KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – The Kansas City Public School District just launched a new program this week to try to put an end to bullying.
In it, schools will have new rules against it and teachers will go through special training.
While this program is new to the school district, one woman who works there has already been working to stop bullies in their tracks.
Desiree Saunders’ kitchen at the cafeteria at Northeast High School is a bully-free zone. Bullying isn’t tolerated by Saunders and her campaign is changing attitudes for students throughout the school.
“Because you get a lot more bees with honey,” she said.
The bees Saunders is talking about are troubled students. Respect is her honey.
“I care. A lot of these students go through a lot. They’re paying bills at home. These are the only two meals a student gets a day,” she said.
Saunders calls every student by their first name and, in return, they lovingly call her Miss D.
“Some of the students here, believe it or not, they just want to interact, they just want you to say something to them, show that you do care,” she said.
The lunch lady’s caring approach is to curb bullying at Northeast High School.
“Students being bullied for their food, being bullied for money. I’ve seen students in here writing papers for students because they say, ‘Hurry up do my work’. No, we’re not going to do that,” Saunders said.
When the teens walk in, Miss D gets on her microphone and begins her lesson.
“I’ll say, you know, ‘That’s one of your classmates, that’s your little brother or your little sister, so we have to stick together, we have to protect each other,'” she said.
Every year Miss D recruits for her anti-bully squad. She gets the cool kids to stick up for the students being bullied.
“We need our anti-bully squad to be ready for anyone who needs it,” Saunders said.
Johnisha Griffin was one such student. Classmates picked on her for the way she dressed. That was before Miss D stepped in and gave her a new focus.
“By being myself. Telling me to go far in life and get my education,” Griffin said.
“The bullying has stopped and everyone is a fan of Johnisha Griffin,” Sanders said. I’m here for the person who’s not going to speak up for themselves. I am one of a few good men, so I’m here for that.”
Students at the school have said that while there’s no bullying in the lunch room, it does find its way in the classroom and district officials want to put a stamp to that.
KCPS’ new anti-bullying program is based off of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. It focuses on four core components that include school-level, classroom-level, individual-level and community-level. Click here to find out exactly how it focuses on those four components.
KCPS’ program will train more teachers to stop the problem by responding to the problem just like Miss D.
“We need a strong economy that works for all—not just the wealthy few. Chicago should be the next big city to pay workers the wages they need to provide a decent life for themselves and a better one for their children.” Tom Balanoff, SEIU Local 1 President
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Nine months out of the year, Andrew Nelson works about 50 hours a week, driving his 1995 Mazda on either 50- or 100-mile round trips every weekday to his college teaching gigs at Lindenwood University in St. Charles and East Central College in Union.
He gets paid just $22,000 a year combined — without the benefit of a retirement package or health care coverage.
Nelson is one of an estimated 4,000 adjunct faculty working in the St. Louis area. All together, they make up the working class of the academic community. They are the low-wage earners who teach classes when full-time faculty are already overloaded with heavy course loads, and they fill in when teaching departments are short-staffed.
For the past few years, a number of shadow campaigns to unionize adjunct faculty have bubbled up at area colleges in the hopes of giving those workers job security, a voice in campus decision-making and to negotiate for benefits and better pay.
While a number of those campaigns have fizzled out before they could gain traction, college leaders have been reluctant to speak about the issue publicly. Privately, however, they acknowledge that it’s a growing movement nationally.
Colleges and universities around the country have been relying on adjuncts more and more as a way to save money as state funding for higher education continues a steady decline now approaching 25 years.
That trend picked up steam in recent years. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that states spent about $2,300, or 28 percent, less per student in 2013 than in 2008.
What the money crunch means for teachers such as Nelson, who has a master’s degree in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia, is that low-paying adjunct positions are plentiful, while full-time faculty jobs are not.
Nelson gets paid about $2,500 a semester for every three-credit course he teaches. So he picks up as many courses as he can, splitting his time between two universities to make ends meet.
But, he said, it’s not just about money.
“The most important thing is that we have no input into the departments we work in. We have no say on textbooks, either,” he said. “So other people determine what we are going to teach and how we are going to teach it.”
Nelson also said adjuncts miss out on holding office hours to better connect with students, plus paid faculty development days which help instructors become better at their jobs.
A congressional report released in January by the Democratic staff of the House Education and the Workforce Committee suggests that Nelson’s concerns are shared broadly by adjunct professors nationwide. The report found that 98 percent of respondents to an online forum said they were “missing opportunities to better serve their students because of the demands of their schedule.”
The report acknowledges that some who serve as adjunct professors do so to supplement the income from other full-time jobs. But increasingly, the report found, instructors are cobbling together multiple adjunct jobs as colleges rely on them “to do the bulk of the work of educating students.”
“The trend should be of concern to policymakers both because of what it means for the living standards and work lives of those individuals we expect to educate the next generation of scientists, entrepreneurs, and other highly skilled workers, and what it may mean for the quality of higher education itself,” the report states.
The report, titled “The Just-in-Time Professor,” draws connections to trends in fast food and retail employment, where workers have little to no means of predicting their work schedules.
That’s been a complaint of Gail Brody, one of six adjunct faculty working alongside two full-time instructors in the architectural program at St. Louis Community College at Meramec in Kirkwood.
Brody has been at the school for 20 years, but, as an adjunct, her schedule is determined by which classes fill up with students and which faculty are available to teach those classes.
She said she generally only finds out whether she will be teaching and what courses she will have just days before each semester starts.
“So you don’t really know if you are going to have that part of your income,” she said. In the meantime, Brody works a retail job that offers her health care coverage.
