It is rare that I both start my day and finish my day listening to UTD on NPR. The morning began with a UTD advertisement on NPR asking people to get on the bus to attend the rally in Tally in January. I was under the impression that the buses were designated for educators to attend the rally, but UTD is now offering any warm body a seat on the bus. This leaves Kafkateach wondering who exactly is going to end up on that bus with these types of ads on NPR? Can anyone just show up and get a free ride to Tally that day?
It had been hinted to on Facebook that UTD would be attending the School Board meeting in mass so Kafkateach made sure to tune in for this historic event. UTD leaders are notoriously absent most times when their names are called to the podium (actually they were absent this time as well, but they did manage to send a bunch of executive board members down to do their bidding). So what pressing educational issue did these UTD teachers sign up to speak about? You guessed it, they signed up to talk about UTD and all of the amazing services it provides to teachers. I’m used to staff meetings when the only thing discussed by UTD is UTD and important issues impacting teachers and public education go completely unaddressed, but now I had to listen to the UTD sales pitch at a School Board meeting? And they wonder why teachers complain that UTD functions more like a membership drive than a union.
The following will be my attempt to provide a transcription of what occurred at the historic December 2nd MDCPS School Board meeting as most Miami Dade teachers were probably glued to CNN watching the crazy nut job/ISIS inspired shooting de jour unfold on TV. The daily barrage of mass shootings makes Kafkateach want to ask Santa for a bulletproof vest and combat gear for Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, my children decided that tonight was the night I had to read every Christmas book in the house to them during the School Board meeting so this transcription is going to be very sloppy!
First up is Sara Hays, a woman who has taken on the Super several times regarding the lack of a legally mandated performance pay schedule. Sara starts by reading the state statute and recalling the press releases regarding “a new era of education reform” and the ability to attract our “best and brightest” to the teaching profession. She ends with her disillusionment:
“How reassured I felt thinking my sixty hour work week would finally pay off. How foolish I feel now. A performance pay schedule did not happen. Our new contract obliterates steps but offers no incentives for performance pay. I have written numerous emails to UTD and district and received no response.”
Next up, a very long, boring, and confusing discussion about something called “quorum.” Not being up to date on fancy School Board Latin lingo (the Roman, not Miami, variety), I had to Google what the heck they were talking about.
- the minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid.
Ms. Perez brought the issue up because about four members of the board had disappeared from the dais once the public hearing portion of the meeting began. Most noticeably absent was Mr. Feldman, who miraculously appeared at the very end of the meeting after a speaker mentioned his name (of course she was reprimanded for doing so).
Perz: “Is there no requirement for quorum?”
Lawyer Man (Regalado will refer to him as “Walter” throughout the meeting): “A meeting is defined as two or more board members.”
Perez: “If we don’t have quorum, we don’t have the public hearing?”
Lawyer: “Traditionally the board has maintained a quorum to take official action.”
Benross-Mindingall: “In brevity Mr. Attorney, can you tell us when we absolutely need to have quorum?”
Lawyer: “In order to take action you need a quorum.”
Benross-Mindingall: “Being that I’m a learner, give it to me in cursive or manuscript.” (I’m assuming that was her way of saying she would like to see it in writing).
Regalado: “I want to clarify Walter’s point. In order to take action we all need to sit here. Does that mean that we should stop the meeting because we are not in our chairs? For the most part, we’re all here. If we add speakers that are not on the list we need a sitting quorum. There is a quorum present but not sitting on the dais.”
(This conversation went on for another five minutes but I quickly lost interest.)
Next up, the first of many UTD speakers, and the only one to discuss an actual educational issue.
Brian Fertel: “I’m a social studies teacher and member of UTD. I want to address the class size issue in Dade. Back in 2002 the voters passed the amendment. As a civics teacher, students ask “how can a law not be enforced?” I’m sure their parents have the same question. Since 2002 the state has watered the class size amendment down and it doesn’t work the way the voters wanted. UTD has pushed the district and the state to abide by the class size amendment. How can a VAM score be calculated if the class size is not accurate? Students and parents have a right to get the best education. Dade needs to join us in giving our students the best education possible.”
