Prison adult schools start flexible calendar August 3, 2015
BU 3 bargaining team advocated flexibility in response to teacher needs


Every year, by November 15, the Office of Correctional Education (OCE) proposes calendars for the following academic year.  Last year, OCE agreed to work collaboratively with BU 3 rank and file members to develop the 2015/2016 calendars based on the interests of education management, custody, and teachers.  In October Superintendent of Correctional Education Brant Choate and Deputy Superintendent Shannon Swain attended a calendar discussion with BU 3 leaders Kim Warton, Elma Rodriguez, Bruce Theel and John Kern.  This work group devised a calendar for the 2015-2016 academic year that includes flexibility for the first time.  OCE leadership was receptive to the arguments made by your representatives and we worked to find a solution that values the personal and work lives of CDCR’s teachers. 

Please read the following questions and answers about the new academic calendar with flex days. If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to call the SEIU Local 1000 Member Resource Center at 866- 471-7348.


Q.  How soon can I schedule a flex day? 

A. Flexibility will be part of the calendar that begins on August 3, 2015.  Look over the calendar and plan your year.  Choose six instructional days on which you plan to be absent and let your supervisor know in writing.  If your plans change, let your supervisor know as soon as possible. Be sure to provide at least 5 days notice of your intent to use an unpaid flexible “faculty day off”.  It’s that simple.

Q. The new 2015/2016 calendar has 214 days marked “instruction days” yet my contract only requires me to work 208 instruction days. Why? 

A. The new calendar gives you some control over your time off. Six days that would formerly have been designated by OCE are now scheduled by you, the individual teacher. Of the 214 instruction days on the calendar, you will only have to work 208. Perhaps you want a full week off at Thanksgiving? Tell your supervisor you’ll be off November 23 and 24. Perhaps you want a week off after Easter? Tell your supervisor you’ll be off on March 28, 29 and 30. Perhaps you want the longest possible summer break? Tell your supervisor you’ll be using PDDs on June 16 and 17, you’ll be off June 20-24 and July 11 using flex days. And add July 12 through 15 using Personal Necessity Leave. That’s three and a half weeks.  You might not be able to do this every year, but it works for a “once in a lifetime” trip. 

Q. Will the flex days be deducted from our sick leave, education leave, or personal necessity leave balances? 

A. No. 

Q.  Are flex days a new form of leave?

A. No. Flex days are not in a leave bank. They are unpaid days off, like RDOs.  There is no official code to put on your 998.

Q. The 2015/2016 calendar has two “faculty days off” in the week after Easter. Why? 

A. As a state holiday, Thursday, March 31 is a required day off.  OCE anticipates that a large number of staff will want to take April 1st off to create a four-day weekend. 

Q. Why is there no spring break beyond the two days?

A spring break can be customized by each teacher using flex days. With five flex days, an individual teacher can take off the week before Easter. With three flex days, a teacher can be off the week after Easter. Using all six flex days and two PDDs, a teacher could create a two-week block of time off.  The important point is that teachers now have some control over their time off instead of being subject to the decisions of OCE and the union. 

Q. I signed up for the Voluntary Personal Leave Program (VPLP) in order to get time off when I need it. What should I do? 

A. Your right to accrue and use VPLP is unchanged, however management and the union  team hope that the new flexible days in the calendar will reduce your need to use VPLP leave credits.  

It’s a good idea to build up a VPLP leave balance using the right your bargaining team won for you in 2013 contract negotiations. You will be in better shape if you unexpectedly need some extra time off due to illness or injury. VPLP can also help you use up small leftover balances of furlough, PLP, ITO and other leave credits since you can only use leave credits in full day increments. If you have VPLP leave when you separate from state service, it is cashed out based on your salary rate at the time, so it may be a good investment for that reason as well.

To withdraw from the VPLP, simply contact your personnel specialist. After 240 hours of VPLP you will automatically stop accruing and your salary will be restored to its normal amount. See Article 8.15 of the MOU for more details.

Q. May I use a flex day instead of sick leave? 

A. Yes, under certain conditions. You may be required to give five days’ notice to use a flex day. If you have a scheduled medical appointment or procedure for yourself or a family member and would rather use a flex day than sick leave, simply notify your supervisor five days in advance.  (Supervisors may, in extenuating circumstances, waive the five-day notice requirement.)  Use of flex days can help you preserve your sick leave.

Q. May I use a flex day on a staff development day? 

A. Flex days are not intended for use on staff development days. Check with your supervisor if this need arises. High quality staff development requires the participation of the entire staff and should be a high priority at your school.  If necessary, there are leaves you can use on a staff development day. 

Q. May I use a flex day on a quarter break day?

A. Flex days were not intended for use on quarter break days.  Using a flex day on a quarter break day might cause the loss of needed report preparation time. Check with your supervisor if this need arises.  If necessary, there are leaves you can use on a quarter break.

Q. Is there a form for scheduling a flex day?

A. No.  We recommend you schedule your flex days and inform your supervisor of your selected days in writing as soon as possible.  If trust is lacking, obtain a receipt. By working collaboratively we can ensure that flexibility remains a feature of future academic calendars. A handy way to track your flex days might be to record them on a copy of the official OCE 2015/2016 Academic Calendar. 

Q. What if my supervisor denies a flex day? 

A. This should not happen unless you scheduled a flex day on a staff development day, you failed to give at least five days notice, or you have already used your allotted number of flex days. Flex days are not subject to supervisor discretion except as noted above. Educate your supervisor by showing him or her the description of the flex day guidelines printed on the 2015/2016 OCE Academic Calendar.  If a supervisor denies the use of a legal flex day, contact a job steward, a District Bargaining Unit Representative, or the Member Resource Center (866-471-7348) immediately and file a grievance if necessary.

Q. So I can just tell my supervisor at least five days in advance and take a day off because I want to or need to? 

A. Yes, from August 3, 2015 through July 29, 2016 you can do this six times.  Please acknowledge your supervisor’s need to manage the school.  Schedule your days and notify your supervisor as early as you can, but no later than five days in advance, as you would for the use of personal necessity leave. 

Q. Is this a permanent change to our contract?  Will we always have at least six flex days from now on? 

A.  Not necessarily.  The contract is unchanged.  Although we certainly hope to make flexibility a permanent feature of our adult school calendars, for now this is a modification of the academic calendar for one year only.  It is a new approach to the academic year that we hope will support the personal needs of teachers and help them bring their best selves to the challenge of correctional education. The superintendent decided to offer six flex days in the 2015/2016 OCE academic year in response to arguments made by your calendar team. 

Q. What if I don’t use my six flex days by the end of the academic year?

A. If you have not used your flex days by the end of the academic year, you may be directed to stay home several days at the end of July.  Flex days are not accrued.  You cannot carry them forward into the next academic year. You are paid (based on a daily rate) for a 220-day work year. Additional work, unless authorized in writing by management, is not paid. Do not attempt to work beyond your 220-day year without permission. 

Q. Will my personnel specialist track my flex days for me?

A. No. Flex days are not in a leave bank. Your Personnel Specialist tracks your days worked and your use of paid days off (such as sick leave, personal necessity leave, professional development days, or VPLP) as reported on your 998. You should work with your supervisor to make sure your personal work schedule results in exactly 220 workdays in 2015/2016. 

Near the end of the year, the personnel specialist may conduct an audit to ensure you are on track to work the required 220 days. If you lack sufficient workdays (or paid leave) in an academic year, your July or August paycheck may be reduced to account for missed days during the academic year.  Or CDCR could recoup the overpayment through an “accounts receivable” process.  Careful planning helps you avoid these situations.