Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Forum is Open

Dear Readers-

Here is how you access the Teachers of Change Forum.

1)  Go to http://teachers4change.forumotion.com/

2)  Click on "Register" on the Blue menu bar.  NOTE:  You do not have to be a member to read the forum, but you do if you want to post your own topics or responses to the topics of others.

3) Read the "Terms of Service" and click "I agree."  These are not my terms, but the company who hosts the forum.

4)  Fill in username, e-mail and password.  The box is kind of hard to see for each field, but I promise it is there on the right hand side of the screen.  Use whatever username and password you desire.  The e-mail address has to be valid, but you can get a new one for free if you wish to remain completely anonymous. Click "SAVE"

5)  Re-type your password and copy one of those automation protector thingies (this one isn't too hard to read, thankfully.) Click "SAVE"

6) You will receive a confirmation e-mail in the account you entered in step four.  Click on the provided link and off you go!  I may or may not have to verify your membership.  If I have to approve you, I will do so tonight.

The forum is to be a place for free and open discussion among the teachers of DISD, with the goal of improving the experience of both student and teacher within Dallas ISD.  I encourage all to come and participate, those who agree with me and those who do not, and have your voices heard!

Mr. Jones.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Where do we go from here?

Dear Readers-

After taking a few days to collect my thoughts and review the aftermath of the Sick Out, I have come to a few conclusions.

First off - where did it go wrong?  The answer was so simple that it eluded me for a few days.  I asked too much too soon.  People were afraid, and I knew it, but I asked them to confront their fears before they were truly ready.  As WFAA reported, many people told them that they came in because they were simply afraid not to.  As a result of this fear, the number of teachers who missed work on Wednesday was lower than any normal day, and the district quickly spun that statistic as a victory.  Fear is stronger than words.

The district was also afraid.  They were scrambling on Monday and Tuesday to develop a plan in case the Sick Out was successful.  They recognized that teachers are unhappy and there was a part of them that worried that this would be the day that the teachers stood up and declared their frustrations.  However, they kept silent and hid their fear, while I called our fear out into the open.

Sometimes aiming high is what you want to do, but in this case it was not.  I shot for the top of the mountain when I should have climbed it one meter at a time.  In the end, I have set us back, and now the trustees will feel emboldened by Leap Day's events.  Yes, we have been knocked down, but I do not believe the bout is done quite yet.

Fear was not the only reason people showed up for work.  There are those who disapproved of the sick-out movement as a whole.  While some did not approve of my methods, I sincerely doubt there is a large number of our districts teachers that disagree that the trustees and the district have been bullying its teachers for far too long.  I put those people in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation; either they called in and supported a protest that they disliked, or went in on Leap Day and became a pawn in the districts spin on the Sick Out.  To those people, I apologize.

I have learned quite a bit from the events of the 29th.  I have had my chance to regroup and now I feel it is time to move forward.  The following are some of the changes that I am making-

1.)  During the course of this week, I will create a forum to accompany this website.  The DISD Teachers for Change Forum will be an environment for conversations about the improvement of the conditions for both students and teachers in Dallas ISD.  This will hopefully bring more people into the conversation.  Perhaps one of the victories that can be claimed by the Sick Out was that the news stories brought our situation to people's collective attention, and I hope the forum will capitalize on that.  Once it is complete, I will post a link both here and on Facebook.

2.)  Future actions will be brought up in the forum for open discussion.  If we are to have any success in the future, teachers as a whole need to be more organized.  Moving towards organization will limit our options on what can be done, but it will improve our chances of success.

3.)  No more Union bashing (at least, not from me.)  I have some disagreements with the Union, but in the end our goals are the same.  I hope that, now that the Sick Out is past us, the Union could be an ally in the fight to improve Dallas ISD.

4.)  The development of a plan of action.  Previously, my plans had no steps beyond the 29th, so that set back left me a little dazed.  I will be asking for input on the development of a plan that will help move us forward in the future.

-Mr. Jones.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Commentary on the Leap Day Sick Out

Dear Readers-

As many of you have already heard, the district is reporting that the number of teachers calling in today is 13% below normal.  Am I surprised by this?  Absolutely not.  In fact, it would not surprise me if a number of people who came in today did so to avoid any form of retribution.  I have been addressing the issue of fear throughout this last week because I knew if anything could shut down this movement, it would be the fear.

In the end, the fear won.

The news media is already calling the Sick Out a failure, and based on numbers alone I would have to agree.  There is no denying that I had hoped for a greater participation, but before I raise the white flag, I would like to point to a few successes:

-For a few weeks, much attention has been paid to the working conditions within the Dallas Independent School District.  Teachers have had the opportunity to voice their concerns, express their dissatisfaction, and highlight the disrespect they have experienced at the hands of the board.

-The district, at least for a day, was shaking in their boots in a way that the union could never have achieved.  From their 11th hour plea to principals to develop some form of action plan for the Sick Out, it was apparent that a cage or two was rattled.

-Some of us found our voice.  Many people who have been on the sidelines and watched the union try their hand at "representing" us have continually found AFT/Alliance's inability to produce results frustrating.  For once, they felt as if someone was trying to do something.

If the district's self-reported absence numbers are true, then it is safe to say that the Sick Out will produce no changes.  Of course, I was under no illusion that there would be some massive revolution in district policy as a result, but I refuse to remain silent any longer.

