fed wrestlingDisclaimer: the image accompanying this blog post is real and was not photo-shopped by any disgruntled Dade County teacher (unlike some other images that appeared on the web during our last contract negotiations).

After Fed Ingram won the election for FEA Vice President, but then announced that he would be staying on as UTD President through May, some on social media began questioning the rather long transition period. The most obvious answer was so that he could oversee the next UTD Presidential selection and ensure current Secretary Treasurer and heir apparent, Karla Mats, gets crowned in May. This week we found out the real reason Fed is staying on in Miami was so he could fulfill his childhood professional wrestling fantasy!

On Saturday, November 14th, teachers in Dade County can finally see Fed “fight for our future” in the pro-wrestling ring (hopefully wearing nothing more than a speedo and knee-high boots). After one lovey-dovey group hug photo after the next with the Superintendent and other district officials, Dade County teachers are ready to see Fed finally battle it out for teachers (even if it is totally fake and rigged, no wonder they chose professional wrestling to partner with).

The details of this event were not only sent out in a district wide email but also posted on UTD’s website http://www.utd.org/news/watch-utd-president-fedrick-ingram-in-a-live-professional-wrestling-event-as-he-fights-for-our-future

“In order to make this event a success, Puder has partnered with United Teachers of Dade (UTD), The Florida Education Association (FEA), PTA/PTSA of Miami-Dade County, and Ronin Pro Wrestling! The highlight of the event will be a “Super 3 on 3 Match”, in which Fed Ingram, Daniel Puder, and Lt. Col. Major Mark will be taking on anyone who is up for the challenge!

⇨ Date: Saturday, November 14th, 2015

⇨ Time: 5:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M. EST

⇨ Location: Miami Jackson Senior High School (Free Parking)

⇨ Address: 1751 NW 36th Street, Miami, Florida 33142



Also, because this is a community event, UTD and My Life My Power Ent. have integrated a fundraising platform into the event where you and/or your school or organization can help sell tickets and 80% of the proceeds from those ticket sales go back to your school in the form of My Life My Power Programming where you can receive My Life My Power’s evidence based curriculum, assemblies, faculty training, parent workshops, etc. And, thanks to a gracious match sponsor, all funds raised will be doubled! We simply provide you with a coupon code generated specifically for you so you can begin raising funds!”

Since this is a charity event (even though only 80% is going back to the schools and it is all in the form of My Life My Power Programming), I am not going to knock it down too hard. Especially since the highlight of the event is Fed and two other wrestlers (I guess he needed some back up) taking on any one up for the challenge! Surely there are some massively perturbed Dade County teachers who just had their $11,000 step bargained away by UTD that would love a chance to take on Fed in the wrestling ring! Then again, these teachers are likely to be older and might not want to risk personal bankruptcy if they got injured and had to see a specialist using the district provided health insurance. I’m tempted, but I think my husband would get jealous and I have an old child-birthing injury. Tickets are only $10 for kids and $20 for adults!

Though I have zero interest in professional wrestling (greased up men on steroids with bad hair wearing nothing but weenie-bikinis is just not my thing), this could be a highly entertaining and precedent setting event. After Fed “Fights for our Future” against professional wrestlers, maybe he could take on some actual real life anti-teacher opponents. Here is a list of contenders teachers would love to see Fed take on in the ring:

  1. Before he leaves Miami, we want to see Fed and our “Gucci” Superintendent battle it out for teacher raises next year. If Fed wins, it will be a standard 3% increase across the board. If the Superintendent wins, the district will offer a measly 1% increase and the union will have to sing the praises about the generosity of the district at the following School Board meeting.
  2. Once he eventually gets to Tallahassee, we want to see him take on the big boys. Maybe Fed will prove himself so apt in professional wrestling that he can take on “steal your 3%” Governor Rick Scott and pretty boy “Best and Brightest” Erik Fresen at the same time!
  3. Of course, there will probably be visits to Washington D.C. now that he is Vice President of the FEA. That’s where teachers want to see some real action as “Super Union Thug” Fed engages in the battle royale against “Charter School Lover” President Obama, soon to be departed “Dunkin’ your profession” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his boy, Mad Scientist “Your schools are my guinea pigs” Bill Gates.

Hopefully UTD Presidents doing charity wrestling events will become an annual tradition and next year we can attend a lady mud wrestling event with “All smiles, all the time” Karla Mats taking on bad girl, “Duct tape your kids’ mouths” Michelle Rhee!

cluttered desk

A recent headline in The NY Post about a principal throwing out all of her teachers’ desks and filing cabinets has been making the rounds on Facebook http://nypost.com/2015/10/18/principal-forbid-teachers-to-sit-so-she-threw-out-their-desks/

According to the Principal, “It’s the 21st century — you don’t need desks,” Connelly said, sources told The Post.”

As the saying goes, “everything old is new again” and apparently this nutty administrator thinks it’s time to bring back the Neolithic Era when humans never sat and spent their days foraging for food instead. No doubt her teachers’ waistlines might benefit from being denied an opportunity to sit down on occasion to grade papers, plan, contact a parent, check their ever-exploding district email inbox, or just to eat their lunch. Chronic Homo Erectus-itis, however, would lead to worse health for their feet and backs as they would surely develop blisters and sciatica from standing up all day.

Principal Connelly not only views teacher desks as passé, but apparently filing cabinets have also gone the way of the dinosaur.

filing cabinets

As in true administrator fashion, when teachers inquired as to how they should do their jobs as a result of random and poorly thought out administrative decision-making, her response was typical of what teachers are left to do every single day in schools across America:

“Figure it out,” she snapped when staffers asked where to store their supplies, a source said.

As to where teachers should grade papers, Connelly answered, “Use the lunch room,” sources said.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if one were to walk into the administrative offices of this particular school, there would still be desks and filing cabinets. As much as I am at times an obnoxious proponent of going paperless at my school, I still need a desk and a couple of filing cabinets dang it! In case Principal Connelly can’t possibly fathom why a teacher would still need a desk and a filing cabinet in the 21st century, here is my top ten list of why teachers still need desks and filing cabinets:

  1. There is still an inordinate amount of paperwork that comes with being a teacher (most of it inflicted upon us by our districts) and we need somewhere to store all of those papers. I have personally gone almost completely paperless but my desk still looks like an atomic bomb went off at Kinkos because of all the mountains of forms I get from my school: IEPs, tablet computer agreements, testing schedules, packets worth of information that could have been sent in an email or posted online, lesson plans, parent contact folders….you get the picture). Before I became a teacher I did stints as an administrative assistant in the office world, and I have more paperwork to deal with as a teacher than I ever had when I was paid to be a full time administrative assistant. Now on top of all of my administrative duties, I also have to teach and grade and plan.
  2. Even though I post all of my class materials online so that my students can access it with their tablet computers rather than me making copies, I still need to keep a few class sets of materials in case the school Wi-Fi is down. God forbid I’m left in a class of forty fourteen year olds for ninety minutes with no Internet access and no back up plan! Teachers need a place to store those materials, and since about the 18th century that place has been a filing cabinet.
  3. Most teachers sit at their desks to eat their lunch. Running off to the teachers’ lounge is time consuming. My school doesn’t even have a teachers’ lounge anymore. Plus, most teachers don’t have time to chit chat in the teachers’ lounge and are shoveling food in their mouths with one hand and grading papers or responding to emails with the other during their lunch.
  4. There are times during the school day when sitting at your desk is perfectly acceptable. If your students are engaged in responding to a writing prompt, there is no need for the teacher to be circulating the room and they will probably have to be grading some of those essays while the students are writing if they plan on being able to give the students any prompt feedback about their writing.
  5. Most teachers spend an enormous amount of time on the computer these days and walking around with a laptop in your hands all day would lead to some vicious carpal tunnel.
  6. Current educational trends expect teachers to be “guides on the sides,” not standing in front of the room giving a lecture. If your students are working independently on a student centered learning assignment, why shouldn’t we be able to sit down at a desk every now and then?
  7. Shoes are expensive. I have yet to find any pair of shoes that will make it through a year of teaching without some serious damage due to the amount of walking and standing already involved in teaching, even for those of us that are still permitted to keep a desk. I have had two shoes break right in the midst of teaching and I had to hobble around for the rest of the day wearing broken shoes. (Note to female teachers: always have a backup pair of shoes and a pair of flip flops or slippers you can put on your feet during planning. Your feet will thank you).
  8. Spider veins are painful and unattractive. Teachers don’t make enough money to afford the surgery to remove them.
  9. Would this Principal ever think to remove student desks and force them to stand all day with no readily available hard surface to do their work?
  10. Teachers are professionals. Teachers should be able to decide on their own when they need to be circulating the room and when they could use the time more productively at their desks.

Did I miss something? Leave a comment below if you have another reason Principal Connelly should immediately return her teachers’ desks and filing cabinets (if they haven’t already been stolen by other desperate New York teachers in need of an extra filing cabinet or more surface space to store papers).

teacher frustrated

I tuned into the October 14th,  2015 Miami Dade County School Board meeting in anticipation of what I knew would be a special show. Much to my surprise, the first thing I saw was a group of student Zumba dancers. Because apparently Miami Dade County won yet another prize for being first place in physical education! You would never guess it from that particular student Zumba spectacle. As a certified Zumba instructor, (ironically one of my top read blog posts) I would say these kids were not quite ready for primetime, but it was WLRN after all. The highlight was when the district student liaison cutie pie jumped down from the dais and joined the jam in his suit and tie. The student liaison on the School Board was a nice touch. Dare I suggest they recruit a teacher liaison for next month’s meeting? After tonight’s meeting, it was painfully clear that all is not well in the land of OZ.

In another surprise move, when UTD’s name was called, someone actually spoke on their behalf. Only it wasn’t Fed Ingram or Karla Matz since they were off campaigning for Fed’s selection as FEA Vice President. When Karla Mats’ name was called to the podium, a tall blonde took the stand.

The very astute Mr. Feldman remarked: “You don’t look like Karla Matz.”

Tall Blonde: “I’m Karen Cunningham, speaking on behalf of Karla Mats, I came to speak in support of the Superintendent’s statement about going too far too fast with the accountability system. Our children should not be guinea pigs. Time to put a stop to toxic testing. Our children warrant a halt. We are not afraid of accountability. Suspend the use for all high stakes purposes.”

A tad cliché but we’ll take it.

