Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
Thank you for all you do for our students, our District, and our union. We appreciate you being an active member of PAT. Because of you, we have a strong, collective voice.
Thanks especially to the members who attended the May 8th School Board meeting, where we were able to celebrate the achievements of our colleagues who were recognized for their outstanding work. Congratulations to Tiana Ahmann, Martha Bryan, Trevor Butenoff, Kelly Dwight, Ben Ellenwood, Camila Arze Torres Goitia, Kathryn Moore, Kirsten Parrott, Gage Reeves, Tai Said-Hall, and Henise Telles-Ferreira.
But Teacher Appreciation Week is about more than certificates or luncheons. If we want to show real appreciation for teachers in this District, we need to respect their professionalism, provide real supports to sustain the work they do, and include their voice in District decision-making. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the practice in PPS, and we will need to work hard to change things.
JODIE BENSON AND HR LEAVE SPECIALIST POSITION(S)
PAT has been a longtime advocate for breaking down the silos that exist at BESC, as well as eliminating central office bloat. But there’s a difference between shaking the tree and uprooting it. And when it comes to eliminating Jodie Benson’s position as a leave specialist, the District’s plan will do more harm than good.
In her 18 years in the District, Jodie has been a model of competence and compassion. Jodie has helped thousands of PPS staff navigate some of the most stressful, difficult times in their lives, in no small part thanks to her incredibly deep knowledge of state and federal law, District policy, and our union contracts. PPS can’t afford to lose any more of the deep institutional memory that someone like Jodie has.
Her work has made it possible for educators to stay in the classroom longer, return sooner, and stay focused on their students rather than pressing medical or family emergencies. That is the kind of support that demonstrates a real appreciation for the work we do, and it’s a mistake to think that can be outsourced or simply parceled out to other staff.
Indeed, it’ll be an incredible step backward if we end up with a process that feels like it’s designed to throw up roadblocks or making taking a leave harder than it needs to be, all to save a few dollars.
RACIAL EQUITY IN PPS
For the past two years, PAT has been convening educators, particularly educators of color, to discuss how we can address racial equity in PPS, and what it would look like to really move this work forward.
PAT has tried to address this critical work in bargaining, for example with the changes we made in our current contract to address dual language instruction, or the seniority exceptions we have in our contract to ensure adequate representation of educators of color in specific buildings.
But even after discussion with District leaders, we’re still left wondering what’s the plan—on everything from professional development to deepen our understanding of racial consciousness, to plans for recruiting and retaining educators of color, to ways we can address unequal class offerings and our curriculum choices.
It feels like we’re missing yet another opportunity to show the kind of appreciation educators really want, namely the opportunity to be involved in designing and driving our District’s equity work. Whether it’s members of PAT’s Racial Equity Taskforce, or the District’s own equity and climate TOSA’s, once again, educators with firsthand knowledge and expertise have not been consulted in whatever is in the works, and that doesn’t bode well.
PPS should be focused on collaborating with its professional educators to develop these programs and initiatives, along with providing the internal staff capacity required to make them last.