Regalado: “I want to thank the speaker, I love civics teacher (she gives him her best good girl student angelic eye roll). When CSA was passed it was an unfunded mandate. It required enacted legislation. It is an opportunity to speak to students about intent and end result and how we need to do a cost benefit analysis. (We know MDCPS sure as heck did their cost benefit analysis because they saved $49 million last year alone by using the phony baloney school of choice loophole. http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/pinellas-schools-class-size-violations-the-documents/2256111)
When you way the cost, the penalty was less than implementation.
(This is an amazing lesson the School Board member and mayoral candidate is teaching children- only follow the law if it is in your economic best interest! The next time you are pulled over by a cop for speeding, simply explain to him that after a cost benefit analysis, it is cheaper for you to get a speeding ticket than to arrive late to your destination. If you are a young blonde with big boobs, this reasoning might actually work for you. If you are old or male, you’re definitely getting the ticket. If you are young and a minority, don’t try this at all, it may get you shot.)
Regalado continues: “Then Charter schools received an exemption. I agree that we should abide by class size. Instead of looking at this law in terms of a penalty, can the state put forth the FTE that is missing to make the teacher’s salary whole? We stand by UTD every year.”
Another UTD diehard takes the stand: “Listening to program last month I heard half truths about UTD and the district. UTD has been offering PD, saving teachers’ homes (they must be old timers because young teachers in Miami-Dade can’t afford rent, let alone save for a down payment), and offering scholarships. Fed Ingram, Tom Gammon, and Karla Matz have done this. We don’t need to be standing here as teachers bashing ourselves. We need to be positive for students.”
Benross-Mindingall: “Someone up here said it’s about time and you’re better than good.” (this is the first of many compliments Benross-Mindigall will bestow upon UTD speakers)
Antonio White (Wearing UTD lanyard): “I’m one of 25 UTD executive board members. Last meeting you allowed an individual to slander our President in a public forum. I came here to provide a factual analysis. I once read we cannot change the cards we were dealt. As educators we are driven by purpose. A higher purpose to help improve students’ lives. We must stand together for the sake of our community. We are getting beyond bread and butter issues (ain’t that the sad truth). We are advocating for our students because our work environment are our students’ learning environment. In closing, I would like to urge educators to get involved . You are the union (unless you are Thais Alvarez, in which case your UTD application will be rejected).
Mindy Grimes: “I am a teacher and proud UTD member on the executive board. I have students that are dealing with so much, I am dealing with students who are having issues. We have students dealing with suicide issues in the fifth grade. We have students living in shelters. It is overwhelming. The one constant that we have is UTD (sigh… here comes the sales pitch). Whether it is professional development, UTD is at the forefront. One of these issues is health care. Teachers thanking me for having their healthcare costs go down.”
Andrew Benatti: “I would like to donate my time to Liz Hernandez.”
Lawyer man: “There are provisions against speakers donating time when they just show up to donate time. The intent of the policy is not being used. They are signing up just to donate time. The board may decline his request. He signed up to speak. ”
Andrew: “I can’t change my mind?”
Perez: “This is not a conversation. The leeway is for extraordinary circumstances.”
Liz Hernandez: “Why change the rules now? We’ve been doing this the last two board meetings.”
Regalado: “It’s important that we as a board discuss this. We have policies and we have practice. The practice of donating time that we’ve been doing for the last two meetings, started four years ago when we had a lot of well attended meetings on specific issues. With the MAST expansion we had a meeting. Are we going to listen to 100 speakers say the exact same thing or are we going to allow them to donate their minutes?
(I’m no mathematician, but I do believe that if you have 100 speakers speaking for three minutes and they decide to donate their minutes to another speaker, the speeches will still last the same amount of time)
Regalado: “We started the practice of donating time to expedite the discussion. The opposite has been happening at our meetings. We didn’t want to chill speech. We just didn’t want people to hear the same thing over and over again and have the public say, “Oh, a school board meeting who listens to that stuff?” (they’re saying that anyway honey). We are at a point where we need to codify our practice. The conversation is about items that have already come before the board, specifically about the UTD contract. We voted about it, we as a board cannot take action. I will give you my opinion, if you believe the Board acted inappropriately the remedy is to sue us. (I believe this action is currently being pursued)
At this point, this Board cannot undue it. I understand your frustrations, but I have limitations. People are emailing us but we cannot undue what we have already done. As we move forward, I want to ensure people are coming to speak to us. It starts to appear orchestrated. We are at a tipping point on this. I think it is proper for Walter to draft something. I don’t want a back and forth. I think it’s an opportunity to codify our practice. At our next meeting we will have a detailed explanation. This board is overly generous. We always allowed people to speak and donate time and it’s getting out of control. It’s starting to impact the meetings. I don’t want people who listen to think this is orchestrated (anybody who has ever listened to a School Board meeting knows it’s more orchestrated than the New York symphony. It’s friggin’ Kabuki theater!)
