SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report



Executive Summary
Our unique, intergenerational participatory action research project united constituencies most affected by quality school services to take action for improved conditions and necessary policy changes to implement their desired recommendations. This team of action researchers ranging in age from 9 to 74 worked together and identified common core issues, created surveys, gathered data, analyzed findings, and are providing policy recommendations. The primary research question we wanted to answer was “How can we improve the working and learning conditions in New Orleans schools for workers and students?” We want to create and contribute to promote positive changes in the New Orleans public schools. We chose to focus on this issue because despite many substantial facilities improvements in many schools post-Katrina, there has been a decline in the day-to-day working conditions for school service workers (cafeteria, custodial and transportation). The results of our research has led us to conclude that charter school boards, Recovery School District and Orleans Parish School District should universally adopt a set of school service standards to ensure quality services for all schools. Further, we found through ongoing conversations in our research team, the students and school service workers are aligned in many regards in their assessment of how to improve our conditions. In fact, our recommendations include a toolkit for school leaders and executives to ensure a just and sustainable contract for service workers, as well as a local resource list for schools who would like to involve students in quality control monitoring of school services. We hope that our research and recommendations will help to inform the improvement of New Orleans school services to enrich and enliven our cities educational environments.

Facilitator Statement
Many of the array of changes happening in New Orleans schools are nationally known - however there is one issue that has attracted little notice: the impact of decentralization of the New Orleans schools on school service workers job security and standards of living, alongside the erosion in students sense of stability at their schools with a constant influx of new faces instead of trusted individuals they recognize who take care of them. Further, we all know what determines success in school is not limited to what happens in the classroom. Time and time again, studies have demonstrated an indelible connection between the achievement gap and poverty; yet there is pervasive and persistent downward pressure on the wages of working families. The parents who send their children to public school are the same workers who provide the nutrition to power students’ minds and maintain the facilities in which they learn, but they cannot take part in their own children’s education because they are so often toiling on the edge of poverty, frequently working second and third jobs to make ends meet. We saw a need to investigate the impact this decentralization is having in the schools by the two groups of people most impacted by the changes and destabilization of school service provisions: the workers themselves and the students they serve. For over 15 years, I’ve been working as an educator, facilitator, cultural organizer and change maker in the fight for equity and social justice in our schools and society. It was a deep honor and privilege to facilitate this inspiring process. With deep gratitude to the team... thanks for all your great work! Jayeesha Dutta State of the Schools Action Research Facilitator Chief of Staff, SEIU Local 21LA

SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report


I believe in doing the best I can on my job and everything I do. SEIU members keep our buildings and communities safe and clean and our families healthy. I am almost 14 years old. fighting for equality and ensuring that all working people can live with dignity. Hi. I’m an Aramark food service worker who has been working in food service for 7 ½ years. I have several siblings. SEIU is committed to building a fair economy. We believe in and will fight for a just society: Where all workers are valued and all people are respected. for LGBT workers. for all workers--because we know that's the only way we can move our country forward. I have four boys and one girl that I love.About Our Team We are the “Dream Team Visioning Success. The son of Tiea Silby and Dalton Bennett. Our team’s work is a project of the Louisiana statewide local of the Service Employees International Union. SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 3 . I love basketball. my name is Dalton Bennett. I work at one of the schools in New Orleans. My name is Charles Smith. We hope that people will get behind us to see that workers’ conditions in schools could be better and will improve the lives of our community. we care for our children and our elderly.1 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society. providing workers a voice on the job. I want to have a better work place for them in the City of New Orleans. Hi my name is Jumal Oatis. I’m working with SEIU to help the students and workers get the right pay and supplies needed so our lives can function right. Where all families and communities thrive. an organization of 2. for people of color. I’m in 7th grade. Where we leave a better and more equal world for generations to come.” an intergenerational participatory action research team of school service workers and students ranging in age from 9 to 74. and keep our cities and states running. I go to John Dibert Community School. for women. We stand up for justice and for civil rights for all--for immigrants.

