The AFT has always been a solutions-driven union, and our new campaign, launched during TEACH on July 21, proves it once again with a fresh, practical approach to strengthening public education. As AFT President Randi Weingarten pointed out during her keynote speech, the $5 million, yearlong campaign, “Real Solutions for Kids and Communities,” stands up against attacks on public schools and offers real-world solutions to build up, rather than break down, our communities.
Summer is upon us, and parents, children and teachers are winding down from what has been an exhausting and fully operational school year—the first since the devastating pandemic. The long-lasting impact of COVID-19 has affected our students’ and families’ well-being and ignited the politics surrounding public schools. All signs point to the coming school year unfolding with the same sound and fury, and if extremist culture warriors have their way, being even more divisive and stressful.
Having just attended the school board meeting, here are some of my thoughts.
The initial study sessions on reopening led to the presentation of the 40% and 50% hybrid models to the board in June. Contingent upon declining infection rates, both those plans seemed reasonable as they resonated with what I’ve learned about covid so far.
The board and many others wanted all kids in school every day; thus the new “hybrid”, including level 2 where all kids are on campus every day (minus those enrolled in virtual school), which isn’t really a hybrid in relation to how the term is being used at school districts across the country to describe reopening plans. It’s an important distinction because the hybrid models like the initial ones brought to the board by the District and it’s reopening committee were taking CDC recommendations into account in the practical sense; they inherently addressed space issues and allowed for effectively implemented social distancing. They lessened the amount of people on a school campus at one time, and made it feasible to clean, sterilize, and sanitize. Simply stated a hybrid model is a more cautious approach. It’s safer.
Everyone wants to keep everyone safe. And we are told we will only return when it’s safe. I am not questioning that. The board wants to keep us safe too.
No one saw this coming. The decisions being made now are either going to cause very few deaths, or an increased amount that could be avoided with more realistic and cautious planning.
No one, in any position, or on Any Board, USA is “prepared” for these decisions. Not only that, America right now is out of sorts; excessively divided. When compared to other nations we have not done as well preventing the spread of covid.
In my judgment, people are still not fully absorbing the seriousness of covid; and regular well-meaning people are still resistant to the full extent of the situation we’re in. Subjective as it may be, last night I did not sense or observe a reassuring level of gravity within the board’s discussions about and surrounding reopening. I heard one member say “unless the governor shuts things down, and if it gets a little better...” we want all the kids there (at school). To me it resembles a kind of pervasive denial pretty common lately, not an indication of a lack of wanting to do the right thing; nor a lack of wanting to keep everyone...safe.
I also heard a public comment that was compelling and seductively posed with a false equivalency. I know it resonates with many parents, and some teachers too. “When it comes to choosing between 30 kids and 1 teacher, I think it’s a pretty easy choice.” Most adults would jump in and save the life of a single child at their own risk in a heartbeat. If that were the actual trade-off. The implication of this comment and the false narrative it suggests belies what we’re up against in the community and in our nation. But if we reopen more wisely, we can prevent some illness and death AND eventually help children catch up. And we can do so in a relatively short period of time. The benefit for the child in this scenario, by the way, is living in a country where people care more about their fellow man, and work united together to spare one another from pandemic illness.
To be exceptional in our response to covid, and protect ourselves and our community, we must establish objective criteria for the safe reopening of school. It needs to be specific and according to CDC guidelines. If we do not step in and determine what science and communicable disease experts qualify as “safe”, defining it exactly, we run the risk of reopening at a time when, had we waited, some illness and death could have been prevented.
It’s not enough of an assurance that this concept was alluded to generally last night by two board members, and that the need for criteria to be formulated eventually was confirmed by Mr. Lee-Sung.
We need leadership and wisdom right now, that comes from inward and compensates for those that are doing their best but missing the mark where the most current scientific guidance needs to be placed.
NMFT Executive Board
What unions do
In AFT President Randi Weingarten’s latest New York Times column, she describes what it is exactly that unions do. Though unions are the most popular they have been in decades, anti-union sentiment still thrives in red states and across the nation. “Several years ago, The Atlantic ran a story whose headline made even me, a labor leader, scratch my head: ‘Union Membership: Very Sexy,’” Weingarten writes in the column. “The gist was that higher wages, health benefits and job security—all associated with union membership—boost one’s chances of getting married. Belonging to a union doesn’t actually guarantee happily ever after, but it does help working people have a better life in the here and now.” Click through to read the full column.
Attacks on public education in America by extremists and culture-war peddling politicians have reached new heights (“lows” may be more apt), but they are not new. The difference today is that the attacks are intended not just to undermine public education but to destroy it.
N-MFT Elections Committee Chair Martha Felix announced the results of the N-MFT contract vote, "We have the results from the ballots cast regarding the new contract. Of the 468 ballots cast, 82% voted in favor of the new contract. " She added, "Thank you to those who participated in this election!"
N-MFT President Kimberly Claytor stated, "We look forward to working with Russell Lee Sung and other colleagues to implement the new language. From the perspective our our membership, the new language regarding increased contribution to benefits by the District and preparation time
The negotiation teams for the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District have reached tentative agreement for contract amendments to the current bargaining agreement between the District and the Federation. The negotiation teams recommend ratification of the tentative agreement to the Federation membership and to the Board of Education. This tentative agreement upon ratification will conclude negotiations between the Federation and the District
As you may know, the School Board took action to terminate John Caldecott's employment at the January 27, 2015 School Board meeting. One thing that came to light at this meeting was John Caldecott's request for public information and the Board's refusal to provide it.
Since N-MFT has a shared interest with all members of the Newport-Mesa Community and the general public to ensure that our School Board is transparent, we will be making the same request for information as John Caldecott.
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