Q&A With Dr. Michelle Rodriguez, Superintendent, Pajaro Valley Unified School District
I am concerned about the shortage of substitute teachers. When I need to take time off, I am burdening my colleagues and admin staff at a time when staff at my school are really struggling. I noticed that the sub pay for PVUSD is very low compared to neighboring districts. And yet you end up having to pay teachers their hourly rate to cover our classes which is a much higher rate. What is the district doing to recruit substitutes to support teachers and admin staff?
PVUSD pays substitutes significantly more than other districts in our County. PVUSD daily rate is $180 compared to the average daily substitute rate in Santa Cruz County of $130.
Previously, PVUSD paid long-term substitutes $200 after 10 consecutive days compared to $185 for Santa Cruz County after 20 consecutive days. In an effort to obtain more long- term substitutes, on Wednesday, Sept. 22, the Board approved our recommendation and PVUSD will now pay long-term substitutes at the rate of $240 a day after 10 consecutive days.
There seems to be a more than pre-COVID level of absence amongst students thus far. We are also experiencing a more than usual absence of substitute teachers. Teachers in support (not general classroom roles) are being conscripted into subbing. Many of us are being asked to “volunteer” to be on a sub list. This would entail us canceling our planned and prepped classes and taking over someone else’s class. I am curious as to what are our rights as teachers with specific contracted positions in regards to these requests.
In the Collective Bargaining Agreement between PVUSD and PVFT, there is contract language outlining how classes get covered if the teacher is out and there is not a sub assigned. The language is outlined below, and part of that process does include asking for volunteers first.
If a teacher chooses to volunteer, they are volunteering to be asked to sub before using the emergency sub rotation list. Teachers who cover classes during their preparation time are paid an hourly rate of Step 12 Column III on the certificated teacher salary schedule which equals $48.53 per hour.
The Human Resources Department is continuing to work with sites to ensure the emergency sub rotation list is up and running and being implemented per the contract.
Article IV – Workload and Hours • D. Preparation/Release Time
4) During their preparation periods, teachers may be required to substitute for another teacher or perform occasional supervisory duties when student safety is of primary concern. Such substituting shall be assigned on a reasonable and equitable basis consistent with the general guidelines below.
a. Creation of lists.
- Volunteer list. At the beginning of each school year, the site administrator shall ask all certificated staff at the site if they wish to be called to substitute during their preparation period and shall develop a list of volunteer certificated employees.
- Rotational List of Certificated Employees at Site. At the beginning of each school year, the site administrator will develop a list of all available certificated employees at the site who will be assigned substitution duties on a rotational basis.
b. Assignment Process.
- The site administrator shall first assign an available substitute teacher who is on site to teach the class.
- If no substitute is available, the site administrator shall call for volunteers.
- If there are no volunteers, the site administrator shall contact certificated employees in the rotational order, based on the list referred to in the paragraph above (4, a, ii).
- A daily record of certificated staff who substituted will be maintained and made available for review.
Article VII – Wages and Related Matters • J. Substituting
- In the event that a class is divided among more than one classroom teacher, each teacher who received the additional students shall be paid the Step 12 Class III hourly rate.
- Unit members who substitute during their preparation time shall be paid the Step 12 Class III hourly rate.
- Unit members who substitute during a block schedule (two periods) shall be compensated for two hours at the above rate.
Are children not allowed to get the flu or the common cold anymore without subjecting them to COVID testing? Is every illness assumed to be COVID? Children have a 99.99% survival rate from COVID so I do not get all this unnecessary testing.
PVUSD is following California Department of Public Health guidelines and requirements for all school districts including both public and private schools. There are many COVID-19 symptoms which mirror common illnesses. Continued daily symptom screening of students and staff in PVUSD allows us to maintain health and safety as our top priority.
Both students and staff who exhibit fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea, must comply with one of the four items below prior to returning to school:
- negative test for SARS-CoV-2
- a healthcare provider has provided documentation that the symptoms are typical of their underlying chronic condition (e.g. allergies or asthma)
- a healthcare provider has confirmed an alternative named diagnosis (e.g., Streptococcal pharyngitis, Coxsackie virus)
- at least 10 days have passed since symptom onset
To facilitate the ease of testing, we have symptomatic testing for students and staff at the District Office at 294 Green Valley Road on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays from 9am-5 pm; in the back of the parking lot or at the County Office of Education location at Cabrillo College in Aptos daily from 3-6 pm and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If a parent chooses for their child not to test for COVID-19, they may obtain documentation from their healthcare provider documenting a chronic condition or an alternative diagnosis as noted above.
Since you are using Inspire Diagnostics medical testing at schools and the test is a PCR test, what threshold (sensitivity) is the PCR test being run at? Since the threshold can be changed, the test results can vary. At a threshold of 35 or greater, there can be a 97% false positive rate. Secondly, if a student takes a PCR test and the results are not available until the next day or later, what if the student is positive and infects others? This policy makes no sense.
Inspire Diagnostics use TaqPath assay with a threshold of 37. This assay is approved by the FDA and is a sensitive and accurate test.
Using a threshold of 37 does not change the accuracy of the test. By reducing the Ct threshold, you go with the risk of reporting false negatives, therefore, the threshold of 37 is at a desired level.