The results of today's sick out are disappointing, but I remind myself of what I always tell my students who get nervous or are reluctant to perform a task because, as they say, "It's too hard."

"If you don't try, I promise you, you will not succeed.  There is no shame in trying and failing, because at least you had the courage to try.  Give it a shot, try your best, and you may surprise yourself."

Those of us who are absent today have at least one card to hold in our pockets.  When the next change comes down, the next unfair policy is voted on behind closed doors, and our colleagues grumble and groan, we can pull out that card and hand it to them.  It would read:

"Quit complaining.  
I tried to do something.  
You shook in fear and did nothing.
Now take your medicine."  

-Mr. Jones

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quick response to the legal question

Regardless as to whether or not you agree with my interpretation of the law, our legal system is founded on the principle of "innocent until proven guilty." The burden of proof lies in the accuser. If someone claims that you are participating in an "illegal work stoppage" they must prove their claim. You do not have to prove that you were not breaking the law, they must prove you were. How will they prove you were not sick?

Do not give in to the fear mongering. District policy does not require a doctor's note if you are absent for one day. If asked, you were sick. End of story.

I will post again tonight.

Mr. Jones

Monday, February 27, 2012

Let's Talk Laws

Dear Readers-

I want to address a common concern/criticism that has arisen since the beginning of my blog.

Critics have suggested that my calls for action on the 29th violate the law and that all teachers who call in on Leap Day are participating in an illegal work stoppage.  We all know that Texas's labor laws are some of the most oppressive in the nation, but regardless, let us look at this criticism.

The law in question is Texas Government Code Sections 617.001 - 617.005.

617.001 - (a) Simply defines the term "labor organization" as it pertains to this section of the code.

617.002 - (a)This section states that public employees may not enter into collective bargaining agreements regarding wages, hours and conditions, and (b)any such contracts are void.  Interestingly enough, it also states that (c) a government official cannot recognize any organization as a bargaining agent for any employee group.  I wonder how the union interprets that one....

617.003 - This one is the one that really concerns us here, so I will provide this one in it's entirety before I break it down.

(a) Public employees may not strike or engage in an organized work stoppage against the state or a political subdivision of the state. (b) A public employee who violates Subsection (a) forfeits all civil 
service rights, reemployment rights, and any other rights, benefits, and privileges the employee enjoys as a result of public employment or former public employment. (c) The right of an individual to cease work may not be abridged if the individual is not acting in concert with others in an organized work stoppage.
Alright, let's go subsection by subsection.

(a) - The key in this one is the phrase "organized work stoppage."  So we can approach this from two different angles.

Pursuant to section 1 201 of the Uniform Probate Code, and organization is a group of people working together, working towards collective goals and controls its own performance.  Examples of organizations are corporations, business trusts, partnership, estate, trust, joint venture, association, or government.  Organizations can be legal or commercial identity.

"Teachers for Change" is the name of a blog, not an organization.  This is just me, and only me, fielding e-mails, posting to Facebook, doing interviews and posting on the blog.  There is no collective involvement.  So the term organization does not apply to what I am doing.

So is the sick-out organized?  What membership rosters do I have?  None.  When the media asks how many are participating, my answer is only speculation.  All I have done is share my opinions and ideas and hope others follow.

Let's look at "work stoppage."  A work stoppage is an organized cessation of work, as during a strike.  What I am proposing is a one day sick-out, not a strike.  The work of Dallas ISD will not cease, in fact, it will carry on without us present (though at an admittedly lower quality.)  In no way is the Leap Day Sick Out organized or a work stoppage.

Therefore (b) does not apply.

But if you doubt me, let's look at (c).  Concert means to arrange something by mutual arrangement or coordination.  What coordination has taken place?  Have you and I sat down and discussed plans?  Have you and I come to any personal or collective agreements?  Have any of you had any input into the posts I have put on this blog, or reviewed any of my statements? (Considering my failure to catch typos, perhaps I should have sought input...)  I have stated my peace, some of you have agreed or disagreed, but at no time have I ever used the blog to create a collaborative effort.

We are not organized.  This is not a work stoppage.  And at no time have we been in concert with each other.  Whether or not you agree, the law is law, and neither I nor any other teacher who call in on Wednesday are breaking it.

I look forward to the comments that are sure to follow.  But please, people, try to avoid personal attacks and stick to the topic at hand.  Sometimes it has been very hard to follow my rule of not deleting comments. I love dialogue.  I cannot tolerate stupidity.

617.004 - This is the "right to work" portion of Texas law.  People cannot be denied employment because they do not belong to a labor organization.

617.005 - This section protects the rights of employees rights to present grievances about wages, conditions and hours (such as what I have been doing).

If you want to see the code in its entirety, click here.

Sorry for the long post, but one last note.  Thursday, March 1st is a National Day of Action for Education.  When you came back to work on Thursday, I would encourage you to come clad in black to demonstrate your support for those fighting to improve our nation's education system.

Thank you,

Mr. Jones.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Letter to the DISD Trustees

This is the e-mail I sent to the Board of Trustees.

