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REALM Collective Bargaining Agreement FAQ

This guide is meant to provide a quick and easy way to find answers about the REALM/BFT collective bargaining agreement. When you have ANY question related to your working conditions, and your ability to serve REALM students and families, that is a “Union question” and we encourage you to contact your Site Rep and to use this FAQ to find the information you need.

The full REALM/BFT contract is available on the BFT website and as a hard copy.  Please do not hesitate to contact a Site Rep if you would like a hard copy.

The areas covered in this FAQ are:

Compensation (Article 7)

How much do I get paid?

Teachers at REALM are paid according to the REALM/BFT Salary Schedule. Individual teachers are placed on the salary schedule at hiring based on two things: coursework beyond a Bachelor’s degree, which determines Column placement, and years of experience, which determines Step placement. For REALM’s purposes, “experience” means “all comparable teaching experience,” i.e. “teaching at an accredited K-12 or post-secondary institution or program, with or without a credential, excluding substitute or student teaching” (7.2.3, REALM/BFT Contract).

The salary schedule is posted on the BFT website and is included in the hard copy contract.

How do I move over columns on the Salary Schedule?

By taking further coursework and submitting the relevant transcripts to REALM.

Note that all coursework for salary advancement does not need to be approved by REALM. Approval is automatic if the coursework directly relates to the teacher’s teaching assignment or if it directly relates to acquiring a single-subject teaching credential.

For all other coursework, you must receive prior approval from REALM within two weeks of the course’s start date. REALM will provide written approval or non-approval within five days of your request and will provide reasons why if the course was denied for salary advancement.

NOTE: You should immediately contact BFT if you have a course that is NOT approved.

How and when do I submit transcripts for salary advancement?

The how is simple: you provide the transcripts from your coursework to the Director of Operations.

As for when, you should first know that any courses you hope to use to move over on the Salary Schedule must conclude before the start of September of the school year in question. If the course isn’t officially over but you’ve completed all work for it, that’s fine. Transcripts you want to use to move over on the Salary Schedule for this year must be submitted by November 15th.

If transcripts aren’t yet available, a letter from the university in question verifying you took the course will suffice until the transcripts are available.

E.g.: If you wanted to move over a column for the 2017-2018 school year, the course should be completed by September 2017 and you should submit your transcripts to the Director of Operations by November 15th 2017.

If you submit your transcripts by November 15th, you’ll get a new Salary Schedule placement retroactive to the beginning of the school year. If you submit transcripts after November 15th, your new Salary Schedule placement will be effective the following school year.

In any event, you will receive a written statement of your Salary Schedule placement, FTE, and annual salary from REALM by December 1st. If you have questions about your Salary Schedule placement or think it’s incorrect, you should contact your BFT Site Rep.

Advisory Class Size Maximum (Article 13)

What is the maximum number of students I should have in my Advisory?

You should have no more than 20 students in your Advisory.

Evaluations (Article 10)

NOTE: BFT and REALM Administration have agreed upon evaluation procedures for the 16-17, 17-18, and 18-19 school years.

How often will I be evaluated as a REALM teacher?

You will be evaluated every year during your Probationary period. Once you achieve Permanent status, you’ll be evaluated in your fifth year at REALM, then every two years at most.

How will I know if I’m being evaluated?

You will be notified in writing by REALM administration no later than October 6 that you are being evaluated this year.

What should the evaluation process look like? How many times will I be observed? 

The bulk of your evaluation will consist of two formal observations--the timing of the first will be decided by you and your administrator; the timing of the second will be determined by your administrator, but they must notify you of its occurrence at least 48 hours in advance. Each observation should be one entire period or block. Before the first observation, you and your administrator will meet to discuss goals for your evaluation. At this conference, you’ll decide on 1-2 goals for the evaluation and how you think they’ll manifest in your teaching during the observation. You’ll need to provide your administrator with a lesson plan for the observation period 48 hours before that conference. After each observation, you’ll have a post-observation conference with your administrator no more than 10 days after the observation. At least 24 hours before that conference, your administrator will send you their observation report so you can read it and discuss it with them. You may bring your own written reflection to that conference as well.

If I’m a Special Education teacher, who will evaluate me?

You will be evaluated by the Director of Special Education.

What should I do if my administrator says they have concerns about my teaching?

