Classified Articles

Overview

Classified Articles

News for and about classified employees and paraprofessionals working in public schools and community colleges, and support staff in private schools. 

Article Coronavirus

Pandemic underscores essential nature of classified work
Custodians, health aides hold strong; unions help members get vaccinated

Throughout the COVID pandemic, CFT members from early childhood centers to community colleges have shown how essential classified employees are. During the past 15 months, techs helped power an overnight transition to online learning, custodians learned how to hit back at the coronavirus, and health aides are now on the front lines of reopening schools.

Article Members elected

Paraeducator serves as mayor of Ukiah, bus driver sits on Pacifica City Council
Classified employees make their mark on local politics

Every day, dozens of CFT members finish their shift, pivot, and begin a second job as an elected official. They bring passion, creativity and a commitment to public service. When Juan Orozco isn’t working with teens in the Mendocino County Office of Education, the Local 4345 member is serving as mayor of the county hub. Pacifica voters have elected and re-elected school bus driver Mike O’Neill to public office for almost a quarter-century.

Article

CFT launches new identity to reflect diverse membership
Classified employees gain more recognition

This spring, CFT launched a new identity in recognition of its diverse membership. A primary goal of the rebrand was to integrate the tagline A Union of Educators and Classified Professionals to acknowledge that CFT represents more than teachers and faculty members.

Our diverse union also represents dozens of job classifications for classified employees and support staff, paraprofessionals, as well as certificated librarians, psychologists, speech pathologists, and many others, all of whom contribute to the success of our students’ education.

Article Coronavirus

With COVID on campus and normal a long way off, strategic action saves classified jobs
Unions save graveyard custodial shift, defeat layoffs

El Camino College has been slowly resuming activity. Nursing, auto repair, construction and other “essential classes” returned to the Torrance campus in late September, along with scores of custodians, groundkeepers, computer techs and facilities staff.

Returning to normal is another matter. Administrators are trying to eliminate the night shift, even though “graveyard” is typically the busiest time for custodians. Meanwhile, four COVID cases on campus have underlined the pandemic’s ongoing threat, as well as the importance of properly trained and equipped cleaning crews.

Article Labor Solidarity

San Diego County college staffs tackle food insecurity in their communities
Food bank distributions feed thousands of families
PHOTO GALLERY

March 20 was the last day of on-campus classes for about 18,000 San Diego City College students. The college has maintained a food pantry for needy students, faculty and staff, but AFT Local 1931 stepped up the emergency response in September with monthly giveaways.

“It’s joyful to see everyone — students, staff and faculty — come together to help. My happiness was seeing everyone smile,” said Neary Sim, a Guild member and instructional office specialist in the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

Article Classified Conference Coronavirus

Virtual Classified Conference educates, unites, entertains
How the pandemic has changed our unions
PHOTO GALLERY

CFT capped an unforgettable year with its first virtual Council of Classified Employees conference. The November 14 online meeting focused exclusively on life with the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were also warm moments of old friends seeing each other, the occasional technical glitch, and a madcap show of goofy eyeglasses.

CCE President Carl Williams welcomed the virtual participants, who appeared in thumbnail windows around the computer screen to be as happy as Williams was to be gathered together — at a distance.

Four new laws classified employees need to know about
From contracting COVID at work to personnel commission changes

Workers’ Comp classifies on-the-job COVID cases as occupational injuries

Senate Bill 1159 (Hill, D-San Mateo) directs the state Workers’ Compensation system to presume that an employee’s COVID-related illness is an occupational injury and therefore the worker eligible for Workers’ Comp benefits if specific criteria are met.

Article AFT

Q&A Carl Williams: First classified AFT vice president from California
“We are essential and this work cannot be done without us”

On September 1, Carl Williams was elected to join 39 other AFT Vice Presidents from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Williams joins two other vice presidents from California, a group that has included former CFT Presidents Mary Bergan and Joshua Pechthalt over the years, and now current President Jeff Freitas.