My name is Glenn Henry and I am a child nutrition worker for Sodexo at this time. I’m a food service worker at Arthur Ashe who has been working for Sodexo for 6 years. The radical changes that have occurred in NOLA schools have created unnoticed hardships for school service workers. Louisiana. I’ve been with SEIU from the beginning and will be there until the end to see everyone through because I believe we will fight and win. I am in fourth grade. I worked in construction for many years. I participated in this project because my parents encouraged me. I went back to construction college for four years. I am a retiree from cement finishers Local 567. I hope this study begins a process that will bring justice. My name is Helene O’Brien. I started in a mechanical field and decided to change my career. I am also a SEIU union worker and I believe in fighting for the rights of our communities. For my age. I am the president of SEIU Local 21LA. I am Tyreion Dixon. one of my favorite adults in my school has been a cafeteria lady. I’m Delores Jeanpierre. I was born and live in the New Orleans area. I am a mother of a 4th grader who attends a New Orleans charter school. I am 16 years old and I attend Cohen College Prep High School. cafeteria employees and bus drivers. I have been a child nutrition worker for 30 years. Since then I have retired but I enjoy participating in the union movement. Hi. my name is Aidan O'Brien Sierra. My mother is Tiea Silby and my father is Tyree Tanner. I was born in New Orleans. I am very helpful to others and willing to give my best. I’m working to help students and workers get right pay and supplies needed so everyone can function right. SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 4 . I like working and making money. representing school employees who work as school custodians. My name is Tracy Williams. I am also a graduate from the New Orleans public schools and love them dearly. I also participated because since kindergarten. I love singing and making sure my family is fine.

I admire fighting for the working families and communities. I’m a very religious human being. My name is Carl Winchester Jr. I’m working with SEIU 21LA to better all schools with good tasting food. I am 62 years old. I want city leaders to protect our working citizens against abusive privatized companies. I participated in this project because it is fun to be working with my mom and I’d rather be with her than at home with my brother. I work at Woodson Schools in food service and with SEIU. I’m working with SEIU. I participated in this project to help improve the situation at the schools and to help the staff and children. I want people to know that I’m very talented. my name is Deryl Nichols. Tawana and Ronell.My name is Claire Rogers. I have two children. My name is Alaney Rogers. I want to see positive changes for each working individual. I am in the 6th grade and my family and God is important to me. At the present time. Dalton Joseph is my name. Hi. Hi. I like fashion design and music. I’m Yolanda Jackson. I’m 15 years old and I go to Sci Tech. cleaner schools and employees who have better pay and health insurance for all. I love to sing and dance. The important thing about me is that I sympathize with each working families’ issues and concerns. SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 5 .

) Dalton Joseph. described in detail below. a Local 21LA organizer. We collectively decided which ones would get us the best information and put together a student and worker survey (please see Appendix A and B. TN to release our report and recommendations with a creative action featuring cultural organizing practices. to improve the working conditions in the service of improving the educational environment for our community. in partnership with students in the public schools. We were able to collect 207 student and 184 school service worker surveys over the course of five weeks. a time period which included winter holiday break. we met several times to identify common issues. Throughout the duration of the project we have sought to create a participatory. During the course of November 2012. In January and early February 2013. We decided to undertake a participatory action research project. We decided to focus our research on how to improve the working and learning conditions by uncovering the current situation as well as identifying the needs of students and workers to improve the state of their schools. mapped out all the schools and assigned students and workers to collect surveys from all New Orleans schools. which came along with the elimination or reduction of paid days off (including sick time).Methodology In the fall of 2012. Both workers and students identified decreased quality and quantity of food provided as well as lack of supplies and functional equipment to be issues of concern. Finally. The most consistent commonalities among workers during our issue identification phase were reduced hours and wages. We created a survey where every member of the team anonymously contributed questions. inclusive and democratic research and organizing team in order to come up with solutions-oriented. SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 6 . create our research question. SEIU Local 21LA brought together a group of committed current and former members of the New Orleans school service workers unit to discuss the current conditions of their workplace. innovative ideas to spur positive changes in our schools. It became clear that something needed to happen to uncover the real conditions and take action to improve the circumstances. determine our sample and decide our data collection process. during and after the decentralization of schools post-Katrina. we reconvened to analyze the resulting data and come up with our findings and recommendations. we have been concluding the project in partnership with the Highlander Research and Education Center based in Knoxville. develop our research tool. Loyola University’s Workplace Justice Project partnered with us in the data entry process to ensure impartial results.

