Take a Stand

Tonight I took a stand with hundreds of other teachers, students, and parents to support teachers’ pay and working conditions.

Blue Board RoomIt’s November, and our contract still isn’t closed. Technically it should be closed by the start of school (back in August). The district has given a hard ‘no’ to supporting the steps in the pay scale.

No counterproposals. Just no.

Hundreds came out to protest the lack of movement on the contract.

It was inspiring.

The School Board extended the public comments of the meeting an extra hour. Many of those minutes were filled by teachers. I signed up to speak during the 6:00 employee time period. They extended this speaking period from 30 minutes to way more than that to accommodate 63 employee speakers. (I’m not sure if everyone got to speak.)

The speakers who went before me were inspiring. One was moved to tears. One, a former Marine, said there was a war on public ed. and she knew a thing or two about war. She said Marines lead by example and that the School Board and Superintendent have not been doing that. One teacher recommended letting teachers take a look at the budget to help with the hemorrhaging of money. And more.

Soon enough it was my turn to speak. I wasn’t as nervous as I was last year when I addressed the School Board. But I also must have been a bit nervous, because a colleague sat near the front and waved at me three times, and I looked right past her while I was waiting to speak… Tunnel vision.

So, here’s the speech I gave, or pretty close to it: 

Hello. Dr. Christy Foust. Middleton High School.

I addressed the School Board in September or October last year, for the same reason. The teacher contract is still not closed.

Last year we were p

romised speedy negotiations. Instead, district has said ‘no’ to honoring teacher step raises and recognizing a year’s worth of work. I’m surprised that at least one person on the district’s bargaining team thinks no one will be hurt by not honoring this lost time and pay. I’m disappointed by the tone of Mr. Eakin

s’ November 5 editorial in the Tampa Bay Times that regaled his position and the School Board for student gains, while making no mention of teacher involvement.

In that editorial, Mr. Eakins stated that educators shouldn’t take their eyes off of the vision of the district: preparing students for life. With that sentiment, Mr. Eakins seems to make the distinction that student learning conditions are somehow separate from teaching working conditions.

They are not.

Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.

Not honoring the current pay scale nor recognizing a year’s worth of teachers’ work hurts teacher working conditions. Our pay stays stagnant for three years. Cost of living goes up around us. We need this tri-yearly pay increase to pay mortgages and rent, for food, for supplies for our students, and for gas to get to work. The price of nearly all of these things has gone up over the past three years. Yet our pay has not. We count on these scheduled pay increases, and we work years for them!

Teacher working conditions are also a model of what students can expect when they take jobs in the adult world. Should we model jobs overloaded with extraneous administrative duties and no compensation? Sho

uld we model working conditions where employers rescind agreements for pay increases based on time-in-service? Do we want students to mimic the district and become the employers that would withhold pay to others?

What message are you sending to students by not honoring scheduled pay increases and a year’s worth of work for teachers if you are preparing these students for life?

Teacher working

 conditions are not separate from student learning conditions. Teachers are the ones in the room with these students day after day. We share in their successes and setbacks and help them see the silver lining with both.

We do this job because we love it. All we are asking is that the district honors what has already been promised, and remember that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.

Thank you.

SignsI left the meeting after speaking. It was about 6:45, and I still had a drive back to St. Pete and a lesson to write.

But my colleagues who had to leave earlier in the meeting texted me saying how much they appreciated each other for coming out tonight. Some of my colleagues stayed even longer to watch the speakers.

After Thanksgiving break, we will be working the contract. We will try to get the other teachers at our site on board too. We will continue to send the message to the School Board that we deserve respect and credit for our hard work.

The next School Board meeting is December 5. If the district still hasn’t moved on the contract, I hope that the turnout is even bigger than this time. Enough is enough.

Teachers prepare students for life. Our administration needs to support us in that and give us credit for the work we’ve done and honor their promises.

Wherever you are, support your teachers and public ed. If you live in Hillsborough County, write the School Board and Superintendent. Remind the prior that they are elected officials, and you are watching. Remind the latter that he needs to support his teachers, not put them last.


Filed under Activism, School, Solidarity

2 Responses to Take a Stand

  1. Mike B

    Great speech!