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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Good luck getting DCPS to care

 Duval County had over a thousand positive cases yesterday and a positivity rate of over 23 percent. Staggeringly bad numbers, numbers the district will continue to ignore. 


The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida grew by more than 12,000 cases Tuesday amid positivity rates not seen since July -- Florida’s peak of the pandemic. The 22.75% positivity rate statewide based -- nearly double that in some counties -- was driven by a small number of people tested due to closing and/or limited hours of testing sites on Christmas and the holiday weekend.

While the 12,075 cases reported by the Florida Department of Health was not a record one-day increase in Florida, there were 1,024 new cases in Duval County reported Tuesday -- by far the most in a single day since the pandemic began.

It's hard to imagine the numbers being much worse and getting better anytime soon.

It is also hard to imagine the district doing anything but shrugging their shoulders and passing the bucket to the woefully inadequate department of health and their reckless contact tracing.

DCPS has long since shown it cares about one thing and one thing only: butts in seats. People getting sick or worse, well that's just the price of them doing business.   

Friday, December 18, 2020

DCPS is going to get somebody killed, how they haven't already is beyond me

 So this happened.

My wife tested positive for Covid on Sunday. I felt fine, tested anyway, and was negative. I did call out and let the school know on Sunday.

On Monday, I started feeling symptoms, Tuesday tested again and was positive and let my school know. The DOH called me on Wednesday asked me two questions. When I started feeling symptoms and who my paras were.

I just assumed they would quarantine my entire room. They didn't they didn't do anything with my room. This is outrageous, I obviously had it while I was at school, and social distancing is basically a myth.

DCPS isn't trying to keep people safe, but instead, they are trying to keep butts in seats, and they can blame it on the DOH, but ultimately the district is responsible. How both can be so reckless with people's lives is beyond me.

I wasn't the only one to get sick at my school in the last few days. I was told a student, but not their one on one para was quarantined, and one half of a married couple was sent home.

We have been lucky thus far, but I have no idea how somebody hasn't died yet.

Outrageous and reckless


Monday, December 14, 2020

DCPS says teachers getting what is owed to them is their best offer

If there were no covid and SB 641, if this year was just a repeat of last, veteran teachers would get their step raises or performance pay; in fact, they might get a little more because the state increased the per-pupil allocation by 137 dollars. Now DCPS is saying even with an additional 4.5 million dollars in their coffers from SB 641, veteran teachers can have their step raise and 91 dollars. Well, friends, something doesn't add up.

If you divide 4000 into the 4.5 million dollars, you get 1144, or you know about the same amount that was already due to teachers.

So, where did the extra money go? I believe it went into their reserves, which are about 70 million dollars.

I have heard teachers say, well, we better take this, or we will get nothing. Um, why is that true? Wouldn't we just go back to the table? It's fear-mongering to say this, and people should know better.

People have also mentioned the newer teachers not getting their big raises if we don't settle. That's ridiculous too, that money is here and not going anywhere. 

If we take this offer, what we are really taking is a heap of disrespect and a devaluation of the profession. If we take this contract elementary school teachers won't get fair planning, and those that gave up half of their probably won't get it back.  This offer is a slap in the face, and I can say no to that. Sadly some teachers are saying, can I have another.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Why isn't planning fair across grade levels

 If you follow my blog, you know I am not happy with the new contract offer; however, the district's disrespect and playing a shell game with money, moving it around to keep it out of the hands of teachers who should be getting it, aren't my only concerns; another is why isn't planning equitable across grade levels? Why in some schools do teachers get 90 minutes, others 45, and in more than a few practically none. That's not fair, and it has to change.

Full disclosure I work at a center school, and we get ninety minutes a day and I will be honest when IEPs are due, and now that I am teaching five different classes instead of two, sometimes that's not nearly enough.   

Middle and high on block scheduling were getting a ninety-minute period a day. When some of those schools switched to a 7 period day, they lost half their planning. 

I have written about going to a seven-period day for years. I think 90 minutes is too long, but when I did so, the idea was for teachers to have two planning periods. Also, do my friends at those schools think they are going to get that 90 minutes back? My bet is no; the district has seen a way to save some money. 