The Superintendent chimes in: “I usually don’t comment after a public speaker but (since I secretly asked Karla to provide a speaker to address the testing issue so I would have an excuse to launch into my heroic anti-testing soliloquy) she addressed an issue that merits being discussed. It was a position embraced by the vast majority of Superintendents and the state PTA. When Karen used the vernacular that I often use “too far, too fast” (sounds more like a line teenage girls use if they let a boy get to third base on a first date) skipping steps for reliability and validity. We have a problem. I take pride in leading the effort. I want to tell the Board and the public why:

  1. The administration of the FSA did not take place without challenges. I recall having to suspend the test administration online for the entire day because of cyber attacks.
  2. The DOE engaged in a study to determine if the technological glitches resulted in variances. We never submitted the names of the students impacted by tech glitches or the names of schools where students could not log on. A state that adopted the FSA in order to replace the Common Core PARC adopted questions from Utah, Then they rushed to administer the assessment. The administration was flawed, the statistical analysis was flawed and now we are the recipients of the results. As expected, we have seen a dramatic fall. Today’s A is tomorrow’s B. They will use the data to influence teacher VAM scores (and then we will use those scores to give them non-existent merit pay bonuses). It is the intent of the state to publish school scores. Everybody started without knowing what standard they were teaching to. (I never know what standard I’m teaching to. I still have no idea what test data they will use for my evaluation from last year. They always tell us after the fact.)

The validity study failed to deliver on rigor. They plan to move forward with the release of grades. Why doesn’t the state have learning gains? You need two sets of data. Even though the statute clearly says you need learning gains (what about all of the EOC and AP teachers who only have one set of data and are evaluated based on pass rates?).

For an elementary school 63% of the data is absent. Only straight performance will count. 75% of kids live at poverty level. This is the most important issue facing us. The state is adamant about moving forward in the face of incomplete, inadequate, possible corrupted data (dude, you’ve been inflicting this same data on students and teachers for years). Some of my colleagues have been warned about consequences for taking a position. (oh really….) We have a responsibility to be honest (I couldn’t agree more). If there was ever a time to pause, this is the time.

One of the recommendations: give every school an incomplete. Give it in incomplete or let them keep the scores they have until there were two years of data (what about teachers? Incomplete evaluations?) . What is the rush? If I sound disappointed, I am. We value our kids too much, our teachers, our schools to allow unfair practices to impact the beautiful things we do for education. What a great motivational act? What’s the point? Your school has just been labeled blank, now sit down and take a test? (Imagine how your teachers feel when they bust their busts all year and have excellent student test scores only to be labeled effective or needs improvement by VAM)

Ms. Regalado: Next year is an election year. Some members called us drop out factories. Some members of the Dade delegation who’s understanding of our system is limited at best. We have to take state action. My fear is that people who represent these areas go out and follow partisan politics.

(It should be noted that Ms. Regalado was the only member of the School Board to disappear from the dais during the public hearing portion. Even the poor student liaison stuck it out and I’m sure he had a big calculus test to study for the next day.)

Mr. Feldman: Won’t there be a group of legislators in our auditorium soon? Won’t that be a good time for members of our community to come out and be heard?

The Superintendent: “Not the best stage to bring our community together. (Now let Mr. Race to the Top get back to his anti-accountability rant). This will require some statutory change. I’m not going to be cute with words: what did the student acquire from 3rd grade to 4th grade? Even though he learned one year’s worth of learning? How about the low three to a high three? It impacts disproportionately districts like ours with high level of English language learners, poverty, and disabilities. How can they say to the world “everything is perfect.” We must be living in an alternate universe. (oh, the irony. This coming from “The Greatest Leader of the Greatest School District in the History of the World”).

Aside: At this point I had to run off and clean a poopy diaper. The following names may be omitted, spelled wrong and speeches butchered as I was frantically trying to type with three kids screaming at me for dinner, singing, dancing, wrestling and riding the family dog in front of my television set.

George Kirkman (the first of many amazing teacher speakers): “It’s not about me. It’s about my students. I’m the son of a single mom raising five boys. I had the best teacher in the world. She was not an expert. She made me believe in myself and saw me as more than a test score. My teacher drove to my house on Christmas bringing toys for five boys who would otherwise have had nothing. The most important thing is to make students find something good in themselves.

Teachers have worked harder than ever before, for less than ever before, without any complaints. The human side of being a teacher is disappearing. One test determines a student and a teacher’s worth. Do everything in your power in a cooperative effort with teachers to help teachers. Look at minimum and maximum pay scale and find a way to compensate teachers. Look at the presence of the teachers you have here today who are willing to take a stand.

(an audible round of applause is heard from the audience)

Ms. Hatman: We just had the final reading of Board policy.

Board Lawyer Man: Clapping is not allowed if it is disruptive. With regard to clapping, if you’re clapping is disruptive you will be instructed to cease. (Bad enough we can’t mention names but now we’re not even allowed to clap!)

Ms. Patti Ward: “I have one request, everyone in front of me has to turn off their cellphones. I don’t turn my cell phone on in the classroom. Let’s practice our values. I have a gift for each board member. I wanted to send Tallahassee a penny to let them know we are worth more. We’re hoping for tens of thousands of pennies. I believe we need to start here. A penny has great significance. MDCPS has been treating teachers like pennies for too long. We’re given penny raises but expected to show astronomical results. Our teachers, students, parents are not served by their officials. I leave you with a penny. My name is Patti Ward. Teaching is my passion. I never thought I would end up standing here being so disgusted with the system. My daughter is getting her master’s degree in education. Thank goodness she’ll be in Chicago making $60,000 as a beginning teacher. Why do people downtown make more than teachers? Why don’t they return my calls? Why do offices downtown have plenty of paper, more than schools. So much waste downtown but teachers are suffering. I am disgusted with the system. My former students contact me on Facebook, they say, “Thank you Ms. Ward, you taught me things that were not in the books. Can any of you say you made a difference? Your salary should be based on the satisfaction of the district. Welcome to Walmart.“

Ron Beasely: I signed up to talk about values. Leadership is always best done by example. Loyalty is a top driven thing. We’re loyal. You’re not going to find many teachers that aren’t altruistic. My school was listed as the number one middle school. I watch the teachers work so hard. But we have this problem. The UTD has not had a valid contract ratified in 6 years. It’s not legal. It’s not valid. You think the employees voted to say, “I don’t want a step increase.” How can you do the merit pay? We don’t have valid test results because we don’t have learning gains? Students are traumatized by the testing. It is sufficient to be proficient. You still do not have a rubric of examples of what is exemplary, satisfactory, and unsatisfactory.

Liz Hernandez: When I look upon the ocean of beautiful faces I see each child as the greatest child of their family. (What a beautiful line. And she spoke it in such a beautiful way. Only to be abruptly interrupted…)

Ms. Hatman: The attorney said we need to vote.

Attorney Man: There were no objections.

Ms. Hatman: Do we need a unanimous vote?

Attorney Man: The fact that it was stated makes it unanimous. One procedure is when the presiding officer makes a motion.

Hatman: I did not make a motion. It’s good that things like this happen. If they have a concern they need to say it to me.

Liz Hernandez: (waiting patiently) Can I have my full ten minutes please?

Their parents love them so much they will die for them. Tears come to my eyes. It is a huge honor. I am their parent when they are with me. They are my responsibility. Sacred. You are like parents of those you serve. You are the heads of households of the Miami Dade School District. You took from some teachers and gave to others. My raise came from stealing money from my colleagues. To wait for so long and to be told, “Sorry, rules changed.” Anger that the Board that is there to protect you, has betrayed you. Were you aware of what you were doing? In the quest to save money you shafted the teachers on certain steps. Fourteen years and my salary is $44,000. Just because we love what we do does not mean we should not be paid what we’re worth. Anyone who is not opposed to the unconstitutional scheme of charter schools has been bamboozled or they have something to gain. It is impossible to capture the essence of teaching. The products are not things on a conveyor belt. We cannot use the methods of business on assessing teachers and students. Our effectiveness lasts years. Measure that. Greed in the lawmakers has been growing. Why must Miami be the capital of corruption? Why can’t we be trendsetters in setting things right? You are the leaders, lead by example.

We have become desensitized. Maybe the public and the teachers have become a blur in your financial balance sheets. They want to develop each child so that the world that we all live in get’s better. It is your job to pay all teachers a dignified professional salary. It is your job to protect teachers. Why is there a feeling that the School Board is to be feared? It is funny that we need a union to fight for us for the same people we elected to protect us.

My father died this April at age 91 he said life is short. So how will you make your lives meaningful? Will you stand up for what you know in your heart is real and good? How will you help the whole child? Not just the mind. How will you make sure the money ends up in schools to help teachers? Together you are the head of this very large family. You have the power to help or to hurt. Are you worthy of the trust that the public has placed in you? You are the public school board, you are there for the public.”
Natasha Alvarez: “MDCPS #values matter. Does integrity exist when the leadership colluded to violate the law? Is it fair that secretaries downtown make more than veteran teachers? Honesty, my personal favorite. How can they ask us to be honest when our superintendent speaks with the media about saving tax payers money and then cries poor when it comes to teachers’ salaries? I would like some honest answers. How can we teach respect when we don’t respect the contract? Why are we being asked to score writing assessments? What about when the Superintendent talks about the personal lives of teachers at town hall meetings? Do values matter or is it just something that looks pretty?

Thais Alvarez takes the podium. Anytime Thais takes the podium you know the School Board will waste ten minutes arguing about giving her two extra minutes. Here’s a hint: Just give the girl the darned two extra minutes and save yourselves 8 in the process!

Thais Alvarez: “I know that 3 x 4 is 12. What is two more minutes?”

Ms. Hatman (I must say this month’s Hatman was much more kind and gentle then some previous meetings): “It’s not a complaint, it’s just a rule. It has to be unanimous.”

Lawyer Man: “Ten minutes has been the policy of the Board for some time. She has ten minutes max.”

Thais: “I appreciate his steadfast adherence to rules. I too appreciate adherence to rules, the US Constitution. Case law states that we can say names. I’m highly offended. My time is ticking. This is not my speech. This is a constitutional matter.

Ms. Hatman: “You are using your time.”

Lawyer Man: “The policy says ten minutes max. You can whatever else you need to say in writing.” (that way we can ignore it and not have to waste anytime listening to you)


Thais: “You are taking up my time on a technicality.”

Ms. Perez (the voice of reason and compassion on the Board): “Go ahead and speak your speech. “

Ms. Hatman: “I’ll give you your ten minutes.”

Thais: “I will be using names.”

Hatman: “I think that’s not going to happen. “

Lawyer Man: “The policy says ten minutes. She can provide the rest to the board in a written form. She did start speaking utilizing the ten minutes. The ten minute rule has been steadfastly been enforced.”

(unless it’s Zumba dancers. We’ve got plenty of time for Zumba dancers).

Thais: “There have been other speakers that have spoken for over ten minutes.”

Hatman: “Please, I cannot do it. He’s the parliamentarian.”

Thais: “You vote on it. You’re the board. He’s an advisor.”

Perez: “The clock should start at 7:20. Not a discussion Ms. Alavarez. “

My husband enters the room. He thinks I’m watching an episode of The Real Housewives of Miami based on the amount of botox and plastic surgery on the TV.

