Local educators make school suggestions

Published 9:21 pm Thursday, March 16, 2017

To the editor:

Following the recent controversy over the substantial raise awarded to Superintendent Deran Whitney last fall, the local members of the Association of American Educators would like to take this opportunity to express our support for ensuring that teachers and administrators are compensated at a level commensurate with their experience, with their performance, and with the salaries of their peers in the Tidewater area.

The concept of establishing a degree of equity with one’s professional peers should be applied consistently across the entire Suffolk Public School district. The members of the AAE strongly support competitive pay for the teachers and staff of SPS.

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However, the concept of equity goes beyond the obvious issues of compensation. We would like to address a few areas where existing policies and practices of SPS differ from those of other area school districts and contribute to the flight of teachers leaving SPS.

Requiring salaried professionals, many of whom have earned advanced degrees in their chosen fields, to clock in and out each day is insulting and inconsistent with common practice in the surrounding school districts.

The idea that professional educators need to have their time monitored like teenage fast-food workers demonstrates a lack of trust and respect and is demoralizing and counterproductive.

Most teachers spend numerous hours outside of their classroom doing professional work — grading, preparing lesson plans, creating tests and quizzes, designing new lessons, tutoring, calling parents, filling out reports and compiling data for portfolios.

Time clocks are for hourly employees, which we are not.

If Suffolk desires quality teachers to stay in the district, then the policy that SPS teachers must grade an administratively mandated number of assignments in particular categories is overbearing.

It is micromanaging our classrooms and is unmatched by other local school districts.

While no one disputes the need for teachers to assign and grade work to assess their students’ progress, the current requirements by SPS far exceed the level that can be reasonably managed every nine weeks and still maintain a quality of life at home.

Teachers deserve the autonomy to decide how many and what type of assessments are appropriate for their classes.

Changing this prescriptive mandate could actually improve the quality of lessons and assessments, allowing time for meaningful feedback. A required number of assignments is unfruitful and proves to be unproductive, especially for college-bound students.

More is not better. It is a burden.

Considering the current lack of time to complete all the required tasks, the AAE would ask that teachers stop being used as substitute teachers by arbitrarily taking away their duty and planning blocks. This is inconsiderate of their professional time.

Finally, the AAE would like to raise the issue of school safety. Violent activity, school shootings and disruptive behavior have tragically marred too many communities.

In this context, it is difficult to understand how our school board has not increased the level of security at our schools.

All doors that permit access to school facilities should be locked and monitored at all times. If metal detectors are employed routinely at our high school sport events, why shouldn’t graduation ceremonies and other major school gatherings be afforded the same degree of protection? This would make us equitable with other school districts.

This is another reason that teachers may choose to leave Suffolk. Safety is important.

Changes to the policies and practices mentioned above would go a long way toward improving working conditions and morale for teachers within the school system.

Suffolk teachers who are members of the Association of American Educators strongly encourage the board to give these ideas due consideration in the same spirit of equality that led to their decision to raise Dr. Whitney’s salary by 14 percent.

Sherri Story