72% of students surveyed would like to see better food and 49% would like more food/bigger portions at their school. 73% of students surveyed said there was currently not enough good food provided for every child to feel full and learn at school.New Orleans students want enough good. 99% of students surveyed think they should have a say so about the lunch menu. Data Analysis: Finding 1 93% of students surveyed would prefer their school to provide a hot meal cooked at school. Nearly ½ of students surveyed said their school food was poor (29%) or very close to poor (19%). hot food cooked on site according to school menus they are consulted about. SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 7 .

) Data Analysis: Finding 2 64% of school service workers surveyed do not receive health insurance benefits.Many New Orleans school service workers are low paid. 31% are only provided between 1 and 3 days off.00 an hour. receive little to no health benefits or adequate paid days off (such as sick time. 18% of school service workers surveyed are provided with no paid days off. SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 8 . 35% of school service workers surveyed are paid less than $10.

Data Analysis: Finding 3 56% of students surveyed do not think their school is clean..”.better equipment. 65% of school service workers surveyed think they need better equipment and machines at their school to conduct their job.. We also received the following responses from multiple school service worker survey responses to optional open-ended question: “How would you improve the working and learning conditions at your school?” “We need better equipment to work with.” SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 9 . “. “We need more supplies to help with everything in the school so it can be clean. and 64% think their school needs more supplies like toilet paper in the bathrooms..New Orleans students and school service workers do not believe they have adequate and sufficient equipment and supplies to ensure cleanliness at their schools.”.

SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 10 . 70% of students surveyed walk less than three blocks to and from their home to the bus stop. 82% of students surveyed spend less than an hour traveling to and from school. Data Analysis: Finding 4 87% of students surveyed believe that the bus gets them home at reasonable hour [agree (77%) + strongly agree (10%)].Most New Orleans students have a reasonable commute to and from school every day.

benefits and treatments of school service worker Data Analysis: Finding 5 93% of school service workers surveyed believe in organizing workers together for strength [agree (43%) + strongly agree (50%)] 80% of school service workers surveyed would join a School Service Workers Association advocating for better pay. benefits and treatment.New Orleans school service workers want a worker association advocating for better pay. SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 11 .

All school boards should enter into agreements with the school service worker association to ensure enforcement of minimum standards [Finding 2. Create a toolkit for all New Orleans schools to utilize in creating and establishing fair working conditions for school services workers. [Finding 1. Finding 5] SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 12 . New Orleans School Service Workers need better pay and hours to afford health insurance. Finding 3] 5. All school boards should establish minimum standards regarding wages. benefits and paid days off. [Finding 4] 6. [Finding 2. [Finding 2] 3. hours. equipment and other needs. [Finding 1] 2.Data Analysis: Recommendations 1. [Finding 2] 4. Trained cooks should be working at each school cooking meals on site. Finding 5] 7. Schools should monitor travel times and conditions for all students annually. Schools should have student councils or advisory groups that consult with service providers regarding menus. supplies.

