SDP Board Devaluation of Effective Teaching, Learning, and Health

By Rachel Boschen

10/22/2020 School Board Testimony

Good evening. My name is Rachel Boschen. I’m a teacher at McClure Elementary and a proud member of PFT. And Board member Danzy, yes I am, we are all, exhausted! We are also taken advantage of, and disrespected. 

In one of the most uncertain times in recent memory, this group has made our union fight tooth and nail for a simple 1-year contract extension. One of the main sticking points of this negotiation has been the district’s refusal to honor the steps and lanes agreements in our contract. We frequently hear at these meetings that the district’s top priority is student achievement. My coworkers and I often speak up at these meetings to voice our concern that the district does not practice what it preaches in this regard. 

There is ample research that the single biggest impact on student achievement is effective teaching, and there is too much evidence of the fact that the district is not investing in that—that the district is not investing—or invested—in us. Over and again the district and this board has shown a blatant disregard and total disrespect for the people doing the work of teaching. When you devalue teacher experience and education, you devalue student achievement. Student achievement will never be a true priority as long as the district continues to divest its teachers from fair pay and working conditions. 

You say you’re concerned with the emotional well-being of students, yet our school psychologists are bogged down with paperwork, spread thin supporting multiple schools and hundreds if not thousands of students, and often blocked from actually working with the children who most need their support. 

You say you’re worried about learning loss. Yet you prioritize testing over actual teaching and learning despite the fact that data from these tests are unreliable due to the current testing environment, and therefore useless. 

This phased in reopening plan will only serve to take MORE valuable learning time away from children. Despite being “miracle workers” as we’re so frequently called but never compensated for, there is no way that educators can effectively do two jobs simultaneously, as this reopening plan demands. We cannot support our students at home in the way they deserve, while also supporting students in person AND attempting to enforce safety protocols, distancing, and mask wearing. 

And finally, you say that you prioritize the health and safety of students and staff, yet are planning on sending tens of thousands back into buildings right as our city’s COVID numbers have begun to spike. In fact, your own slide tonight shows November 12 as the day that ventilation certificates will be complete, yet you are forcing staff back into buildings on November 9th. Your slide shows the technology will be installed on November 25, yet teachers are supposedly being trained on this technology starting November 9th? We keep hearing that schools will be safe as long as strict safety precautions are followed – when was the last time any of you were in a school where every child followed every rule?