Then in elementary school, and please forgive me if I get something wrong, Teachers would get 40 supposedly duty-free minutes in the morning, good luck in the age of covid when many students are eating in the room, and a second period based on electives. If the kids went to art or music, etc., the teachers would get that time to plan, and herein lies the problem. Some schools have plenty of resources, where other schools don't. I have read online about teachers getting that extra period every three days and six, and people being out of luck if there is an absence of a resource teacher.     

How is that fair? With elementary school teachers, the district isn't even pretending they don't expect teachers to work untold hours of their own time. That's not fair, but one possible solution would be to pay them for an 8 hour day and let that last 40 minutes be flexible. 

Another would be to make sure there are enough resource teachers to have that extra period each and every day.

Teachers who get 90 minutes a day have to worry about those that don't because it's not right and next because if the district can figure it out a way, they will be next.

Every teacher should get 90 minutes a day in planning, and we shouldn't settle for any less. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Before you vote to approve the new DCPS contract you should really consider these things.

 Teachers pivoted to online learning in a weekend. They have risked life and limb during the pandemic too. So what has DCPS done for them? Doubled down on testing, stolen planning time, and offered them a bad faith contract, all while sitting on nearly 70 million dollars. Please consider a few things before voting.

The district has nearly 70 million in reserves, something like 15 million over what they are contractually required to do.

The district said it was spending 500k a month on emergency maintenance, something it will not have to do anymore. 

If there were no COVID or bill 641, money for this year was already allocated. The one good thing that the state did was hold schools harmless and give them as much as last year. This means we would have gotten our steps or performance pay.

New teachers and newer teachers will get their raise sooner or later; that's going to happen. So why not continue to fight for better working conditions like equitable planning and doing away with unpaid faculty meetings. 

New and newer teachers should also realize that someday, some will be veterans, and they will wish they would have done more. No teacher should be allowed to be treated the way the state and district are.

If the district isn't going to come off economic issues, then there should be other things they should be willing to do, and they are not.

We all know this is shitty, the district has to know this is shitty, but they have been silent. Greene nor the board have been out there fighting to improve them and educate the public. At this point, their silence is complicity.   

Finally, I get it, we don't know what will happen, but I don't believe for a second this is all or nothing. If we turned it down, we would go back to negotiating. There are too many moving pieces to get locked into the turd as presented. 

Friends, you deserved better, but they will never give it to you whether it is good times or bad, if you just take the scraps they throw at you.  It's time to say no. If not, now then when. 

I will be voting no on the new contract and if you are a teacher in DCPS so should you

 You know a contract offer is bad when even people voting for it admit it. Over and over again, I have heard, yeah, it's not good, but what are we going to do. I will tell you what you should do, say no. Say no to the disrespect, say no to the shoddy offer, that robs Peter to pay Paul, say no to the threats, just say no.

First, friends, nobody should be voting on anything until after the Georgia elections. If the Democrats control the senate, help will be coming. Why the rush to lock us in now? Because it saves the district money, money they don't want to spend on staff.

I have heard over and over budget cuts are coming. Um, I have been writing about those budget cuts since April. Maybe now isn't the time to get concerned about them. Where is the super and board informing the public and rallying them against the cuts? Where is the press conference, the editorials, the town halls, and community meetings? Nowhere that's where. 

Then how soon people forget. During the great recession, teachers sacrificed. They gave back and took less. A decade later, they still haven't recovered. What makes anybody think if we do the same now, things will be different. The district and state will roll us back and then shrug their shoulders when things get better. Teachers have to draw a line and say no more.

Young teachers need to step up. You are going to get your big raises at some point. It's going to happen. But is your planning going to improve if you vote for this contract? Probably not, and if you teach in elementary school, you are going to be yoked. 

Finally, I may have crap put upon me, but I won't willingly take it, not even during a pandemic, and neither should you. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Greene's administration would rather look good than be good

 If Superintendent Greene and the district will be deceptive about one thing, what won’t they be deceptive about?  