work and grow. In the future. we feel our findings and recommendations make a clear call to action for us to create a common set of standards of school service quality by improving working conditions for workers and including students in the decision making for service provision. We also recognize that our questions limited the conclusions we could draw since we wanted to have a short survey to facilitate gathering surveys in a quick and efficient manner. despite having a plan to reach all schools we were unable to survey many schools due to a variety of factors. Working together. there were some limitations in our research. we have included a resolution for charter and traditional school boards to adopt for improving the quality of their school service contracts as well as a resource list for students to get involved in improving the quality of services at their schools.While we undertook a rigorous action research project to the best of our ability. in Appendix C and D. Again. we believe we can improve the working and learning environments for our workers and students to make New Orleans a better place to live. As a result. a future process should include a timeline allowing for the entire data collection phase to occur when school is in session in order to ensure maximum participation. a more in-depth process with triangulation of quantitative and qualitative methods could yield more detailed and informative results. Finally. Limitations In conclusion. a limitation of our process was that winter break fell squarely in the middle of our data collection so we were unable to collect as many surveys as we could have with a full 5 weeks of collecting surveys in schools. we suspect our data would be different if we had been able to survey all schools and recommend further work is done to ensure an annual audit of all school services by an independent third party. We appreciate your support in reading this report and hope you will join us in creating a more just and sustainable future for us all. Conclusion SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 13 . Namely. mainly not being able to get access into schools due to administration’s objection. learn. As such.

Caroline Roemer of Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools. Safe Streets. Neighborhood Partnerships Network and NOLA Black Professionals. to our members. New Orleans People Organized for Power [NOLA POP] Alliance members supporting the work of the State of the Schools Participatory Action research project and creative direct action “Second Line for Justice” including VAYLA. Jay Altman of First Line Charter Network for continued advice and thought partnership throughout this project. Gopal Dayeneni of the Center for Story Based Strategy and Ruckus Society for facilitating a pro bono creative direct action training to the members of NOLA POP.. Adrian Morgan of Algiers Charter School Association. Steve Ury and Elena Medina from the SEIU International legal department for drafting the recommended resolution for improving school service vendor contracting procedures. Nicholas Armstrong. Marquez Rhyne and documentary team. Andrew Dafoe. Jonathan Bertch of KiPP. Erika Zucker. Highlander Research and Education Center for working with us through the Zilphia Horton Cultural Organizing Project as a community partner and the great support of our resident cultural organizer. SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 14 . Delano Ford and Dana Peterson of the Recovery School District. Cristopher Hynes of Crescent City Charter Schools. Samette Broan of Capitol One New Beginnings.. Mariarenee Contreras at Loyola University’s Workplace Justice Project for your ongoing partnership and manually entering over 400 surveys for this project. Ira Thomas at Orleans Parish School Board. Most of all. Patrick Dobard. Kevin Gutierrez of ReNEW Charter Schools for their valuable feedback.Acknowledgments Thank you so much! Deep gratitude to all of the following folks and beyond. staff and the families of SEIU Local 21LA for the tireless work you do in the service of our communities every day. Carre Adams and Alex Walker.

51-$9. benefits and treatment for school service workers.01] How many paid time off (such as sick and vacation) days does your employer provide? [No Paid Days Off] [1-3 days] [4-7 days] [8-10 days] [More than 10 Paid Days Off] I believe in organizing workers together for strength.00-$10.SCHOOL NAME: Appendix A: School Service Worker Survey Do you receive health insurance benefits? YES NO Have you gotten an opportunity to be promoted on the job or ever received a raise? YES NO Do you think your employer should follow a seniority list? YES NO Do you think you need better quipment and machines at your school to conduct your job? YES NO Are you treated with dignity and respect at work? [ALL THE TIME] [MOST OF THE TIME] [RARELY] [NEVER] What is your hourly wage? [$7.99] [$10.25-8.00-$12.99] [$11. FACILITATIES OR TRANSPORTATION AT YOUR SCHOOL? NAME: EMPLOYER: SCHOOL SITE(S): PHONE NUMBER: SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 15 .00] [Above $12. would you be a member of that Association? * YES NO How would you improve the working and learning conditions at your school? DO YOU HAVE ANY FURTHER COMMENTS ON THE PROBLEMS OR SUGGESTIONS ON THE SOLUTIONS AROUND FOOD.50] [$8. [Strongly Disagree] [Disagree] [Agree] [Strongly Agree] If there were a School Service Workers Association advocating for better pay.