To the esteemed members of the Board of Trustees for the Dallas Independent School District-

I am known as "Mr. Jones," and I am sure you are all aware of what I have asked my fellow teachers to do on February 29th.  I had hoped that by this point the board would have made some statement, whether via e-mail or in a public fashion, in regards to the disrespect that has been demonstrated towards the educators of DISD. However, you have yet to reach your hands out to us and begin a dialogue on how we repair our relationship and how we move forward.  

That is disappointing, but not unexpected.  After all, the actions of Mr. Flores and the remainder of the board have made it very clear to us that the opinions of the educators are not a welcome addition to any conversation.  It is a pity, considering we both share the same goal of providing a high-quality education to the students of our district.  

If you do not wish to ask the questions, then I will provide you answers to the questions you should have been asking us from the beginning.

Question:  "What have we done to upset you so?"

Answer:   Thank you for asking.  Let me start by reminding you that we educators understand that the district is in dire financial straits.  In fact, it appears as if every school year finds us in a predicament involving our finances.  Seeing as how we know that the district must make some cuts in order to repair its damaged budget, we have watched our colleagues walk away from the profession (or be escorted out by security with their dignity in shambles.)  We have all grit our teeth and watched our insurance premiums rise in concurrence with a pay freeze.  We have sacrificed two of our paid personal days and come to work when ill.  We have paid for more supplies out of our own pockets and said farewell to stipends and duty pay.  This we have all done and, with the exception of some teacher lounge grumbling, remained silent.  However, we feel insulted by the district's recent decision of extend the working day by an additional forty-five minutes.

Question:  "But we do not understand.  Why has the forty-five minutes upset you?"

It is simple.  Recognition.

Teachers get very few, if any, rewards for what we do.  Our pay is less than spectacular, we do not feel valued by the general public, and sometimes we fell like the punch-line to a bad joke.  We do not ask for much because we love what we do, and we find our own rewards in the every-day miracles that can occur in a classroom.  We do not expect the public at large to understand us.  

However, we expect more from you.  We expect you to thank us for the sacrifices we have made to help you solve your various budget crises.  Whether it was a cut in state funding or the simple mismanagement of $80 million plus, we have laid parts of our livelihoods down upon the chopping block.  Is a thank you too much to ask?

I stead of "thank you," we received a "Screw you!  You are not doing enough!  You must do more!  Henceforth you shall spend more time upon campus!"

Question:  "But why call on a sick-out?  Why not just tell us?"

Answer:  One guy did, remember?  Poor guy spent almost a week wondering if he was going to have a job when he woke up.  No thanks.

Question:  "But we need teachers to do more, and the forty-five minutes will be used..."

Answer:  Let me stop you right there.  First of all, you had no clue what the forty-five minutes was going to be used for.  You voted on it without any clear plans as to how it would be utilized.

No let's back up for a minute and logically think about this.  You have a large number of teachers who spend an hour, or more, beyond their contract time doing school related functions every day.  Whether it is taking papers home to grade, sponsoring clubs (which provide no stipends, remember?), preparing lessons, producing materials, holding parent conferences, tutoring outside school hours or during lunches, etc.  Now you mandate that said teacher must stay at work for an additional forty-five minutes.  Insulted by the insinuation that he/she does not do enough for the students, he/she decides to limit their work to keep within the new "mandated time."  Therefore you have now actually lost fifteen minutes of productivity from this individual, even more if they decide never to tutor during lunch.  That is only if a teacher works just one hour over the current time, but many work more than that.  You get the idea.

In many ways, you stand much more to lose from mandating the forty-five minutes than from the current hours you have in place.

Question:  "Is that really all you are upset about?"

Answer:  No, but it is the only thing that you can easily rectify right now.  The others are far more complicated.  I know we could find the money to give teachers their increases this year if the board was willing to look for it, but you could at least set the relationship between educators and trustees back on track with a simple reversal on this one policy.

Question:  "Where do we go from here."

Answer:  Where ever you want us to go.  We can start going about things the right way; working on solutions to our districts problems collectively rather than looking to scapegoat one another, or we can continue down our destructive path.  It think we both owe it to the students of DISD to put our broken district back together.

I beg all of you to please extend this single olive branch to your teachers.  Reverse the forty-five minute extended day and recognize us as the key component in the success of our kids.  Let's finally begin moving in the proper direction:  forward!

Thank you for your time,

-"Mr. Jones" 

Last call...

Dear Readers-

The time is upon us.  For many of you, this is your moment to decide if you take a stand, or if you let this moment pass.

I have asked teachers to call-in on Wednesday, February 29th to protest our districts continuous downward spiral, and while I have had quite a number of you express your support, I have had fewer who would state that they too will miss the suggested date.  While I am glad to see many of you are considering taking a stand, I have to say that I am disappointed in how many of you are giving in to the fear.

I doubt there is little I can say or do at this point that would change very many minds.  Some of you say you will call in on different days in a "staggered" sick-out.  Others have chose their own personal dates to be out, while a former teacher calling him/herself "The Watchful Eye" has suggested we call-in on STAAR testing days (although I see the point behind this last suggestion, I do not agree as I can foresee the problems our kids will face with testing irregularities.)  In many ways I applaud the fact that many of you are willing to do something.  However, our strength will only come if we speak in one loud voice, instead of many small ones.  I believe if we do not come together as one, we will be much easier to ignore.

It is unfortunate that we have to do this on our own, considering the number of us that shell out some of our hard-earned money to Alliance/AFT.  However, Alliance has proven themselves to be ineffective in our recent struggles. Let us look at the effectiveness of our beloved union.

