We, the members of Project Connect, write to communicate to you the profound professional and personal effects of the move to overhaul our positions from CEA bargaining-unit positions to civil service, non-union positions. You are aware by now that we believe these actions violated both our CEA contract and state law. What legal filings won’t show you, however, is the devastating impact that your actions have had on our lives as employees, our families’ lives, and our work. As the testimonies that follow illustrate, we no longer have a sense of foundation from which to operate confidently. Our cohesion as a team was eroded in May and swept away completely in June. How we operate each day, and our very job descriptions, are now in flux. The suddenly shifting compensation leaves us unable to plan our lives for ourselves and for our families. And leadership throughout this erratic transition is so inconsistent that it only adds to our confusion.
It’s been a rough few months. My days have gone from waking up looking forward to helping families experiencing homelessness/doing a job I really love, to being immediately depressed when my alarm goes off at 5:45 am. I feel that I have been tossed into a toxic work environment; the lack of leadership, transparency and trust make it hard for me to show up for work each day and give 100%. I wonder how you (who made these decisions) would feel waking up each morning not knowing if you will take another pay cut or if your jobs will still exist.
I was thrilled when I started this position just shy of two years ago, but now the thrill is gone and terror has taken over. The amount of uncertainty, lack of support from administration and mere disregard for the diverse talents, plethora of strengths and relentless dedication of not only myself but my colleagues has taken its toll. We no longer have the autonomy that is needed to serve families due to being forced to clock-in and out, reapply for positions we already hold, and take pay cuts of $10/hour or more (my personal pay cut was $10/hr). Due to these devastating actions, I had to have a heart-to-heart with my two sons about this blow and how it would severely change my ability as a single mother to provide for them.
We were told initially we would have to start clocking in/out on July 1st, then the date changed to July 11th. Last week, on Wednesday, July 6th, my timesheet was converted prematurely with no warning, therefore locking me out and unable to make any changes. As of today, Monday, July 11th my timesheet from June 25th-July 8th, still does not reflect my time worked for three days and I have no way to change it. This is just one of the many acts of incompetence and carelessness that have taken place at the expense of a skilled, niche team of professionals who work on and off the clock, weekdays and weekends to serve vulnerable youth and families.
My purpose and passion have been severely diminished, as the terrain is murky and outlook bleak due to the demoralizing conduct of an uncompassionate administration who render our positions, our students and families valueless.
Imagine coming back to work from a week of unpaid vacation that was approved 2 months in advance and dropping off one of your four kids at college early to complete utter chaos and uncertainty. Well, unfortunately, that has been my reality in Project Connect.
Upon my return to work, I was told that I would have to re-apply for my position with a 35% pay cut, and if I did not then I could look elsewhere in the district.
At the time, I was in the process of finding new housing in an ever-inflated difficult market, in fact my oldest child had to move back in with me because she cannot afford her current living arrangements and finish nursing school. My family’s world just got turned upside down! Not only will my family have to make lifestyle changes, but this transition could possibly put me (single mother) and my children in a position to be homeless (ironic).
I cannot afford to be stressed out since I am a stress-related stroke and cancer survivor. Since that day, I have been crying every night. Yes, the decision to keep my current pay rate for a year has made the circumstances better, but it has not helped me mentally, especially with regaining trust with the district because anything can happen at a moment’s notice.
When I landed this position, after 15 plus years in education, I thought I had finally gotten my dream career and my children could participate in more activities. I do not know what to think anymore and my morale is low. I’m feeling like a robot showing up to work, forced to clock in and out (we did not have to do that in the past), not feeling encouraged nor motivated, and feeling like the administration can just throw me away with no care in the world.
I arranged care for my young sons for the summer and planned for myself and my family, as we all do. That all came into sudden question on May 13 when we were told to anticipate changes that would likely cause a paycut, then collapsed completely in the second week of June when the depth of the cut was confirmed. I spent hours and energy to fit my new income, a 30% pay cut, into the options I had left for childcare, late in the process when the wait lists were long. Then, 48 hours before the cut was to take effect, I got an email that my pay would be restored for a year but that my benefits were still reduced. I waited to feel relief that I would still have my paycheck, but that is overshadowed by wondering if it will all be taken back with short notice.
Administration mentioned that we have the option to find another position but announced the change after the job fair (despite knowing about the pending change before job fair) and offered no reference letters or assistance with the process. They announced the dramatic pay decreases two weeks before they were to take effect, giving us scant time for a job search.
In some ways I wish I had logged the hours I’ve spent at work trying to adjust to the new systems we were forced into, just to have a log to explain what it takes to transition. Ultimately, I am glad that we do not have to see, on paper, the personnel hours that are diverted from assisting vulnerable youth and families to trying to clock in and out, sign up for a new retirement system, understand vacation, ask for benefits enrollment information and communicate dozens of questions in an attempt to function.
I understand what the word unstable means: Prone to change, fail or give way. This short notice major cut in pay is very painful. Our department is full of creative, compassionate cheerleaders when families are left with crumbs. I feel the crumb of being placed back to level one–none of the 20 years of my work counted. It’s difficult to give 200% when I’m left so low.
This process of reclassification has been quite the emotional roller coaster for myself and my coworkers when we were informed on May 13th that our positions would be transitioned to civil service. Since then, I have experienced a wide range of emotions due to this stressful situation. Anger, sadness, anxiety, mistrust, and lack of motivation top the list. Personally, I am not experiencing a severe pay cut or reduction of wages like my coworkers, but this experience has certainly changed my opinion and outlook on district administration. I have been employed with CCS for 21 years, and for the first time I feel that I wouldn’t encourage other professionals to apply for positions in this district due to the mistrust and stress that my coworkers and I are experiencing.
We are dedicated professionals who want conditions to improve so we can rebuild a strong department with the stability we need to serve youth and families in housing transitions. As you have read, we love our work, we want to keep our jobs, and we want to be equipped to contribute to the district’s mission to serve each student, as our students are especially vulnerable to instability. The district needs to restore our department to the CEA bargaining unit, repair its foundation, and allow the expertise within the staff to guide next steps and future decisions.
CCS Vulnerable Youth Staff