Thais: “Liberty is a well educated lamb. That’s me. America is a constitutional republic. They must govern to the existing constitution. It is not convenient for the union or board to abide by the constitution. Here is the educated lamb, me, to remind the union and the Board are illegal on many fronts. Can some say “Banana Republic”? The chair precludes speakers from using names. The Board attorney, Walter Harvey, denies speakers their first amendment rights.

Hatman: “Please say Mr. Attorney, not Mr. Harvey.”

Thais: “This board blatantly violates class size. WE the people voted for it but they spend it on Wi-Fi. This week I was at a PD with 12 teachers and six downtown employees plus the lady from Houston. In what classroom is there a 2 to 1 ratio? Both the union and the board heralded the contract as a victory. They celebrated the contract but it violates the Florida statute. The Union sent dozens of emails to vote yes for an illegal contract. Only the union could use district email. We need to terminate the corrupt union leadership before they obliterate us. I see I will not have enough time. I am requesting that the violation of my constitutional rights be addressed.

Isabella Perdomo (a middle school student): “My name is Bella and I’m a 7th grader. This past Friday in the middle of my math class my teacher had to stop teaching to answer the phone. She becomes extremely aggravated when her class time is disrupted by picture day and pep rallies. She said she didn’t want to take the call. I could see she was flustered. I later found out it was from the School Board. Couldn’t they just wait? I asked my parents why the School Board would call a teacher during class time to ask why they would speak at a meeting. They gave me a lesson about Communism in Cuba and how they persecuted their teachers. Now my father enjoys the US Constitution. Anyone can speak at a School Board meeting. It is an inalienable right. So I ask you again why did the School Board interrupt my math class? Is this a communist country?”

Jackie Perdomo (proud momma of well spoken child): “I’m here today to address several educational concerns. By the way I am the proud parent of that young girl. I knew my career would not make me rich. But now I have a family, health concerns, retirement to worry about. The step system guaranteed me financial gains. I also believed that the steps would be adjusted for cost of living. Then my salary was frozen for four years. How is it possible that I have been in a classroom for 16 years and I only make $3,000 more than a first year teacher? How is it possible that the teacher who never stepped foot in the classroom can make $10,000 more based on their test scores? What should be determining a teacher’s bonus? How about the extra 20 hours I put in? What about the band teacher that will work with my daughter after school because she lost her elective when two small classes were combined into one? Master teachers are not eligible for Best and Brightest because they went to schools in another country. Then there’s my daughter’s science teacher. These teachers are the Best and Brightest. They deserve to be compensated. The other thing I want to take up is the issue of intimidation. (She plays a video of a School Board meeting from last year after an article ran in the Herald about district intimidation of teachers that sign up to speak at School Board meetings)

The video of Ms.Perez: “Unfortunately this complaint has come to me before. Many parents were called and I mentioned it was very bad policy. No need to have their principal on a speaker phone. I do believe this sounds like intimidation.”

Ms. Perdomo: “Many of the teachers who are here today will tell you they were called on the phone or called into the Principal’s office. Why is this terrible practice allowed to continue? These are not just issues that warrant Tallahassee. What will Miami Dade do for its teachers? What about UTD? Hear us, hear me, I am a Miami Dade public school teacher and I AM WORTH MORE!”

Wendy Lopez from Chevron: (hey was this the same lady that said the Superintendent never makes a mistake)? Teachers can start entering classroom projects and Chevron will be funding them. Thank you.”

Marlen Valle Lanza: “I worked to elect a board member who is sitting on the board. You work for the tax payers who elected you. Why do you constantly blame everything on Tallahassee? Why are all these exceptionalities put into one classroom? About 8 years ago you decided to mix students with severe depression with students with low frustration tolerance and you want us to teach these two exceptionalities as one. Fourteen, sixteen students in two different grade levels is outrageous. What you have done by cutting the budget for special education is a disservice. Our children our being cheated by the decisions this board makes. Planning and grading is first and foremost. Blame Tallahassee? No, fight them. When it comes to paying your teachers. Who pays for all of those pamphlets of all your accomplishments? Who made those accomplishments? After I got paid in the retro pay I had $200 left. The money is there, it’s just how you chose to use it. I now have an enormous air conditioning unit worth $12,000 in my classroom. Flipping a switch is not such a big deal. You treat us like children. You don’t even trust us with the code.. You give us much more work with no training with the new technology. You cut IT personnel but you buy more technology. When we have a problem with a computer we have to submit a HEAT ticket. More responsibility on the teachers!

Libraries are barely functioning. It makes me sick to think that a school district has schools with no libraries. How can any school district cut personnel? Do you think students are exercising with 60 students to one adult? That’s just crowd control. Administrators are given a budget and told to deal with it. Personnel is needed. How is it possible that private insurance is cheaper than group insurance? In closing, I want to share the one rule I have in my classroom , treat others the same way you want to be treated. The passion you see in me right now is the passion I have in my work. It’s time for you to start doing the same for our children. We are all being cheated under your direction.”

Ms. Hatman: “The public hearing is 90 minutes. That’s the board policy. “

Lawyer Man: “One of the reasons for the maximum minutes is to make sure all the speakers get in 90 minutes. By Board policy the public hearing should end.”

Ms. Have a Heart Perez: “I would certainly think that if the speakers are here we should perhaps take a vote.”

Mr. Have no Heart Harvey: “That’s the Board policy. The Board would have to change the policy. “

Ms. Perez: “Can we vote on it? I make the motion that we should vote on it.”

Ms. Hatman: “Can we waive the rule instead?”

Lawyer Man: (A very reluctant) “Yes.”

Hatman: “We are going decide to waive the rule as a courtesy to the speakers. How many more speakers do we have?”

Karp: “How many people have not had the opportunity to speak?”

Ms.Perez AKA The Voice of Reaon: “It seems that all these side issues waste time. We could expedite things if the speakers could just move along.”

Ms.Hatman: “We are going the extra mile. Trying very hard. “

Sara Hayes: “Having been diagnosed with breast cancer today, I am grateful for being able to come here and speak. I am one of thousands of annual contract teachers. SB736 mandated that by 2014 that there was to be implemented two salary schedules. Each district under their Board and Superintendents were to negotiate a way to make sure performance pay schedule be implemented. The following counties have implemented the performance pay and tenure teachers can opt into this system. There is no performance pay in Dade County. The veteran teachers have had their salaries reduced. Your job was to find a way to implement performance pay. I’m not buying the latest uproar over testing. I have had my evaluation based on the biology EOC for the past four years. I’m inviting the media to investigate this important issue. Public education in Miami Dade is being undermined by the Board elected to protect it.”

Shawn Beightol: “Conditions have worsened. Take home pay has been reduced. Housing costs are way up. Evaluations are unreliable. More students crammed into our classrooms. Our union is incompetent at best, puppets of the district at worst. Last month I learned a lesson. You chose to announce the signing of a yet unvoted on contract as if it were already voted upon. The superintendent interrupted me and encouraged you to sign in advance. The union president sat silent. The Board attorney said it was negotiated lawfully. Neither do you have the authority to cut our salaries. We cannot rely on our good graces any longer. We have to announce our intention to sue you.”

Board Attorney: “Suing the Board would be a violation of the school board policy.”

Beightol: “I hope the teachers will join our Facebook group, “MDCPS teachers you are worth more.”

Isaac Castaneira: “I’ve been a teacher at Homestead for ten years. I heard the Superintendent speak in favor of the bond. Were teachers acknowledged for their sacrifice? I would not see a significance raise until 15 years. That’s if I get credit for my years. After 11 years, I’m on step 8. But I’m not on a step anymore. My years of service gone, my retirement damaged. Unless I work until I’m 87, I’ll never reach the top of the scale. When veteran teachers leave, their knowledge leaves with them. That is going to be the downfall of this district. I find myself mentoring new teachers every two years, because it’s a cycle. This district does not value my experience. Or it does value it as 1.53 an hour. Should I go to Texas or Georgia? I’m going to fight for my students. “

Jose Romano: “Assistant vice president of Baptist Church. One of the communities we serve is MDCPS. We’re here today to recognize the Superintendent and the School Board for training our students in CPR. We have a video we were going to show that shows the opportunity that you give to students in Miami Dade County (but his video is not from Miami Dade County, the Southern accents make that painfully clear).

Ms. Perez: “Time is up”. (fancy video projection is cut off).

The Baptist Duo keeps Going: “We want to present the school district with a trophy” (not sure what it was but that’s what it looked like. A petite brunette in a pencil skirt and heels takes it over to the Superintendent while lugging what looks like a gym bag).

Dominque Butler: I just wanted to ask, “When I do my evaluation I have to show how I communicated with stakeholders. How do you communicate with me? Nobody ever asked me if I had a computer before we put all the curriculum online? How do you communicate with stakeholders? We get a newsletter. How do you communicate with stake holders? How do you communicate with their parents? You love to share in our accomplishments but why don’t you ask us what we need? “

(As a side note, I pushed to get the student newspaper at my school online to save money, paper, to make it more interactive, and easily accessible to teachers, students and parents. I was told we had to print out paper copies because Dr. Karp likes to have them lying around his office. Meanwhile, none of the teachers in my wing even knew we had a student newspaper because we never see any copies.)

Steve New: “I pushed for VAM because back then it seemed like a valuable tool to know what each teacher had contributed to each student. Now we see the problems with testing. The Superintendent has suggested it might be the technology that’s messing up student scores. It might be that teachers are working two jobs. I spoke last year and was visited by a school official the next day. Many of the teachers you see here today are some of your best teachers. You should thank and talk to them regularly. The district has pulled money out of the schools, no money for lab equipment and textbooks (sidenote: teachers at one school reported that textbooks were actually stolen from classrooms in order to force the teachers to use the tablets).

Eastern European math teacher: “I’m a math teacher. I teach pre-Algebra. I’ve been rated as highly effective but maybe not for long. My students rank in the top 99 percentile. Unfortunately those excellent results do not earn me any extra compensation and my salary is one of the lowest. So even if the district was empowered to double my salary, they would still not compensate me for my time. My VAM score has been dropping for three years. My inquiries with Gisela Fields and UTD went unanswered and my calls not returned. 100% of my students earning a perfect 5 but I don’t get a perfect score myself. I was denied the opportunity to apply for the Best and Brightest because I was schooled out of the United States. “

Sandra O: “You might be aware that I filed a complaint with the assistant superintendent.”

Lawyer Man: “There are other forums for those claims to be addressed.”

Hatman: “You can talk about anything but your complaint.”

Sandra O:” It seems to be a common practice of parents experiencing retaliating tactics. I don’t know what’s going on but it’s not the way to go about. Assign a task force to alleviate these matters. Encourage people to speak out but then when they do they are retaliated against. They are just trying to exercise their rights. Can you create a task force a liaison to represent the parents, the students, and the teachers? I felt my complaints have been ignored. It seems the teachers feel the same way.”