“The school wouldn’t keep me around for 20 years if I wasn’t a good instructor,” she said. “But you can’t depend on adjunct money. I would be on board with unionizing if it would lead to health care benefits and some consistency.”
‘A SERVANT SUBCLASS’
The Service Employees International Union has been leading the push at several St. Louis-area colleges, and while the organization doesn’t like to state publicly which schools it is looking at, teachers at Lindenwood, St. Louis Community College at Meramec and St. Louis University have said they have been approached.
Nancy Cross, vice president of the SEIU Local 1, said unionizing adjunct faculty has taken on greater significance over the years as full-time faculty positions dry up.
“You have people who spent a lot of time and money to get highly educated with the idea that there was going to be full-time positions available,” she said. “So they leave college with a lot of loans and the full-time positions aren’t there anymore.”
Cross’ point is one that has some traction in Washington. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has been pushing a loan forgiveness program for adjunct faculty.
Durbin’s office reports that from 1991 to 2011, the number of part-time faculty doubled, with many of those workers being adjunct teachers who have an annual income of $25,000 or less, on average.
Durbin argues that adjunct faculty who try to support themselves solely by teaching end up working at multiple schools and carrying a full-time workload but without benefits including paid sick days, vacation and access to health care.
“The vast majority of these educators hold advanced degrees, and as a result, bear the heavy burden of student loan debt,” Durbin said in a statement. “It is only right that we expand their access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, a benefit already available to many of their full-time colleagues.”
Even though adjunct faculty appear to have some national support, it’s unclear how their attempts to unionize will play with full-time faculty in the area.
St. Louis University mathematics professor Steve Harris said he welcomes unionization for adjuncts. He said their current role is that of “a servant subclass,” and that needs to be fixed.
But Dennis Michaelis, St. Louis Community College’s interim chancellor, said he knows of full-time faculty who are against collective bargaining for adjuncts.
Michaelis wouldn’t elaborate, but the common argument is that as adjuncts get a larger share of the pie, there is a possibility that full-time faculty will see their share shrink.
Bob Thumith, SLCC’s director of human resources, said the SEIU’s aggressive tactics — petitioning faculty outside classrooms and elsewhere on campuses — has turned a lot of people off.
“These types of things are supposed to happen organically,” he said. “A lot of teachers don’t like to be bothered in their classrooms.”
Thumith said a push for unionization at SLCC campuses is dying down, as far as he knows.
Whether unionization for adjuncts takes off in the St. Louis area, Southern Illinois University President Randall Dunn said schools will have to adapt.
Forming a union is the logical “response to the second-class-citizen status adjunct faculty have at many institutions,” Dunn said.
If a push to unionize at one of his campuses was successful, it would simply become a more complex budgeting matter.
“We’d have to find the money from other sources,” he said. “Some administrators look at collective bargaining as this terrible thing. I don’t view it that way. It’s a part of doing business.”
More than 700 SEIU Local 1 members and supporters shared what was important to them and how our union can improve in our 2014 Member and Supporter Survey.
The most important issues to participants were creating good jobs that can support a family and reducing income inequality in our country. The aspects of their jobs they most want to improve are their wages, your retirement benefits and your healthcare.
Local 1 members and supporters are fighting to achieve all of these goals.
Participants – mostly members – described the SEIU Local 1 mission in their own words, but many used the same ones. Words like lead, fight, help, strengthen, organize, advocate and build. SEIU Local 1 members and supporters do all of those things every day without tiring.
As a union and as a country, we face a lot of challenges. Working together is the only way to win better wages and benefits and start addressing income inequality in our country. SEIU Local 1 understands that we are all striving for the same goal and together we can realize it.
Check out the survey results—and thank you for staying connected.
View our annual report to see what Local 1 has accomplished in 2013:
Fast food workers began organizing a little under one year ago, kicking off a national movement with strikes in New York City and Chicago in April of 2013. Other cities quickly followed suit, with fast food and retail workers walking off the job in Milwaukee, St. Louis, Detroit, and more, demanding a higher minimum wage and the right to organize a union. Less than a year later, on December 5, 2013, the largest fast food strike in history occurred. Workers in over 100 cities walked off their jobs, picketed their employers, and called for a $15 minimum wage.
“It’s okay! We got your back!” Local 1 members from Chicago called out to workers at the McDonald’s at Chicago & Damen. The call has become a rallying cry for the movement, which seeks to empower long-ignored fast food workers. Local 1 Members stood side-by-side with the striking McDonald’s workers, many of who are paid just $8.25 after years of dedicated service.
“I am involved with the fast food campaign to better the economy for everyone,” says St. Louis member Wesley Reed. “[To fix the economy] we have to start from the bottom, not from the top.”
Members from Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee all took part in the nationwide day of action, standing in solidarity with fast food workers across the nation. History was made last week, and it came less than a week after the massive Black Friday protests staged at Wal-Mart locations throughout the country. These monumental actions have brought income inequality to the forefront of the national conversation—an important step in repairing our damaged economy.
Stay informed on what is happening across your local.
“ABM is a national, multi-million dollar corporation. But SEIU is national too. Every SEIU city across the country is help to win this fight, not just for Columbus but for all hardworking people everywhere! “
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At the June 1st, 2013 membership meeting, Local 1 members from 11 cities and 6 states overwhelmingly approved constitutional and bylaw amendments by a 94% vote. The final vote tally was 366 in favor of the amendments and 22 against.
As an SEIU Local 1 member or retiree, you are entitled to member-only rates, discounts and special offers from Union Plus. The Union Plus program is brought to us by the AFL-CIO to provide consumer benefits to union members. To view a full list of programs and discounts, including mortgages, travel discounts, entertainment coupons, and prepaid debit cards, visit www.unionplus.org or call 1-800-452-9425.
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