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Thursday, December 3, 2020

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. 

1 comment:

  1. Manatee could have told you that a few years back... we are still struggling with the aftermath.