A scathing report from a grand jury accused the DCPS police department of juking the stats when it comes to crime statistics at the behest of the Diana Greene administration. If you work in or follow DCPS, you have known that for years they have been tying teachers' hands when it comes to discipline. More evidence that DCPS would rather look good than be good. 

No getting around this; this is bad. 

From the Florida Times-Union, 

The report goes on to say that the Duval Schools administration directed Chief Edwards, who in turn directed his officers not to report petty acts of misconduct or misdemeanors to a law enforcement agency. 

Rut Ro 

I don’t want to rehash our discipline problems. Instead, I want to talk about how this is a symptom of Greene’s leadership. Where she goes, scandal follows. 

Massive overruns with a new software bought on her watch in Manatee. 

A grade fixing scandal 

A gross underestimation of construction costs, when they did their referendum 

Scandal, scandal, scandal, and scandal.  

Greene over promises and under delivers at every turn. Teachers and students pay the price. 

We should and could be doing better, and if she’s not going to the things the right way, we should cut our losses and find somebody who will. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

You know who is going to see a big raise? School board members.

 Veteran teachers really took it on the chin and ironically this will most likely be approved by the school board who are all about to get big raises. 

School board members get paid like first-year teachers, though they are stuck there not advancing. Well, first-year teachers are about to get 6k raises. Isn't that some @%$# 

They should all recuse themselves.

The entire thing is a mess.

The state really screwed veteran teachers, which was their intent, sadly DCPS doubled down.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Duval County Public Schools Contact Tracing fails to keep us safe.

We should be doing better because it's hard to imagine us doing any worse. 

DCPS has an “it’s better to be lucky than good” strategy.  

These are a small sampling of things people have told me. 

Teachers pressured into going to school if they don’t feel well. 

Teachers being pressured to return when they are still sick. 

The front row of a class quarantined but nobody else. 

Half of a married couple. 

One child but not their siblings. 

A parent but not their child, and child but not their parent. 

People someone regularly collaborates with told not to test after one of their group tests positive. 

Days or weeks to get into contact after exposure. 

Cases, lots of cases that don’t make it onto the dashboard. 

Cases at a school kept under wraps. 

We have been lucky so far, but as cases skyrocket, everywhere, how long will that luck hold out? My guess is not much longer. 

DCPS did nothing for veteran teachers. Don't think for a second they didn't.

From WJXT, 

"The bill provides Duval County with $22,882,843 for teacher salary increases, $18,306,274 or 80% of which is earmarked for raising the minimum base teacher salary, and the other 20% or $4,576,569 can be used for boosting the pay of other instructional personnel. 

I hope people understand this was extra money that in previous years had been used for bonus plans. 

The state gave the district almost 23 million dollars EXTRA. 

This wasn’t money that was already allocated for salaries. Teachers were already going to get their steps, and performance increases. Since that is the case, where is, did the extra money for veterans go? 

Say there were 4,000 veteran teachers left to share the small amount. It divides out to 1,144 dollars or basically their step plus 91. That is supposed to be extra money, not all they got, remember, and I can’t stress this enough; this entire pot is extra, not new money. Money for veterans and their steps had already been allocated. In fact, the state held the district harmless, giving them as much money as they did last year, perhaps the only decent move in this fiasco. 

Then think about this. Say there was no new money for teachers, that this year was supposed to be like last year, are they saying that people wouldn't have got their steps or performance increases? Why would that be the money is already there? It’s not like the district goes to the state every year and says, we need X amount for steps and performance pay; we will take a cashier’s check. That money is budgeted through the per-pupil allotment, which actually went up last year and generally rises and falls based on that and attrition and new hires.   

The bottom line to me is even if the district got nothing new from the state, and the funding was kept the same as last year, we all would have still gotten our steps or performance pay.  

This is what it looks like to me. The district took that 4.5 million and divided it by x (veteran teachers) and said this is what they will get, basically their step plus 91 dollars. They then took the money already allotted for salary and used it for other things. Now some of that may have helped paras and other staff and maybe even some good stuff too, but let's not pretend the district moved an inch for veteran teachers.  

It’s a little wonky so let me try and explain this way. 

