teaching more classes and students than others, district spokeswoman Laura Boss told the Daily Pilot last week.

This led to science specialist Phil Schinhofen, who taught the entire 90 minutes of the sixth-grade science classes, also having to teach third-graders the core science curriculum.

Emily Foster, the foundation-funded science teacher at Kaiser, taught third-grade science last year as a 30-minute enrichment program, but because of the district policy change, she cannot continue to teach the class now that it is part of the core curriculum for the district. Foster currently teachers the third-grade enrichment program.

District-funded teachers are required to teach the core curriculum. Teachers funded by outside sources, like school foundations, are only authorized to teach enrichment courses, according to district policy.

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