Regalado: “We respond to emails, we have staff. We can all agree to disagree. We can take it up with Walter. There was a purpose and we have lost sight of why we started this practice.”
Karp: “Hopefully we can resolve this right now. I don’t believe that the MAST teachers came with the intent to donate time. Today this is a different experience. This board is very generous. Never wanting to deny anyone the opportunity to speak. Everybody here is very respectful. I would like to ask Mr. Harvey to repeat the language you read. Apparently this is in board policy.”
Harvey: “Policy # 0169.1 sub paragraph F substitution for scheduled speakers will not be allowed except in extraordinary circumstances.”
Karp: “Will not be allowed is very straight forward. This gentleman drove over here to speak. He should speak.”
Liz : “But I wrote my speech thinking I would have ten minutes?”
Perez: “This is not a debate.” (I really need to start using that line in my classroom).
Andrew’s speech on the fly: “I’m a middle school math teacher. Students have been taking tests all week. Right now it’s taking two block periods to complete. That takes up class time. I’m not sure what kind of data you are getting from the tests. The kids don’t care. They’re Christmas treeing everything. If everything is designed to be on the computer, why wasn’t this test designed more like the FSA? What kind of data are we getting from highly unreliable tests? What about our Internet connection? In the real world, it is not like 24. After this test, they still have to take another i-ready test. And My Learning Plan? Can a high school student design the website for free next year? (perhaps my favorite line of the evening).
The Superintendent: “Normally I don’t comment because it’s not a dialogue. But I need to clarify misconceptions. Either we are a system with laws, or we are not. Selectively choosing which ones we follow is wrong (Did he really just say that? The leading class size violator in the state of Florida and the leader of perhaps the only district to not enact a performance pay schedule, is going to lecture us about the importance of following the law?)
With the chair’s permission, we will intermittedly interject the truth. If something is outside of the control of the board, the issue will not be addressed.”
Regalado: “This Board has spoken about this on several occasions. At this point to say we are the promulgators of computer based testing is wrong. We are not. Our speakers must understand state mandates are issued without our input. Nobody asks us what we think (we know exactly how you feel). They give us the test, we administer it. Vendors are chosen by the state of Florida.”
Karp: “I appreciate what Regalado said. But not everybody knows what is state regulated and what is the Board regulated. In fairness to the speaker, we can point someone in the right direction. He comes with a legitimate grievance who sees the issue with computerized testing and he’s dealing with it everyday and it’s frustrating. Maybe it’s not the appropriate setting, but it doesn’t mean his concern is not legitimate. Ultimately they are here because they want to solve a problem.”
The Superintendent: “If there is a connectivity issue in your classroom, we have email, call your principal. If your Principal doesn’t resolve the issue and we address it, then somebody will call and say we took negative action on the principal. (Growing visibly angry) We’re not stupid. We know when we’re being played. I’m not going to stop being Superintendent tomorrow. We are not stupid. This platform should not be used for political gain for anybody (except for UTD and School Board members). If you want an issue addressed, let’s talk about it. If someone calls the Miami Herald to verify an issue than expect us to address it. That visit is part of the expectation. These are not just speeches, it is a public hearing. It is not an exchange. It is a hearing. Conditions have not changed but intent has changed.
When I am emailed directly, I address the problem. I call the Principal and ITS to fix connectivity (OK, note taken. I am going to stop submitting HEAT tickets when I have technology issues and directly email the Superintendent instead). I donate my sick days to teachers. It’s clearly written in English posted on portal in two other languages. If we need to provide private tutorials, we will (this was not said in a helpful tone but an extremely condenscending one). I will provide direct tutorial session. And by the way, I can go teach the math class. We understand about reliability and validity. (Don’t ever question the Superintendent’s math skills, that makes him really angry. He knows a lot about averages. I would love it if the Superintendent showed up and taught middle school math using the tablets in a room with connectivity issues for a month. I would love it if he had to live on a teacher’s salary in Miami for a month with two kids in daycare. Let’s see if his math is good enough to figure out how to provide for your family when your rent equals your take home pay).