(Maybe they can add another application in our portal called, “Hot and Bothered.” Just like we submit HEAT tickets for technology problems, we could submit “Hot and Bothered” tickets for complaints we have about the school district? Like a digital suggestions box!)

Mr. Shiny black hair Science Teacher: “I’m not here to accuse anybody of anything. I’m a ten year veteran teacher. I need you to know that I’m hurting. I had no expectation of great wealth. In the ten years I have moved twice because my rent has been rising but my salary has been staying the same. I do think that as a professional with a master’s degree that I should feel comfortable living in a home. 80% of teachers have to work a second job. Every hour they have to work a second job is one less hour they have to plan an engaging lesson, grade papers, or even rest. It represents $50 a week but when was the last time I got a raise equal to that? I see a huge amount of money spent on technology and software spent that has an untested value. “

Retired teacher: “I’m concerned because a lot of people see JROTC as a competition with PE. It is there to create better citizens. As a taxpayer I’m concerned. We have one person for three schools as a maintenance worker. Classes are starting in public schools and charters with no teachers. They’re hiring substitutes. I’m concerned when I ask a senior student what is the capital, the say “Washington” I say “Washington” what and they say “DC” and I say what does that stand for “Dade County.”

Benitez: “I’ve been teaching first grade ESOL for 11 years, I’m upset because I know my students are not going to be getting the best of me. My students don’t get the best of me. The reasons why are:

  1. Class size: 27 ESOL speakers in no space, six and seven year olds. Classroom management becomes a problem.
  2. The data analysis, parent teacher conferences.
  3. Money: I have been making $41,000 for the last seven years. Cost of living has gone up but my paycheck has not. My health insurance is not for free. I get to a specialist and I’m scared of the bill.
  4. So many baseline tests! I should be teaching and welcoming these students in my classroom instead of testing. The attention span of a seven year old is five minutes, not two hours.

A happy teacher is a happy child and that is the future of our country. “

'I am sick and tired of your constant whining about our overcrowded classroom, No.112!'

‘I am sick and tired of your constant whining about our overcrowded classroom, No.112!’

Most people are aware of the ALS ice bucket challenge as their Facebook newsfeed is periodically inundated with videos of their friends dumping buckets of ice water over their heads. What if we came up with a challenge to bring awareness to the general public about the importance of class size? The billionaire pundits get to jam media airwaves about how little class size matters, and tell American teachers that what they really need is access to reams of data about how their students are performing on nationally benchmarked exams instead. As if teachers with student loads of over 200 have any time to analyze data and then plan to differentiate instruction for 40 kids at a time in one room!

I would like to propose the following class size challenge to all of the media pundits, billionaires, corporate education reform types, congressmen, heads of Departments of Education, state legislators, school board members and district superintendents who like to argue that there is no research that shows class size matters. I invite them all to come into a public school classroom of 25 students and have themselves video-taped teaching the class. Then they would have to be video-taped teaching another class of 40 students at a time. Mind you they will not be allowed to teach in the old fashioned “sage on the stage” manner with students sitting in rows with only paper and pencil in hand. They will have to be the “guide on the side” as 40 fourteen year-olds sitting in collaborative groups try to decipher 2,000 year old Chinese documents and pull evidence to support their claim that Daoist teachings about the nature of yin/yang would not support the reunification the Zhou Dynasty during the Warring States period. The cherry on top would be that the kids are working off of tablet computers which they would have no ability to control and ten of the students would not be able to connect to the district Wi-Fi in order to complete the assignment so the teacher would also have to provide on site tech support in addition to monitoring and assisting 40 students at one time. Dare I say that they may seem a bit more flustered when there are 40 kids in a room rather than 25? Dare I say that after this experience, they might be more inclined to believe that class size does indeed matter? But I’m not holding my breath in anticipation that any of the people in charge of public education policy would actually step foot in a public school classroom and put themselves in a teacher’s shoes. They don’t even send their own kids to public schools.

So teachers, I propose a Class Size Challenge to you instead. We aren’t permitted to video-tape and publicize what goes on in our classrooms (but you could certainly suggest an extra credit project to one of your aspiring filmmakers to film a day in the life of a public school student and post it to youtube). I suggest teachers take the biggest bucket they can find and fill it with a week’s worth of papers to grade. Even with an average class size of 30, most high school teachers would have over 200 papers in their bucket. Then have someone film you as you take the Class Size Challenge and dump all the papers you normally grade over the weekend over your head instead. Post the video to Facebook with a comment like, “You think two months off in the summer is worth spending every weekend like this!”

teacher grading paper

erik fresen snake

(Image taken from https://thewitheringapple.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/ef2.png?w=860&h=280&crop=1)

In perhaps the least surprising news of the year, Governor Rick Scott has denied a request on behalf of the Florida Educator’s Association to extend the Oct. 1st deadline for the Best and Brightest Scholarship. You can read the letter from FEA President Andy Ford here https://www.facebook.com/BrevardFederationofTeachers/photos/a.468695559883531.1073741829.337122859707469/897976140288802/?type=3&theater

Despite FEA pleas to extend the deadline for teachers still waiting to get their scores from the SAT and the ACT, the best the union was able to negotiate was allowing teachers to use their high school or college transcripts instead. For most teachers over the age of thirty who already hold Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees, high school transcripts are generally not what one chooses to retain in their office filing cabinet. Of course anyone with an ounce of cynicism and an GRE analytical score over 500 would know that petitioning Rick Scott to enable more veteran teachers to qualify for Best and Brightest scholarships would counteract the original purpose of the bill. This bill was not meant for veteran teachers. It was clearly meant as a signing bonus for Teach for America recruits, charter school teachers and any other cheap young blood who are stupid enough (despite having standardized test scores in the top 20th percentile) to sign up for teaching in a state that has shown nothing but disdain for educators and passes one humiliating law after the next.

While the blame and injustice of Best and Brightest lies mostly with Representative Erik Fresen for coming up with the hair-brained scheme and Governor Rick for signing it into law, neither our district nor our union in Miami did much to ensure that their highly qualified veteran teachers benefited from this inane giveaway of tax payer funds. Neither the district nor the union chose to send a district wide email clearly explaining the details of Best and Brightest and how to apply. The district chose to inform teachers the last week in August by putting it in the weekly briefing email that no teacher in the history of Dade County has ever bothered to read. The second least read publication for Dade County teachers would be the UTD “Activist” Newsletter that only gets mailed to union member homes. The newsletter sat unread in a pile of junk mail on my dining table for two weeks. Looking at photos of the union president smiling at one social event after the next is not one of my top priorities. If there were any two places where one could publish information that one could be assured that no teacher in Dade County would ever see, it would be the weekly briefing and the UTD Activist newsletter. This way both the district and union get to say they informed their teachers, while ensuring that the majority of them would remain uninformed so as to not dilute the $10,000 jackpot earnings.

Just this week UTD finally sent out an email only to qualifying union members. This email was sent out on September 21st, ten days before the deadline:

“The Florida’s Best and Brightest plan has been discussed.  Its flaws are numerous and self-evident. Nevertheless, it is now the law.

Even though it is not something we agree with, we recommend that if you qualify, you should apply. We have identified you as being potentially qualified, which is the reason you are receiving this e-mail.  You should use the links below to begin the process of applying for the funds.

Here is the link to get the application. (click here)

Here is a link to College Board to request your SAT scores. (click here)

Here is a link to request ACT scores. (click here)

Here is a link to the Percentile Rankings associated with the SAT and ACT. (click here)

This would have been an awesome email had it been sent out in early August, not one week before the deadline! If teachers hadn’t already known to request their test scores weeks earlier, there was no way they would qualify at this point. Which leaves one wondering, why send out an email one week before the deadline at all? Why did they wait so long to send this email? It’s not like UTD is shy about using the district email to flood both non-member and member Inboxes with useless information. Just last week I got an email to attend the Million Man March in Washington D.C. and another email wishing me a Happy Yom Kippur. Being neither an African American male nor Jewish, I found these emails to be rather unnecessary.

Then on a Friday afternoon, less than one week before the deadline, UTD sends out another email only to union members lamenting that Rick Scott is not extending the deadline but now teachers can look into ordering their high school or college transcripts instead. (By the way, I ordered my high school transcripts and my SAT scores were not even on them). The majority of Dade County union members (remember the other 50% have no access to this information), will probably not even see this email until the middle of the day on Monday. Giving them exactly 48 hours to procure their high school or college transcripts.

“From: United Teachers of Dade <United@UTD.org>
Date: September 25, 2015 at 2:05:34 PM EDT
To: Undisclosed recipients:;
Subject: Best and Brightest Scholarships – Another Update

Neither the Governor nor FLDOE have provided for an extension to the October 1 deadline, but some relief has been provided based on the efforts of UTD and FEA (Florida Education Association).

In contradiction to a previous Technical Assistance Paper provided by FLDOE, M-DCPS will now be allowed to accept official transcripts that include SAT and/or ACT scores.  An email with details will be forthcoming from M-DCPS.

If you have not been able to acquire your official score report from SAT or ACT, you should look into getting a copy of your high school or college transcripts that may include your scores.  You can submit these documents in lieu of something from SAT or ACT.

The deadline for applying for this funding is still October 1, 2015.   Individual awards will be based on the number of qualifying individuals that complete the application divided by the amount appropriated.

Take Action

Best and Brightest “Scholarship” Program FEA Member Questionnaire

FEA is exploring the legal and organizational impact of the “Best and Brightest” program on our members. This is a one year program that provides scholarships to first year classroom teachers who scored in the 80th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT and all other classroom teachers evaluated as “Highly Effective” and who scored in the 80th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT.

To best assess this issue, and to determine the best course of action that FEA will need to take to protect our members’ interests, we need your input and contact information.

Answer the Questionnaire Now

If Dade teachers didn’t go to high school or college in South Florida, they are going to be SOL when it comes to getting a transcript with test scores in time as well. Which begs the question, why bother sending this email out at all? If UTD and the district really wanted to ensure all of their eligible teachers benefited from the Best and Brightest “Erik Fresen Makin’ it Rain on Florida New Hires” Scholarship, they would have sent these emails out months ago. The question of why they didn’t remains.