*On the date I came forward to suggest a sick-out, Alliance/AFT had the courage to step forward and "neither condone nor condemn" my actions.  Although they sent me a nice e-mail saying they wish me well, they have helped the district stoke fear in their members by reminding members that "we don't know what the district will do to you if you participate."  Wow- a union helping the district sow disunity.  Thank you, Alliance!

*Alliance has been happy to claim credit for getting Mr. Drake reinstated, although his decision to come forward and share his story with the media play a substantial role in his victory over the bullying tactics of Edwin Flores.  I am sure if a sick-out produces change, they will be quick to claim some credit as well.

*While Alliance has been "representing" us, we have had our days reduced from ten to eight, our wages frozen, our benefits reduced and our contribution to insurance increased.  The board has extended our work day and bullied teachers.

*Alliance claims to be the voice of the teachers of DISD and, according to their webiste, "Your Official Voice for Change."  Given all they have "accomplished" over the last three years I must ask, "Who's changes?"

Tonight I will send an e-mail to the members of the board, and I will produce its contents on this blog.  If our "official voice of change" cannot produce results, perhaps an unofficial one can.

-Mr. Jones

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dear Teachers...

Greetings to all,

Throughout this week I have had a number of conversations with various teachers in response to my previous post.  All of them told me that they were one of the Motivated; those who want to do something but have their reservations.  The conversation typically begins as follows-

"I really want to do something.  I am tired of being treated this way, but I'm afraid.  I'm afraid that the district is planning some kind of punishment for calling in, and I don't want to put myself in that position."

Here is my answer to all of you who are afraid:

"Good.  You should be afraid.  After all, the Dallas Independent School District has a pretty distinct history of bullying DISD employees for all sorts of reasons, real or imaginary.  The fact that you are afraid tells me that you recognize this fact and are not oblivious to what is happening to our district.

Of course you should be afraid.  Don't you think I am afraid?  I wish you could have spent ten minutes in my shoes that day I came to work after my blog hit the news.  I spent the entire day waiting for someone to walk into my room and relieve me, with a note in their hand summoning me to the office.  I couldn't eat my lunch, I fought to keep the shaking from my hands creep into my voice, and no amount of anti-perspirant could keep my underarms dry.  I was a wreck, but I survived.

Calling in on February 29th will take some courage, but no more than the courage that I have already demonstrated.  I have done what few others could gather the courage to do, and that is start the conversation.  I am not asking any one person to do more than I have already done myself.  No one can honestly say that they are in more danger of repercussions than I am.  After all, I started this mess.

If you are too afraid, I understand.  Go to work on the 29th and let others stand their ground.  But keep this in mind when you clock-in that day-  the next time the district takes away one of your days off, or extends your contract hours, or freezes your pay and couples it with a hike in your medical care costs you have no one to blame but yourself.  The time to stand up is NOW, and if you refuse to add your voice to that of your colleagues, or if you are simply too afraid to stand up for yourself, then you deserve everything that happens from here on out.

I am not asking you to quit your job.  I am only asking that for one day you stand up for yourself and for the future of our district.  If that is asking too much, than perhaps I have more faith in you than I should."

On another note - there is an on-line petition asking the district to reverse the 45 minute extension.  I encourage all of you to follow the link below and add your signature.  The more of us that sign, the greater our chances of being heard.

In these last few days before the sick-out, expect to hear from me more frequently.

-Mr. Jones

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Updates and Analysis

Dear Readers

Last time I took time in between posts, I apologized.  This time I took time off to sit back and ask myself a number of questions about the proposed sick out, the state of Dallas ISD, and a look at myself.  Here is what a week of reflection has shown me.

The Sick Out

Efforts like this have fizzled out in the past, and perhaps this is heading down the same path.  There are really four different ways Dallas teachers are approaching the idea of calling in on February 29th:

1.  The Hardliner

The Hardliner is the teacher that supports the idea with all their heart and soul.  They are the convinced and these teachers will definitely be absent on the 29th, regardless of whether or not I post again.  I am not certain as to the number of these teachers (as I keep no logs or records of supporters) yet from e-mails and Facebook posts I can tell that there is a good number of them out there.

2.  The Motivated 

The Motivated is the teacher who is also tired of the mistreatment and disrespect of the board, yet is not quite certain that they will participate.  Many of the Motivated want to do something about our situation, but are unsure that a sick out is the right move.  They may feel that there will be possible repercussions to missing school on Leap Day, whether on their individual campus or from the board itself.  They need their job, and want to keep it, and are willing to support a movement for change but are nervous of putting their employment at risk.  These may also include people who do not have enough days remaining to miss school on the 29th.

I respect your reservations and completely understand them.  Just like you, I do not want to be "punished" for missing school on Leap Day.

If the description of "The Motivated" describes you, then I urge you to ask yourself a few more questions....

If you do not stand for change now, then when will you?  Next year?  At some point you simply have to draw a line in the sand and announce that you will take no more.  Personally, I feel that such a time is now.  Next year will be too late.  If you allow the board to continue down this path, there will come a point where standing up is pointless.  Perhaps that time has already come and my ideas are already too late, but we cannot go backwards and undo the past, nor can we allow the district to move forward in this direction.

