West Contra Costa Unified School District Must Support Its Adult School

Adult School Teachers United is very concerned about WCCUSD’s lack of support for its adult school, West Contra Costa Adult Education, this year. The situation will get even worse next year if the district enacts teacher layoffs and cuts to services, as the district has indicated it plans to do.


1.      Studies have consistently shown that the literacy of the parents, particularly the mother, is a key indicator of a child’s school success. The student body of WCCUSD is now 40% Latino, and one-third of the children in the district are English Language Learners. The basic literacy services provided by the adult school are a vital service to West County families. Cuts to the adult school ultimately hurt children in district schools whose parents need adult school services in order to support their children’s academic success. WCCUSD must support its adult school.

  1. Despite the lack of district support, West Contra Costa Adult Education (WCCAE) is an excellent adult school. At the last accreditation review by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the adult school received a six-year accreditation, the highest ranking possible. The number of learning gains earned by WCCAE students on the national standardized test for adult students, CASAS, has grown significantly every year over the last three years. The district needs to appreciate what it has, and support the adult school so it can be even better. Current district actions seem more bent on breaking what works than preserving a valuable resource. WCCUSD must support its adult school.


WCCUSD insists that cuts to services are necessary because there will be less money next year, even though next year the district will receive money from a block grant which can only be used to run the adult school and will be in the amount they spent on the adult school this year. Most other districts are not acting the way WCCUSD is. They are planning to restore their adult schools. Why is WCCUSD taking a different path from other districts?


  1. WCCUSD is talking of cutting classes and laying off teachers next year, which will further reduce services to adult school students. Adult school classes were severely cut back in 2008 and never restored. Hours of instruction were reduced by about 50%, as classes that had met four or five days a week were cut back to three days a week and summer school was cancelled. The need for adult school services in West County has grown while the amount of services provided has remained stagnant due to budget cuts. Many English as a Second Language classes already have waiting lists.       More cuts will be devastating to students, further reducing their access to basic literacy services.
  2. WCCUSD is talking of cutting back the number of babysitters for ESL classes, even to the extent of providing babysitting at only three sites. Currently babysitting is provided at 15 sites, mostly elementary schools, where the majority of students are parents of children who attend, or will soon attend, district schools. Many immigrant families have very limited access to transportation, and need to attend classes close to home. Reduction of the number of sites with babysitters would severely reduce access to instruction for ESL students who are parents of young children. Many of these parents are motivated to attend ESL classes by a desire to better support their children’s success in school.


  1. WCCUSD has failed to provide substitute babysitters for adult school classes this year. Human resources told the ESL program to stop sending candidates for substitute babysitting positions on the grounds that the district had many babysitters it was not using. Yet when the ESL program asked for the names of babysitters that could serve as substitutes, none were provided. As a consequence, it was very difficult to provide coverage for babysitters that had to be absent. This could potentially have led to teachers having to tell students to take their children home and not attend class that day, because there were not enough babysitters.
  1. WCCUSD has refused to buy equipment for classes that are not held at district sites on the grounds that they don’t control the site, even though the district gets classroom space at these sites free of charge and the classes are a vital service to the community. One teacher did not even have a white board for almost an entire semester, and was forced to use giant stick-up post-its to teach the class. The refusal to provide basic equipment to adult school classes sends adult school students the message that they are second class citizens and interferes with their learning because teachers don’t have proper resources.
  2. WCCUSD misclassifies all adult school teachers as “substitutes”, even though many have been teaching the same class for years and are not standing in for another teacher. This classification has been used to deny students access to technology. This year, there was federal money sufficient to purchase laptops and projectors for all the ESL classes that meet at elementary school sites. These sites currently have little or no access to technology. The equipment was not purchased, however, on the grounds that “the district doesn’t check out that kind of equipment to substitutes”. Much of the federal money was earned by ESL students demonstrating learning gains on a national standardized test (CASAS). Yet these same students were denied access to technology due to district misclassification of their teachers.
  3. WCCUSD has allowed phones at the ESL office to be broken for months, so that students and others cannot reliably reach the office for information about classes and get help with matters related to the ESL classes. This situation is ongoing.
  4. WCCUSD has forced adult school personnel in the High School Diploma, Adult Basic Education and       Career Technical Education programs to move, sometimes multiple times, in the middle of the school year, interfering with service to students.
  5. WCCUSD is forcing the English as a Second Language (ESL) office to move at a time that will interfere with CASAS testing, EL Civics testing, and other end of year matters; student performance on the CASAS and EL Civics standardized tests help bring in federal money to the adult school in the amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This money supports services for students; if the adult school earns fewer payment points because of this move, it is the students who will suffer.
  6. WCCUSD has failed for years to hire new Bilingual Instructional Aides for the adult school program in a timely manner. Many adult school English as a Second Language classes are held at elementary school, middle school, and community sites. These neighborhood sites are an important service for immigrant students,       who often have limited access to transportation. Classes at elementary and middle school sites also help fulfill the Full Service Community Schools model to which WCCUSD, as well as the Cities of Richmond and San Pablo are committed. Classes at community sites are usually multilevel, meaning that students at the beginning and intermediate levels are all welcome in the same class.

