Dear families,

The District 65 Educator’s Council (DEC) would like to take this time to communicate with families and the community about the state of schools.

First of all, DEC would like to thank parents and the community for your ongoing support of educators and for your flexibility and understanding as we persist through difficult times. Without a strong collaboration between educators and families, we would be unable to do the job that we do for children every day. Your commitment to the education of children in our community is valued and appreciated. Thank you.

We, like you, have and always will continue to center our students’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being during the time that we are responsible for their needs. Like you, educators are adapting to extremely stressful working conditions that are taking a toll on our own well-being. We worry about the current state of our school districts in regards to safety, workload, and collaboration. Our well being is directly tied to student success, and we need to be our best for them everyday we are in the classrooms. We are teaching and protecting them.

Safety

Currently, our District’s COVID-19 protocols are confusing and vary from building to building. The cases continue to rise in our community as the virus mutates. In the past 10 days we have had 231 students and 30 staff members test positive right before the holidays. In the beginning of the year, DEC advised the district to use the Crisis Go app that was purchased last year in fidelity. This would mean administration would update the app on students and staff who quarantine or have a positive test to provide staff with accurate information on their exposure while still keeping confidentiality by only showing numbers. Currently, many educators are learning that a student is moved into quarantine from other students and parents instead of from the administration. This leaves staff unable to assess their own safety and unable to provide support for the students who are affected. This is due to a lack of clearly communicated protocol. Procedures need to be communicated with all stakeholders and carried out consistently and correctly.

Teachers protest at a recent District 65 school board meeting. (Photo by Bessie Mbadugha)

Meanwhile, we are facing violence in our society and dealing with the trauma that exists in every community. Many events impact school welfare: threats of school shootings, inclement weather, and a shortage of employees to supervise students. These circumstances make it difficult to create a conducive learning environment for our students and is a safety concern for all. As of December 10th, multiple building safety plans were not updated when the union visited and checked with members in various buildings. We have raised concerns regarding buildings that lack school safety plans that help us all prepare for emergencies and so far, our concerns have not been addressed or acknowledged.

Workload

In the past 2 years, educators have seen a change in all core subject curriculum resources, changing system operations, the addition of formal lesson plan documentation, added Professional Learning plan documentation, added documentation for the interventions and supports that we provide children, the elimination of literacy support staff, and heavy requirements regarding standardized test data analysis. Notice of these changes are given to educators at the last minute with little to no time given to prepare or be thoughtful about implementation. Additionally, this increase in workload has occurred during a pandemic that has also required us to step up and change the way we teach to meet the needs of our students and families.

Unreasonable workload and unclear communication educators face on a daily basis resulted in a decline in the mental health of our staff and does not support quality instruction for our students. Our district is experiencing a great number of leaves and resignations, and it is not just because of the pandemic or the “great resignation.” Educators are looking for district leaders to listen to what is happening at a building level. Educators want to be a part of the decision making because they are the ones who know the students best. However, educator voices are being disregarded in favor of blaming district issues on the national crisis instead of dealing with local problems. Our lack of agency and respect has destroyed morale in our schools and allows for a toxic climate to continue unchecked. If we wish to retain a workforce of diverse and highly qualified educators for our students, we must fix these issues in our current work environment.

Collaboration

Our educators’ union hopes to work with the Board and the Administration collaboratively in 2022, so we can find solutions to our problems and work with them to close the achievement gap and improve our district. We can only do this when the Board and Administration see us as equal partners and when our concerns are taken seriously. As professionals with knowledge and experience of the classroom setting, we can improve our school system and attempt to bring happiness back into our institution and focus on the well-being of the students and staff in each building.

DEC looks to collaborate with the D65 Administration and the Board on the following:

  • The spending of ESSER funds and prioritize basic day-to-day operations of school buildings and clearly communicate what the funds are being used for to the community.
  • Follow the behavioral continuum with fidelity. Basic safety protocols and behavior expectations need to be put in place before we solely focus on boosting test scores.
  • Update safety plans and in future school years, commit to updating plans and safety drills in the first month of the school year.
  • Have clear COVID-19 protocols and address the confusion and lack of communication with staff and families by implementing the Crisis Go tracking system with fidelity.

We hope that everyone has a safe and happy winter break. We look forward to a New Year, in which we are collaborating as equal partners to improve the safety, well-being, and instructional outcomes of our district.

Sincerely,

DEC Executive Board

 

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3 Comments

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  1. I support teachers and appreciate all the good work that educators are doing in our community and beyond. This is a hard year for everyone and I’m so grateful for my kids’ teachers and everything they’re doing. That being said, I heard at a board meeting that you all were meeting frequently and admin was responding to many of DEC leadership’s concerns. Are you all still meeting and collaborating (as it sounds like you were doing earlier this school year)? As a community member and D65 parent, it is very important to me that union leadership continues to be in honest conversation with the school board and superintendent and stops these Roundtable letters that seem to try to throw other stakeholders under the proverbial bus.

  2. For many years elementary school teachers have been at the very heart of our community. Their well being must be attended to with dispatch.
    As a life long Evanston resident and a former ETHS board member I heartily support District 65 teachers and their concerns recently expressed.
    My wife Sarah, a retired grade school teacher, joins me in urging the 65 Board and the Administration to address in earnest the fundamental issues facing our valued teachers.

    1. Despite every effort to keep my students and family safe, we contracted Covid for the holidays and are hearing about so many other contractions from co-workers and their families. We are weary. I am not better yet. Will I be there to take care of our students in the New Year? Not sure yet.