SCHOOL NAME: Appendix B: Student Survey Do you think that students should have a say so about the lunch menu? YES NO There is enough good food provided for every child to feel full and learn at my school. TRUE FALSE I would prefer my school to provide a hot meal cooked at my school. TRUE FALSE Rank the food in your school’s cafeteria from 1-5. (poor) 1 2 3 4 5 (excellent) What do you think should be done around the school as far as food service? Better Food More Food/Bigger Portions More hot meals instead of cold Meals cooked at school Do you think your school has enough space for all students to learn. FACILITATIES OR TRANSPORTATION AT YOUR SCHOOL? NAME: AGE: GRADE: SCHOOL: PHONE NUMBER: SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 16 . Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS ON THE PROBLEMS OR SUGGESTIONS ON THE SOLUTIONS AROUND FOOD.30 minutes 1 hour 2 hours 3 hours Over 3 hours How many blocks do you walk to and from your home to the bus stop every day? 0-1 block 1-3 blocks 3-5 blocks 5-7 blocks 7-10 blocks Over 10 blocks I think the bus gets me home at a reasonable hour. eat and play? YES NO Do you think your school is clean? YES NO Does your school need more supplies such as toilet paper in the bathrooms? YES NO How much time do you spend traveling to and from school on the bus every day? 0 .

and moral development. we recognize that our students. WHEREAS. school boards are authorized to execute contracts for such services on behalf of the public schools within their school districts. WHEREAS. the [ ] School Board resolves to do business with only those contractors who make and commit to the following stipulations in contracts for services provided to the public schools within this school district: (1) The contractor and each of its subcontractors shall pay all employees a living wage of not less than $[ ] per hour. (4) The contractor and each of its subcontractors shall provide all full-time employees with no fewer than [ ] paid vacation and/or sick days per year.S. our mission as a school board that governs public schools within this school district is to provide an excellent education to all students and to support students’ intellectual. WHEREAS. safe. social. (2) The contractor and each of its subcontractors shall post the scale of wages in a prominent and easily accessible place at the worksite where work is performed in connection with the contract. WHEREAS. THEREFORE. WHEREAS. the efficient. thriving. socially responsible contractors are committed to the fair and equal treatment of all of their employees. benefit from the provision of services by socially responsible contractors. § 17:151(A)). R. and invested communities are vital to our mission of ensuring the academic and social success of our students. SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 17 . WHEREAS. the Louisiana State Legislature has authorized parish and city school boards to establish public schools to provide adequate school facilities for the children of the parish (La. (3) The contractor and each of its subcontractors shall ensure that the majority of each applicable unit is comprised of full-time employees. WHEREAS. but we are also better situated to fulfill our mission when we partner with socially responsible contractors and invest in the economic stability of the communities we serve. and the communities we serve. effective management of the public schools within this school district requires the provision of [janitorial/food/other] services by an outside contractor. we are not only accountable to the needs of our students and communities.Appendix C: Draft Statement Of Principles For Board Resolution WHEREAS.