Unless somebody was asleep or out of the county when we raised a position against too much testing, it seems counterproductive to ask us to do what we have already done. There has never been an email that has been sent to me that I have not directly acted to (unless it’s from a person with the last name Alvarez).”
Regalado: “We want to make sure the Board is hearing factual information. “
A UTD Steward (who was not sent by UTD and who did not come to give a UTD sales pitch) takes the podium:
“What is the School Board doing to reduce stress among teachers? There is a vicious cycle. It’s hard to stay sane and teach. Fill out forms and copy receipts to validate what we spend on our students. Especially if you shop at dollar stores. Substitute teachers are scarce and classes are being split. I could go on further. The higher stress levels cause illness or they will choose to ignore it as a defense mechanism. I have a three year- old son but it costs a lot of money and it was difficult for us when my son was born because we had to pay $2,000 out of pocket. He was born premature and it cost another $2,000. We have to pay $80 a week for language therapy. Our job is to care for children but it is hard to do that when we have to care for our own children too.
Hantman: You’re time is up. (Bah humbug, the Board doesn’t have time to listen to your Tiny Tim story)
Howell (another UTD speaker): “I’m an American government teacher. I want to thank the superintendent for what he has done to help Miami North Western. I want to thank the School Board members for their civic leadership. I’m here to say that UTD is my professional organization. I’m here to help public education of our students in spite of our difficulties. We come to teach Miami. UTD works to protect Miami and Miami Dade public schools. UTD has negotiated free health care options when most districts do not. We are here to let everyone know of opportunities to take professional development (they keep selling UTD PD as well. I don’t need my union to offer more professional development. The district offers enough of that already).
I’ve been to the NEA, AFT and FEA conventions and it has enhanced my professional development. UTD is not here to hinder the educational process but to enhance it. We don’t want to fight. We want to enhance each other. (I just want somebody to enhance my damn paycheck!) I hope to see educators go to Tallahassee next month.”
Hantman: Sir, you can wrap it up if you wish.
Liz Hernandez: “I need to find out about the policy that states a person can only come up once. Why can’t they come up a second time? The board wasted 7 minutes to deny me 3 minutes. This shows lack of courage. Then I kept hearing, I cannot talk to the attorney. We should feel welcome to be here and not be made to jump through hoops and limit what we have to say. Teachers that waited 3 years with no increase, those teachers lost 5,000 every year! Cutting this large increase would save a lot of money. Isn’t the number one priority paying teachers? Is shafting teachers a good way to save the budget? We cannot just say that Miami Dade pays teachers more. We also collect more taxes. Let’s compare taxes. The money is there and we know it. For a large urban district, Miami Dade’s is an embarrassment (AMEN!).
Perez: “I always want people to be able to speak as much as possible. But if I am not mistaken, did the attorney not read something about no applause? I don’t have a problem with applauding. What’s the point of doing it if we allow applauding? I will sit here and listen, however, if we are at a meeting if certain decorum is required, we ask for that decorum. If you allow people to applaud for good things you should allow them to applaud for bad things. If that is our policy, we should abide by it. There has to be some decorum. Is that not what the attorney said?”
Hartman: “I have to be the enforcer but I don’t want someone upset at me so you all have to decide. For me, it disrupts the meeting. I will not allow clapping. You can raise your arms. Clapping is not allowed.”
A teacher who wants to donate her minutes to Thais Alvarez takes the stand: “I cannot donate my minutes? It’s regarding charter schools and she is speaking as an attorney.”
Hantman: “This is not permitted. You can speak.”
(Thais gives the teacher her speech to read).
Thais’s speech: “Tax dollars are used to fund private charter schools. Many of these dollars are used by politicians who run charter schools. Erik Fresen, for example…
Hantman: “Don’t use names. Charters are determined by the state.”
Thais’s speech: “School Board members are benefiting from charter schools. Let’s connect the dots. How can there be money for charters if this board claims there are no funds to pay teachers? Why is the board giving dollars to charter schools? This board will say they must comply with state law. But Florida constitution trumps state law. Washington state stipulated that charters are illegal. In the Nov. 18th board meeting, the board is not complying with statute to pay for performance pay or maintain a step schedule. Why do they need to comply with the state law to fund charters?
