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,