If your administrator has concerns after the first observation, they’re obligated to provide you with resources for improving: they will urge connect you with coaching resources at your site, and they must provide you with release time to observe other teachers.

What if I disagree with the final evaluation report?

If you disagree with the final report, you can write a response and have it attached to the final report in your REALM personnel file. This is a good way to register your disagreement with your evaluator’s analysis of your teaching. [NOTE: Teachers on Probationary Status should check with their Site Rep first.] It’s also important to know, in the event of an evaluation whose conclusions you disagree with, that your evaluation documents will not follow you to another job elsewhere. They stay in your REALM personnel file; other jobs you apply to do not have the right to see your REALM personnel file.

BTSA/Teacher Induction Program (TIP) (Article 14)

If I am a REALM teacher with a preliminary credential will I be provided with BTSA induction?

All returning teachers (teachers who have taught at least one year at REALM) will be provided with BTSA/Teacher Induction to be paid for by REALM.

First year REALM teachers may be provided with BTSA/TIP at the Administration’s discretion, and we recommend requesting this if you are interested in completing the first year of TIP in your first year at REALM.

Teachers will receive written confirmation of their enrollment in BTSA/TIP by September 1st.  REALM will make every effort to inform teachers of their Support Provider by September 15th.

Hours of Employment (Article 6)

What is my work day? When does it begin and end?

In general REALM teachers don’t have a specific start and end time to their day—you don’t clock in and clock out. The contract states that your duty day is 7 hours and 20 minutes long, which covers the school day for students.   You can choose to work longer than your duty day, but you cannot be required to do so.

How long is my lunch? Do I have to supervise students at lunch?

REALM teachers are entitled to a duty-free lunch that is at least 30 minutes long.

How many classes do I teach?

At REALM High School and Middle School, a full-time, 1.0FTE position is 5 teaching periods and 1 advisory period. An 80% teaching assignment is 4 periods and 1 advisory, and a 60% teaching assignment is 3 periods and 1 advisory.

At both school sites, teachers are entitled to the equivalent of at least one period within the day for prep. This time should not be pre-empted for direct services to students—it’s time for teachers to prepare for instruction, make copies, meet with colleagues, whatever they need to do to be ready to teach.

Teachers should not agree to sub during their prep time if doing so will cause stress and strain, or an inability to be ready for the teaching day.

How many different courses do I teach?

Whenever possible, teachers should not be required to teach more than two different courses. If you’ve been asked to teach more than two courses and you think there’s a way that your administrator could ensure that wasn’t the case, you should contact your Site Rep or BFT leadership.

The exception to the two-course rule is electives teachers, who will very likely have to teach three courses. If an elective teacher has to teach more than three courses, they receive an annual $3,000 stipend from REALM, paid in two installments by February 1st and June 1st.

I’ve never taught Advisory before—can I get help planning it?

We recommend consulting with your Principal for help with Advisory planning.  In addition, you may want to recommend to your Site’s Leadership Team that staff meeting and PD time be allocated to work on common Advisory curriculum.

Leaves of Absence (Article 9)

NOTE: This FAQ covers the most common forms of leave.  For information on Jury Duty, Military Leave, Professional Leave or Union Leave please see the full contract.


Who can request an unpaid leave of absence?

Any teacher who has worked for three years at REALM is eligible for an unpaid leave of absence.

Are unpaid leaves of absence automatically granted?

If you request a yearlong leave of absence by February 15th of the preceding school year, it will be automatically granted by REALM. After February 15th, approval is not automatic. Requests for partial-year leave or part-time leaves will be dealt with on an individual basis.

Note that, once you’ve received a yearlong unpaid leave of absence, REALM is not obligated to grant another request for five years.

What if I’m on an unpaid leave of absence and want to extend it beyond just the one school year?

If you want to request a new leave of absence for the coming year, you must submit the request in writing by February 1st of your first year of leave. Approval is not automatic in either case, but REALM will let you know whether your new request has been approved by March 1st.

Do I have to officially tell REALM that I want to come back after a year of leave, or is that assumed?

You need to affirmatively let REALM know that you will be returning, in writing by February 1st.  If you don’t notify them by February 1st, they’ll send you a letter reminding you. If you do not respond to the letter within 10 calendar days, it will be deemed a resignation from REALM.

