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Nov. 14 BOE Meeting Statement From SHTA Leader

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Nov. 14 BOE Meeting Statement From SHTA Leader

Morris reads a prepared statement during the public comment period of the Nov. 14 Board of Education meeting.

Morris reads a prepared statement during the public comment period of the Nov. 14 Board of Education meeting.

Morris reads a prepared statement during the public comment period of the Nov. 14 Board of Education meeting.

Morris reads a prepared statement during the public comment period of the Nov. 14 Board of Education meeting.

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I wasn’t going to speak tonight, because I believe part of my job as SHTA president is to support and facilitate the voices of my members. So that’s why I‘m here. But I’ve heard discussions over the last 48 hours that have compelled me to speak. And those discussions have been about a perceived “us vs. them” mentality (meaning teachers versus students) portrayed about the Association because of the letter I published sharing the harsh realities of Jody Podl’s treatment and the fact that she was disciplined without being allowed either to address student concerns or even know which students were registering complaints. You may disagree with the letter I felt I had to share, but I had no intention of identifying students.  By putting Jody on administrative leave, the administration created a teacher vs. student dynamic.  The responsibility here is squarely on the administration’s shoulders.  It’s not clear the administration or the board understands, even now, how destructive that decision was.

Shaker teachers support students. We love them. We honor their voices. We listen to them and hear their concerns.  We have processes in place where students can report their concerns to counselors, principals, school nurses, and other school personnel, and those concerns can be addressed.  Of course these processes can always be refined, and we hope that restorative practices can help refine them.

But we must also have due process for our teachers, which was denied to Mrs. Podl. There is no “us” vs. “them.” The very notion that this argument would be entertained by members of this board or administration is deeply offensive. The reality is that educators in this school district would literally lay down their lives for their students. Call it hyperbole if you want, but that’s still a threat we face every day. Don’t perpetuate an “us vs. them” argument when we are among the most dedicated advocates and supporters of Shaker students.  This damaging and divisive rhetoric has to end now.

Thank you.

 

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Nov. 14 BOE Meeting Statement From SHTA Leader”

  1. Eli Celeste Cohen on November 14th, 2018 7:51 pm

    Seems like the “us versus them” is for teachers versus administrators

  2. Reginald Williams on November 18th, 2018 2:17 pm

    Reasonable people can see this differently. The responsibility for this is not “squarely on the shoulders of the administration.” If only it were. Nobody’s hands are clean here. That letter to the SHTA members lit the fire that burned in the Nov. 9th community meeting. They should have kept that letter among themselves. I like and respect Dr. Morris a great deal. He is an honorable man. I am certain none of this was intentional. But, that letter was racially insensitive and led to a public display that made Shaker seem more divided than it is.

    I saw the reposted letter on Facebook. There is no doubt in my mind that black students and families came to the Nov. 9th meeting after getting wind of that letter. The letter needlessly disparages a student in an effort to paint the teacher in a favorable light. It doesn’t matter that her name wasn’t mentioned. The argument could have been made effectively without reference her. I didn’t know the student was black until the Nov. 9th meeting, but as a read the letter I began to suspect so. A black child was cast as deficient to further the cause of an organized, largely white majority. Her self-esteem was trampled just to fill a room with supporters of a fellow teacher on the hot seat. It was the Grieshop matter v2.0. Except now that black child could voice her pain in front of us. And she did.

    After watching teacher after teacher shout down a brand new superintendent and principal the girl got up, scared and near tears, and declared, “I’m the student the letter is about.” “I’m not a bad student,” she pleaded. Adults who love children don’t make them feel like they have to beg for their dignity. Or fight for it. Historically, society has always thought of black children as deficient, particularly if they seem unassimilated or ungrateful. This deficiency narrative betrays itself in how we talk to them and about them. In how easily and unconsciously we accept these notions. Shaker is better than that.

    A finding of “no discrimination” does not necessarily mean that there was no discrimination. It only means that what was there was not actionable. That’s a pretty low bar where equity is concerned. We heard child after child get up on that stage and talk about how they’re treated worse because they’re black. We cheapen their experience by dismissing it as just their “perceptions” and leaving it at that. Now, just as teachers worry that they’ll be called racist if they redirect a black student, black students worry that teachers may grade them even harder or consequence them even sooner because of what went down at the Nov. 9th meeting.

    I’m not weighing in on whether something happened or not. It’s not for me to know. I know Ms. Podl. She is a genuine, caring teacher who’s done some concrete things in the past to promote equity at the high school. But, what happened happened, whatever it was. Like all of us, she is complicated. The equity issue is complicated.

    I look forward to the day when teachers are as energized about equity as they are about a colleague’s job. I look forward to the day when students take better advantage of what our schools have to offer them. But, they’re children. We aren’t. They need our love and guidance.
    “Equity” is more than just a word. You won’t get wet from the word “water” no matter how many times you speak it. You have to jump in. We don’t have to wait for equity task forces and restorative practices to do what is right by them today. Yes, all that is coming. But, today? Be kind and forgiving, even if we feel disrespected or frustrated. Empathize. We can’t talk to black children any kinda way.

    Where race and equity is concerned in Shaker, we were never as good as we claim we are. But we are doing better than many and we want to get better. We all own this issue. Nobody’s hands are clean. But one hand can wash the other. We are allies, as fitful as that alliance may be. We’re going to make mistakes dealing with each other on this journey. We can’t be on pins and needles about it. We have to be forgiving and believe that we are forgiven for the inevitable missteps. That goes for working with each other and with our students. That’s what allies do. Anything less slows the pace of change. This “us versus them” thing? Until we get real about equity from the heart the better analogy is that old 70’s Pogo comic strip quote, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” We have to be our better selves now.

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