The district had a pot of money to pay for salaries.  

The state gave the district almost 23 million extra, 80 percent was to be used to increase minimum salaries, and 20 percent was to be used for people whose salaries were above the new minimum. 

To me, it looks like the district took money out of the original pot and diverted it to other purposes. The new money replaced it, and the district gave veteran teachers what they would have got anyway plus 91 dollars. Nothing else makes sense.  

Now some people are saying, well, teachers are losing out on bonuses, not salary, so it’s not a pay cut. 

Others are saying since there was no assessment, even though teachers worked the entire year, they weren’t owed their increases. 

Then there is the this was a new contract crowd; nothing is guaranteed. 

All are crappy and disingenuous answers to the fiasco that is unfolding in front of us. 

To me, the bottom line is there was money, and more money was added to it. Instead of giving that money to veteran teachers, the district took an amount nearly equal to the new money away. They put a pea under a shell and moved it around.    

The state really screwed veteran teachers; then the district doubled down.   

I call bull sh*t. 

I have asked the district for comment and or to tell me what I got wrong. If I hear from them, I will let you know. 

Greene's lack of leadership

Superintendent Greene was awarded the superintendent of the year award. As somebody who works in her district, I was blown away. Now she does deserve credit for pushing the referendum. An additional revenue stream in the face of all of Tallahassee’s cuts was long overdue. Sadly, other than that, her leadership has been nearly nonexistent, especially on important issues. 

Thousands of veteran teachers in Duval County are on the precipice of a pay cut. A good leader would fight and scrape to make sure that didn’t happen. They wouldn’t let the backbone of our teacher corps be treated so shoddily. Some may argue that the hands of the district have been tied by the state. If that is the case, why isn’t Greene out there fighting against it? Why isn’t she explaining it to people and encouraging them to vote against anti-education politicians and sadly, in Jacksonville, we have many. Her silence on the issue is complicity because if she cared, she would be doing something.  

Furthermore, many in education believe draconian cuts are coming. Something I have written about in the blog Education Matters since the spring. Where has Greene been on the issue? Commissioner Corcoran says there is 500 million in unspent CAREs money. The question there becomes why hasn’t Duval County hasn’t received more? To give you some scale, Detroit, a district half our size, received 80 million in CAREs money while we received just 35 million.  Superintendent Mike Grego of Pinellas county and others have spoken up about it while Greene has remained silent. If there is money we should have got or if budget cuts are coming, the time to fight about it and inform the public is now. 

Speaking of the Commissioner, he has the mistaken belief he is the king of our schools. This noneducator, whose wife profited off legislation he helped pass for charter schools, likes issuing edicts and executive orders. This is not how things are supposed to work, nor have they in the past. When Greene shrugs her shoulders at executive orders, even if she may agree with them, she hastens the erosion of local control.  

Some might argue that she doesn’t want to speak up or challenge Tallahassee because she may be afraid they may try and harm Duval County or public schools in general, to which I reply this is what they have been doping for the last 20 years. What is she waiting for? She is the superintendent, heck she is the superintendent of the year, and her fighting against lack of funds in general, shoddy treatment and pay cuts for teachers, and fighting for local control is what she is supposed to be dong, its what a leader does, and she has not. 

I have been in the classroom for 20 years and have seen 5 superintendents come and go, and I am here to tell you we can’t afford much more of her leadership. If she isn’t going to lead, it's time for her to step out of the way and allow the board to pick somebody who will.  

Greene’s continued indifference to teacher pay cuts and other issues is deafening

Channel 4’s piece about a tentative teacher contract had Union head Terrie Brady talking about how unfair it was, and lest you think that is her job, it really was unfair. 

The state ended two bonus programs to increase the starting salary minimums. This will ensure that many veteran teachers will receive pay cuts, while people new or fairly new to the profession will be taken care. 

In Duval, thousands of teachers will make less money, which will happen times ten across the state. 

Here is what Brady said. 

From WJXT News, 

Brady said while she believes the tentative deal is still not equitable, it’s as fair as can be under the situation created by HB 641, which siphoned off the funds that had been distributed through the Best and Brightest teacher bonus incentive program. 