The Miami-Dade school district and the state of Florida are apparently under the false impression that teachers have a massive amount of spare time on their hands. Instead of spending my planning period grading papers, I will be filling out a tedious form itemizing each 50 cent pack of crayons I purchased in August so the district doesn’t deduct money from my paycheck next March because I didn’t properly document how I spent each penny of the $285 teacher lead money on classroom supplies. To make matters worse, this is the second time I am filling out this form because the first time I printed it out and hand wrote the items and only now am I finding out the form needs to be filled out online and then printed and submitted with receipts to my site administrator. Luckily, I seem to be one of the only teachers left in Dade County with a functioning printer and toner that my school actually purchased for me. Other Dade County teachers are not so lucky. See this unbelievable email exchange between a teacher just trying to do her job and a district bureaucrat:


It is imperative that your office send teachers a specified list of what constitutes EQUIPMENT. For example, I purchased a small laminator machine from Office Depot to laminate posters for my classroom. I also purchased an HP printer for my classroom this year after I was unable to receive a working printer in my class. I requested an HP printer via several HEAT tickets and administration because the Lexmark printer was not working and it needed a toner cartridge. Finally, after two weeks I was told there were no available HP printers in the building by the administration and the HEAT tech person at my school site. Additionally, I tried several times in past years to order ink cartridges for the school printers in my classroom via HEAT tickets and administration email. I was told several years ago that the school did not have money for ink for printers in the individual teachers classrooms and that I would have to use my Lead Teacher Classroom Supply money for that purpose. Therefore I have been purchasing ink for the school printer in my classroom each year. Also, I needed copies for my classes, along with many teachers in building, for our opening of school course syllabus and our school site copy machine has not been working since teacher OPT Days. So I have been going to Office Depot in the interim to have my copies made for my students.

As you can see, Equipment is a vague term because I do not know what items that refers to especially with what I have already purchased above-ink cartridges, small laminator machine, HP printer… this year and in previous years. Teachers need a list of what constitutes equipment from your office ASAP so they will know what not to enter on the Teacher Classroom Supply Documentation of Expenditures form.

The is the district’s response:
“Please recall your message, you just copied almost the entire District in your response. The District does not have a list, if we did we would have shared it with our teachers. Just yesterday, we were able to get from the State of Florida the definition of “equipment and supplies”, and thus, it was just provided to the Regions to share with the Principals. Your administration just got it, I’m sure that they will share it with staff shortly. Based on the definition, printers and laminators are considered equipment.”

It gets even more absurd ladies and gentleman. Read the state of Florida’s definition of “equipment and supplies” that was sent to administrators and forwarded to teachers. It reads more like a science textbook than anything that would actually help a teacher categorize what constitutes a supply and what constitutes equipment.


An ever-present challenge in financial accounting is that of distinguishing between supplies and equipment.This section provides criteria for classifying an item as either a supply or piece of equipment. Equipment builtin or fixed to the building or grounds is considered a part of the building or land improvement and shouldbe charged to those respective accounts.


A supply item is any article or material that meets any one or more of the following conditions:

  1. It is consumed in use.
  1. It loses its original shape or appearance with use.
  1. It is expendable. That is, if the article is damaged or some of its parts are lost or worn out, it is usually more feasible to replace it with an entirely new unit than repair it.
  1. It is an inexpensive item, having characteristics of equipment but with a small unit cost that makes it inadvisable to capitalize the item.
  1. It loses its identity through incorporation into a different or more complex unit or substance.


An equipment item is a material unit that meets all of the following conditions:

  1. It retains its original shape and appearance with use.
  1. It is nonexpendable.  That is, it is usually more feasible to repair it rather than replace it with an entirely new unit.
  1. It represents an investment of money that makes it feasible and advisable to capitalize the item.
  1. It does not lose its identity through incorporation into a different or more complex unit or substance.

All clear now? Probably not. You are probably more confused than ever about what constitutes a “supply” and what constitutes “equipment” and you may be questioning your own sanity at this point. I’m definitely questioning my own sanity for staying in a profession that treats me like a criminal for purchasing a set of wireless mice for the district tablets that only come with one USB port so you can’t work with a mouse and a keyboard at the same time. Charter schools are robbing this state blind, yet every year they come up with even more ridiculous hurdles for teachers to be able to be semi-reimbursed for all of the money they spend on items just to be able to do their job.

It’s unbelievable what teachers are being forced to purchase out of their own pockets these days. Last week at my daughter’s second grade Back to School Night, her teacher asked parents to donate money on Adopt a Classroom so she could purchase cardboard cubicles to prevent the kids from cheating during tests! WTF? Not only are teachers being treated like criminals, but so are second grade students! First of all, the district should be providing the cubicles to prevent cheating on these exams that they want to base teacher evaluations and pay on-not the teacher! Second of all, why are we putting 7 year olds in cardboard cubicles to take a high stakes test in the first place? Sorry teach, but I’m not giving you money to put my kid in a cardboard cubicle.

Once upon a time in a not so distant past, teachers were simply handed a check in September because the district knew that teachers spent a large sum of their own funds back in August to buy supplies, or equipment, or candy, or whatever they damn well needed to buy to do their job and no questions were ever asked. Then last year we were handed a debit card so they could track our expenses and told where we could spend the money. Only problem was that the debit card company was hacked on our personal information may have been compromised. Which leads us to where we are today, itemizing each 50 cent pack of crayons and being told we will not be reimbursed for hundreds of dollars worth of “equipment” because “it does not lose its identity through incorporation into a different or my complex substance.” At this point I’ve lost my identity as a classroom teacher and may as well be working for the IRS.

Many teachers will probably just throw their hands up at this point and not even bother filling out the form out of frustration, total confusion, or because they just don’t have the time for all that. And the great irony in all of this (of which there are many), if you don’t spend your $285 according to those incomprehensible instructions, the district get’s to keep the unused funds! Not only do they save money not purchasing basic supplies and equipment like paper, toner and printers, they get to make money off of the backs of the teachers who did!

On the subject of the criminalization of teachers and wasting teachers’ time, if you haven’t already attended a district PD recently and had to complete an evaluation using “My Learning Plan” you are in for yet another massive time suck. If it weren’t bad enough that there are now PD Gestapo that will turn you away if you show up 15 minutes late and force you to stay until 3:45 even if you finished all of your work two hours earlier, you now have to fill in a multi-stage evaluation. We had a perfectly good PD registration and evaluation system, but apparently the state of Florida audited us and found it just wasn’t good enough. (Funny how the state of Florida is happy to audit district professional development but has never audited districts over compliance with the class size amendment).

Just figuring out where to submit an evaluation on My Learning Plan is burdensome enough, but then you have about a thousand drop down menus worth of “Strongly Agreeing” about the value of your PD, uploading documentation, creating a Smart Goal (100% of will achieve mastery on blah, blah, blah..) and then you are supposed to remember to go back 14 days after your PD and describe how you achieved your goal. I took a PD at the beginning of the summer, and I was still expected to go back 14 days later while on vacation and describe how I achieved my goal even though I wouldn’t see any students for another two months! Basically, I was forced into a situation where I had to lie and this was all being done in the name of preventing PD fraud! I got news for you Tallahassee, ain’t no teacher got time for that!

UTD Contract Signing

By now, most Dade County teachers are aware that the RIP Steps contract was ratified by the 60% of the 50% of MDCPS teachers and support staff who bothered to vote at all. Despite many schools reporting resounding “No” votes, the contract somehow managed to pass by a 60% to 40% margin. Whether by fraud, relentless district email teacher dupefications from the UTD President, or by teacher desperation for an extra $80-$300 a month, the Dade County step system has gone the way of the dinosaurs thanks to the United Teachers of Dade. For many teachers, this contract was the last straw to what many teachers, including the dues paying variety, perceive to be a corrupt and inept leadership in bed with the district (google those last few words and a rather funny image that Kafkateach had nothing to do with should come up). On almost the one year anniversary of joining the union, I quit the union. Apparently, I am not alone in faxing in my UTD termination letter. This morning the UTD President felt the need to send out a conciliatory email trying to persuade teachers to remain in the union. In case you want to know why I quit, here are the main reasons ranked in order of importance:

  1. I can’t afford UTD dues. My rent was recently raised $160 a month. My raise is only $80 a month so I needed to make up the difference somehow. #12yearsTeachinginMiamiandICan’tAffordToPayMyRent
  1. I refuse to pay money to support leadership that acts more like a salesman for the district than a union boss. I still don’t see anything in the latest contract that was “bargained” for. I joined the union to be able to give input to UTD and hopefully have them take me seriously since I was a dues paying member. Many of us suggested class size caps and maximum student loads be written into the contract. We were repeatedly ignored and told to file a grievance if we had a problem. I have no legal grounds to file a grievance since my overcrowded classrooms are AP and now exempt from the class size amendment. That’s why I wanted something written into the contract! Furthermore, how many teachers are going to be eager to file a grievance against their administrators now that they control the amount of their salary adjustment and whether they get a salary adjustment at all? Remember, if you are rated ineffective you do not receive a raise.
  1. Now that there is no contract language to base our future pay increases on, and everything is dependent upon Tallahassee, why do we need a union at all?

Would I ever go back to the union? Sure. Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Make union dues a standard percentage of one’s base salary not to exceed 1%. Since UTD thinks standard across the board percentages are such a good idea, I think they need to tie membership dues to a standard percentage as well. Membership dues should be at most 1% of a teacher’s salary. That way, UTD will have more at stake and they will want to see teachers’ salaries increase because it will mean more money for them. It’s ridiculous that a teacher making $42,000 is expected to pay 2% of their salary for union dues. ‪#‎performancepayforUTD You can afford to reduce member dues by getting rid of that glossy oxymoronic publication called “The UTD Activist.” No offense, but I’m sure more people read this blog than that newsletter and it doesn’t cost a cent. You can also cut back on your party planning activities. I don’t need happy hours, multicultural picnics, or teacher proms. Dare I suggest UTD leaders take a paycut until they recruit enough members with their reduced fees to make up the difference?
  1. I’m sick of all the smiling photo ops with the district. The UTD President and soon- to-be President both have great smiles (see photo above), but I prefer my union boss to suffer from “Resting Bitch Face Syndrome.”
  1. Learn how to make a speech. There are so many issues facing educators in Miami. Why not use the School Board meetings to address some of them in a public forum? It’s embarrassing that every time our very well compensated union leadership is called at School Board meetings, there is deafening silence. I know sitting through School Board meetings is the modern day equivalent of a Medieval Spanish torture session, but if I were paid six figures, I would have the decency to show up and say a few words on behalf of Dade County teachers.

If the union leaders would like a few tutorials on how to make a speech, here are some examples from last week’s School Board meeting by three individuals who have repeatedly shown up to speak at School Board meetings on behalf of Dade County teachers without any compensation and with very little support from the other 20,000 MDCPS employees.