Regalado: “I know we don’t like to engage. But we said earlier we would step in. Of course we are going to say Florida statute created charter schools. It has been part of our legislative priority. Last year a bill was filed to create a standard application and we fought it vehemently. We have been trying to maintain authority. I understand that some people may be under the impression that it is unconstitutional but case law has determined it’s legal. As a point of clarification, this has been highly litigated and if it has been found to be constitutional . Florida is the birth place of charter rights.”
Hantman: “The 90 minutes for public hearing has expired. It’s up to the board.”
Karp: Does that 90 minutes apply to everybody or just to speakers? (Good question!)
Hantman: “The 90 minutes goes to us as well. The 90 minutes should be specifically counted for public speakers.” (Thank you Ms. Hantman!)
Perez: Extend it.
Hatman: From now on, I don’t know how the clock works. Not when we speak because that takes time from the 90 minutes.
Perez: That would mean we can only entertain 30 speakers. We should allow all the speakers.
Hatman: We can play it by ear. (so much for codification).
Navarro: Since you clarified the issue, include that Mr. Harvey. Make sure the clock stops when we speak.
Benross-Mindingall: I have to include the fact that I have had a little bit of training. Listeners need to understand we teach children about children and we want to be fair. We need to have rules before we get here. So all will be aware and we are not looking puzzled. We can’t make changes in midstream. We need to know if it is a policy or not. We are not perfect and many of us have been teachers.
Castillo: “I’m really happy all of you are here. It’s great to hear from you. I’m sitting here listening to you and I’m looking back at the audience, most of the time when the district is responding and you are not listening. How do we get information to the staff? Do we know how teachers salaries are funded? These are our employees and they are so misinformed.”
(Yes, we are misinformed. Because the district does a very poor job of informing their employees! I wasted an hour on the phone trying to find out why I couldn’t make changes to my health care enrollment, only to finally have someone tell me the program didn’t work in Google chrome and that I needed to use Explorer. You would think they could have mentioned that in an email!)
The Superintendent: “When I hear questions about charters and the FSA, these are rhetorical questions. With regards to questions about salary and collective bargaining, they understand but they disagree. There is a disagreement with the outcome. We don’t have the power to overturn what was negotiated. There was an intent for years at this board to help a majority of teachers who felt left out of salary increases. It took a decade to depart from $150 step increases. That was an insult to me. There was a slew of emails I used to get (I think I sent a few of those). They understand but they are in disagreement. Those teachers still saw more money than other teachers. But I understand their frustrations (says the man who has been living on a $300,000 salary for the last 8 years). There is no way of fixing it without coming up with a fair way of providing compensation. That what was negotiated. There is a process to overturn it as Ms. Regalado stated. There is an entity with which we negotiate with (blame UTD if you don’t like it teachers). If someone was waiting three years for the large step, I understand their frustration. Can you please spread the wealth? That’s what we negotiated. It’s a disagreement with the outcome. The union and the majority teachers decided this was a fair outcome.
(I would really like to know what percent of UTD members are teachers and what percent are support staff. I’m not sure a majority of TEACHERS actually thought it was a fair outcome. I love my support staff, but ya’ll need to get your own union. I don’t think support staff should be voting on teacher salary schedules).
We know how that step schedule was constructed. Anyone who is honest, knows why it was constructed the way it was. Who was a teacher in those years when those steps were negotiated?
(I’m going to have to agree with the Superintendent on this one. I used to wonder who was to blame for our wonky step schedule. Was it the district or UTD? I’m pretty confident at this point that UTD was the entity responsible for my $300 raises for the last decade. The district hands over a pot of cash to the Union every year and it is up to UTD to distribute it among teachers. Our step schedule sucked and it needed to be changed, but that doesn’t mean that it should have been thrown out entirely and teachers who wanted to stay on the previous schedule since it was in their best interest should have been allowed to do so).
Wanting to continue that injustice is a mystery to me. This was done in the spirit of fairness. They understand, but they are dissatisfied. It’s a philosophical disagreement.
We all know about charter schools but we are as far as you can be geographically from Washington state (he’s good at geography too!). Law in Washington has no bearing in Florida. That’s the truth.”
Another teacher takes the stand who wanted to donate time to Thais: “Ms. Alvarez would you like me to read what your wrote?”
Hantman: “I think if people come up to speak. They should be prepared with what they have to say.”
The savvy teacher continues: “I appreciate your comments (and then she continues with Thais’s speech)
Thais’s Speech: “Funding for charters but not enough for teachers. Wouldn’t it make more sense to use tax dollars to pay teachers and support public schools than private charters? When government officials call to change the constitution something is up.”
