Tacoma Specialists
news & updates
March 2021 Vol. 32
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Expect Deployment Changes

Current assignments are unsustainable in a post-COVID scenario. Class loads vary widely among specialists, as do the amount and quality of instruction each child can access. If we are to return to compliance with the CBA, return to the not-quite-up-to-WAC-compliance amount of instructional time with students, or have any semblance of equitable workload and teaching conditions, change is necessary.

  • Right now students do not have equitable access to instruction. Some don't have any access.
  • Right now, full time specialists can be responsible for anywhere from 17-23 classes. A .8 position can be responsible for as little as 13 or as many as 20 classes*.

Moving forward, these issues must be addressed to ensure equitable access to quality instruction for students and reasonable, equitable workloads to allow specialists to be effective educators. The number of lessons that can be squeezed into a day is finite.

  • Right now half of specialists are assigned more classes than can fit into the weekly schedule*.

Change is coming. Be proactive.

Please take the time to share your ideas for reforming the deployment process. Share with colleagues, union reps, and administration. We have had our rights bargained away, and being a minority, we cannot, with our votes alone, rectify the problem. Now is the time to speak up if we would like to see changes made in coming agreements. Working together we can come up with a solution that makes TPS a better place to learn and work.

  • Publicize the staffing formula
  • Receive assignments before contracts
  • Apply displacement and involuntary transfer language to specialists
  • Create Department Head positions to help promote a k-12 vision for programs.
  • Allow Department Heads to oversee placements and communicate opportunities within each department (PE, Music, Library).

*based on self-reported data, official data not being available. Check here to see Music and PE assignments and workloads. Please send any corrections to tacomaspecialists@gmail.com

Please engage Shannon Ergun, Christa Erolin, Lisa Nolan, Forrest Griek, and Kristin Bell in conversation about how this particular inequity can be lessened.

A long letter is not necessary. When questions about current situations or future deployment occur to you, just shoot out an email with your question -- the idea being that we can raise awareness that there are both wide-spread and more specific situations that need to be addressed in order to serve every student every day with quality instruction.

Please encourage principals, district administrators, union representatives, parents, and community members in an effort to ensure students have these opportunities going forward.

Visit tacomaspecialists.org for advocacy materials, who to address, and example letters to help organize your thoughts and promote a productive dialog.
"I feel like I'm teaching through a keyhole attached to a silly straw."

There is so much to discourage us as students go back to classrooms. The lack of autonomy as we have to rely on/impose upon/be observed by other people to even interact with our students is pretty stressful.

Back in the mists of time my SO was stationed on a Coast Guard icebreaker. They would deploy for six months at a time, transporting scientists and supplies to various bases in Antarctica and the Arctic Circle, breaking ice to open shipping lanes for other vessels.

This was before cell phones. It would be weeks between ports. We'd exchange letters, and when the ship made land there might be a splurge for an international phone call. Once or twice, in the middle of an Antarctica trip, I was woken up at 3 in the morning by a man from MARS, claiming to have a call from my loved one. MARS was(is?) a network of volunteer radio hobbyists who helped armed service members communicate when other methods were impossible. A stranger would call me and explain that he was holding up the phone to his radio to connect me to my beau. When one of us said "over" he would flip a switch so the other one of us could talk. This meant that I'd get to finally hear his voice, but so would a total stranger. It was awkward for both technical and social reasons. We had limited time, a sketchy signal, and though they tried to be unobtrusive and helpful, someone listening to our conversation.
I was grateful to these volunteers, but it was not comfortable. I was not in charge of the situation.

Fast forward 30 years. See any parallels?

Having this situation as an every-day-all-day default is wearing(understatement alert!).
When I rolled my eyes every time someone mentioned how full or empty their bucket was, I didn't know this was coming, but though I might still roll an eye, I totally get it. My bucket might actually have a hole in it.
BUT, every time a kid shows a spark of enthusiasm or curiosity, I hear a ping hit the bottom of the pail. That gives me enough hope to think that I might be hearing splashes soon.

Take care of yourself and listen hard for pings and splashes. Blah blah blah hope blah blah something April showers blah blah. Vent your frustrations, but share your triumphs. And don't be afraid to drip on other people. If we can spread germs, we can spread encouragement.

-Megan Oberfield
The View From Here
Photo Contest

Send us a screenshot, photo, or video of what a Teams class looks like from your point of view.
Who can you see? Hear? How many windows can you juggle?

Caption your photo if you like.

Top entries will be published each week. Each submission will be entered into a drawing for fabulous* prizes!
Protect student privacy as necessary.

(*fabulousness determined by editorial staff)
Here is my 2nd grade class - they are ALL in the gym and so far the ONLY sound they have is from the laptop. In the FRONT of the gym.  The teacher has to put her ear right up against the laptop and then relay to the class what I am saying! They haven’t yet been able to hear me during our live lessons. Paula Greuling
If you are being asked to work outside of your contract, please contact Shannon Ergun at TEA.
with questions and concerns about vaccinations and returning to the classroom
Please be in contact with the secondary specialists which your programs feed.

While they are currently dealing with their own set of problems, the lack of a clear district-wide vision of Music and PE programs means that their programs will be cut off at the roots.

Invite them to partner with you to create a k-12 pathway for students to access comprehensive quality instruction.
Be Sure to Submit Your Trimester 2 Overload Pay Request
  • Submit for pay once each trimester
  • Link to form
  • It will be “Certificated Class Overage Stipend” on your paycheck.
Invite the School Board to make a Resolution!
Click the link below for more information

If you'd like to Celebrate a Specialist, send us a picture, video, article, drawing, song, limerick... whatever at

Submissions will go out in the newsletter and be posted on tacomaspecialists.org on our new page. Infect someone with positivity, or blow your own horn!