Teachers like other professionals don’t normally speak out about the unbearable conditions they work under and how over worked they are. Yes, they speak about this with small groups of co-workers as they set out to accomplish their tasks. Now is the time you must speak out, and exercise your 1st amendment right to FREE SPEECH guaranteed to us by the Constitution of the United States. If you don’t speak out conditions will not change and change it must. As education professionals you are not just talking about change for yourselves, but change for students. It’s not about money, it’s about students, and this is what makes you education professionals!
You filled out post cards and sent to Hanna Skandera, the Public Education Department’s Secretary-Designate, a demonstration was held outside the High School, there was a union meeting with the AFT New Mexico Union President Stephanie Ly with Superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools Eugene Schmidt in attendance. Several people spoke including me and told Dr. Schmidt and Ms. Ly how teachers felt about the new evaluation system, how much stress teachers were feeling, and the problems it was causing. Speakers also talked with Mr. Schmidt about the other new programs the district added onto a teacher’s work load, and some teachers stated they were working 10 to 20 hours extra a week because of these new requirements. Dr. Schmidt’s concern for these teachers is the reason why teacher evaluations were added to the School Boards agenda for their meeting on Oct. 8.
At the October school board meeting several teachers got up to speak. One by one each talked about the stress they were feeling, the stress their families are under, and what this stress was doing to their students. At first as I observed the front table where Administration and School Board members were sitting, I could not help but notice the number of people who appeared for one reason or another not to be paying attention to what was being said by teachers who were speaking during public comment. One administrator was playing around with a cell phone, one was focused on a computer, and a couple of school board members were busy reading a pile of papers they had in front of them. All I could think was how rude they were. Here were some of their employees expressing their ideas and feelings to people who did not have the common courtesy to pay attention to them.
Next it was Gerry Washburn, and Pam Miller’s turn to discuss the new evaluation system. What a flop this was. It appeared to me and several others in close proximity that this was an attempt by Los Alamos Public Schools Administration to whitewash the concerns of the teachers. I say whitewash because the superintendent knew teachers were going to be there to express their concerns. ADMINISTRATORS SHOULD HAVE SUPPORTED THEIR EMPLOYEES BUT THEY DID NOT!!! They acted like politicians who were afraid of losing their jobs, when they should have stood up and done the right thing. They failed miserably. The Los Alamos Public Schools are the envy of the state. So support the people responsible for this YOUR TEACHERS. The longer the administrators spoke the more heads in the audience shook from side to side to say NO.
One teacher after another after another after yet another spoke to the board and told them their personal stories about how all this extra work was not only stressing them but was also stressing students, spouses, and significant others. Some told the board they were thinking whether or not they wanted to teach anymore. Teacher after teacher got up to speak about how many extra hours a week it was taking them to complete all of the new requirements added to their plates. Some got up to speak not only for themselves but for teachers who could not be at the meeting because they were in their classrooms getting ready for the next day’s classes. They were also voicing concerns expressed to them by colleagues who were afraid to speak out because they felt the school board and or administration would retaliate against them.
Then it was the school board members time to talk and ask questions. To me and MANY others it started out looking once again as if board members were trying to appease the masses. Until one person in attendance started pointing their finger at the board and scolded them, some of us could be heard agreeing with this person. This is when the board woke up and started supporting their teachers. I want to say here that Vice President of the School Board Judy Bjarke-McKenzie, not only spoke out in support of teachers but also wore red.
On Oct. 15 at 5 p.m., there will be a Special School Board meeting at the District Office, 2075 Trinity Dr., Suite V. I wonder why suite V was selected as the meeting location and not the Speech Theater at the High School? Agenda items for the meeting include the board taking actions raised by teachers regarding district initiatives and programs. The board will also request district administration present a plan in response to teacher’s concerns, and to direct administration to draft a letter to the New Mexico Public Education Department. Decisions made at this meeting will impact US ALL, and everyone needs to be there. As Ben Franklin so eloquently told the Continental Congress “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Will we hang? No, but how many dedicated exceptionally gifted teachers will give up and decide teaching is not for them?
I implore all Los Alamos Public School employees, parents, and concerned citizens who can to attend this meeting in support of the teachers.