Fear is a powerful force.  Historically, fear has been used to maintain control in situations where those in power know they cannot get popular support.  Fear can go a long way, but once the people stand up against the powerful and declare that fear will no longer maintain control, the people become the powerful.  The longer the people choose to wait, the more challenging this transfer of power becomes.  My question to the Motivated is:  If it will only get more difficult to stand up in the future, than what are you waiting for?

3.  The Unsure

The Unsure either remain uninformed by the changes being made, or are frankly uninterested in what is happening.  I cannot believe that the number of these teachers is that large, but again I have no data to back up any of this.  These teachers may also not be aware of this blog, or a suggested sick out, or of the impact the recent board decisions have made upon Dallas ISD.

If you know of the Unsure, by all means find and educate them.  Do not let people ask you "what happened?" on March 1st.  Give them the address to this blog and let them decide.

4.  The Detractors

The Detractors are two-fold.  They are those who feel any form of protest is pointless and therefore a ridiculous suggestion, or they are those who feel that the school board has been fair in all their decisions to date.  I cannot really imagine anyone who falls in the latter category, but I will not claim that they do not exists simply because I have never met them.

Perhaps the sick out is a fruitless venture, and I highly encourage anyone with a better idea to start their own blog or send those ideas to me and I will happily champion their cause.

Our District... God Bless 'em

I have been sitting back this last week, shaking my head at the downward spiral our district has been in.  The possibility of losing $79 million in Title I funding due to misappropriation and failure to service students and the use of $57,000 in Title I funds to take our fifth grade boys to Red Tails has been all over the news.  Things just keep getting better and better....

Red Tails has received lukewarm reviews, at best, and is not the only option out there for a film about the Tuskegee Airmen.  If you already have determined that a PG-13 film is perfectly acceptable for 10 year old boys, then why not show The Tuskegee Airmen.  The film has the same rating, it covers the same topic, and has higher reviews than Red Tails (7.1 on IMDB compared to Red Tails' 5.9).  Oh yeah, The Tuskegee Airmen is also available on Amazon for six bucks a copy.

Also, by purchasing The Tuskegee Airmen on DVD, you could afford to show it to the girls as well, demonstrating that in Dallas ISD we believe girls may also benefit from learning about the contribution of African-American fighter pilots in World War II.  I could rant and rave about the decision to take only boys to see the film, but I am trying to keep this post of a reasonable length and free from profanity.

Summary:  Purchasing the DVDs of The Tuskegee Airmen instead of the "Red Tails field trip" has resulted in one less teacher working in Dallas ISD.  If you were riffed last year, at least you know that your job was cut so our kids to go to the movies and watch a film this is not the most historically accurate account of the events depicted, nor age appropriate. 

Finally, I would like to assign a little homework for my friends.  Check out Uplift and the plans to use DISD bond money to build a charter school in Deep Ellum....

Until next time,

-Mr. Jones


Monday, February 6, 2012

Teachers and Teaching

Hello again-

Sorry it took so long for another post.  This last week has been especially tiring on my end.  I'm used to having a relatively mellow existence outside of school but the last week has been anything but relaxing.

There have been some rumors floating around regarding the sick-out.  I have heard plans of district retribution, of "black-listing," and other horror stories of the potential downfall we all face if we use a day on the 29th.  I have seen no documentation, whether hard copy or e-mail, that would confirm any of these stories.  So as of right now, I regard them as rumors only.  Whether generated by a paranoid teacher or an administrator who is sweating the prospect of empty classrooms, I cannot say.

I have received some information about campus administrators who have been distributing a "letter of intent" to their staff, requiring them to sign a document declaring their intent to remain on campus and to abide by the extended schedule.  If you have been handed a similar letter, please let me know.

What amazes me is the haphazard implementation of the new work schedule.  The board approved the new schedule yet left the principals sole discretion as to how the new time was utilized. Principals were given approximately three days to develop a comprehensive plan on how the new time would be spent on their campuses.  Three days?  Is this truly enough time to formulate any plan, much less a comprehensive one?  Is this enough time to gather feedback from faculty or sit down with instructional leadership and honestly discuss how this time can be used effectively?

Once again, DISD does something last minute and with little thought invested.

In other news, neither the board nor the interim superintendent have mentioned the proposed sick-out, whether in writing or in the media.  I expected as much.  As I mentioned before, I believe their strategy is to simply wait us out and hope it all goes away.  If the board has not addressed us, then perhaps I will need to address the board.  More on that soon.

Some have asked me if I think this sick-out idea is really going to work or if I believe the board will reverse its decision.  I am hesitant to provide an honest answer here, for honesty in this light will probably seem detrimental to my cause.  However, I do not believe that the added time is going away.  Whether 33% or even 100% of us call in sick on February 29th, we will return on March 1st, and the board will have weathered this storm.  The history of labor relations in America shows that a single day action, like the one I am suggesting, is destined to fail.  The only proven method to force management to the negotiating table is a full strike.  The legality of a strike in Texas aside, no educator would even consider such a thing.  One day is one day, but the students in Dallas simply cannot afford for us to be gone for the time necessary to get our voices heard.  What I expect to happen is teachers will call in on Leap Day, the news will report it, and the public will  forget it sometime around the second of March.

Then, if I don't expect us to get what we want, then why do it at all?