Instructional aides are very important for these classes. They assist the teacher with registration, intake and placement testing that would be done at the main office for sites where services are centralized. They help the teacher provide differentiated instruction to a group of students with widely different abilities by working with individual students or small groups of students.

Yet WCCUSD has not prioritized the hiring of bilingual instructional aides to replace aides who move on to other positions. Candidates are held up in the hiring process for months, and many are hired for other positions before they can be processed by Human Resources.

  1. Teachers cannot afford to work for WCCUSD’s adult school, leading to disruptions in service to students. Several talented and experienced English as a Second Language       teachers at the adult school       have left mid-year to teach in places like Saudi Arabia and Japan. They did not want to leave their jobs at WCCAE, but they had themselves and their families to support. These teachers proved very hard to replace, and classes went for months without a regular teacher. One class had a different substitute every day for several weeks until a long term substitute could be found. Obviously, this affected the students, some of whom became discouraged and stopped coming to class.
  2. This year, WCCUSD is making it even harder for teachers to make ends meet, which may lead to more teachers leaving the adult school, greater difficulty replacing them, and more disruption of service to students. Through aggressive enforcement of the incorrect “substitute” classification of all adult school teachers, the district is now denying adult school teachers sick leave, even though they received a manual from adult school administration at the beginning of the year explaining that they earn sick leave at the rate of one hour for every seventeen hours worked, and that this sick leave accrues and rolls over at the end of the year. This has been the WCCAE policy on sick leave for many years, and ASTU has reason to believe it is based on Ed. Code. The denial of sick leave, one of the few benefits adult school teachers have, will also affect the retirement of many adult school teachers, who have been told over the years that they will be awarded a lump sum for their unused sick leave at retirement. This is not a paltry sum for many teachers; some have accrued sick leave valuing up to $10,000.


The following questions were raised with the Community Budget Advisory Committee at the April 30, 2015, and Sheri Gamba said they were good questions and that we should raise them with the board.

  1. The district is telling adult school staff that cuts and layoffs may be necessary next year because there will be less money. Yet the governor’s budget plan released in January proposes that, beginning in 2015, adult schools will receive dedicated funding from the Adult Education Block Grant.  This funding will probably come directly to school districts next year, and will be in the amount that districts spent on their adult schools this year. So,
    1. Why does the district think there will be less money?
    2. How is the district reporting what it spends on the adult school to the state?
  2. Is the district consulting with other districts that have adult schools about their expectations regarding money for their adult schools next year?
  3. The Alvarado Adult School campus is being converted into a district training facility and headquarters of a district math program. Starting almost immediately, there will be little adult school activity at Alvarado beyond, possibly, a few night and weekend classes in whatever rooms are still available.  There are many facilities in the district that house a few adult school classes, but that does not make them adult school facilities.  Already, students cannot register for adult school classes at the Alvarado main office.  Will money to keep the lights on at Alvarado, pay the custodian and office staff, etc., still come out of the adult school budget next year, or will the district assume those costs?

4.     The English as a Second Language program has been told that aides and babysitters for the ESL/Family Literacy classes are not in the adult school budget.  Yet these employees have been paid every year, and up until this year their time cards were coded with a specific PCN # that designated their aide or babysitter status.  How is it possible that these employees cannot be located in the adult school budget?

5.Problems with the adult school budget are related to a longstanding policy of secrecy about the adult school budget. If adult school employees were occasionally allowed to see the budget, they would be able to catch oversights such as the omission of the aides and babysitters.




Last year, WCCAE underwent a review by the Financial Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT) to investigate possible fiscal mismanagement in the adult school main office. Adult school students and teachers had nothing to do with the suspected fiscal mismanagement. In fact, some teachers noticed the problems that led to the investigation and brought them to the attention of the former adult school principal, who tried to address teacher concerns. However, the former principal lost her job, and the teachers were silenced.


Now actions that hurt students and teachers are being justified by the recommendations of the FCMAT report. However, WCCUSD is using the recommendations very selectively. For example, the report notes, on Page 30, that hourly adult school teachers are provided with sick leave and recommends that leave balances should be reported to teachers on their pay stubs. Teachers have been requesting that their leave be reported in this way for years.


Instead of enacting this recommendation of the report, WCCUSD staff are telling teachers they do not have sick leave, even though a manual clearly delineating the sick leave policy was provided to teachers by WCCAE administrators at the beginning of the year.


Adult school students and teachers should not be made to suffer because WCCUSD allowed a financial mismanagement situation to go on right under its nose for more than three years.











2 Responses

  1. The state budget surplus is rising, the economy is improving, school districts are awash in Prop 98 and Local Control Funding money, yet adult education to serve the most disadvantaged continues to be cut. Yet we wonder why social unrest and the unequal distribution of wealth is increasing. Beam me up.

  2. great post thanks for sharing this

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