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WCSD calls teacher’s union complaint “inappropriate and unfortunate”

Washoe County School District logo.
Washoe County School District logo.(KOLO)
Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 9:05 PM PDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2020 at 5:30 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - UPDATE: The Washoe County School District issued a statement Tuesday, August 4, 2020 in response to a complaint filed by the Washoe Education Association, in which the WEA cites unsafe working conditions within the district.

In their statement, the school district called the complaint “inappropriate and unfortunate,” saying that they have continually worked with the Association to address any concerns with school reopening plans.

Here is the statement in its entirety:

The Washoe County School District (WCSD) is dedicated to providing a safe teaching and learning environment for our students, families, and educators. Families and staff members have expressed a strong desire to return to classrooms this fall. Medical recommendations and scientific research confirm that in person education, to the extent practical and following all safety and health protocols, provides educational, emotional, and social supports that are integral to students’ health, well-being, and development. The Reopening Task Force worked closely with our staff members and community members to create plans for reopening our schools and resume learning with our 64,000 students. Employee association leadership played a key role on our Reopening Task Force and received every opportunity to express their members’ concerns during those meetings. The District responded with solutions to each concern raised by the Association and continues to work in conjunction with our administrators and employees in addressing concerns and finding solutions to those concerns. While the WCSD has still yet to receive a copy of the Washoe Education Association (WEA) OSHA complaint, based on the comments by WEA leadership in the media, their complaint is not supported by facts. The District’s reopening plan meets or exceeds all directives established by Gov. Sisolak, to include:

  • Physical distancing and face covering requirements consistent with or exceeding Governor’s Directive 028
  • The Board of Trustees deliberated for nearly 20 hours in two separate meetings regarding the re-opening plan, during which members of the community had the opportunity to provide input and express their opinions. Based on the information received and contemplated by the Board, in the best interests of students and our community, it adopted a plan consistent with medical advice, the Governor’s directives, science, family concerns, student health concerns, and staff concerns
  • Spending approximately $460,000 on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff members including teachers and working with various community partners to procure additional PPE for staff and teachers
  • Adopting plans and training to ensure correct use of PPE, and
  • Options available for families who would prefer that their students learn at home with support from teachers at school sites

We further believe the WEA’s potential complaint is inappropriate and unfortunate, as District leadership has continually worked to establish a trusting relationship with all of our associations. The District will address the potential complaint with state authorities as it continues the important work of opening our schools and welcoming our students back to learning for the 2020-2021 school year.

ORIGINAL STORY: KOLO 8 News Now has obtained the email sent to teachers and staff regarding an OSHA complaint filed against the Washoe County School District. Monday’s email states that the Washoe Education Association (WEA) has reached out to the Nevada Industrial Relations Office and is requesting an investigation of what the agency calls, unsafe working conditions within the district.

The email sent by Natha Anderson, WEA President and Tom Stauss, Executive Director says they are aware that some educators are in favor of teaching in person, but adds,” The WEA cannot sit back and wait for in-person classes to resume on August 17th, and for members to get sick with COVID-19. The consequence from the July 28th decision rests solely with the WCSD Board of Trustees (BOT) and the Superintendent. "

Leaders are referencing the district’s decision not to follow Washoe County Health Officer Kevin Dick’s recommendation for classes to follow the online model due to rising covid 19 cases.

Here is our report from the July 28th school board meeting: https://www.kolotv.com/2020/07/29/washoe-county-school-board-votes-to-stay-with-same-reopening-plan-despite-health-officers-input/

Monday night, WCSD spokeswoman Vickie Campbell told KOLO 8, the district had not yet received the formal complaint. No response therefore was provided.

The full email sent to Washoe Education Association members is below:

Dear WEA Members,

We wanted you to be aware that today, the WEA filed an OSHA complaint with the State of Nevada’s Industrial Relations Office of the State of Nevada, requesting an investigation of WCSD for unsafe working conditions We have consulted with our legal counsel and with our leaders with the NSEA. This is one of the legal courses of action we are taking to protect our members.

All of our members want to return to teach whether through the Distance Learning or in-person model. We know some of our members would prefer to return to teach in-person, however, we continue to feel strongly that an injury to one WEA member is an injury to all WEA members. The WEA cannot sit back and wait for in-person classes to resume on August 17th, and for members to get sick with COVID-19. The consequence from the July 28th decision rests solely with the WCSD Board of Trustees (BOT) and the Superintendent.

Over the past week, we have been inundated with hundreds and hundreds of emails, texts, phone calls, social media comments, etc., from members who are concerned about returning to teach in-person. The individual stories have been heart-wrenching, and very distressing. There are educators who have at-risk factors and members who tend to family with at-risk factors and even their own children. We do not feel as an association we should keep these concerns to ourselves, nor keep to ourselves the impact of the decision by the WCSD BOT and Superintendent. We are, therefore, encouraging you to please take a moment and send an email (please utilize your own personal email account, not a WCSD email account) to the WCSD BOT member elected from your district, the Superintendent, as well as any of your preferred media outlets, and let them know your personal story and the impact this decision is having on you and your family. This is not a publicity stunt. Too often decisions are made by our elected leaders and others that negatively impact the work of our educators, and we just deal with it, we take it. This is very different, since this decision deals with our health and safety.

The following is the information to assist you in contacting two members of the WCSD BOT which represents you as a voter. Please only send to the BOT members who are your representatives, as sending it to more than two members of the BOT can sometimes create an issue of who should be replying to the letter. Each voter is represented by both a Standard School Board Trustee and a “General” or At Large School Board Trustee.

BOT: https://www.washoecounty.us/voters/resources/precinct-districtmaps.php Type in your physical address of where you are registered to vote, and this will populate a list of all elected officials who represent you.

Superintendent Dr. Kristen McNeill: kmcneill@washoeschools.net

In closing, we want to remind you of the contract language agreed to between WEA and WCSD when it comes to contract hours (7 hours for ES, 7.5 for secondary due to the prep period imbedded in the contract), a 30-minute duty-free half hour lunch, etc. One of the items we have continually advocated for when it comes to the reopening plan is the need to adhere to the contract. A quick overview of some of the specifics for the contract is attached. A pdf of the full contract can be found at http://www.weatoday.org/wp-content/uploads/WEA-Final-2019-2021-Contract-Searchable.pdf.

In solidarity,

Natha and Tom

Copyright 2020 KOLO. All rights reserved.

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