The answer to this question is simple.  I love education.  I enjoy the art of teaching, the look on a kid's face when they finally understand what you have been teaching them all week, the satisfaction of knowing that I played a role in the development of a young person's life.  I cherish every laugh that I share with the students,  the joy we share in their successes and the opportunity to help them bounce back from defeats.  I especially like doing so in Dallas, a place where I feel as though I am needed, more so than in our surrounding communities.  I want to spend the rest of my life gathering year after year of memories.  I hope to meet some of these young people again when they become adults and have one of them, just one, thank me for my hard work.

I love teaching, but for the first time in my life I am becoming dissatisfied with being a teacher. 

And it isn't just me.  There are some younger people in my building who are incredibly talented; people who I know will soon develop into teachers that I could only dream of being.  I envy their talent, and I know how desperately they are needed in education. Yet they will eventually leave.  Their exit will not be a case of "normal attrition," rather it will be a direct result of the policy decisions of district leadership.

We have given the district so much already and we will never get any of it back.  We cannot continue to give more concessions to the board, for if we do, we will never be able to recruit the next generation of talented educators.

So no, I do not expect the board to reverse its decision.  I do not believe I ever truly did.  All I expect is for our board to stop for a minute, just one minute, and ask themselves if their next policy change is going to make Dallas attract talent or repel it.

Keep on teaching, and try to forget how hard it is becoming to be a teacher.

-Mr. Jones

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Call to Arms! Report the Waste!

Hello all,

I think it's time to turn up the heat a little, but I need your help.  This is a big project, so like we tell the kids, "put your thinking cap on and bring your A-game."

I am trying to compile a collection of examples of Dallas ISD wasteful practices.  Any stories you have can be helpful, but what is even better is memos, e-mails, or other official statements you have that clearly demonstrate the waste of taxpayer dollars.  Any information you have is good information, even if you think it is nothing.  You might be surprised how a couple of hundreds of dollars of waste on your campus could be part of a larger pattern of mismanagement of funds.

I know we have all seen things that make us shake our head and grumble, "those idiots."  Now it is time to bring it to the light.  Think of the many times you have seen something ridiculous and said, "For the cost of those we could have saved someone's job."

NOTE:  I hate to go into an all caps rage here, but DO NOT E-MAIL ME FROM YOUR DALLASISD.ORG ACCOUNT!  If you have emails or attachments to send, cut and paste the text into a word document and send it using your personal e-mail account, or set up a dummy e-mail if you want to remain anonymous.  I will work to compile all the examples to show a complete picture of the waste that has cost us, the people, and our students so much!

And spread the word!  I know that, together, we can provide millions of dollars of examples of wasteful practices!

E-Mail:  teacher4change2012@gmail.com

Thanks again!

-Mr. Jones

Sit down, shut up, and be happy!


If you read either the comments attached below my posts, or the comments attached to the news stories, you know there are people out there who believe we are simply a bunch of whiners and we need to remind ourselves that "at least we have a job."  This has become a phrase spoken with such frequency in America that we might as well make it our motto.  "At least You have a Job" might not sound quite as cool as "In God We Trust" or "E Pluribus Unum," yet it is definitely a more fitting tagline for modern America (especially the latter.)

When did we go through such a pathetic change?  This nation was created by a bunch of hell-raisers, people who would not tolerate being abused by the powerful.  I highly doubt you would have ever heard one of our Founding Fathers say, "At least I have a job."  Or let's even look at more modern hell-raisers.  Do you think our nation would be a better place if Martin Luther King Jr. said "Thank God you have a job!" instead of "I have a dream?"  Do you think immigrant farm workers would have it better off if Cesar Chavez just gave them a pat on the back and said, "Hey, it sucks, but its a job."

Now I am by no means trying to compare myself to these great individuals, but these are the people who inspire me.  They did not wait for the people to learn about their causes, they brought their causes to the people.  They did not wait for elected officials to recognize the error of their ways and fix things, they stood up and demanded change.  They aired their grievances (which today is defined as "whining"), marched in the streets, told their story to anyone who would listen until change was made.

Neither one said that they were happy to simply have a job.

When did we become a nation of spineless employees?  When did we actually begin to say things like "at least I have a job" whenever we found our pay cut, our benefits reduced, our hours increased; and actually find comfort in such a weak statement?

I am not talking about us teachers, but Americans as a whole.  Look at these poor folks at American Airlines, who have made concession after concession to AMR since the first airline collapse in 2001, and yet 13,000 of them are still being laid off.  Some of those people spent the last decade reminding themselves that they had a job when AMR took their pay and benefits away.  Now what do they have?

It is time the workers of this nation retake their dignity, and stop telling themselves that having a job is simply good enough.  

Thank you all for your continued support,

Mr. Jones

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Can we keep moving forward?


First of all I would like to express my congratulations to Joseph Drake, who has been re-instated after being placed on administrative leave for expressing his grievances to DISD trustee Edwin Flores.  It is nice to see that the district is capable of reversing itself when it has made an error, now let's see if they can do it again.

To learn more:  http://www.wfaa.com/news/education/DISD-Reinstates-Teacher--138433879.html

It is also nice to see the union begin to take what some might call a stand.  When I came forward, they took a typical "let's sit on the sidelines and see who wins" approach by neither condemning nor condoning my call for action.  Now, they are calling the district out on some of their strong-armed tactics.