“We want to at least maintain for our veteran teachers, it is not equitable, it’s not fair. But I think they got what our county wanted to do to give them what they got, at least last year, they got the step movement, and they got their performance pay,” Brady said. 

Fair enough, but my question is, where is the superintendent of the year? Why isn’t she chiming in? Does she not care that it’s not fair, and are we easily replaceable cogs to her? 

The article also talks about an extra three million above what the state gave them, but before you say, see, they really do care, here are a couple facts. 

The district said they were spending 500k a month on emergency maintenance, something they will no longer have to do. That’s six million dollars. 

They are sitting on about 70 million in reserves, which is more than ten million than they are required to do so. 

The state also increased per-pupil spending by 137 dollars. Now that may seem like a lot, but like everything DeSantis does, it’s a kernel of truth in a cob of lies. Most of that money was earmarked for increased contributions to the Florida retirement system. Most of it but not all of it. I don’t know how much of that extra 15 million wasn’t sent back to the state, but it’s my bet it was in the millions. 

This contract was not the best we could do. It was the best the district was willing to do, and as usual, teachers’ pay the price. 

Subs, terrible contact tracing, so far all this has received a collective shrug from Greene and the board.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

As problems mount DCPS sits on 70 million dollars

Veteran teachers are about to take a pay cut, our contact tracing is a joke, and thousands of sub-jobs have gone unfilled, all while the district sits on way more money than it is statutorily required to do so.  I have been told they are saving the money for a rainy day. Well, friends, if they look outside, they would be able to that it is pouring.

The district is statutorily required to save 3 percent of its budget. Though I know in the past, they have saved five percent and more, and in 2012, then superintendent Pratt-Dannals, with 120 million in reserves, declared a financial emergency and robbed teachers of their step. Ultimately this cost him his job though teachers never made up the money they lost.

Three percent of DCPS's budget is about 51 million dollars, give or take. That means there are over ten million available to take care of needs.

I was told that the district is afraid that Corcoran will withhold funds for DHR kids next semester. I don't know if that is true or not, but if it is, DeSantis sailed that boat when he said parents could opt for virtual. 

The District also isn't reading the room; if the Democrats win in Georgia, we will be just fine, probably even prosper, but even if they don't, things will be better.

Either way, why the rush to screw veteran teachers, err push through the contract now. Why not wait until things are clearer?

I don't have all the answers; in fact, I have more questions than before; chief among them is how they can sit on so much money and let so many people be harmed.

We deserve better. We can do better. 

Veteran teachers get pay cuts in DeSantis's year of the teacher

 DeSantis called this the year of the teacher with his plan to raise starting teacher salary. He recently bragged that Florida was now fifth in the nation. This might make a good sound bite or headline, but the reality is this year has become a nightmare for tens of thousands of teachers statewide and thousands in Jacksonville as they are on the precipice of receiving a pay cut. 

The union and the district, both claiming this was the best they could do, have tentatively agreed to a contract which sees first through nine-year teachers get massive raises (something they deserve), some as much as six thousand, while veteran teachers will receive a 91 dollar pay increase.     

You might be thinking I said teachers will receive a pay cut, and they will let me explain how. To fund DeSantis’s starting salary increase, the state ended two bonus programs, Best and Brightest, and school recognition funds. Where flawed these two programs did put money into lots of teachers’ pockets, money the 91 dollars will not make up, not by a long shot. DeSantis robbed Peter, veteran teachers to pay Paul, people not even or just barely in the profession.    

I hope you can imagine how this blatant disrespect makes teachers who have dedicated their lives to the children of Jacksonville feel.  

Now I know what some people are going to say. Times are tough, and people should be grateful just to have a job. The problem is when times were tough with the great recession, teachers did sacrifice. Tallahassee dramatically cut education budgets, and veteran teachers saw their salaries roll back and their contributions to the pension increase. Statewide, teachers lost out on billions.  Then as the economy turned and later boomed, they were left out in the cold; nothing was done for them. Teachers, especially veteran teachers, have already sacrificed for the last decade, and I ask you when is enough? How much are they expected to sacrifice? 

