Archives for the month of: March, 2018

SRO

  1. You get paid dawg! Starting salary of $46,410? It only takes a Pinellas County teacher 13 years to break $46,000. Annual salary increases and you’ll break $50,000 by year 4. We have teachers in Miami who haven’t broken $50,000 after teaching 20 years!
  2. Signing bonuses? Relocation stipends? All they do to recruit teachers in Miami is offer to build them affordable housing projects at a school in one of the worst neighborhoods in Miami.
  3. You get a take home vehicle! I bet you don’t have to pay for gas or insurance either.
  4. No college degree required! No need to worry about hefty student loan debt that could saddle you for life.
  5. No papers to grade! After school hours your free to do whatever you want.
  6. No lesson planning. Enjoy every Sunday afternoon without the 4 p.m anxiety attack setting in when you realize you have nothing planned for Monday morning.
  7. You can retire after 25 years!
  8. No VAM! No undecipherable algorithm to rate your professional worth and determine your pay. No SAT scores required for bonuses either!
  9. No emails or parent teacher conferences with irate parents who will blame you for their child’s F even though little Johnny spent every class period playing Fortnight on their Macbook Air using tax payer funded district wi-fi instead of paying attention in class.
  10. Number of teachers and school personnel killed in Parkland, 3. Number of school resource officers killed, 0.

As the state of Florida prepares to spend $400 million on a school resource officers who so far have only been proven to hide behind walls when active shooters are present and who have fallen asleep in their squad cars at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school AFTER the shooting, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask school districts to at least match teacher starting pay to that of school resource officers.

While I’m at it, considering that most school personnel and teachers have multiple job responsibilities, maybe school resource officers could be asked to fill in as subs, proctor tests, make copies, answer the phone at the front desk, relieve teachers for bathroom breaks, or help enforce the school uniform and ID policy?

Considering the fact that the average American has a 0.0012% chance of dying in mass shooting according to the CDC, the Florida legislature might want to reconsider allocating  at least another $400 million of categorical funding for teacher salaries the next time they convene. We know the money is there, we know you can you do it. What will it take for you to finally value the classroom heroes in your state?

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In the wake of the largest teacher protests this century over teacher salaries and benefits, Florida teachers unions have been remarkably silent.  It’s as if the crimson tsunami of teacher rebellion sweeping across the nation from West Virginia to Oklahoma and now Arizona has completely bi-passed the Sunshine state. Are we somehow better off than teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona? I would argue that other than a closer drive to Disney World and a free annual pass to Legoland, the answer is a resounding “No!”

The situation is even more dire for teachers in Miami-Dade who face some of the highest housing costs in the nation but have median salaries similar to those of teachers in Oklahoma and Arizona. According to the Florida Department of Education, the median teacher salary for teachers in Miami-Dade in the 2016-17 school year was only $45,236.

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Compare that to a median salary of $50,919 in Tucson, Arizona. Note that housing costs in Miami are nearly double that of housing in Tucson and someone earning $50,919 in Tucson would need a salary of $65,800 in Miami just to compensate for the cost of living difference.

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Similarly, although median teacher salary in Oklahoma is comparable to median teacher salary in Miami-Dade a teacher would have to make almost $74,000 in Miami to compensate for the higher cost of living!

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The reaction of Florida teachers unions to this unprecedented widespread teacher activism has been a deafening silence.  Scroll through the Facebook page of the United Teachers of Dade and you won’t find one post about either the illegal yet successful strike in West Virginia, the threat of a strike in Oklahoma and their legislature’s immediate response with a bill promising a 5% pay raise, and now Arizona teachers’ protests demanding a 20% raise. Instead, you’ll find a post about women workers striking in Spain and a worker walkout over the fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

So what gives? Why are Florida teachers unions choosing not to ride this wave of teacher activism and gather up the troops for a rally in Tally over inadequate teacher salaries? Granted, this is a rally that should have taken place last month while the legislature was still in session and the budget hadn’t been signed yet. Why did the FEA not seize this historical moment to finally make some demands of the Florida legislature and governor?

For the past decade teachers in this country have been vilified in the media as lazy vacation lovers with bloated pensions.  Now the tide has finally turned and we are being portrayed in a more sympathetic light, as underpaid and devoted public servants who risk their lives every day for other people’s children. The fact that we are getting any media attention at all, let alone positive attention, is an important step in the right direction. I turned on the Today show this morning and the lead story was about teachers in Arizona demanding a 20% raise.  Even The Talk held a brief discussion about Miami’s plan to house teachers at schools and when Sara Gilbert commented, “Well, if it’s such a rich area pay your teachers more,” the audience actually applauded!