Article Environment Wildfires

Unions step up to help wildfire evacuees
Wildfires threaten member homes and lives

Fires in California, many started by lightning, have burned a little more than a million acres, and scores of people have lost homes and thousands more have been forced to evacuate, including CFT members. The fires, some of the largest in the state’s history are burning in areas including Lake, Napa, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties.

Tech support powers online classrooms behind the scenes
Classified employees make the connections and keep them strong

Computer geeks have been on the front lines of online learning since March, when school and college districts across urban and rural California closed to avoid the COVID-19 pandemic. Tech staff are the essential employees who are turning digital classrooms from a pipedream into a working educational system.

Article Coronavirus Educational Technology

Paraeducator steps up, makes face shields for medical workers
Gilroy family applies 3-D printing skills from campus STEAM lab

By Arti O’Connor, President, Gilroy Federation of Paraeducators

Diana Torres, a paraeducator in the Gilroy Unified School District, has been instrumental in establishing the STEAM lab and program at Las Animas Elementary School. I met her several months ago and was extremely impressed when she showed me the lab — with a 3-D printer — that she uses to teach students about that form of technology.

Article Coronavirus

Custodians on the front lines of COVID-19 pandemic
Keeping campuses clean, supporting food service workers

On Friday, March 13, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered Californians to help slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus by keeping a “social distance” of six feet from each other.

School districts that were still operating suspended classes and college campuses emptied, but Newsom’s order continued full funding for public education and “essential” workers were told to report for work Monday.

Article Coronavirus

Food service workers whip up millions of Grab & Go meals
Classified employees essential to feeding kids during pandemic

The coronavirus crisis has forced school districts of all sizes to come to grips with the food insecurity their students face.

“In my entire life, I have never seen a medical crisis taken as seriously as this one,” said Carl Williams, head of the Lawndale Classified Employees Federation. “We’re now implementing options we have never discussed before, like shutting down classrooms and teaching online.”

Article Coronavirus

Health clerk looks back on early signs of pandemic
Veteran clerk teaches and practices good habits

For months, health clerk Cathy Pierce said, she and other school district staff heard about the coronavirus “like everyone else — bits of news and gossip.”

Pierce began to receive more credible information about COVID-19 and changes coming at all levels of government and education the week before Lawndale’s Mitchell Elementary shut in March. She has since come up the coronavirus learning curve, and now sees her work in a different light.

More members join Classified Summer Assistance Program
AFT locals work successfully with districts to implement program

Tens of thousands of classified staff in K-12 school districts across California have signed up for the third year of an innovative state program to support some of the lowest paid employees on campus.

The Classified School Employee Summer Assistance Program (CSESAP) allows eligible staff to withhold up to 10 percent of their monthly salary during the school year, and receive that money — matched by the state up to a dollar for a dollar — in one or two payments the following summer.

Article Part-Time Employment

CFT advances bill for classified staff to close part-time loophole
Legislature's emergency recess delays action

Update: Due to the pandemic and the Legislature’s rearranging of priorities, most union-sponsored bills were not taken up. 

State legislators left Sacramento March 20 after passing emergency legislation to help K-12 schools, individuals, small businesses and non-profits weather the coronavirus pandemic. Significant for classified employees, the legislation — Senate Bill 117 — includes $100 million dollars to purchase personal protective equipment, to pay for supplies and labor related to cleaning schools sites, or both.

Article

Nominate your classified colleagues for national and state recognition
AFT helps in creation of new national RISE award

“Recognizing the work we do has been a long time coming,” said Carl Williams, president of the CFT Council of Classified Employees.

The “unsung heroes” of education have continued to enjoy new levels of respect since California first proclaimed Classified School Employee Week in 1969. This year’s weeklong celebration will be from May 17 to 23, but staff and paraeducators may also be recognized through a series of national, state and local awards.