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Friday, September 17, 2021

The district's lack of paras is a crisis.

 There are seventeen vacancies for paras at my school alone. Now my school is a center school, so we tend to have more, but I was told there were double-digit vacancies at all the center schools. Then if you look at the vacancies district-wide, the problem gets more and more severe. 

Any vacancy is troubling, but the consequences can be even more extreme when they happen at center schools. Classes lose coverage, behaviors become unmanageable, opportunities for violence soar, and an already overworked staff becomes more fragile and willing to quit. Part of the massive number of vacancies at my school results from people looking for other jobs elsewhere, and why wouldn’t they.  

The district says, if you have 60 credit hours or have passed the paraprofessional certification, you to can join our team where you can make 11 dollars and eighteen cents an hour where you can expect to change diapers, the chance of being assaulted is real, and help teach watered-down academics to students who don’t know their numbers or colors.  

At a recent training for learning arcs, a whole other story, the high school standard we picked to decode was an algebra one that included graphing and slopes. Um, any student capable of learning even a watered-down version of algebra and slopes shouldn’t be at a center school in the first place, but rather than teaching, life, personal and coping skills the powers that be, and I a not looking at my school administration but the politicians in Tallahassee, think somehow that is appropriate. 

Now there was a time when we didn’t do nearly enough with our disabled students, but the pendulum has gone way too far the other way, and I digress, and I guess all of this is a whole different story too. 

We will not solve the mystery of the missing para, sorry hundreds of unfilled positions, by doing what we are doing. 

Why would anyone want to work for 11.18 and have to wipe butts and potentially get hit when Walmart, Amazon, and so many other places are paying a fair amount more, and those things and unrealistic expectations don’t come up.  

Fifteen dollars should be the minimum, and where I usually am, all for more education and certification, we desperately need bodies. When we get them in the door, we need to give them a week of training, maybe two, before we put them in the classroom because one way to lose someone quickly is just to throw them in the deep end.   

Now I imagine some people might be asking where the district would get the money to pay for this increase. The answer is a couple places. Since the referendum kicked in, the district should have about 500k a month it isn’t spending on emergency maintenance. The state is sitting on billions in extra education funding that, for whatever specious reason, they aren’t sending to districts. Worse, there are billions more Florida could apply for but have chosen not to, and then it's past time we demanded Florida appropriately fund education. When you factor in inflation, we aren’t even at 2007 levels of funding.     

What’s happening is an unmitigated disaster. There is no way to sugarcoat this, and instead of pretending there isn’t a problem, the district's current strategy, they should do something.  

 To learn more, click the link.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

DCPS should step up and offer its staff COVID days.

 Duval County public schools should step up like the school boards in St. Johns and Clay County and take care of their staff members if they get COVID. Right now, the district is knowingly putting them in danger, and then if they get sick or are required to quarantine, forcing them to use their sick and personal days.   

Last year the Federal Government paid for COVID sick days something the district graciously extended till June, but now as the effects of COVID have become even worse and more prevalent unlike our neighbors and many other districts across Florida, DCPS has said there is nothing they can do. I find that both unacceptable and disingenuous. 

When the district was pushing the surtax referendum, they said they were spending 500k a month from the general fund to pay for maintenance. Well, friends since the referendum passed, they are no longer doing that which should leave more than enough money to take care of its staff. 

Furthermore, the state of Florida is sitting on billions of COVID relief money earmarked for schools and hasn’t even bothered to apply for billions more that the state is eligible for. The money to take care of staff and then some is available, but the state and the district have instead shrugged their shoulders.  

It should be obvious by now that schools are vectors for the spread of COVID and since closing them down and learning remotely is a non-starter the super and school board should be doing all they can to keep students and staff safe and insisting the state do so as well, but instead, all we have gotten is a top to bottom failure in leadership.   

Social distancing is nonexistent, contact tracing is between nonexistent and dreadful, and air filtration at many schools is the same and since all that is the case it's maddening and frustrating that the district won’t take care of its staff that is forced to miss time for COVID. It is past time for them to step up and do the right thing.  

Sunday, September 5, 2021

DCPS disproportionately punishes minority staff

At least once a year, you see a piece of how school districts, by and large, suspend and expel minority students at a disproportionate rate. I look at these pieces with a grain of salt because, quite frankly, I think students who break the rules need a consequence. If they don't get one or an appropriate one, all they have learned is they can break the rules again. Typically this escalates until it doesn't, and other students have their learning interrupted, and teachers have lost their ability to teach. 

I also think this is socio-economically based. Instead of doing these studies by race, I have thought if they did these studies by family income, the results would be the same.  There are many reasons, but one f the biggest is the sad fact that we often send our newest and most inexperienced teachers to schools wracked in poverty where they are overwhelmed and haven't had the time to develop class management techniques which often leads to poor behavior. Many of these teachers don't stand much of a chance, and that's both tragic and trickles down to their students. 

I am almost off my soapbox. All that being said, the one major change I would make is once a student got in trouble or even better before, they received services to help them avoid the trouble. Tutoring, after-school programs, smaller classrooms, counseling, etc. We have to give these kids the tools to be able to deal with their problems. A small but meaningful consequence at the onset of a problem, followed by support, may stop a lot of future problems.     

But what about teachers? We have a system that often doesn't care about teachers; see new teachers at poorer schools as example number one. Example number 2 is how the district disproportionality punished minority staff, and nobody seems to give a damn. 

After a tip that most of the people in Bulls Bay, teacher jail were African American, I asked the district, and quite frankly, the results were admittedly not definitive; they were shocking. 

22 of the 37 teachers sent to teacher jail were minorities. That is nearly sixty percent. Compare that to the amount of minority staff in the district. 

 From NEWS for Jax,

The report, released by JPEF Tuesday, shows two-thirds of DCPS teachers are white, while white students make up only one-third of the district’s enrollment. It also shows 29% of teachers identify as Black -- compared to 45% of students in the district identifying as such. Less than 6% of DCPS teachers are Black men.

Now the percentages may change when district staff is factored in, but I couldn't see them changing dramatically.   

If a teacher needs to go to Bull's Bay, they have to go to Bull's Bay. I am all for punishing teachers that are reckless, inappropriate, or criminal. That being said, I am not sure how many of the teachers there fall into those categories and not into their principal or the district didn't like them, which is where I imagine most of them fall. 

I also wonder what kind of meaningful support and training these teachers have gotten. My guess is not much. 

I have asked the district for the last five years worth of numbers for people staffed to Bull's Bay and just investigations in general, but it's my bet the numbers won't change much at all.