For the first time in years teachers have the public’s support and the media’s attention. Unions need to capitalize on this critical moment in order to try to win back some of the financial losses teachers have incurred over the past decade.

So where are Florida teachers unions at this pivotal juncture?

Perhaps many unions with faltering membership like UTD are more concerned about possible decertification than being part of this teacher salary zeitgeist. But the sad fact is that when your median teacher salary is $45,000 and teachers can’t even afford housing in the city where they teach, they don’t have an extra $90 a month to pay the highest union dues in the country with a promised return on investment of 0-3%.  When teachers in Arizona are demanding a 20% raise and our union settles for 2% repeating the annual mantra of “something is better than nothing,” teachers start to lose faith in their union’s ability to negotiate a fair salary.

Since the decertification bill was passed this year, Florida unions are desperate to increase membership. But instead of calling for radical action, they have turned to blaming the teachers themselves for the sad state of their profession.  Based on recent Facebook comments of  union leadership and people representing union leadership, their talking points seem to consist of: A) What have you done for your union? and B) Teachers need to go out and vote.

Who the hell is telling unions the best way to recruit new members is to blame the victim? What kind of sick and twisted marketing strategy is that? What if Weight Watchers’ marketing strategy consisted of “Hey you fat lazy tub of lard, put down that donut and go for a jog! Now pay me $88 a month and be grateful that you don’t gain even more weight on our program. What? You only lost half a pound after 6 months of Weight Watchers? Well something is better than nothing. Be grateful you didn’t gain five pounds. Now drop and give me 15 push ups.”

I don’t even understand what it means when unions ask, “What have I done for my union?” What exactly is it that I’m supposed to be doing? You asked me to wear black, I wore black. Nothing changed. You asked me to email the School Board. I emailed the School Board. Nothing changed. I went and voted. My candidate won. Nothing changed. You asked me to work to the contract? I worked to the contract. Nothing changed. Please ask me to do something more meaningful, more radical, more effective because the status quo is not working. When teachers in West Virginia rocked the status quo, it worked. When teachers in Oklahoma threatened similar action, their legislature  suddenly found $447 million for a 5% raise. Teachers in Arizona are aiming high. Will they get a 20% raise? Probably not, but I bet they end up with more than 2%.

It may be too late to effect change in Tallahassee this year. But local bargaining sessions for the 2018-19 school year are about to begin. Stand strong Florida teachers. Don’t back down and don’t settle for less than you are worth. Organize at the local level and ride that crimson tide of teacher activism. The time is now because now is the only time. Carpe Diem.

 

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For the seasoned veteran teacher, the thought of calling their school, or any other school, “Home Sweet Home” is enough to fill their mouths with the type of bile reserved for only the most nauseating of ideas. Most teachers balk at the idea of even living in the same town as the school they teach in, wanting to maintain some semblance of an independent anonymous adulthood where they can drink a beer, wear a bikini, and shop at the grocery store without some parent tapping them on the shoulder in the midst of a maxi-pad purchase demanding to know why little Johnny got an F on his last essay.  God forbid you run into a student while buying your monthly supply of sanitary napkins instead! The latest teenage torment of teachers includes snapping an unflattering photo of their teacher with their phones, generating a funny meme, and posting it on social media so they can all get their jollies humiliating you. Let your guard down at the store while buying maxi-pads for a moment and the next thing you know there’s a meme of you on Instagram with 1,000 likes captioned “Ms.Smith being  a b***h lately? This explains it.”

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So it should come as no surprise that when the Miami Herald ran an article about the school system’s plan to build teacher housing on two school sites located in the trendiest and priciest neighborhoods in Miami, teacher responses on Facebook ranged mostly from red hot angry emojis to green puking emojis. But don’t flatter yourselves dear disgruntled and impoverished veteran Miami teachers, these affordable housing units aren’t meant for you anyways. The fact that the median income for Miami teachers in 2016 was only $45,000 tells you this school district is more interested in recruiting than retaining teachers.

So who is Miami Dade County public schools hoping to attract by offering affordable housing on school sites in trendy neighborhoods like Wynwood and Brickell? Does this answer your question?

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TFA recruits are fresh out of college and will see teacher housing built on school sites as an extension of dorm life. The fact that they can put in 13 hour days in the classroom and then just walk across the parking lot to their 275 sq. ft. government subsidized studio for a quick shower and then head out for an evening of craft beer, graffiti art, and overpriced artisan tacos will be appealing to this segment of the teaching population. The number of TFA recruits currently working in Miami Dade Public Schools stands at approximately 165 teachers and according to the Teach for America Miami website, “school leaders have told us they would like to work with even more Teach For America educators.”
There’s only one problem with Miami being able to attract more Teach for America recruits, housing costs. Even Teach for America’s own website shows that trying to live in Miami on a beginning teacher’s salary will result in an annual deficit of $2,500 (some of which might be recouped with a spring time Best and Brightest bonus).

