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.