Hantman: “The issue of charters has been explained several times. But obviously you’re welcome to say what you want to say.”
Benitez takes the stand: “It looks like nothing is going to change. I didn’t have a speech prepared. I was driving over here thinking, am I wasting my time? We’re not happy with the pay. Whatever happened with the steps? It helps us to know how we are going to be compensated in the future. I hope more good teachers can stay and our teachers are going to get compensated. I want to come to school and feel like we’re getting a raise.”
Hantman: “The contract has been signed and there is nothing we can do. The majority agreed to that.”
Benitez: “That’s the part I don’t understand. I just hope it changes.”
Hantman: “There is nine of us. If 5 agree to something, the other four have to live with that decision. We want to give teachers what they deserve but there is a contract.
Another teacher takes the podium: “I want to see the details of how my money is used. I want to see the details.”
Regalado: “When we do our budget it is comprised of three documents. The third document, you can request it is a public document. One of the things we try to explain to our teachers. We have different funding structures and some of our funding is restricted. What percent of budget is spent on salaries?”
Accountant: “85% is spent on salaries. Millage and capital funds are restricted. Chief financial officer can show them how to locate our website where it is listed vendor by vendor.”
Castillo: “I’m glad speaker spoke about transparency. The dashboard is a available to entire public. Where is the money be spent? You can go to gob.dadeschools.net.”
Thais: “To learn who rules over you, realize who you are not allowed to criticize. I am completely appalled. We are very moved and shaken by unnecessary restrictions. I’m sure many people have clapped when you’ve had your dog and pony show. I truly do not understand. I have a letter dated Nov.12th, teachers at my school sent emails soliciting attendance for happy hours and Marlins games. But I cannot send an email to solicit teachers to come here? You do not want us to come here. For those of you listening, I’m sure you are appalled at home. People have private messaged me, “Wow, you are not we need.” Mr. Feldman made a comment about my mom at the last meeting…
Hantman: “I prefer you not use names. The rules are the rules.”
Thais: “It was years of service that were taken away. Teachers take notice of what’s going on here.
Feldman: (Where did he come from? He’s been absent from the dais the entire meeting. Mention his name and the guy magically appears). “I can assure you my reference was to a woman that was here defending her daughter. My parents have been gone for three years. When someone stands here defending their child, it reminds me of my mom. I apologize if anyone misinterpreted it.”
Perez: “I want to thank for Ms. Alvarez for her courage and her zeal. I hope you do take notice. I think we share the same values. We want to help our students and value our staff. Everyone one of us wants to hear what you have to say.
We have thanked you and tried to clarify things. I hope you do take notice. It is very difficult. This is all about money. There are many issues that this discussion entails. Taxation, what the state allocates. I hope you understand all of the steps. We had to approve the contract.”
Thais: “May I answer. Why can you speak and we can’t? You have unfettered time. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Perez: “We have limits so all the speakers can speak.”
The Fabulous Perdomo mother/daughter team takes the podium wearing “Drop UTD” T-shirts. Isabella is told she cannot donate her time.
Isabella: “I’m amazed that this problem with donate minutes keeps occurring.”
Jackie Perdomo abruptly tries to shorten her speech: “I’m so pleased to see the turnout today. At the November board meeting a few courageous speakers spoke before and they received the lengthy responses. Board members are there to hear the public. It was very unfair and reflects a corrupt administration. Let’s address fairness. Is it fair that our superintendent is one of the highest paid in the nation while our teachers are some of the lowest? How is it that my salary is only $3000 more after 16 years! It is a disgrace for all of the hard working teachers. My pay stub doesn’t lie. I am making less today than I would have ten years ago. My daughter said she doesn’t want to speak because the board doesn’t listen or will rebut everything I say and make me look stupid like they did to that lady. I’m asking the board to create a forum where teachers can be heard (I think this is a fantastic idea. Teachers have no voice in Dade. No way to communicate their frustrations other than to speak at the School Board meetings.) I am asking to be valued.”
A teacher with a great accent and a great chart takes the podium: “It is inaccurate to say that only 14% of teachers were effected negatively. Our salaries have been decimated for years. I made a chart calculating the increase from 2014 to the current one. There was a nominal increase for 30% of teachers. Palm Beach County shows both calculations (step and performance) and shows employees their future earning potential. Dade employees see only a minimum and a maximum without seeing any future path. Employees have a right to be able to know how much they will make in the future. Chart 2 demonstrates the step increase that were less than 2%. This is less than inflation. This is not a raise. This is a nominal increase.”