First on the list, Shawn Beightol. Mr. Beightol has developed quite a reputation in the district based on his outspoken blogs and School Board speeches. He even took half a day off of work to be able to speak before the contract was ratified only to have the democratic process thrown out when they skipped ahead and ratified the contract before he was allowed to speak. For his outspokenness, the district has tried to brand him as some sort of conspiracy nut. You can watch Shawn’s speech here https://plus.google.com/100847789170331858146/posts/eFxLaa68jF4?pid=6192670394424583746&oid=1008477891

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think he sounded crazy or even particularly radical in his speech. The guy just wants to know how teachers will be paid going forward since there was nothing in the contract. That’s not a conspiracy, even though the Superintendent’s response used the word “conspiracy” over and over again. He argued that since the range of teacher salaries in Florida was close, that there must not be a conspiracy by Superintendents to keep wages low. He boasted that average teacher pay at $48,000 was above the state average and only 15 districts in the state paid above the average. Our Superintendent loves averages! He loves calculating class size by school wide averages! He loves calculating teacher pay by averages (which actually says more about the age of your workforce than the decency of your salaries). I explained to him face to face after I spoke at the School Board meeting about the School of Choice loophole that averages mask reality. He didn’t really seem to get the point I was trying to make about averages and accused me of not understanding basic math instead. Calculus may not be my cup of tea, but I have a thing for statistics. One statistic the Superintendent did not bring up when bragging about our teacher pay being above average in Florida is that our cost of living in Miami is WAY above average, like top 8 in the nation! How about the fact that according to the Miami New Times, one would need to make a salary of $52,000 to afford the median rent for a one bedroom apartment? I realize it’s not the Superintendent’s fault that Miami is one expensive town to be a teacher in, but he can’t bemoan lower property tax values in Miami and in the very same meeting vote to lower the property tax millage rate, thus cutting his own funding that could be used to increase teacher pay. But, hey, he get’s to brag that he saved the average homeowner $7 a year even though nobody was speaking at School Board meetings demanding tax relief. If the voters were so eager to increase their taxes to pass a technology bond, perhaps they would also be willing to pass a bond to increase teacher pay in Dade as well?

Speaking of the technology bond, the School Board member running for Mayor seemed to want to blame Tallahassee for everything and reminded everyone that we were forced to pass a bond to comply with the state mandate to improve technology in our schools. Funny how the School Board completely ignores that other twice voter approved state mandate called “the Class Size Amendment.” As Thais Alvarez, another great teacher speaker who also frequents School Board meetings pointed out, “Why do we need the School Board if you don’t have the power to do anything and blame everything on Tallahassee?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E39sVzhFEk&feature=youtu.be

It’s worth watching Thais’s speech until the end when she throws in a dig about the fructose laden free breakfasts that students dump in the trash and how all the teachers hate the technology because it’s, “A big time killer.” There are other Thais Alavarez School Board youtube videos out there if you want to search for the one where she reminds the Superintendent that he works for her, “You work for me Sir.” How many teachers in Dade County would have the balls to say that?

The Audacious Lady, Natasha Alvarez, also made an appearance at last week’s Board meeting missing Open House at her school to be speak about the contract. I don’t believe there is a video link to Natasha Alvarez’s speech at the last School Board meeting so I will do my best to paraphrase her speech below.

Natasha Alavarez: “When I come here, it is totally professional, it’s not personal. It is also professional on my Facebook page. No nasty remarks. I had nothing to do about the article about the Superintendent being in bed with UTD. I never wanted to be disrespected the same way I saw Shawn Beightol be disrespected. I should be at Open House but I’m here today. This should have never happened. That’s a big error in scheduling. On twitter we had #mdcpsvaluesmatter. I matter too. When I send emails I don’t get a reply. It shows it hasn’t even been read.

All of MAST voted “No” to the contract. (There was a big hoopty-doo over MAST’s amazing SAT scores prior to Natasha’s speech). It’s not about whether I got a raise. I said “No” because of the statute. Nowhere does it say “Go to this section in order to override the grandfathered contract. That part irked me. The blatant disregard for Florida law. How far are we going to go? If we are frozen at our steps, so should everybody else. I work three side jobs just to survive. At this point, I’m about to sell my shoes just so I can live comfortably!

At which point the annoyed moderator, possibly late for her next Botox appointment, told Natasha to “Wrap it up.”

Natasha Alvarez is another teacher leader who frequently speaks on behalf of teachers at School Board meetings. If you recently dropped the union and now have a few extra bucks in your wallet, please show Natasha some love and support one of her three side businesses:

Origamie Owl, Younique lashes, and NYR Organics

You can also follow her on Twitter. As far as I know, she has yet to start a fourth business selling her shoes but she did create one of the greatest possible Miami-Dade teacher Twitter hashtags ever-#ImAboutToSellMyShoes

Shoe sale sign



If you are a Miami Dade County teacher, you received a deluge of emails from the UTD President over the past week trying to sell you on the merits of a contract that, if passed, will undermine your economic security for the rest of your career. In honor of Labor Day, the UTD President sent out one final email extolling the merits of a contract that will ensure Miami Dade County teachers have zero rights in terms of future salary growth. Happy Labor Day! Here is just one quote from the email:

“Negotiations obviously take two parties to reach an agreement.  It is only human to want to get everything possible at one time, but we know there must be some give and take in order to reach an agreement.  We must also have our eye on a long-term strategy if we hope to improve our working conditions and our schools.  I sincerely believe that this contract sets the stage for a positive and long-term outcome for the employees we represent.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t see one aspect of the latest contract that didn’t read like a district wish list. I’m not sure what part of this contract was “negotiated.” It seems more like the district handed UTD a contract filled with the vaguest language possible regarding future salary schedules and told the union leaders to go sell it to their teachers. The only thing that is guaranteed by that contract is that the step schedule will be eliminated and years of experience won’t matter in future “salary adjustments.” Everything else will be dependent on funding from Tallahassee. There will be a minimum salary, $41,000 and a maximum salary, $71,000. Inshallah (this is a saying in Arabic that means “God willing”) you may one day reach the top. But as UTD stated numerous times this week, NOTHING IS GAURANTEED! UTD projects that we can expect future salary adjustments between 1% and 3%, however, given that we have a Tea Party Governor, a legislature filled with teacher-hating Republicans, a crashing stock market and a looming real estate bubble, we may spend years without a raise and never be able to say, “I have 15 years in the system, I’m only on step 12, you owe me three steps.” Steps will disappear from the portal soon after the contract is ratified.

I joined UTD because I felt that as a non-dues paying member of the bargaining unit, I didn’t have the right to complain and they had no reason to address my concerns. After almost one year as a UTD member, I feel just as ignored as when I wasn’t a UTD member. Myself, and others, proposed numerous requests for class size limitation language to be put into the contract. Every year the scumbags in Tallahassee seek to water down the already watered down class size amendment even further. If we had class size caps and student load maximums as part of our local contract, it wouldn’t matter what new loophole or exemption Tallahassee conceived to undermine the class size amendment. Maybe the district can’t afford a 25 student maximum for every course, but the district and union could certainly negotiate reasonable class size caps for all Dade County teachers and students. Many other districts have class size limitations as part of their local contract, there is no reason this could not have been done in Dade as well. UTD will claim the union is a democracy and not enough teachers expressed concern over class size. But I am positive more teachers demanded class size limits, than demanded the right to leave work one hour early to go vote, and somehow that ended up in the contract.

So as far as negotiating a strong contract that protects teachers from exploitation (outrageous student loads without any additional compensation) and provides some standard expectation of future salary growth in writing, UTD has proven itself useless. Perhaps, even more insidious, is their active role in duping the teachers who pay them to watch out for their best interests. Here are some examples of UTD teacher dupefications in their emails over the past week:

Teacher dupefication #1:

“The law requires the creation of a performance pay system based on teacher evaluations, and originally containing at least 50% of that evaluation based on student test data.  This was bad enough, but more insidious was the language in the law that made step systems with large increments like ours impossible to fund along with the performance pay system that was mandated.”

OK, so you had four years to do something about your whacked out step schedule to ensure that it would be compatible with the upcoming performance pay system. Instead of gradually making the steps more equal, which would have allowed a grandfathered step system to coexist with merit pay without bankrupting the district (see Palm Beach County’s grandfathered step schedule http://www.palmbeachschools.org/compensation/CTA/PDFs.CTA/CTA_SalarySchedule_FY15_Grandfathered_03022015.pdf ), you kicked the can down the road for so long that you ended up having to kick your grandfathered teachers out of a step schedule they were entitled to keep under the law.

Teacher dupefication #2:

“We have negotiated an agreement that contains a Minimum/Maximum Model that we think is the best one possible to solve the legal and budgetary problems created by the legislature.  This model allows for increases every year to be made in a more equitable fashion for all employees.  However due to changes in the law, no one group can expect a $7,511 increase.”

There have not been any changes made to SB736 since it was passed, other than the student growth portion being reduced to one third.

Teacher dupefication #3:

“For a teacher in the middle of their career, this contract will allow you to make salary increases without surrendering your Professional Service Contract (PSC), if you have one.  This would alleviate the requirement to revert to Annual Contract (AC) status.”

Say what? There is no requirement in the law that would make PSC teachers revert to Annual Contract unless they voluntarily chose to opt into the performance pay schedule. That was the best UTD could offer mid-career teachers? We get to stay on PSC? UTD “negotiated” away my right to remain on a step schedule and now they are taking credit for me being able to keep my PSC? WTF!

I’d like to post one union steward’s eye witness account of the meetings that took place this week. His account was as follows:

“The good news is that colonoscopies are free, but it is not because of the union, it is because of the Affordable Care Act. I THIINK I HAD ONE LAST NIGHT.










All of this will be said and done come Tuesday evening. Conveniently, the next School Board meeting takes place on September 9th, one day after the vote and the same night as elementary school open houses. I’m sure the UTD President, the Superintendent, and our School Board will be patting each other on the back and giving each other endless kudos over this “historic” contract at the next board meeting. I know a few teachers will be taking the time to speak at the next board meeting to offer a counter-narrative in the most public way possible. Maybe some of you would like to join them?


I think I may have just cracked the Rosetta Stone of Dade County’s future performance pay salary schedule. A few weeks back I wrote a blog about Miami Dade public school teachers facing a future of 1% pay increases https://kafkateach.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/mdcps-employees-welcome-to-the-one-percent/based on a performance pay schedule presented by the district.

To most people, the alphabetical based pay schedule looked like nothing more than alphabet soup and no one could make any sense out of it. Some were able to do basic math and realized there were now 56 steps to reach the top of the pay schedule, which barring a massive increase in Dade County teacher life expectancy, no one would ever reach the top of the salary schedule again. Then last week the “historic” contract presented an average 2% raise for most employees with only 19 steps to reach the top. Many teachers will receive a raise larger than their step increase was slated to be, but some teachers, especially the misfortunate crew of Les Miserable teachers on step 22 would be receiving half of a $7,000 pay step they had already waited three years to get (insert crying emoticon).

The catch, which no one seems to be paying much attention to (especially UTD stewards) is that the words “step” and “experience” have been crossed out on the contract. So Kafkateach got to wondering how these two pay schedules were related and somehow my bottom of the top 20th percentile SAT math challenged brain may have figured it out.

