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Friday, June 27, 2014

Duval County is a penny wise but a pound foolish

By Greg Sampson

When A School System Runs on Dollars and Cents (or no-cents) Can You Think of the Pun? 

I signed up to teach summer school. It was not for the money; after three years as an instructional coach, I felt the need to be a teacher again to remain authentic in my work with teachers. I wanted the struggle: how can I deliver a year’s worth of instruction, day after day, to engage and motivate struggling learners to make progress and find success?

After eight days, I was surplused. That’s the way it works in Duval County and across the nation: too few students, why let two teachers work with ten and nine students apiece when we can combine this into one class, one teacher, nineteen students, that’s an efficient use of resources, right?

I can’t argue with that. And, since I didn’t need the money, I can easily enjoy vacation rather than work.

BUT, this is what I want you to think about. This method of “doing business” is detrimental to students.

They don’t understand why they lose their teachers. Students are like puppies; they form an emotional attachment to their first teacher of the year/term. You can move them to a new one, but it’s never the same.

 My students were not happy yesterday when I went to the school to talk to them and explain the situation.
You see, I do more than teach math; I teach students how to be successful in life. To get summer school students to buy into the process, I talked to them about why their presence, when they would rather hang with their friends, would help them. It was not only about getting that last core credit to move to high school; I would help them position themselves so they would succeed in their next course—algebra.

You know, the one course that has the requirement to pass the state EOC or else they can’t graduate with a high school diploma.

They believed me. We were moving. But now, the surplus.

Duval County Public Schools is penny-wise and pound foolish. What is the cost of a couple of thousand dollars of salary versus the societal cost of students who give up because they come to believe the system is against them?

The Superintendent arrived promising a new way of work and a new way of doing things. But all I see is the same ol’, same ol’. New players; same game.

No one who has a management position of importance, or an oversight position (yeah, that’s you, Board members), seems to understand the psychological distress inflicted on students when they lose the teacher they liked and believed in. 

How long has DCPS been in existence? They can’t statistically predict student populations and decide on appropriate staffing levels before a year/term begins? They can’t make the necessary teacher movements over the summer? They have to wait to conduct head counts the first two weeks of school, take another two to four weeks to make adjustments—so that we really don’t get started on a new school year until OCTOBER 1?

And then they talk endlessly about being data driven. Really—seriously?

Our students deserve better.

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