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In order to expand this relationship with TFA, Miami Dade County public schools will have to find some way to surmount a salary that does not afford a modest lifestyle for even a single person. In exchange for creating affordable housing on school property, the majority of Teach for America teachers will do the school system the favor of leaving the profession before putting in enough years to contribute to future pension costs for the district.

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While spending time in Miami, Teach for America recruits can not only work on their tan lines, Spanish, and student loan forgiveness, they can also make crucial connections for future careers in the charter school movement. The Leadership for Educational Equity is just one organization looking to hire TFA alumni to help expand school choice and charters. The Board of Directors for LEE includes an active funder of KIPP and private school scholarships for inner city youth as well as a member of the Walton Family Foundation which has been a crucial player in funding the expansion of charter schools.

According to the Huffington Post, TFA has transitioned from an organization aimed at filling teacher shortages in the urban core, into a breeding ground for the charter school movement, “TFA now claims that their corps members are superior to traditionally trained teachers and the organization has effectively changed its mission to “enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation’s most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.”

School districts pay an additional $2,000-$3,000 per teacher to TFA as a finders fee, but the study showed those costs are recuperated in the long run, “Our analysis found that using TFA to staff teaching positions will, after nine years, provide the district with cheaper labor options than continuing to pay for raises and pensions for career teachers.”

Housing Teach for America recruits together would also help perpetuate the cult like mentality of the organization. One former teacher left the following review on glassdoor.com, ”

“Cult-like, 24/7 job – if you drink the Kool-Aid, you’ll love it. Otherwise, be prepared.”

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So don’t worry veteran Miami Dade County public school teachers, those affordable housing units at schools are not intended for you. The school system doesn’t care if the idea of teachers living at schools is ludicrous and insulting to you. They want you to feel insulted, they want you to feel like your salary will never be enough for even a lower middle class lifestyle, they want you to quit. In the long run, it’s cheaper to recruit with glossy brochures of teacher housing projects in shiny Brickell or artsy Wynwood than to retain a committed workforce with higher salaries.

Just ask the Miami Herald editorial board.  They agree that this affordable housing is not being built for veteran teachers, “True, veteran teachers may not be gung-ho on the idea, or those with families, but we bet young millennial teachers, especially those just out of college would jump at the chance to totally give up on a commute.”

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This week many Miamians and New Yorkers managed the impossible and watched a Miami Dade County School Board meeting.  They immediately came to two conclusions about School Board meetings in Miami that those of us already familiar with Miami School Board meetings knew all along: they are way too long and they are carefully orchestrated spectacles that revolve around one main character, Alberto Carvalho. It didn’t take long for the Twitter world to sum up our School Board meetings with a hashtag, #TheCarvalhoShow.

But what the Miami and New York viewing public witnessed was not your typical School Board meeting. This was an emergency School Board meeting where apparently the normal rules of the game need not apply.  In a non-emergency School Board meeting, no one is ever allowed to mention the superintendent by his name and clapping and cheering are strictly prohibited. Apparently at emergency School Board meetings both bans are lifted because people were dropping “Alberto Carvalhos” on the mic without incident and the crowd erupted into boisterous rounds of applause and standing ovations at several points. At one point audience members even chanted “please don’t go.”

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Two hours would pass before Carvalho even spoke. An assortment of carefully selected students, parents, administrators, community leaders, people with contracts with the School Board (and a few more people with contracts with the School board) begged, pleaded, and groveled for the rock star superintendent to stay in Miami. Even “Uncle Luke” Campbell made an appearance and called his potential leaving “a travesty.”

I’m not sure exactly what the relationship is between Mr.Carvalho and Uncle Luke but it is a bit odd that every time a rumor circulates that Mr.Carvalho may be moving on from Miami Dade County Public Schools, Uncle Luke comes out with an editorial in the Miami New Times begging him to stay. Call me crazy, but if I were the superintendent of a school system who was trying to suppress a reputation for being a bit of a philanderer, Mr. Oh-Me-So-Horny, Face Down *bleep* Up, and Pop that *bleep* would not be my first choice for number one fan.  At least he didn’t bring an entourage of Hoochie Mommas to the School Board meeting.

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While Mr. Nasty as He Wants to Be was on his best behavior at the School Board meeting, several of the ladies on the Board made a few provocative statements. At one point one member referenced the superintendent’s alleged affair by letting a “well, no man is perfect” comment slide in while another geriatric member boasted about the superintendent’s sexual prowess, “Nobody does it better. Isn’t that right Maria?” (referring to Carvalho’s wife).