I won’t be supporting the contract proposal. I believe if we are creative, we could do better; we just must have the will to do so.  I would like you to do something too, and that’s please don’t believe the lies about this being the year of the teacher coming out of Tallahassee, and to demand all parties do better, the future of our schools may just depend on it. 

Monday, December 7, 2020

Is DCPS hoarding money?

 Is DCPS hoarding err saving cash? I was told they were and have since asked the district how much of their budget they are keeping in reserves. It's my opinion it shouldn't be more than one dollar over the statutory minimum. DCPS has needs that are going unmet.

I was told they were doing so in case the commissioner decided not to release funds for distance learning students next semester. Two things, despite the district's push, Governor DeSantis has already said that distance learning can continue, and with Biden in the White House, some help is bound to come, though to be honest, the amount will be determined by the Georgia runoffs. 

If we have anything, even if we have to go through the couch cushions, we can't hold it back.   

We don't have nearly enough subs. In the last two days at my school, there were double-digit openings and, as far as I can tell, no more than 2 subs. Now at my school, paras can get subs, so it's a little unusual in that regard; what else is unusual is the placing of certificated personnel in these empty slots, something that, as far as I can tell, has never happened before.

It's not just my school that this is happening at, but most of the other schools in the district.

Then and I am going to bring this up over and over, thousands of veteran teachers will see a pay cut if the new contract is ratified. That is just not acceptable. Yes, the state has handcuffed the district, but there are ways out if that if the district were to be creative. I haven't seen much of that.

I remember 11 years ago, Pratt-Dannals, with 120 million dollars in reserves, called for a financial emergency, denying teachers their step raises #$@% them over. This cost teachers in DCPS hundreds of thousands of dollars.

11 years later, I would bet dollars to doughnuts we are doing the same.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

DCPS, reveals its priorities, test, test, test and then test some more.

 Has anybody mentioned to the people in the Ivory Tower that there is a pandemic going on? If somebody did, do you think they would care? 

DCPS is not reading the room; with a Biden victory, there is a 99 percent chance that for the second year in a row.  The thing is, even if they don't, the tests below are optional; in fact, friends, he is a dirty little secret all just about all the tests are optional, at least until high school anyway. Even the third-grade test can be replaced with a portfolio. 

Learning arcs, district staff checking for standards, and these tests tell me the district's priority is not the health and well being of teachers but business as usual.

Parents, please decline, tell your friends to decline as well; nobody needs the extra stress. After all, there is a pandemic going on. Somebody should mention that to the district. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

DCPS needs to let people know where that extra 500k a month is going.

 I was initially against the referendum. I know the district needs money, but a referendum ties its hands with what it could do. A millage increase could be used for anything, including salaries, and as veteran teachers are about to get @*#$ed, we see how important having flexibility would be. I was told by a district official to get me to support it that when the referendum passed, the district would have some more flexibility to help with pay; well, friends, where is it? 

We heard it over and over again, the district is spending 500k a month on emergency maintenance from the general fund. Well, that time is rapidly coming to an end, and I would love to know where that money is going to go because it doesn't look like salaries. If the past is prologue, we can expect to see some more high-priced suits and a new computer program or too. 

Look, I get it, the state sucks, but that doesn't mean the world comes to an end. It means you get creative.

What about experience and longevity bonuses. Bonuses aren't the same as salary, but they do put money in people's pockets. What about increase work time to 8 hours for veterans and letting them work that last 2/3 hours remotely at their discretion, an idea a friend on FB came up with. Those teachers are already working it and now let's just get them paid for it. This wouldn't be a raise, but it would put more pay in people's pockets. Then what about PTO. Just because teachers have more days doesn't mean they are going to use them, and this, at least at some point, would help make up for the disrespect. You know, how about something, anything.     

Losing money hurts, and make no doubt about it, few have lost more than veteran teachers, but it's the blatant disrespect that has come from Tallahassee and the district that really burns my toast. 

I will not support the new contract, and I get it, our people worked really hard, and I would urge you not to as well.