However, work is not yet done.  I realize that this blog is no longer the "flavor of the month" with our local news, and that is fine.  Local news is more entertainment, and this blog is becoming an old story.  Of course, that is what the board is counting on.  They are hoping that the public forgets, and that we forget.

The easiest way to kill any idea is to simply ignore it and let it fade into the background, and that appears to be the board's approach to the sick out.  They have not responded to any of my statements, whether directly or through the media. They figure that the public will lose interest, teachers will lose nerve (because, let's face it, we usually do), and February 29th will come and go as if nothing happened.  Americans tend to have a very short attention span and a rather flaky memory, and they are counting on us to make ourselves look ridiculous.  We always complain that the district is strong on words, but weak on action.  Let's not emulate them. 

I do not expect this blog or this topic to consume your every waking moment, but I urge you not to forget what we can accomplish if we work together.  Remind your friends to keep checking in and stay involved.

One last note, I would urge all of you to ask your facilities staff about the moves the district is making towards outsourcing them.  At a recent meeting, custodial staff was told that the department was doing everything it could to save money and save our custodians' jobs.  One man in attendance suggested that the department was top heavy, with too many executives with overlapping responsibilities.  He was told promptly he needed to "sit down."  We are not alone in being bullied, and we need to show our support for the hard working people who keep our buildings safe and presentable for our students.

Until tomorrow,

Mr. Jones


Monday, January 30, 2012

A Letter to the Parents

Dear Parents of Dallas ISD-

I hope you do not believe some of the rhetoric.  I hope you know that the vast majority of teachers in Dallas ISD come to work every day for the benefit of your children.  We are people dedicated to giving your child our very best to give them every fighting chance of finding success in an increasingly competitive and grueling world economy.  We recognize that these are someone's sons and daughters, and treat them as we would want our own treated in their schools.  And, despite the claim of some, we would never do anything that was not in your children's best interest.

You see, we teachers see a pattern developing.  This pattern frightens us, as it should frighten you.  Every year it seems as if our district has to find some way to make up for a budget shortfall.  Every year we find programs cut, good teachers dismissed simply because of what budget code they are paid by, and classroom sizes grow. We have given our district many concessions in order to try and lessen the impact on your child.  We have given up paid days off, we have twice sacrificed cost-of-living pay increases and/or service year raises in order to save our district money.  We have paid higher insurance premiums or less comprehensive coverage in order to provide the district some flexibility in their repeated budget crises.

We also volunteer our time to tutor your children, of course without compensation or recognition.  We stay extremely late two nights a year so that you may come by after work and conference with us on how your child is performing.  We come in early to prepare the most engaging lessons we can with diminished resources, or resources we have purchased on our own.

Never, ever think that we do not care about your child.  Anyone who says otherwise does not know us and what we do.

Many of us may have to call in sick on Leap Day.  On the surface, some will tell you that this is an example of our laziness and our callousness.  Far from it.  We are protesting more than a simple addition of forty-five minutes to our days.  Please.  If you know us, you know we're already there for that long, or longer.  The forty-five minutes was simply the move of disrespect that made me speak out.

We are protesting the pattern.  We watch as our public schools are drained of their resources and school districts become increasingly hostile places to work.  We see what is in store ahead.  When things are taken away they are rarely returned.  The funding we had in the past may never come back, and the taking will only get worse and worse.  Eventually the time will come when schools operate on skeleton budgets and can hire only those who can find no place else to work, for those with talent will escape the hostility or find a less meager paycheck.  Eventually the buildings will be filled with people who are there to pass out worksheets and textbooks then go home, having as little of a clue as what was to be learned that day as your child will.

Eventually, the only good education will come to those who can afford one.  Your child, my child, and many others will be forced to drag themselves through a public education system so under-funded and void of talented educators that you'll be happy if your child can spell their name when they "graduate."

If you want a window of what your schools will look like; if you want a one day glimpse of what the future holds for public education, stop by your school on February 29th, 2012.

Or, better yet, contact the school board and let them know that they need to ask the teachers what can be done to improve our schools this year, and in the years beyond.

Always wishing you and your children the best,

Mr. Jones

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Some Clarifications and Responses

First of all, I want to thank everyone who has demonstrated their support so far.  I'm glad to see so many of you ready to speak out against what you see happening to our schools.

I want to address a couple of issues that have come up:

1.)  Some are unsure exactly what my goals for this are.  Let me state it clearly here and now - I do not want the sick out to happen.  Preferably, I would like to see the board come to its senses and begin including us, the educators, in the discussion on how we move forward as a district.  Being on the front line, we see multiple cases of waste that, if given the opportunity to point it out, could save the district millions.  Yet, we do not feel as though the district wants our opinion.  (A simple e-mail can put you on administrative leave.)  The forty-five minute extension was a clear demonstration to me that the board has no real clue as to what we do nor what kind of time we really put into our schools.  How many of us will be willing to stay behind for tutoring after a nearly nine hour work day?  How many of us will want to go above and beyond any longer?  Our students need us to give them more than what they can get in a standard school day, so please allow us the energy to do that.

2.)  It is unfortunate that I have to remain anonymous, but the current climate at DISD makes it nearly impossible to speak your mind without fearing a notice that you have been "riffed."  I will remain so until it becomes clear that I will not be forced out of the job I love for calling attention the the district's problems, I will do so.

