Over the course of my four years as a board member, I have frequently connected with teachers and staff to receive and respond to feedback for the work of the board and concerns to be addressed. This past summer, I met with multiple groups of teachers and staff to specifically discuss their concerns and ideas to ensure a positive start to the school year and to incorporate their input into my priorities and board work for the year.
Over the past four years, I have continued to advocate for greater teacher voice, to reduce non-valued work and meetings to enable teachers to do their work effectively, and to ensure they are truly supported with real solutions to the concerns they bring forward including classroom environments, behavior, and managing the staffing shortage. I have advocated for a third-party system to capture teacher and staff voice, as is best practice in most industries. Less than 50% of staff are comfortable in sharing their input to the current district survey and requests for input. This is very concerning.
My focus in this work stems from seeing first-hand for many years what teachers experience. When my husband was recognized as Teacher of the Year at his High School and later nominated for the Gilder Lehrman Social Studies Teacher of the Year, I saw the many hours and effort put in to educate and make a difference in young people’s lives. I saw the frustration of poor decisions that impacted his ability to do his best work. When my mom served as a Head Start Teacher, I saw her nights of preparation for home visits and for the classroom. I also saw how her work environment was either an enabler or a hindrance to the difficult work she was already doing. It is for this reason that I’m constantly asking what we can do better, how can we ensure our district and school cultures not only enable scholars to thrive but teachers and staff to thrive, and how we can create more recognition for the incredible work of our educators.
Today educators are asked to do far more than any other industry asks of its people. We must realign expectations and systems to stop the loss of educators. I communicate this to our legislators in every conversation. I will continue to ask these questions and advocate for priorities to this end as I have at each board meeting and in my comments at the forum (27:37, 32:09). We can create a district with a culture of achievement and excellence for EVERYONE.