Hantman: “Time is up.”
Chart man: “That’s OK. I can come back next time.” (PLEASE DO!)
Another teacher not wearing a UTD lanyard takes the stand: ‘The past couple of months when I started listening to board meetings, I feel disrespected as a teacher. We are not given enough time to express ourselves. I came here thinking you can do something for us. What is the purpose of the school board if you say we cannot do anything for us? I am worried about my children, and grandchildren. It is very scary what is going on. That you limit us. I adored the superintendent. We all know who he is? Why can’t we say his name? I felt so good when he became Superintendent. My eyes are now open. I feel very sad now. I will come three minutes by three minutes and I will be heard three minutes by three minutes!”
Hantman: “Your time is up.”
Charles Carr (wearing UTD lanyard): “I’m a Carol city elementary teacher. I started after the school year started. That became my classroom. My father was a teamster. I understand the value of a union. I wouldn’t have made it through my first week without the union. My union stands up for me everyday. The focus of a teacher should be making their kids better everyday. I was very proud of Karla Matz when she filed the lawsuit. I’m proud to be a member of my professional organization. I ask the Board to keep our eyes on our kids. Teachers are disrespected everyday and I know I wouldn’t be able to do that without my union.”
Mauricio Restrepo (also wearing a UTD lanyard but not sent by UTD): “I came to speak about the tablet situation in my classroom. I will say I love the tablets, I am never going back! However, there are major problems with their repair. I don’t know the intentions of why everyone is here, but some people speak to share experiences and to get things done at a systemic level instead of an endemic level. I’m here because I’m a steward. I love UTD despite how they have treated me lately. It is very difficult to bring change in anonymity. You have to go out and speak publicly. They came. They showed up. There are no other intentions. I put a challenge to my teachers, if you come to speak at a Board meeting, I will be there with you. You will never be alone. If you decide to go to Tallahassee, I will drive with you. I will fight for you and for this profession!”
Regalado: “I’m your school board member. I am happy to speak to you about tablet issues. I know a lot of teachers have been asking about the facilities. I know they are complaining about traffic. I met with the mayor, of course that’s very easy for me (giggle, giggle).”
Yet another UTD salesman: “Congress is preparing to vote to modify NCLB. UTD has been lobbying very hard to get it to pass (I have been reading the modification may be even worse than the original so if it turns out to be another big bag of stink, we can blame UTD for this as well). Who is left to implement these policies? Our teachers and our district. I want to just remind you that in the midst of implementing all of these policies it does take away from teaching. Documenting teaching supplies, DPGT or whatever it’s called, and navigate a software program to document our professional development. It is the United Teachers of Dade that solves these problems! The union provides support directly to teachers and it often doesn’t get pointed out. I want it to be understood we do not think all of these policies are sound. It’s only by working together that we have prevented additional bad laws to get passed.”
Valerie Johnson: “I’m an executive board member representing support personnel. I have been a proud member of UTD for 11 years. Three minutes will not allow me time to express the diligence of our current leadership. Our union president has made sure our school personnel have been recognized with respect when we were told there were zero dollars at the table. I encourage anyone who is doubtful of current leadership to make themselves more involved in meetings, rallies. Ask not what your union can do for you, but what you can do for your union! (JFK must be rolling over in his grave. We pay our unions very substantial dues to do something for us. Not the other way around).
Benross-Mindingall: “I must compliment you on your oration. Did I get that right? I know I did.”
(I need to interject a Kafkateach rant at this point. Did a school board member really just compliment this speaker’s speech? After reprimanding other teachers for wasting the board’s time for speaking about issues that are not items issues that the Board is directly addressing, a UTD saleswoman get’s complimented! By allowing UTD to take over the public hearing to promote UTD the Board is setting a dangerous precedent. Maybe I’ll attend the next Board meeting just to discuss what an amazing teacher I am and promote my blog? Perhaps local business people will catch on to using the public hearing portion of the School Board meeting as an opportunity to hawk their wares and sign up to speak about their empanada shop.)
Angie Gonzalez: “Are bargaining sessions open to the public?”
Superintendent: Yes they are.