The district came up with an alphabet based schedule because years of experience would no longer be considered as a basis for pay under the new contract. The union will say this is in order to be compliant with SB736. That is a half-truth at best. SB736 allows for a step schedule based on years of experience that veteran teachers are grandfathered into, and then a separate performance based pay schedule had to be created for new hires. Under the law, veteran teachers could opt into the performance pay schedule but they would have to relinquish professional contract status. By forcing veteran teachers onto a pay for performance schedule which eliminates steps altogether and bases even veteran teachers’ pay off of their evaluations, Dade County and UTD are actually breaking the law (see also http://shawnbeightol.com/blog/2015/08/28/recent-salary-proposal-from-utd-and-mdcps-is-illegal-and-is-set-to-defraud-you-of-your-statutorily-established-step-system/) But that’s how we do it in Dade. We tend to manipulate the law (see also “School of Choice” loophole) and do what is most financially and logistically expedient. But I digress, back to Kafkateach Math 101.

The district basically looked at the top of the pay scale ($70,000) and created a new pay schedule based on what a typical salary negotiation budget might look like at 1%. That explains the largest “salary adjustment” being $700 on the alphabet soup schedule. SB736 mandates that highly effective teachers must be paid more than the highest step, and effective teachers could be paid anywhere from 50-75% of the “salary adjustment” given to highly effective teachers. That explains where the other $400 “salary adjustments” on the alphabet soup schedule came from. So now you have a workable blended performance pay schedule for Dade County teachers based on a 1% budget.

So why the need for 56 steps on the alphabet soup schedule and how does this relate to the current 19 step schedule being voted on by teachers on September 8th? Let’s say in a very good year the state budget allows for a 3% “salary adjustment” rather than 1%. If you multiply 19 x 3 you get 57, which is almost the same as the 56 steps on the alphabet soup schedule. This year there was no need for the district and UTD to present the performance pay schedule in the contract because teachers hired this year will not have evaluations until January of 2017 at the earliest. Next year both new hires and veteran teachers will have their pay based off of their evaluations, so I imagine we will see the alphabet soup schedule reappear then. Which got me to wondering if future “salary adjustments” would be retroactive given the long delay in our evaluations. When I asked UTD if future “salary adjustments” would be retroactive, this was their response.

“Retroactive salary adjustments are more dependent on the budget then they are on the evaluations. We cannot predict how that will be affected at this time.”

That answer leads me to conclude that this year’s contract is indeed very “historic” because we will never see another contract with retroactive pay again. It saves the district approximately $20,000,000 a year when they delay the contract ratification and give teachers half of what they should have been paid if the contract had gone into effect at the beginning of the school year.

So there you have it folks, Kafkateach’s attempt at solving the Rosetta Stone of Dade County’s future pay for performance schedule and Kafkateach’s attempt at doing basic math early on a Saturday morning. ***FULL DISCLAIMER: I MAY BE TOTALLY WRONG*** Call me a conspiracy theory nut if you like, but conspiracies arise because of the lack of information and truth from people in power. I asked some of the UTD stewards at my school to forward this Q & A with UTD about the contract from another UTD steward to my staff because I found the information to be helpful and neutral in tone. My request was ignored. This leads me to believe there was just a little too much truthiness to these responses. I have posted the Q & A below, feel free to distribute to other confused MDCPS employees as you wish.

  1. Q: Even though the A0 Salary schedule includes both Grandfather and Performance salary schedules, will there be a distinction in salary adjustments for those that are “Grandfathered” (professional/continuingcontract) and those that are “Performance”(annual contract)?

A: Not this year.  A distinction will be made in future negotiations as required by law.

  1. Q:  Is there any monetary incentive for professional/continuing contract teachers to become annual contract teachers?


A: No.  This year absolutely not.  In the future, the goal is to keep the “salary adjustments” very similar in order to eliminate any real   reason to surrender your PSC.

  1. Q: Will a highly effective teacher on the same step receive more money than an effective teacher?

A: Not this year.  A distinction will be made in future negotiations as required by law.

  1. Q: Will priority for salary adjustment “budgeted” money be given to teachers rated highly effective regardless of their years of service?

A: No.  Our plan is to negotiate simultaneously for both.  The law says that you cannot disadvantage the Performance Schedule.  The plan is

to not disadvantage either schedule.

  1.  Q: “All employees will remain on their current step.”  Does this mean employees will never move up a step and that any adjustments to salary

depend on maintaining a highly effective or effective rating?

A: Employees will actually move up a step in the portal.  Most employees are getting more $ than the step indicates.  A few weeks after the

raise is effective (depending on how long it take to change SAP) all references to steps will be removed from the portal and replaced with

“Annual Salary.”

  1. Q: In a subsequent year, will teachers lose a salary adjustment if they fall from highly effective to effective, or are all salary adjustments

permanent increases?

A: No.  All salary adjustments are permanent regardless of whether the employee is on grandfathered or performance schedule.  This was

one area where SB 736 was slightly improved over SB 6 that Crist vetoed the prior year.

  1. Q: What is implicated by the “minimum “and “maximum,’ as the scratched out wording indicates that years of experience will no longer be a

factor in determining salary even though the categories “grandfather” and “performance” continue to exist?

A: Min and Max indicate the range of pay that teachers earn.  The range is exactly the same at the current lowest step and the new highest

step.  As we move forward, salary adjustments may vary based on schedule and performance and therefore employees will not be all paid   the same based on their years in the system.  Our goal is to limit the variance, but a variance will occur.  The minimum and maximum will

also continue to be an issue that is negotiable each year.

  1. Q:  For employees required to wear uniforms, what are the implications for a taxable allowance as opposed to reimbursement that does not

exceed $250.00?

A: This is an IRS Compliance Issue.  Instead of receipts going to MDCPS, employees keep the receipts and deduct it from their taxes.

  1. Q:  Does the elimination of the word “waiver” in regards to the eight period day indicate that no longer can conditions be attached to the vote

by the staff?

A: No.  The vote is still in place and the vote language is strengthened regarding who conducts the vote and how the vote is conducted.

Anytime a 60% or 66% vote is needed, employees have leverage.  If employees are willing to vote No if they do not get “x” (regardless of

what “x” is) you can attach whatever condition you want to the discussion with administration.  If employees are going to vote Yes

regardless of whether the administration provides “x” then you never had any leverage to begin with.  The change to this provision just

removes EESAC from the formula.  Teachers will determine by a super-majority whether or not they want block scheduling or the 4×4


  1. Q: Will the committee composed of UTD and MDCPS representatives result in a MOU or LOU that mandates set practices in regards to

planning, collaborative planning, lesson study, and enhanced professional development that could possibly demand more work without

more compensation and or supersede  contractual academic freedom?

A: Possibly.  The contract allows for MOUs between contract ratifications.  It is also important to note that neither Committee must agree to

anything.  The agreement is that we will continue to discuss these issues as they could not be fully discussed/debated in time to finish a

contract by the beginning of school.  UTD continues to support Academic Freedom and remains skeptical about some of the practices from

ETO etc.  The Committee is tasked with issues related to a number of topics, some that members would find desirable.  UTD is not going to

agree to something that is not supported by the membership.  Unlike some other issues in the past, we are under no legal obligation to

make these changes.  If something is a good deal for both, you may see it.  If no good deal is available, I suspect nothing will come of the


  1. Q:  Will a highly effective teacher in the “Performance Salary” pool receive a higher increase than the same teacher in the “Grandfathered”


A: No.  Not this year.

  1. Q: You state that it is “your plan” and “your goal” to negotiate similar increases in both the “grandfathered” pool and the “performance”

pool. How can you guarantee that those who choose to maintain their PSC and who continue to be ranked as Highly Effective or Effective

will not be disadvantaged versus those who forego their PSC?

A: No guarantees.  Each year employees will see the raises for various schedules and performance levels and they can decide for

themselves.  I can only tell you our goal as of now and let you know that MDCPS is not opposed to our goal as of now.  Laws change,

funding changes, decision makers on both sides change.  The current goal is the current goal.

  1. Q: While it was previously clear how many years it would take a teacher to reach the top of the pay scale, assuming that the Union

Effectively negotiated a step move each year, it seems less clear how (or if) any teacher will make it to the top of the pay scale. Can you

Provide an example of a case showing the Union’s “plan” or “goal” as to how a teacher presently at each given step would see salary

increases each year that would result in reaching the current Step 23 level while retaining their PSC?

A:  The schedule has changed multiple times and will continue to change.  When some teachers started, 3 columns existed.  Those columns

were moved into one and people were reset on steps.  Steps have been added to schedule, primarily at the top many times over the year and recently some have been added just under the top pay.  Steps were removed 14, 16 and 18 so that people would move up faster.  The

contention that the step schedule has never changed is untrue.  Multiple times step advancements did not take place.  Recently we lost

steps in bad economic times.  This happened in the early 90s and around 2003-04 as well.  Salary negotiations have always been subject to

annual budgets and annual negotiations.  The clearest evidence of this is when we agreed to the 2006-09 contract, we included very detailed

raises for all three years, but the raises in year 3 never materialized because the money was not there. Salary Adjustments going forward

will be negotiated within the parameters of the law.  The adjustments will be more equitable top to bottom whether they are percentage

based or based on a dollar amount as opposed to the current model which has steps of .4% to steps of 11.96%.  Employee thoughts about

the salary schedule vary widely depending on their current step and personal experience moving up in salary.

  1. Q:  In this chart, if I am in step 7 I will earn $844 more than I did before?

A: Yes.  An increase of $844(2%) instead of the base step increase of $169 (.4%).  The entire raise is applied to base pay/daily rate and is retro

to July 1, 2015.

  1. Q:   Is this raise however the TOP amount I can get if I am “highly effective”, or is it the raise I will receive regardless of my teacher evaluation?

A: The raise is based on your current schedule placement and is not impacted by your evaluation.

  1. Q:  Also, if I was on Step 13 last year, will I be on Step 15 this year and earn $48,425?

A: No.  If you were on step 13 last year (43,847) you will be on step 15 ($45,897).  Your raise is $2,050 instead of the $1,853 you would have

received with a base step increase.  You insert $48,425 which is the new step 17.  All references to step in this answer will be irrelevant

after the raises are implemented and steps are removed from the portal replaced simply by your annual salary.  You see your raise and

new salary by moving across the page.  Do not go down a line.  This is why arrows are included on the sheet.

  1.   Q: If they are doing away with the Steps, what is the scale they will use every year?

A: No scale.  Employees each have a salary.  Employees will receive a raise/salary adjustment based upon their prior year salary, which

schedule they are on (grandfathered/performance), and their evaluation of Effective of Highly Effective (If on Performance).  The salary

adjustments will be negotiated each year in compliance with state law.

