Petition for Sustainable Virtual School
As Summit teachers begin the unprecedented challenge of teaching during a global pandemic, we ask that our organization agree to a plan for a virtual school model that is stable, equitable, and sustainable for teachers and students. Currently, the leaders of our organization have implemented and/or planned changes to job duties and scheduling which add unnecessary challenges to our work -- but do not add value to the student learning experience.
Unstable Job Expectations
Summit’s plan for 16 versions of the school handbook adds a great deal of unnecessary unpredictability at a time when we are all experiencing unprecedented uncertainty about the future. It is important to make adjustments in our classrooms based on student learning. However, both mentoring and teaching requires planning with a longer vision for a group of students.Teachers should not be given a days notice in regards to sudden changes, such as the pathways options last year in virtual school. In order to plan for a course in a way that strengthens cognitive skill growth from project to project, we also know that we need to have clear, stable information about the mode of instruction, expectations for instructional time, and responsibilities around student attendance. These are only three core needs to streamline learning experiences for students. Unforeseeable changes to these core aspects of teaching prevent teachers from properly supporting students. In addition to this problem, Summit leadership’s current plan does not account for the fact that any changes in working conditions need to be bargained with our union. Not only is Summit, as an employer, legally required to bargain with our union over these changes -- it is also critical that teachers have a voice in changes because we are in the classroom every day and know first-hand what works for our students, and what does not.
Reduced School Site Autonomy and Inflexible Scheduling
Summit Home Office has reduced site autonomy and forced adherence to a rigid standardized schedule for faculty meetings and for students who receive instruction from learning specialists. During Virtual School last Spring our school sites were able to hold Wednesday faculty meetings at the time that worked best for each school site, with approval from site leadership. Sites meetings often occurred earlier in the day and used outcomes-based agendas. This allowed teachers to efficiently accomplish what is most important: planning quality classes for students and taking care of our own wellness. This year, Summit currently enforces a rigid adherence to one schedule. This change does not add value to the student experience; the only tangible outcome is that teachers and site staff have less flexibility to care for themselves and their families. Coworkers who are parents face especially tough challenges, and this inflexible afternoon meeting schedule unnecessarily adds to those stressors. Additionally, because of the cut to pay, some teachers have had to take second jobs to make up for this lack of income. By having afternoon meetings, teachers have fewer opportunities for these after school jobs. Health, wellness, and paid bills are not luxuries: they are critical for good teaching. Students are also negatively impacted by rigid scheduling: specifically, students with specific IEPs. Learning Specialists may only schedule Learning Centers and fulfill Specialized Academic Instruction minutes (SAI) during Mentor Time and the Habits and Content Block. This means that students with IEPs have less access to mentor and general education teacher support, while at the same time are not able to receive SAI during their unstructured Project Time SDL blocks—time where diverse learners needed a lot of support in the spring. Allowing provision of SAI minutes during SDL would provide greater stability and support for these particular students. Reducing access to core Habits and Content classes as well as Mentor Time for students with learning disabilities is inequitable and should be minimized.
We, the teachers of Summit Public Schools, call on the SPS bargaining team and the Summit board of directors to agree to a sustainable virtual school model which allows us time to prepare for class and contact students and families during our workday; for protected time to take care of our basic health and our families; for stability in our working conditions and expectations; and for flexibility and site autonomy to best meet the needs of our students and individual school communities. There will only be a positive impact on the quality of our teaching and on the student experience in our classrooms. These are needs, not wants, of our community.
We, the undersigned, support the following conditions that will allow us to to teach well and sustainably during virtual school:
1. End of workday at 4pm.
2. Limit of a total of 90 minutes of meetings (LT/GLT/CLT) per week.
3. Site autonomy in scheduling and agenda of GLT/MLT and LT meetings.
4. Allow teacher autonomy in determining the content and requirements of HCD.
5. Allow Learning Specialists autonomy over their Learning Center schedules and allow for provision of SAI minutes in any block throughout the school day, in order to best support the personalized needs of diverse learners.
6. Stable work expectations that allow for teachers to engage in long-term planning.
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