Bring school voices to School Board meetings

I received this Facebook note earlier this week from an Algebra and liberal arts math teacher at a Polk high school.

5 of the 6 classes I teach Have 30 or more students in them. My liberal arts classes have 31 & 32 students in them. My largest algebra 2 class has 32 in it. I have been told not to expect any relief. It is even worse for our p.e teachers and English teachers.

The sham that is Florida’s Class Size amendment requires no more than 25 kids in a class for 9th to 12th grade. I am sure there is some technicality that allows Polk to argue we’re not violating that rule here. But I don’t know what it would be.

This teacher and I went back and forth for a bit. He credited his school-based administration with trying to provide relief. And I asked him what they’re being told by the Bartow office.

That no relief is coming and all the money is going to the 5 schools.

What I would do with this information as a Board Member

If I were sitting on the School Board right now, I would read this note out loud, publicly, at our next meeting. Then I would ask our top administrators if it’s true.

If it’s true no relief is coming, I would force a conversation between board members and top administrators about this experience. What is the context of those class sizes? Why is there no relief coming? To what extent is the chaos at the Stigmatized 5 de-stabilizing the experience at other schools? What can be done? I would get everyone on record.

If it’s not true that no relief is coming, I would ask what we can do with our communication to prevent incorrect perceptions from festering.

We’re missing vital conversations

I have conversations like this with teachers and administrators across the Polk School District every day. They trust me with their stories; and they provide me a multi-faceted, ever-refining, ground-level view of the human experience in Polk schools.

These conversations and points-of-view are completely missing from School Board meetings and discussions in my experience. Indeed, I have yet to hear any substantive, Board-initiated conversation about teacher or student experience at any Polk School Board meeting.

My incumbent opponent Hunt Berryman dismisses and belittles the people who provide these stories and information to me as “disgruntled.” He also prides himself on how little he discusses these issues in public. He does not see himself as any sort of public link between professional staff and the general public. Ask him. Multiple times he has referred to his closed door conversations with our superintendent, as if those do anyone any good.

I think he does see himself as a private advocate for some elements of the business community with the people who run the district. If someone talks to him about “concurrency,” he might say something publicly. 32 kids in an Algebra classroom and no relief in sight? Not so much. I’m quite happy to talk about both in public.

Our current School Board is completely, utterly detached from how human beings in the system experience our schools. It’s easy to understand why. If you avoid acknowledging a thing, you avoid responsibility for confronting what needs to be done. It’s the passive approach to leadership that kept Kathryn LeRoy in power for four destructive years. It’s the passive approach to leadership that gave us five principals in 15 months at Lake Alfred Addair. It’s the passive, un-hearing approach that let DoE force us to gut five schools and harm our own children in the service of nothing.

I cannot promise immediate, easy fixes if I’m elected — with one exception. We will instantly correct the fact the School Board does not hear and publicly reckon with the voices of students, teachers, and parents.

If you’d like to see this happen, please help us finance the last leg of this campaign. We need you. Please contribute here.

4 thoughts on “Bring school voices to School Board meetings

  1. Every high school is now designated a “school of choice” which allows the cap up to 30. I think that has to do with the fact that every high school has academies.

    Furthermore unless a class is a core graduation requirement (Algebra 1, Geometry) those caps don’t really even apply – a class like Liberal Arts math could theoretically have 60 kids in it.

  2. The state counts class size once a year. Our district and others hire Kelly temps for that week to bring down class size. Yes, it’s a sham. Our legislature allows that because they don’t agree with the class size referendum results. What’s needed is a lawsuit to force the state to provide adequate funding, and a judge willing to admit that all Floridians have standing to use when the legislature ignores the law.

  3. I am a teacher in Polk County and have been told that class sizes are based on the average class size for the building. The ‘building’ is defined as the school campus. So, when classrooms with exceptionally small class sizes (such as ESE classrooms) are considered part of the ‘building’, other classes can exceed the class sizes mandated by Florida statute. It becomes a simple calculation which is not based on how many students are actually in the individual classrooms.

  4. We, the ESE teachers, support you whole heartedly, Billy Townsend……Our passion for our disabled students is on high alert with hope and prayers that change is in the wings and nearing the horizon. Thank-you for listening. You have our vote.

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