Gonzalez: “Thank UTD for improving the evaluation system. UTD has improved this system.”
Tom Lander: “I’m on the UTD executive board (Tom Lander is very proud of this. I was at a PD once and Tom Lander walked into the room and immediately announced to everyone who he was and that he was on the UTD Executive Board). We are excellent on purpose at our school. Thank you for letting me speak. I’ve been a teacher for almost 38 years. I’m gonna finish this race (I thought your race should have been over eight years ago). Teachers saved my life and gave me a reason to come to school everyday. This school board employed me and lets me and all these teachers teach our children. It’s the greatest honor. Its not just a job, it’s a ministry (Fun fact: Did you know Florida nuns get paid more than Florida teachers?).
When some people speak, they don’t know you as a board. But I’m proud of this board, and MDCPS and UTD. Boy our salary needs to be fixed (says the man who has been at the top of the step schedule for almost twenty years and has benefited the most from our previous step schedule. He will see a decent raise every year now that he’s at the top and couldn’t advance any further but will get a standard percent increase on $70,000). Just because I suffered with $180 pay raises, that should not go on forever and ever. We will see more raises in the end even if it’s just 2% or 3%, we’ll go up and over. We need to join together. Together everyone accomplishes more.”
Joe Minor: “Hello again. Good evening. I’m UTD staff here to read a statement from Karla Matz who is at a FEA executive cabinet session (no doubt plotting her coronation).
(At this point I’m sick of the UTD infomercial and hungry. I get up to get some dinner).
Heather Burdick takes the podium: “I’m surprised to find myself here today. Thank you Dr. Karp for letting that happen. I am a teacher but also youth advocate. I also lead Miami Girl’s Rock camp. I want kids to feel empowered. Often times I hear things that are supposed to be happening. Restorative justice is one. That is not the only thing. Our Superintendent has been getting national accolades but restorative justice is not happening. Our Superintendent said even in the lean years we didn’t cut the arts. My school has no art, no chorus, no media center because we have no librarian (True, you can’t cut something if it wasn’t there to begin with. I’m still appalled that my kids have no music or art in Kindergarten or 1st grade). When you spoke of the lean years. I’ve been teaching for 11 years. I make $42,000. I’m Best and Brightest and I cannot afford continue to be a teacher. Teachers don’t have time to informed. When you come to school to visit me, there will be something wrong. I can no longer work as a slave and be part of a system that is corrupt. I’m teaching transcendentalism, don’t worry, it’s in the pacing guide. You cannot be an agent of injustice. Stand up. Give people what they need. Restorative justice, art.”
Annie Thomas: “I’m a youth organizer. What’s interesting is that I’ve been a youth member and for 8 years and I’ve been coming to these meetings for 8 years. Never in the last year have I seen so much disrespect. But that is not why I’m here today. Power U does not fall under the cone of silence. We are going to have a youth speaking to you about restorative justice. I can’t stand here and stand for this disrespect. It’s intimidating to stand up here in front of a board the intimidates you. I can’t stay silent.”
Regalado: “I’m happy to talk about restorative justice. I don’t understand why you started with the cone of silence. Nobody told you you couldn’t talk about that. If we ask teachers to stop speaking, it’s because there’s a certain amount of time. We sit here and we listen. We always stay and we always listen. I see some people are taking video. You can contact WLRN and get the video. It’s a much better quality. You can just ask us for the DVD (Umm…does Regalado realize you have to pay $50 for the video? Does she realize $50 is a lot of money for teachers to pay just for the privilege of seeing Board members in Hi-Def? Are there any free transcripts of these School Board meetings? I can’t keep watching these things and typing all of this up).
Power Youth speaker: “We need restorative justice and better classroom management. We have been in….(crap this meeting has gone on so long my laptop battery just ran out. Somewhere between me running to get my charger and sitting back down this young man’s mic get’s cut off for saying a name).
Hantman: “Youth disrespected the chair and we had to cut off his mic. You said a name and I got a person who was not listening.”
(Out of all the School Board meetings I’ve watched or listened to, I have never heard a speaker’s mic get cut off. The fact that they would choose to do this to a young black male speaker was a disturbing image to see).
Youth: “We must be heard.”
Hantman: “Thank you have a good night.”
(At his point my son is demanding me to read “The Night Before Christmas” for the tenth time . so on that note, “Merry Christmas to all,and to all a good night!)