By that point New Yorkers watching the meeting must have been wondering to themselves, “What the *bleep* kind of School Board meeting is this?” Not just any School Board meeting my friends, it’s the Carvalho Show complete with mood lighting and entertainment as one former Herald reporter noted. Don’t think our School Board meetings are something special? Try watching a Broward County School Board meeting with florescent lighting, folding chairs, and no performances by student Zumba dancers.

Some two hours into the meeting, the superintendent broke into his 2020 campaign speech for Mayor of Miami. It was a great speech and his performance at the end was worthy of an Academy Award.

“”I just don’t know how to break a promise to a child (and) how to break a promise to a community,” said Carvalho.

(Teachers on the other hand, he knows how to break a promise to teachers by involuntarily kicking them off the pay schedule the district promised them back when they were hired, but I digress…).

After a suspense filled 30 minute break, Carvalho returned to the dais with his final decision, “I am breaking an agreement between adults to honor an agreement with the children of Miami.”

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Funny, if you asked a typical Miami Dade County public school student about an agreement they had with the superintendent they wouldn’t have any idea what your were talking about. Most of them don’t even know who Alberto Carvalho is. Ask them who the superintendent is and the most common response is, “Oh, you mean that guy that kind of looks like Tony Montana?”

But facts on the ground don’t really matter on the Carvalho Show. It’s about the spectacle and the pretty little words. As one local reporter tweeted, “You will love having him in New York. He speaks in sound bites and is a walking quote machine.”

At this point half the teachers in Dade County were doing a mad scramble trying to delete any  premature social media celebrations on Carvalho’s departure from the night before.

For those of us dying to see Carvahlo stand up to a questioning press, his decision to stay was a bit of a let down. The man was Chancellor of New York City Schools for less than 24 hours and made these entertaining headlines.

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He didn’t even step foot in New York and the NY Daily News ran a political cartoon about him! When was the last time the Miami Herald ran a political cartoon of Carvalho?

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Let’s face it, after the beating poor De Blasio has taken over Carvalho-gate, nobody is going to risk this level of ridicule to offer Carvalho a job heading another school district any time soon. The National Superintendent of the Year isn’t worth ending up looking like this guy in your local media.

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Carvalho ended his future job prospects as superintendent outside of Miami in such an epic way, that he is now eternally relegated to hero status in the MIA and is second only to Pitbull as Mr. 305. By turning a decision to decline a job offer into a publicly televised spectacle, I think Carvalho has earned himself the right to become part of the local Dade vernacular.

For example, if someone rejects you in an unusually insensitive and over the top manner,  you could say, “Damn bro, I just got Carvalho-ed.”

Have a boyfriend you want to break up with and publicly humiliate because he cheated on you? You could say, “I’m finna Carvalho his a**.”

Or you could use Carvalho in the noun form. Invite your besties to a Carvalho at your house this weekend. It works like this. Tell your friends you’re moving out of state, throw yourself a going away party, disappear into the bathroom for a few minutes and then say, “Surprise! I love you all too much. I’m not leaving after all!”

Why exactly Carvalho chose Miami over New York is probably something we will never know. The narrative that he chose to stay because of two undocumented immigrants is  lovely and is sure to win him some political points, but not even people closest to him believe he quit his dream job for the dreamers. His former Principal, retired Chief Human Officer of Miami Dade County Pubic Schools, and current mayor of Aventura was quoted in the New York media as saying, “Carvalho worried he wouldn’t be given “a free hand to be able to do the kinds of reforms that would be necessary.”

At a public education media event in Miami on Monday, ironically sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, Carvalho admitted his decision to quit had more to do with the fact that he couldn’t pick his own players than undocumented immigrants, “I am a true believer that if you want me to land the championship ring, if you want to win the Super Bowl, but I have a field that I’m not going to be able to necessarily pick my quarterback … that the plays will be called, co-consulted, then that may be a deal breaker for me,” Carvalho said.

As a former Herald reporter wrote in her Chalk Beat piece, “Those outside of Florida don’t realize how good Carvalho has it in his adopted hometown, and how much he would be giving up if he left. After Carvalho finally made his big reveal, an education insider there told me: “Here in Miami, he is the king.”

Carvalho would be foolish to leave a compliant School Board, a complacent union, and a complimentary press. In Miami, Carvalho pretty much has carte blanche. The only one he occasionally has to answer to is Tallahassee. And even that might change if his constitutional referendum allowing school districts to become charter districts is approved. Love him or hate him, he is all ours, and we are all his (at least until 2020). Welcome to the Carvalho Show.