At some point, if we want things to get better, we have to stop willingly taking their crap. That just makes it easier to give us more later. If the district would have been vocal and fought instead of just accepting this, who knows, we might be in a better place. When the contract is ratified and I am sure it will be, it at least won't be because I gave it approval. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

At some point Greene and the school boards silence on veteran teachers taking pay cuts becomes complicity.

 The state sucks; what they did sucks, but you know what? It's Florida; people in public education should be used to it. I can scream all day about the unfairness that happened, but I am a teacher, and who is going to listen to me. The thing is, Greene and the board have to know what is happening is a travesty; people may listen to them, and at some point, their silence becomes complicity and shame on them.  

I wasn't in the negotiation, so I can't be sure if the district squeezed out every nickel like some people have said. I do know we routinely keep more in reserves than we need to (I asked the district today how much we have kept), and the district, when selling the referendum, said over and over again they were spending 500k in emergency maintenance. Where will that money now go is a question I think that needs to be answered.

Two last points, if there is no more money, then why didn't the district try and include some non-economic gestures to ease the blow. Why not more PTO, for example. Increase their workday to 8 hours though letting them work that extra time at home, which would just be a fraction of the time most teachers already do. #$&%ing something anything?!? 

Then where is Greene and the boards op-ed, letter to the editor, press conference, whatever explaining just how #$&%ed veteran teachers got? Green writes a letter every time the wind changes direction, but on things that actualy matters, she is radio silent?  She has already shown she doesn't care about our health and safety, so it's not a stretch to think she doesn't care about our economic well-being either. Her being silent on the matter speaks volumes.

I am not going to lie; being out tens of thousands of dollars over the course of my career hurts, but it's the blatant and ongoing disrespect from the state and the district that burns me the most.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

I won't be voting for the new teacher contract. It's an embarrassment and both parties need to head back to the drawing board

 The District and Union have come to a tentative contract agreement. In my opinion, teachers are big losers all across the board. I say send it back and demand better. I have three main issues, and two are designed to divide us. Don't let them.

The first is salary; years 1-9 gets a raise. Years ten and above get screwed. People can say the state tied the district's hands, and it's true the state sucks, but I can't believe this is the best they could do. Where is the creativity? Was extra PTO in lieu of salary brought up? What about one-time bonuses? How about the extra 500k the district had been spending monthly on emergency maintenance. How about overtime? We all know teachers are working dozens of unpaid hours each week. I wasn't there, but I can't believe this was the best we could do.

Then there is planning time. It's not terrible if you are in high school, but if you are in elementary school, it is practically nonexistent. Our brothers and sisters in the lower grades are getting no relief. the job guarantees they have to work outside the contract hours. I know it, you know it, and they know it. It a shame how we put upon these teachers.

Then I have a problem with the 12 faculty meetings. I am not getting paid enough to work for free. Teachers' non-contract hours are already not compensated for, and then they say, just up to 18 more free hours. I know it's not a lot, but it's the point of it.   

I get it; if I was in years 1-9 it's hard to pass up a big raise. 

I get it; if you teach in high school, does it really matter if our elementary school counterparts are yoked?

I say both those things are unacceptable. I say long-term both of those things will cause irreparable damage by either veteran teachers leaving or elementary school teachers getting burned out and leaving as well. If you are on the positive end of salary and planning now, rest assured there will come a time when you aren't if we allow this to continue. 

We can do better if we decide to. If we have the will.

My prediction, the contract will pass with 80 percent approval, and we will all suffer for it.

Dr. Greene shouldn't be winning awards, she should be shown the door.

 Superintendent Greene was just named Florida’s superintendent of the year. I have a different and perhaps unpopular opinion, and that not only has she been dreadful, but she should be let go as well and before you get mad at me, let me explain why. 

I think Superintendent Greene deserves great credit for initiating the referendum. An extra revenue stream was long overdue. However, a sales tax referendum brings very tight strings and limitations regarding what can be used for. Had we done a millage increase, that money could have been used for anything, including salaries for staff, which are some of the lowest in the nation.  