Will my child need to re-test if they have been positive for COVID-19 lately?
Below is a chart that notes next steps if a student or staff member has been positive in the last 90 days.
Why don’t PVUSD schools have parent/guardian evenings to allow us to talk with our students teachers? We have students in AJH and AHS and feel like our students are just a number to teachers. We moved here from Europe where we would meet with teachers twice per year to discuss progress. School life is so impersonal here.
Each PVUSD school has a virtual Back-to-School Night this year.
The Back-to-School Nights were held virtually as COVID-19 Delta cases were on the rise. During the Back-to-School event, you should have been able to engage with site administration as well as your children’s teachers.
Back-to School Night is a time to learn important school-wide information and receive general overviews of your children’s classes as there are many parents in attendance.
If you have specific questions for your children’s teachers, I encourage you to reach out to them via email and set up a time to discuss any questions you may have.
Just thinking about the issue of communication during emergencies, but here specifically for District Office itinerant management and staff, and was hoping to get an update on the timeline for rolling out the cell phone-based emergency alert system that I believe our Tech dept was working on? I work in a department with many itinerant staff who go to multiple sites every day, and it has happened that there’s been a lockdown or shelter in place happening but no notification to the staff member, who then goes on site as usual. I just heard a story of an itinerant staff member who was walking around a campus during a lockdown.
Last year, we purchased the Remind App and have been using it to provide text updates to families and staff at the site level. We are adding an additional Remind App module that will add functionality to the Remind Communication System to improve emergency communication to parents, students and to staff mobile devices.
Once we have these new features installed and configured, we will provide the option for staff to register their mobile phones to receive these district-wide emergency communications. We will then finalize procedures for school site and district staff to send and receive emergency communications in order to ensure that PVUSD families, students, and staff are informed of emergencies and receive urgent communications.
We will make sure to identify staff that move between multiple sites and configure the system so that they receive any urgent messages that pertain to their location or position.
For the ESSER II & III survey that was just sent out, why was there no mention or survey option to specifically choose campus safety/reinstatement of SROs? There was not one mention of SROs in the survey. Why was this completely glossed over when a student was killed last week and this is such a relevant and important issue in our community right now?? Additionally, why don’t you ever add a final question in your surveys allowing for free form responses? Please do so for future surveys. It is important that the PVUSD community has the opportunity to provide comments, feedback and input. Just because free form text responses aren’t quantifiable, does not mean that the feedback data is not important.
For all current surveys we provide two options for stakeholders to engage with us and provide input. We utilize the Google form surveys to provide us with quantitative data that has a higher ease of use for all stakeholders.
Prior to our implementation of Thought Exchange, we included an open-ended question in the Google survey which required time-consuming coding of the responses.
With the implementation of Thought Exchange last year, stakeholders are now able to engage in robust interaction with other stakeholders providing their own thoughts, suggestions and feedback as well as rating the response of others in any translatable language.
With Thought Exchange, we are able to see the recommendations and ideas grouped through artificial intelligence rather than coding the ideas manually.
For this last ESSER survey, which we released on September 3, 2021, we included ideas and suggestions noted by stakeholders in both the original ESSER Google survey and Thought Exchange.
The survey requesting input regarding the School Resource Officers was on a different Google survey and Thought Exchange labeled “Follow Up to the 2021-2022 School Year and the Restorative Start Survey” which we released from September 6 to September 13, 2021.
I heard there were new sports guidelines. What are they now?
PVUSD will implement the sports guidelines recently published by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Santa Cruz County Public Health (SCCPH). Effective Monday, September 27, all Santa Cruz County public school districts will be implementing the following requirements:
- Masks will be required for all persons while playing all indoor sports, unless wearing a mask during play has been determined to pose a choking hazard by a well-recognized health authority, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Students participating in high risk sports where wearing masks during both competition and practice is not possible will need to be fully vaccinated or participate in weekly testing. These sports include wrestling, water polo, swimming, lacrosse, and football.
- Locker rooms should be used only to change or use the restroom. Athletic personnel are instructed not to use the locker rooms for coaching or pregame, halftime or postgame talks.
- In team buses, vans, and carpools, masks are required per existing statewide face-covering guidance. The same people should ride together when multiple vehicles are used. Windows should be kept open. Fans should be on high and set to outdoor air.
- For (1) the playing of musical instruments that cannot be done with a face covering (e.g., wind instruments); or (2) when wearing a mask during play poses a choking hazard, at least one of the following options is required:
- Conduct these activities outdoors;
- Use modified face coverings and bell coverings when playing wind and brass instruments, and maintain 6 feet of physical distancing;
- Perform at least weekly screening testing with either PCR testing (1:1 or pooled PCR) or antigen testing of all individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated
- All staff who are supporting athletic, music, and extracurricular programs will need to be vaccinated or participate in weekly PCR tests.
- Students who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 and participating in Modified Quarantine are not able to participate in extracurricular activities during their quarantine period.
How often will Inspire Diagnostic be on site and for how long?
Inspire Diagnostic will have two scheduled visits at all PVUSD sites each week. The sessions will be 45 minutes — 2 hours in length, depending on the size of the school.
Please contact your school’s site administrator for your school’s specific dates and times.