  1. Q: And, will they ever give us back the Steps they froze a couple of years ago?

A: No.  The legislature did not provide funding to make up steps that were missed in the recession.  The salary schedule is required to

change by law and therefore “steps”” will no longer exist.  If additional funds are provided in the future to make up for the lean years,

they will be applied to all employee salaries as negotiated at that time.  The step schedule will not be used to determine raises after this


  1. Q: So, in a way are they sneaking a step increase in this year???

A: Yes, but we do not want to say step as we are not using that term going forward.  We also have a group (14.13% of teachers) that receive

less than the step.  These are the teachers currently on steps 15  (they get $2725 instead of $3300), step 17 (they get $ 2900 instead of

$3000), step 21 (they get $3425 instead of $5464) and step 22 (they get $3761 instead of $7511).  Each of these groups is getting roughly a 6%

raise (highest MDCPS would go) which is higher than all other employees who mostly get around 2% (but some get less than 2%).  All teachers

are getting a raise.  85.87% of teachers are getting a raise that provides them with more $ than a simple step on the old/current schedule.  We

are dropping the term step and moving to base/annual salary in order to allow for negotiations with in the parameters of the law going


  1. Q: What about paraprofessionals? I’m in the step before last and for many years we haven’t advanced a step which in my case is like $8,000. Will I ever get there?  It’s so unfair that I’ve been stuck there for so many years.

A: Cannot say if it will happen or when.  They have received a raise every year which has been across the board %.  The % is better for many,

but those on the next to last step are clearly the exception.  We have pressed this issue many times, but MDCPS has an issue with steps for

ESPs.  The huge raise that some would get is a major part of their objection.  We also often get pushback based on the fact that MDCPS must

negotiate with other employee groups after UTD.  If they give steps to ESPS (about 4% because of those huge jumps) they would need to

give other employees 4% as they have “me too” clauses.  MDCPS does not have the funds to provide 4% to all.  Actually, they have offered to

raise healthcare costs significantly and give everyone 4% in salary.  That has always been a non-starter for us.  We cannot increase healthcare

costs to even higher rates in order to provide a little better raise.  The two must work in tandem for all.  At least that is what we hear from the

membership when we survey and what we see in ratification votes.  The last contract to get voted down imposed a cost share on all

employees for health insurance (No free option).  That was not seen favorably by the membership and the group sentiment has not


  1. Q: Joe, another concern among teachers is caps on the number of teachers who will be rated highly effective. It seems Broward has deliberately kept the number of highly effective teachers at a minimum.  Read the comment I received:

“I imagine Runcie will go to Tally this spring to make sure that the state creates a bell curve for each district since there is such a variance across districts as to the number of highly effective teachers. Last year it was 39% highly effective for Dade but only 5% in Broward.  They didn’t have to pay us anything so they didn’t care. As soon as they have to pay us more for being highly effective, I imagine some sort of quota will have to be developed. They will also save money by not having to give money to any teachers rated ineffective.”

I know UTD has nothing to do with that, but can we expect that here in our district?

A: We negotiate this issue with MDCPS annually.  The issue will change a bit as the FLDOE passed rules about test scores and ratings.  We will find a way to implement those rules in the best interest of teachers, like we did with the rest of SB 736.  We have to follow the letter of the law, but we have some latitude in how we do it.  It is also important to note that the new model we have proposed (which will keep the value of HE Perf fairly close to the GF Salary Adjustment) should reduce outside pressure to cap the number of HE teachers.  Most districts are capping the number because of the economic pressures of the two competing schedules.  We believe that we have significantly reduced any basis for that pressure with this model.  We had 35% HE last year and 38% the prior year.

rick scott cartoon

This past week was filled with big announcements for Miami Dade County Public School teachers. Only these big announcements were made in such a stealth manner that many teachers are probably still completely unaware of them. Normally my school UTD steward is a man in love with the microphone. Give the man a mic and he can go on and on and on. At this week’s back to school meetings, our steward stood up and spoke for a combined total of fifty seconds. His ten words consisted of, “We want 100% UTD membership,” and “We have a great administration” (which we do, but we know that and you probably should have used your time to discuss Best and Brightest and ongoing contract negotiations). The usually rambling steward’s brevity was the first red flag. He probably wanted to sit down as soon as possible before any hardball questions or rotten tomatoes could be thrown at him.

MDCPS had yet to inform teachers of the Florida Best and Brightest Scholarships and I was beginning to think the district had put some sort of gag order on UTD when the UTD President only briefly referenced Best and Brightest as a “strange program” passed at the last second in Tallhassee. So given my obsessive nature when something just doesn’t seem to pass the smell test, I emailed the head of human resources who informed me that the district had just sent out the guidelines for Best and Brightest Scholarships in the “weekly briefing.” If there was ever a place to put information where you knew no teacher would ever look at it, it’s in the district’s weekly briefing email. That’s an auto delete for most teachers. Unless you had a particularly proactive principal who actually read the briefing and forwarded it to their staff, you would have no idea what Best and Brightest was and how to apply. So in case you accidentally deleted your MDCPS Weekly Briefing email without ever opening it, here is the link to apply for a Best and Brightest Scholarship http://www.formpl.us/form/0B5urFLjA2A_rV19ZTF9aSk5rWUE/

Of note, they are using your 2013-14 evaluation and you have to take a picture of your test score report and upload it with your application. I think everyone should apply and let the district sort through 20,000 blurry smartphone shots of archived SAT scores. Let them figure out who is qualified and who is not. But please don’t tell a particular UTD steward who was bashing me on Facebook the other day for trying to provide information for how other teachers can apply for Best and Brightest. According to said steward, I was ruining his and other teachers’ chances of getting the full $10,000 and I should be afraid of the high scoring, highly effective uniformed teachers at my school who might come after me for helping other teachers net some easy cash.

Now let’s move on to the REALLY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT that was made when we were all held captive at our opening of schools meeting and being read the twenty page packet word for word. As we were going over the lunch schedule for day 3, it was announced that UTD and the district had managed the impossible by coming to an agreement prior to Labor Day.


They also managed the impossible by giving teachers a 3% RETROACTIVE raise!  The usual downtrodden masses beneath step 12 only got 1.8%, (which is actually better than the 0.75% we normally receive). District health insurance costs were also cut for many employees. That was the good news. Now on to the bad news (you knew it was coming).

Many of us who tend to be slightly skeptical of anything agreed upon by both the union and the district thought the timing to be a bit rushed. Announcement on the Friday of the most stressful weekend of the year for teachers? Vote to be held the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend when most teachers are off getting plastered in the Keys because they finally have a paycheck again and they survived the first week of school? The vote will also be cast the day before the next School Board meeting when teachers would have had time to address the new contract in front of the School Board and in a public forum.  Alarm bells were ringing in my head and I woke up at 3 a.m. to read the contract. TEACHERS PLEASE READ THE CONTRACT BEFORE YOU VOTE! At least read the part about future salaries. Some key words were crossed out, “steps” and “experience.” They were replaced by something called a “salary adjustment.” I guess it’s better than last year’s “annualized stipend” language but it is still unchartered territory and terminating the use of the words “steps” and “experience” is very scary for those of us who were hoping to remain on a grandfathered step schedule. When I read UTD’s “What a Yes Vote Means” memo, I was a little surprised to see that there was no mention that a yes vote meant an end to steps and an end to being paid for years of experience. When I pointed this out on UTD’s Facebook page, I received a quick response of “look at bullet point 5.” So I went and looked at bullet point 5, which states:

  • “The new Minimum/Maximum Salary Schedule is sustainable and in compliance with current Florida Statute mandates as modified by Senate Bill 736 (The current step model is not in compliance and is not sustainable).”

I think many employees realized that the larger steps had to be reduced because the pay for “highly effective” had to be greater than the largest step and there was no way the district was going to pay an extra $7,000 to every highly effective teacher. What I think most teachers would be totally ignorant of if they just read UTD’s talking points is that steps would be gone completely and experience would not be a factor in any future “salary adjustments.” That is a “historic contract” to parrot the words of the Superintendent and UTD’s President select (not a typo).

I know many teachers will get excited about a raise of $2,000 or $3000, probably any teacher above step 12 and support personnel will be happy with a 2.75% raise and reduction in health insurance costs. If you are thinking long-term, or a teacher who got the usual three digit shaft raise, there are very important implications in this contract that have not been adequately addressed by UTD.

What is clear:

  • There will be no more steps and experience will not be a consideration for future salary adjustments.
  • The largest salary adjustment will be approximately $3700 for both performance pay annual contract teachers and grandfathered continuing contract teachers.
  • If Tallahassee doesn’t send the money, or the district claims that Tallahassee didn’t send enough money, you are not entitled to any increase in pay even if you were rated “highly effective.”
  • For veteran teachers, it looks like you will remain on whatever step you are currently on plus the salary adjustment. It looks like future salary adjustments will be calculated by a standard percentage, so all grandfathered employees might get a 3% adjustment in good years and a 1% or 0% adjustment in bad years.
  • If you are on performance pay, the most you will get will likely be approximately $3700 for highly effective and $1350 for effective. (I believe this is actually going to be lower and be based of the alphabet 1% schedule that the district proposed. Which would more likely be $1400- $700 for highly effective and $700-$400 for effective).
  • There is no guarantee that anybody will ever make it to the top of the salary schedule no matter how many years they work.

UTD seems to be under the impression that many younger teachers will do better under a merit pay system instead of our current step schedule. I can’t argue with that logic considering teachers with less than 20 years seem to have gotten raises from 0-$400 over the last decade and starting salary has stagnated at $40,000. But I’m an eternal skeptic, so I have a hard time believing that either the state or the district actually wants to spend more money on teacher salaries. I like to be an informed voter, so I asked UTD on Facebook to provide a sample of what a future salary schedule would like with an explanation of how it would work. So far I have received no response. But if you believe the district is not going to drastically decrease the number of highly effective teachers in the district now that they actually have to pay you more, I have a one bedroom condo in Brickell overlooking the parking garage and dumpster for $2 million to sell you.

Pay attention to the words of Broward’s Superintendent very closely regarding why only 5% of Broward teachers rated “highly effective.” I would anticipate the state follows his lead with a standard percentage of highly effective teachers for every district.

“He said in any large work population, about 10 to 15 percent will be outstanding, 10 to 15 percent need improvement and everyone else falls in between. Runcie said he expects state lawmakers will put more scrutiny on districts with large numbers of high evaluations.

“When you see a district with 40 or 50 percent highly effective, that defies the laws of statistics,” Runcie said. “We could lower the bar to make everyone feel good. But we’re trying to run a system to help people develop.”


Most teachers will be too busy preparing for the first week of school to ever read this blog or the contract they are being asked to vote on September 8th. But I leave you with one final thought, imagine if on the first day of school we told our students that only 10% of them will receive As and 10% of them must receive Fs no matter how hard they work. I don’t think that would go over very well with parents or administrators, but for some reason no one seems to have a problem with this stack ranking system being applied to teachers.

Happy opening of schools! Try to stay informed and upbeat next week. At least the kids still love and value us.


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