Tonight, after listening to 84 minutes of propaganda from the superintendent’s phalanx of troops, I stood to offer three minutes of rebuttal to the digital-initiative-is-amazing storyline being proffered.
I have no delusions concerning my effectiveness; I was ignored as always. But at least the message was put out there. Someone had to stand up to Dr. Robinson’s assertion that teachers “had the flexibility to do what they needed to educate the kids.” According to Dr. Robinson, and agreed to by Dr. Wardynski, this includes the use of textbooks in the classrooms.
This is not accurate.
Teachers are regularly being threatened if their classroom usage isn’t what the Superintendent thinks it should be.
Every Breath You Take
The troops were bragging about being able to generate a “heat map” tonight that shows exactly where, in the buildings, people are logged on and working and where there might be interference to the network.
Here’s a picture of the “heat map” for Jones Valley:
Yes, they are clearly monitoring usage down to the student level in our schools.
Every Move You Make
They are even monitoring how often students log onto the Pearson websites over the weekends from home. On Labor Day, for example, 2,237 students logged onto the system.
Yes, a national company, with zero oversight from you, knows when your minor student is using their material. They know how long they’re logged on. They know what they’re looking at. They know who your children are. (How else would they know and be able to claim that 100% of Teachers and Students logged in by 8/24? By the way, that 100% number is not accurate. My son, for example, was not “logged in” by 8/24. His classroom hadn’t received the iPads by that date. But we’ve long since established that there’s little concern for children like my son in this district. Maybe he just doesn’t count.)
In short, the district and Pearson are watching everything down to even when the microwaves are in use.
They’re watching when your children are at home.
And they spent 84 minutes at tonight’s board meeting bragging about it.
Let’s Get The Media To Handle Our PR
Their propaganda was picked up and distributed by WAFF 48 tonight without raising a single question about it’s accuracy.
The only word from our teachers came in the form of pre-approved, edited public relations propaganda. Tautology aside, our district has certainly gotten better at telling parents just how much better our district is.
HEA Is Silent
The only voice for teachers tonight came from one parent, your truly, standing up to read comments from teachers about the conditions of their classrooms.
HEA was strangely silent on the matter. Which may be a blessing. During the Second Budget Hearing this afternoon at 4:00pm, Topper Birney asked the superintendent about the possibility of offering our teachers a cost of living raise next year in FY 2014. After the superintendent summarily dismissed the idea, Uniserv Director Rex Cheatham stood and had this to say about a cost of living raise:
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Topper Birney and thank Laurie McCaulley for speaking up for our employees. We do understand the financial crisis. We understand the tough decisions that Dr. Wardynski and you have had to make.”
With three sentences, Mr. Cheatham has told the Superintendent and the public that teachers don’t need a cost of living raise. With friends like these . . .
After a 84 minutes sales pitch from Dr. Cooper, Dr. Wardynski, consultant Ms. Nelson, consultant Dr. Jamison of Pearson, and Ms. Anderson, the district effective convinced their cheerleaders who were present, at least, concerning the digital transition, “It’s working. It’s great.”
And so I stood to read comments from our voiceless teachers concerning their thoughts about the transition.
A Voice For The Voiceless
In no way should this be considered a representative sampling (but then neither should the 84 minutes of propaganda produced by the district be seen that way either). I didn’t conduct a survey. What I did do was listen to them. What I did do was be a person who could be trusted in the hostile working environment that they’re working in. What I did do was ask them for their honest assessment: is the transition helping our children?
These words were some of their responses.
“It has been a nightmare in the classroom. Teachers have been working until 6 or 7 at night trying to fix problems because all of the tech staff were cut. The e-text won’t even load into the iPads for K-2 because it requires adobe flash player. So, the kids will have to use textbooks after all.”
“It took an entire class period and five, yes 5 Pearson representatives in my classroom to log on 25 students onto their textbooks. They were already enrolled in the class – I had done that earlier. I probably would have gotten the students logged in faster if the Pearson reps hadn’t barged into my classroom and had been able to get the attention of my entire class at once.”
“Many high school students are also confused because there are four different platforms for the textbooks, depending on which book a class uses: SuccessNet, SuccessNetPlus, Mastering/MyLab, and CourseSmart. Also, the students also are using Edmodo and Moodle, and are unsure which website to go to when.”
“So, as a result of this technology “improving” our teaching, I am four days behind where I usually am in my lessons this time of year.”
“At my school, we are still short laptops and iPads. Plus the ratio is changing, they say the iPads will be 1:3 for kindergarten and 1:5 for Pre-K. I had a hard time testing kids because they kids were bumped off line: not enough bandwidth.”
“What you wrote sounds like what is happening in my room only with i-Pads. I don’t have the time to trouble shoot them when I should be teaching. There are still not enough i-Pads and I can’t access the e-books so the students have to use the textbooks, plus I haven’t seen a Pearson consultant to help me. Don’t get me wrong I like the new technology, but it should have been phased in, not thrown at us.”
“Technology when working properly is an incredible tool that can be used to teach our children. However, a program created for profit is absolutely NOT the only way in which our children should be instructed. We are not educating the whole child when our focus is monitoring the amount of time students spend logged into the program/internet while in class. No school district should ever have a “war room” tracking the number of pings from classrooms.”
“My wife is a teacher and one of the central office staff recently came to her room and informed her that she should be proud that she and her student were using the system more minutes per class than any other teacher of her subject.”
I spoke because our teachers are voiceless in this system. Their opinions don’t matter. Any questions raised about the wisdom of the actions the Superintendent is forcing through are challenged, disregarded, and labeled, as Dr. Wardynski referred to them tonight as “ankle-bitters.”
In short, you must not question the propaganda being distributed at public expense. You must not voice any dissenting opinions.
The Superintendent, our board, and even HEA are seemingly willing to only accept your full-throated support of whatever reckless idea the Superintendent can come up with next.
Treating Teachers The Way You Wish To Be Treated
Near the end of the long meeting, the board was approving the Human Resources report. When they saw that the report contained the resignation of three teachers during the past week and a total of six resignations since the August 16th meeting, board member responded that they were frustrated with hearing of the resignation of these teachers at this point in the school year.
Rather than ask why these resignations might be happening, they looked to Strong Leader for an answer.
His solution was simple. Rather than treating our teachers as the professionals they are, rather than treating our teachers the way he expects to be treated, he’s convinced it would just be simpler to buy them off. And so, at some point in the near future, the Strong Leader will bring a proposal to the board concerning offering retiring/resigning teachers a financial incentive to give the district a “heads up.”
Since the only thing that seems to motivate our Superintendent is money (how much you have, how much you offer him), he’s convinced that the only way to correct the situation of having teachers resign two weeks into a new school year would be to buy them off.
While I’m aware that the Superintendent disregards solutions that don’t involve money, here’s one for free that the board should consider: If you treat your employes the way you wish to be treated, they will freely tell you when they’re planning to leave. If you don’t, they won’t.
As we like to say around here, this isn’t rocket science. Just simple human decency.