3.)  Yes, organizing strikes in Texas is illegal.  I reviewed the law after my initial, emotionally-driven post.  Let me be clear.  We are not holding out for demands.  In a strike, workers refused to return to their jobs until management gives in to demands.  That is not what is happening here.  If people choose to miss work on February 29th, they will return March 1st, regardless of whether or not the board does anything we ask.  No one is going on strike.  Besides, I am not organizing anything.  I am merely stating that I think a sick out is called for and all those willing to participate, should.  I would like to see 33% participate, but I have no way of checking on just how many are willing to call-in.  I am not keeping a log, or list, or registry of participants.

4.)   Finally, I hope that people know that ultimately this is all about education.  If the sick-out happens, people will see a glimpse of what public education is becoming.  Our districts are making policies that are forcing the talented teachers to look elsewhere, and eventually the only ones left behind will be those with no where to go. Is this the system that will drive our nation into the future, or off a cliff?

One last note.  I am getting a lot of e-mails and Facebook friend requests.  Keep them coming.  However, I will not answer any e-mails or messages between the hours of 8:00am and 4:30pm.  After all, I have a job to do....

Oh, and here's the news story from Channel 8.


Mr. on the News

Sorry for my brevity and any potential typos. I am updating from my phone to let you spl know that I have spoken with Emily Lopez of channel 4 and Monika Diaz of channel 8. The interviews will air at 5 pm on channel 4 and 10 pm on 8. Please watch if you can, and thank you all for your support!


First day Report

One the first day alone there have been 28 readings of the primary post in about twelve hours!

I have created a Facebook page to accompany this blog, under the name "Joe Jones".  The address is http://facebook.com/Disdteachers.  Friends on the page are hidden.

Also, comments on this blog are enabled for everyone, and followers are not listed on the site.  I wouldn't expect anyone to take more risks than I am taking myself.

Keep spreading the word!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why I Blog

First of all, I have to make a confession.

I have always hated blogging.  I've always viewed blogging to be an activity reserved for people who have little to do with their lives, yet feel that the insignificant details of their lives must be shared with the world.  Basically ,blogging was like Twitter, but for those incapable of maintaining the character limit.

However, I have been driven to blog anyway.

I am a teacher in the Dallas Independent School District who has been in the classroom for five years.  In a profession where more than half of us quit after three years, five years is an eternity.  I have never been truly tempted to leave the profession either, though opportunities have presented themselves.  I have always loved what I do, and I could not have imagined myself doing anything else.

That was, of course, until the 2011-2012 school year.

Here in Texas, as in every state, our school districts have faced massive budget cuts.  Dallas ISD has been hit particularly hard.  $120 million had to be eliminated from this year's budget, and now we need another forty.  My average class sizes have increased from twenty to twenty-eight, our general funds are now one-third of their former size, and all while the state increases the rigor behind standardized testing.

The only victims in this process have been the teachers and the students.  I could spend line after line listing the problems created by budget cuts, but that is not what really drove me to blog.

On Thursday, January 26, the DISD board of trustees made two moves, one to save money and one move that confuses me still.  The closure of eleven schools, some of which are exemplary campuses, is unfortunate,  however the logic behind those moves exists to counter the emotion.  As much as I hate to see a good school close and a fantastic faculty separated, I can at least understand why the move was made.

Yet the extension of teacher work-days still baffles me.  Not that the extra forty-five minutes really matters, after all many teachers of DISD work extended schedules anyway, without pay.  It is the fact that the District no longer views this as going "above and beyond." Now, this is an expectation.  It is as if the school board wishes to recognize that lots of extra time is being put in by their dedicated work force by mandating that it continue, all the while assuring us that we will remain uncompensated for the time.  Oh, and by the way, the board also thinks we're ugly.

Teachers are respected in in the speeches of every political candidate for every conceivable office and when I tell someone I am a teacher I receive comments like "Wow! That's great!" or "That's so cool.  I really appreciate what you guys do."  If everyone respects us so, then why are we being beaten into submission?  Perhaps it is because the current economic climate leaves little refuge in the private sector, but it seems that the people and our leaders proclaim their love for us while they twist the boot they have laid on our throats.

I, for one, am done.  Not with teaching, but with being the whipping boy.

I am asking teachers to become followers of my blog, and join myself and other concerned teachers by agreeing to protest the "Great Leap Backwards" our district, and frankly our nation, is taking in education by participating in the Leap Day Sick Out on February 29th.  To demonstrate your support, please e-mail teacher4change2012@gmail.com or post and anonymous comment below.  I will periodically report the number of participants.  The more of us that there are, the louder our message.  Our unions will do nothing, so it is time we did something ourselves.

On the morning of Wednesday, February 29, I will contact all local news agencies and inform them of the sick out.  The goals are:

1.  Achieve a minimum "sick-out" of 33% of teachers
2.  To demonstrate to the board and to the people of  Dallas how important teachers are. (They seem to have forgotten.)
3.  Motivate the people of the city of Dallas to take action and defend their teachers

Please e-mail me, teacher4change2012@gmail.com if you have any questions.

NOTE:  Yes, I have not given my name.  I do not plan to until after the sick-out to avoid any repercussions that may make others hesitant to participate.  I will reveal my name on March 1, 2012.