MCCSC: Address Teacher Concerns, District-Wide Coordination, and Transparency

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APPEAL TO ADDRESS TEACHER CONCERNS, DISTRICT-WIDE COORDINATION, AND TRANSPARENCY 

Petition to Dr. Judith DeMuth and the MCCSC School Board of Trustees 


On September 15, the Monroe County Education Association (MCEA) teachers' union released a survey and cover letter depicting teachers' sentiments around in-person learning. Many MCCSC teachers expressed deep discomfort about teaching in-person under current conditions. Given that we have witnessed a substantial increase in COVID-19 cases over the last several months, MCCSC has a civic responsibility to act swiftly to ensure the safety of teachers, staff, students, and the broader community. 


The Parents, Teachers, and Students for Community Safety (PTSCS) is petitioning MCCSC leadership to improve its plan for maintaining school and community safety with teachers’ needs in sharp focus. We are losing amazing educators from MCCSC at an alarming rate. Many teachers who have not yet left are making plans to leave in the near future. To ensure the success of our students, encourage retention of our wonderful educators, and entice new candidates to apply to our district, we urge the MCCSC Board of Trustees and Superintendent DeMuth to put the voices of teachers front and center.  


Finally, we request greater transparency and communication between district decision makers, teachers/staff, and the community. Much of the recent community tension has been exacerbated by a breakdown in transparency and communication. 


To ensure our students' success and the safety of our teachers, we request the following action items be addressed at the next school board meeting on September 22. 


Support teachers and staff, prioritize their safety, and give them a voice 

  1. Support all teachers and staff who need varying accommodations. Teachers should be able to meet their teaching and contract obligations without putting their health at risk.
  2. Allow teachers to individually express their preferences for in-person or online teaching directly to the district. The district needs to provide options for teachers and staff who do not feel comfortable working inside the school building.
  3. Trust and encourage teachers to work remotely when possible. When teachers work remotely, there are fewer people in our buildings and more space for social distancing.
  4. Ensure that no teacher is simultaneously delivering online and in-person instruction. This is impossible to do effectively and equitably.
  5. Limit the size of online classes to facilitate connection and social-emotional support. Ensure that they are no larger than traditional class sizes.
  6. Set aside a half day of uninterrupted prep time per week for all teachers. Due to the numerous demands placed on teachers this year, they need additional prep time regardless of type of instruction (online/in-person). Students could work independently via e-learning platforms during this time.

Provide District-wide coordination to support teachers and schools

  1. Develop a clear plan for covering teacher absences both online and in-person. Teachers should not be expected to give up their prep time or be pulled from online teaching to provide in-person oversight. Create protocols for situations when there are not enough teachers to fulfill needs.
  2. Provide clear, District-wide guidelines for enforcement of safety protocols regarding: (a) appropriate face coverings, (b) safe playground equipment use, (c) mask wearing during PE and recess, (d) safety procedures during unmasked meal times and breaks, and (e) addressing individuals who repeatedly don't wear their masks correctly. 
  3. Address PPE needs expressed by teachers and administrators and quickly fund what is needed. Many teachers and administrators are reporting a shortage of PPE and are using their own funds to purchase hand sanitizer, masks, ear savers, and mask straps. Staff at individual schools are taking classroom masks home to launder themselves to ensure children have clean masks.
  4. Proactively implement solutions for teachers through the coordinated efforts of the IT Department and Curriculum Administrators. Solicit feedback from teachers to determine which technological and curricular needs must be addressed. Appoint a coordinator to address the needs for each modality (in-person and online).
  5. MCCSC should encourage families to supervise their children at home if they can. Fewer children in schools will reduce community-wide transmission of the virus and keep teachers, staff, and students safer. 

Increase transparency, listen to feedback, and improve communication with parents, teachers, and staff

  1. Reinstate the Metrics and Curriculum committees. Use parent and teacher feedback to select committee members that represent broad perspectives and expertise. The Metrics committee must include epidemiologists, medical experts, and public health professionals. The Curriculum committee must include educators at all levels (K-12) and experts in multiple modes of instructional delivery.
  2. Provide weekly updates by email and on the website regarding the work of the Metrics and Curriculum committees. These should describe the members in attendance at meetings, agenda, minutes, decisions made, the reasons for each decision, and action items.
  3. Report weekly on the number of COVID-19 cases and individuals in quarantine. Lack of information creates greater anxiety for all stakeholders and leads to rumors and hearsay. 
  4. Create an accessible and systematic way for parents, students, and community members to provide feedback and share results with the community regularly. Ensure that underrepresented communities are able to participate. IU graduate students could conduct an anonymous survey as a supervised learning experience at low cost.
  5. MCCSC should better publicize the timeline for decisions being made by the School Board and Committees. Parents and community members should know what issues will be discussed and the time period to provide feedback.
  6. The MCCSC School Board and Administration must be more transparent in how they incorporate parent and community feedback. We suggest selecting an ombudsman to mediate community concerns and ensure that parent/community questions are addressed promptly.  

This petition acknowledges all the hard work of teachers, staff, administrators, and the school board during difficult times. We write in the spirit of concern, yet appreciate all the remarkable people who work to educate and care for our children. We are a truly exceptional district with many creative and hard-working people who want the best outcomes for the whole community. Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge and respond to our petition.


Respectfully,


Parents, Teachers, and Students for Community Safety

Original Document: Petition to MCCSC