What if I’m on an unpaid leave and want to come back to school in the middle of it?

You can request to terminate your unpaid leave of absence, but REALM is not required to allow you to do so.

Can I take an unpaid leave of absence to work at another school?

Generally speaking, no. The contract states that this will not be allowed except “under special circumstances.”

What happens to my seniority and my benefits if I take an unpaid leave of absence?

You do not lose any seniority rights with unpaid leave, but neither does the year on which you are on leave count for salary advancement purposes, unless explicitly agreed to in writing by REALM before taking the leave.

You do have the right to continue your benefits; however, you will be required to pay both the employee and employer contribution to your benefits.

Lastly, while an unpaid leave of absence does not drain your sick leave, you will not continue to accrue more leave while you are on leave.

Will I return to my same position when I return to school?

REALM will have the right to assign you to any position for which you are credentialed upon your return for leave.  If you want to guarantee return to a specific site (MS or HS) you should request this is writing from the Executive Director prior to your leave.  REALM will have the discretion with regard to your request.

Can I use an unpaid leave of absence for a job share?

Yes. REALM should help you organize a job share if you request it according to the above-mentioned deadlines.


NOTE: It is critical to regularly check your sick leave balance to be sure that it is accurate.

How many days of sick leave do I get?

Full-time teachers receive 11 days of sick leave each year; part-time teachers’ sick leave is prorated. The full 11 days will be loaded at the start of the school year, and they accrue without limit.

How do I know how many days of sick leave I have?

You will receive a report from REALM within 30 days of the start of school with your total accrual of sick leave. This should include the current year’s total.

You can also request your sick leave balance at any point in the school year. REALM will provide you an accounting of your sick leave balance within 10 days of the request.

Does my sick leave from my last school transfer over to REALM?

Yes. It is the teacher’s responsibility to contact their previous employer for a report of their accrued sick leave. Once you submit this report to REALM, they’ll provide you an accounting of your new sick leave total within 30 days.

What can sick leave days be used for?

Sick leave is for personal illness, including quarantine, disability, and doctor’s appointments. It can also be used for purposes of child rearing, whether it involves a biological child or adopted child. See the section on child rearing leave for more information.

If you miss school for communicable diseases contracted at work or for work-related accidents, those absences do NOT come out of your sick leave.

Can I donate sick leave to a colleague if they need it?

In specific cases, yes. If a colleague has exhausted all of their sick leave and requires extended time off, they may receive donated sick leave days. If such situations arise, BFT leadership and Site Reps will have much more information.

What if I need extended sick leave beyond what I’ve accrued?

Once your sick leave is exhausted, you can receive differential pay for up to 100 work days. Differential pay means that the teacher on leave receives the difference between their salary and the salary of the person employed to replace them. While on extended sick leave, teachers will receive the same benefits from the school as they did before the leave.

There is also an option of Medical Leave Without Pay, which requires a doctor’s note stating its necessity. This leave includes no pay, but it does include benefits continuing as usual. REALM may ask for additional verification of necessity if this leave is requested.


Who is eligible for child rearing leave?

Any teacher connected to the arrival of a new child, whether it’s through birth or adoption. The only exception is in the case of a teacher legally adopting their partner’s child. If a child is newly joining your family, however they’re joining it and however your family is structured, you’re eligible for child rearing leave.

How much child rearing leave can I take?

Teachers at REALM can take up 89 days of paid child rearing leave. That means 89 work days—i.e. it excludes weekends and holidays. The days must be consecutive, but if you come back and then become ill with childbirth related illness, you can return to paid child rearing leave status. If you need more time than 89 days, you can take unpaid extended child rearing leave. More on that below.

How will I be paid during child rearing leave?

REALM will pay you 25% of your salary during this time. However, you can combine the 25% pay with California Paid Family Leave benefits through SDI and your own accrued sick leave to receive 100% pay. This formula would look something like this:

25% salary + 55% Paid Family Leave + 20% sick leave = 100% pay

I’ve heard that SDI can be a little slow with sending checks. Is there any way to cover a temporary shortfall?

Yes! While on child rearing leave, teachers may request an emergency check from REALM to cover any temporary income gap. Note: This pay is essentially an advance—it’ll be taken out of your sick leave or out of money that REALM would have paid you later.. This advance subject to Executive Director approval—if approved, the check will be distributed within two business days.