To emphasize how important the added flexibility would have been, I hope the readers understand that many of our veteran teachers, those who have dedicated their lives to the city’s children, just took a pay cut. Many of our support staff don’t make a living wage. A millage increase could have significantly alleviated these problems. 

Then with the referendum, Greene’s slow reaction to the mayor and city council fighting against it will end up costing the city’s taxpayers and our schools' hundreds of millions of dollars. Instead of repairing our schools because of the lax ways’ charters can spend money, millions will go into the pockets of charter owners and out of the city entirely. Now I don’t want to absolve the horrendous conduct of the mayor and city council, but at the end of the day, Greene should have fought harder and faster, and since she didn’t, hundreds of millions have now been lost.    

Last spring, at the beginning of the pandemic, Duval county went from being closed to completely virtual in a weekend. At the time, it was lauded, but Greene’s aversion to distance learning this year tells me even she thinks what happened was a failure. Had we spent just one-week training teachers and delivering computers to students, we would have been much more successful.  

Then this past summer, around three-fourths of DCPS teachers in one survey said they wanted to prioritize safety and teach remotely, something, the district has spent months bragging about. Greene, however, said she wanted teachers in classrooms regardless of what medical experts said. Instead of opting everyone to safety by having them work and learn remotely and then allowing them to opt into going to school, she wanted everyone back in school. In effect, she chose the more dangerous option and didn’t give teachers much of an out. This is the same district that has strict field trip requirements and has all but eliminated peanuts and latex to protect a child here or there in an abundance of caution. Then the rollout was hardly successful with the continually changing goalposts and deadlines. 

Now you might say the state tied her hands, but the truth is, the state gave her cover for what she wanted to do. In a zoom call with the NAACP, she said if it were up to her, everyone would be back in school, and that is what happened.  Even if you agree, that was the right choice, giving into executive orders about education never is. The state constitution says school boards are in charge, and when the super shrugged her shoulders at the order, it eroded local control and will make fighting against them in the future that much harder.   

She also said the district had 2000 substitute teachers ready to go. Now we may have had 2000 names on a list, but she was either deceptive or woefully ignorant with this statement. Teachers have been voluntold to give up their planning and to cover other classes. Thousands of jobs have gone unfilled. 

Then perhaps this was the wrong time to roll out an entirely new learning strategy. Instead of supporting our teachers by taking as much as possible off their plates, the district has turned to learning arcs, a dubious strategy that already mimics what many teachers are doing. This has robbed teachers of planning time and added unneeded stress to educators’ plates. ESE teachers also had a popular program ended with no notice, requiring them to switch to a program that there had been very little meaningful training on.  

Speaking of educators, new teachers will see tremendous raises while veterans will receive pay cuts. Now it is true the district has been hamstrung somewhat by the state, but if the District is to be believed, they will also have additional revenue made available by not using the general fund to cover emergency maintenance costs to the tune of 500k per month. Where is this money going because it is not to teacher and staff salaries? 

Then what about the money from the CARES act. Detroit, a school district half our size and a city with a similar cost of living, received 80 million dollars in extra funding while we received 35 million. I have asked the district why the massive disparity, but nobody has been able to explain this to me.  

Finally, there is the district's woeful contact tracing, which prefers a it is better to be lucky than good strategy. Half of married couples who work together quarantined, one child but not their siblings, taking days or weeks to notify families of exposure, and a complete ignoring of cases that don’t happen on school grounds are normal procedures for the district.   

I could go on about the expansion of charters under her watch, for example, but what do we expect now that Jacksonville has become a cookie jar for them. With all this together think I have laid out a convincing case that DCPS can do better. We might be able to ignore one or two but taken together, I think, creates an accurate picture. 

All of these things aren’t just one-offs either, growing pains during a difficult year. I know this because she left behind a grading scandal, a construction scandal, and a new computer program scandal when she left Manatee County to come here.   

Being the super is a tough job, and the state often works against public schools’ interests. I want to acknowledge that, but much of above are errors in judgment, and they must be owned by Greene. Celebrate her if you want, but as a veteran teacher who has seen 5 superintendents come and go, I believe it is time for her to join them.