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Friday, June 17, 2011

A comment on the DCPS hiring freeze

By Brad Hall

I checked the vacancy list a few weeks ago, a PDF the school board updates frequently with all of the teaching vacancies they need to fill. I was met with a sentence, all in red type and a large font that said to come back on June 15th and the list would be updated with all of the jobs that were needed for the next school year.

I wrote a Post-It Note to myself and stuck it on my computer. The 15th rolled around and I went back and downloaded the newest list, and yes, it was updated, but it was still red text and a big font. This time it said, and I quote, “DUE TO BUDGETARY CONSTRAINTS, DCPS IS UNDER A TEACHER HIRING FREEZE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.” My computer tells me that it was originally 40pt font. So if you want to get the full view of what I saw, copy and paste that red text into Word and increase its size to 40. You can't miss it.

Every year the school board loses teachers, it has to replenish its supply of teachers or the result will be 50 kids per class, and none of the classes, in any of the schools, I have taught in as a substitute teacher, have rooms big enough to accommodate 50 students at once.
Basic math comes into play right now as well. If a teacher that makes $30,000 per year leaves, shouldn't that leave $30,000 in the budget to hire a teacher in that teacher's place?
How is that a budgetary constraint? Did the people in charge of DCPS suddenly see an increase of $30,000 (multiplied by however many teachers have left at the end of this last school year) in the budget and decide to purchase an elephant ivory back scratcher before it was realized that new teachers should have been hired with that money?

For years I have said that the schools in Duval County don't have a budget crisis, they have an insanity crisis.
When I was a student at Andrew Jackson High School (class of 2001), one of my English teachers told the class that we were supposed to read three books... but the school did not have the money to buy those books, so what we would do instead was this: The teacher would rent the movie based on the books we were to read and while we watched the film he would stop it at key points and tell us where the book and the movie diverged.

This was also the year the school installed three to four brand new computers in every class room. In 2001, a new computer cost around $1000. And here, next to me in an English class was $3000 worth of computers. Each of the books we needed could not have cost more than $10 each, the cost of one of those computers would have been enough to purchase 33 copies of each book, and then an extra of whatever book the teacher liked the best.

You might say something like “but computers are the wave of the future, all schools should have computers for their students,” but here's the thing, no one was allowed to use the computers. At all.

So there we were, no books and computers we weren't allowed to use.

From this, I gather that one of the reasons the students at Jackson and other schools aren't succeeding now (they've been an F school how long now?) is that there's not enough teachers and not enough materials to teach the students with.

1 comment:

  1. I am also an Andrew Jackson alumnus, but from much longer ago (early 1970s). The school has long been neglected by the school district. I had an excellent chemistry teacher who tried her best - given the poor condition of the equipment and supplies she had - to teach us. Some chemicals had been in the bottle for so long they had to be chiseled out, or they had deteriorated so badly that they no longer produced the reactions poor Mrs. Thompson was trying to demonstrate for us.

    One thing that might help you save a scrap of sanity: Never try to make sense out of anything the Duval County School Board does.