What happens to my health benefits while on child rearing leave?

Your health benefits will continue as normal.

What happens if the 89 days is ending and I need more time out?

If your 89 days of paid child rearing leave is coming to an end and you need more time, you should submit a written request for extended child rearing leave to REALM, not later than 20 days from the end of the 89-day paid leave.  Note: Extended child rearing leave is unpaid, and it follows the stipulations set out in the Unpaid Leave of Absence section of the contract (see above). Unpaid child rearing leave can be taken for up to one year.

Do I automatically get to return to my position when I come off child rearing leave?

Yes, unless it’s close to the end of the semester or the school year. In that event, REALM can choose to have you return as a substitute, in order to minimize disruption for students.

How do I go about adding my new child to my health benefits?

Contact the Director of Operations via email within 30 days of your child’s arrival to add them to your health benefits. It’s probably best to go in person to do this—make sure to bring a copy of your baby’s birth certificate or other relevant documentation in the case of adoption.


What is bereavement leave?

Bereavement Leave is a special category of leave that one would take in the event of a death in one’s family. It does not come out of Sick Leave.

How much time can I take for bereavement leave?

In the event of a death in your immediate family, you may take up to three days of bereavement leave. However, if you must travel out of state for services, you can take an additional two days, for a total of five. In the event of the death of a spouse, domestic partner, or child, you can take up to five days.

Who counts as “immediate family?”

The list is extensive: spouse, domestic partner, parents, stepparents, foster parents, guardians, parents-in-law, grandparents, children, siblings, grandchildren, children-in-law, uncles, aunts, nieces, or nephews of you or your spouse or domestic partner. The list also includes any relative not listed above living in your household, and “any other such persons as the Executive Director may approve in individual cases.”

Additionally, REALM teachers may use bereavement leave once for someone NOT on the above list. The idea here is to acknowledge those people who are not “family” per se but with whom teachers have a special relationship.


What is Personal Leave?

Personal leave is just that—you want to take leave for personal reasons. I.e. you need to take a day or half day off and you don’t want to tell REALM why.

How much personal leave can I use?

REALM teachers are allowed to use 11 days of personal leave in any school year. Note that personal leave comes out of your sick leave balance—it’s the same pool of days. You can take personal leave in either full day or half day increments.

How do I go about taking personal leave?

Just notify your site administrator prior to taking it. If the personal leave day abuts a holiday or break you are required to give at least seven (7) calendar days’ advance notification to your administrator.

Job Security/Due Process Rights (Article 8)

Do I have tenure or any job protections?

Teachers who have been employed by REALM for fewer than two consecutive years are probationary and thus at-will employees. Teachers who have been employed by REALM for more than two consecutive years (i.e. day one of year three and beyond) have permanent status. As is true everywhere in California, permanent status does not mean a job for life; rather, it means that you have due process rights regarding discipline and dismissal. This distinction, between being at-will and having permanent status, informs the rest of the questions and answers in this section.

If you are an at-will employee and feel concerned that you will be disciplined in some way, we strongly advise talking to your Site Rep or BFT Leadership ASAP.

What are my rights regarding being disciplined by REALM administrators?

The REALM/BFT contract stipulates that REALM will use progressive discipline—i.e. they cannot just go straight to trying to fire someone with permanent status. Rather, they must first provide verbal and written warnings and specific information on how to address concerns before escalating.

You have the right to be notified in writing any time something potentially derogatory will be placed in your personnel file. You also have the right to meet with your administrator to discuss the materials before they’re put in your personnel file. Further, you have the right to write a response and have it attached to the disciplinary material in your personnel file. This must be done within 30 working days.

What should I do if an administrator asks to meet with me and I’m worried about it?

You have what are called Weingarten Rights: the right to union representation in any meeting with a supervisor that could potentially result in disciplinary action against you.

We strongly advise that you exercise this right—this means that, if an administrator asks to meet with you individually, you should contact your Site Rep or BFT leadership to request representation and to schedule the meeting.

We do not advise meeting with an administrator alone when it could potentially be disciplinary. It’s not seen as escalatory to request union representation. It’s just good practice. For more information on Weingarten Rights please see the FAQ on this topic.


Updated 8/13/18