whichever is the shorter period. and (9) If the contractor or any of its subcontractors fails to comply with subsection (8) of this resolution. ineligible to bid on any of the [ ] School Board’s other projects. state. after thirty (30) days written notice to the principal contractor. the identity of each specific contract under which such findings and/or judgments were issued. finding that in the conduct of performing work contracted by the [ ] School Board. Contractors. If the contractor or any of its subcontractors fails to submit the payrolls provided for in subsection (5) of this resolution. (7) The contractor and all of its subcontractors shall comply with all federal. in its sole discretion. on work covered by the contract. all payroll deductions other than those required by federal. including the payroll of each subcontractor. withhold from the contractor so much of the accrued payments as may be considered necessary to pay employees of the contractor or any of its subcontractors for all unpaid wages and compensation. deem the contractor or any of its subcontractors. take such action as may be necessary to cause the suspension of any further payments until such payrolls are submitted. the date(s) of occurrence of the allegation(s). and the total amount earned during such period by each employee on such covered work. or at least once per month. the contractor or any of its subcontractors violated labor or employment laws applicable to the contract. the [ ] School Board may. programs. (8) Every contractor. or services for a period of two (2) years from the date the contract violation occurred. Every contractor shall include within the terms of its contracts with subcontractors that subcontractors are subject to the provisions of this resolution and shall be required to comply with all requirements set forth herein. a certified copy of each [weekly/bi-weekly] payroll. that the contactor shall remain subject to all non-enforcement provisions of the contract. total hours worked each week (regular and overtime). the [ ] School Board may. and shall also include the contractor’s or subcontractor’s written plan detailing actions taken and/or planned to be taken to correct all sustained violations. containing the name.(5) Every contractor shall submit to the [ ] School Board. (6) If the contractor or any of its subcontractors fails to pay the wages provided for in the contract. rate of pay including overtime rate. after thirty (30) days written notice to the principal contractor. number of hours worked each day (regular and overtime). provided the failure to make the required payments constitutes a willful and intentional violation of the contract requirements. and its subcontractors. however. Such notification shall include the specific charge(s) filed against the contractor or any of its subcontractors. affiliated with the contract shall notify the [ ] School Board within ninety (90) days of issuance of any determination by a federal or state agency. simultaneously with each request for payment of contract funds pursuant to the terms of the contract. or of any judgment issued by a court of competent jurisdiction. The [ ] School Board may also. state. or local statutes. the [ ] School Board shall retain the discretion to pursue remedies as may be necessary to enforce the provisions of the contract. including the pursuit of any appropriate civil remedies. fringe benefit payments. however. shall not be responsible for any of its subcontractors’ violations of the provisions of this resolution. SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 18 . whichever fails to make the required payments. Enforcement shall be suspended pending the final outcome of any legal and/or administrative appeal process filed by the contractor or subcontractor provided. and municipal laws governing all labor and employment associated with work performed in connection with the contract. job classification (including whether the individual is a full-time or part-time employee). an official copy of the administrative finding or court judgment.

Adult Ally/Coordinator 1600 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. is to elevate the voices of public school students and push for equity. and a safe environment free of discrimination and mental stress. leadership skills and opportunities to affect change for a vibrant and thriving community. Suite 2.Appendix D: Student Resources New Orleans Youth Organizations Working to Elevate Student Voice in Policy VAYLA 4646 Michoud Boulevard.facebook. as USNO. Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association (VAYLA). New Orleans. Power of a Million Minds Collaborative Miguel Nunez. Fyre Youth Squad (FYS). SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 19 . whose members include: Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL). United Students of New Orleans Organized [USNO] https://www. justice and resources in public education. New Orleans. LA 70129-1800 Telephone: 504 253 6000 Fax: 504 754 7762 E-mail: contact@vayla-no. and LatiNOLA Youth Leadership Council (LYLC). LA 70113 Office: 504-207-4592 | Fax: 504-522-5430 E-mail: mnunez@jjpl. Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools (Rethink).org VAYLA envisions a world where young people have the academic foundation. We demand quality Youth organizing coalition of five youth centered organizations. adequate study Our purpose.

THE STATE OF THE SCHOOLS PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT IS A PROJECT OF 300 Jefferson Highway. Suite 200 SEIU 21LA State of the Schools Participatory Action Research Report 20 . LA 70121 www.seiu21la.

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