Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dade County Schools Use Strong Arm Tactics to Intimidate its Teachers

We don't know Shawn Beightol. Unlike Will Rogers, who never met a man he didn't like, we've met plenty of men we didn't like (and a few women too) so we're pretty cautious about who we choose to befriend or say we like. But we like this guy because he reminds us about one of the things that defines an American: he's standing up single-handedly against the bully on the block. Mr. Beightol is a high school chemistry teacher who is taking on the 800-lb gorilla known as the Dade County School Board. A United Teachers of Dade (UTD) union steward at his school, he is campaigning against the current president of the UTD. Seems the schoolboard doesn't like the idea of him using his school computer for sending emails that were "political in nature." In fact, they didn't like it enough to have school security guards meet him in the parking lot when he showed up for work Monday morning to stop him from entering the school. For his audacity in using the school email system, he was reassigned to the district's "maintenance depot."

Talk about a heavy handed response. It looks like the school board is trying to intimidate its teachers. Except for the fact that the board isn't sending him to Siberia to work in the salt mines, it reminds us how dictatorships handle people like Mr. Beightol. It also looks like a violation of Mr. Beightol's First Amendment rights on a public forum because no matter what legalese the school board uses to justify their behavior, that interschool email system was bought and paid for by public dollars-- and if he wasn't trying to pick up underage girls or boys, who cares.

We hope Mr. Beightol sues the schoolboard and wins the election. Many of the teachers are demoralized from low pay and having little or no say with school administrators. It is our opinion that the teachers should have gone on strike years ago for "more pay and more say" (our slogan, but feel free to borrow it) because it is the only action that will shake up the board and get the community's attention.

But, Mr. Beightol isn't even suggesting something as radical as a teacher's strike. He's only advocating "work to the contract" which means no more working overtime without pay (for a schoolteacher, that basically means not supporting after school activities). We don't blame them. As long as teachers behave like that, they'll never get any respect.

What's going on between the teachers negotiating a new contract with the school board is pretty much what is going on with the world trying to negotiate an anti-nuclear weapons agreement with North Korea. Unless the world gets serious, nothing is going to happen. Unless the teacher's play hard ball, nothing significant is going to happen. Going on strike will reverberate all the way to Tallahassee and force our lawmakers to face the truth: either pay the teachers what they're worth and incorporate their ideas in the classroom, or be prepared to face a catastrophic social event they brought on themselves and the public will inevitably hold them accountable for.

For all of those who wonder where the money will come from to give teacher's a realistic pay hike, MVB suggests that they can find some of the money by scrapping the cockamamied Port of Miami tunnel project. The state has allocated $600 million toward the $1.2 billion cost. That $600 million would sure go a long way in keeping teachers in this state and recruiting new ones. So, don't let us hear the money isn't available. It's there and you'll be surprised how quickly it and other money turns up when teachers exert the strength found in their sheer numbers.


Shawn Beightol beights@yahoo.com said...

This site ROCKS!

This was the text of my second message to Dr. Crew last board meeting:

On April 22, I stood at the open mike at UTD’s Education Summit and I challenged you to turn to Karen Aronowitz and agree right there to restore the lost $7000 each employee has suffered over the last 10 years as a result of inflation (a number calculated on the national average of this decade’s 2.5% per annum Cost of Living Increase).

The bottom line of your response was “not without an academic return.” This is an interesting response in that
a) it verifies the district’s failure to provide for its employees
b) it implies prior lack of academic return.

Without dwelling on the latter point, I would like to thank you for the implied converse – that with your recognition of “Academic Return” would come the requested and acknowledge compensation for the lost $7000.

I’m happy to remind all, Dr. Crew, School Board, Employees, and our boss, the general public, that Dr. Crew has publicly acknowledged our success in providing academic return:

On May 1st, Dr. Crew emailed us and THANKED us for providing
· a 10 point jump in 3rd graders reading at Grade Level
· an increase of 14 percentiles on our Nationally normed median reading scores to 57 percent – “remarkable for an urban system like ours.”
· An increase in the Zone from 1/3 to ½ of zone elementary students reading at grade level
· A 6% increase in elementary children doing math at grade level

A few weeks later, similar adulations were given for similar gains at secondary levels.

A month later, April 5th, Dr. Crew wrote us and thanked us for making MDCPS one of 4 other districts in the nation as finalists for the Broad Prize for Urban Education. The basis for our nomination was:
· Demonstrated strong improvement in math performance among low income minority students between 2002-2005.
· Demonstrated narrowing of achievement gaps between low-income and high income students and between minority and white students in both reading and math between 2003-2005.
· MDCPS Hispanic students who outperformed their peers across the state in reading and math in 2005.

The schools we competed with ALL have starting salaries for teachers well over $40,000:
Bridgeport Connecticut - $40k, Boston Public $43k, Jersey Public $43k, New York City DOE $45k

Dr. Crew and School Board, We Stand. We Teach. We deliver. For far less money than our neighbors and competitors.

In far more trying conditions (Last year, compared to all districts in the state (67 reported, data from http://data.fldoe.org/fsir/ ), MDCPS’ schools averaged in
· The highest 18 for high school drop out rates,
· the highest 15 for fights (%-wise!),
· the highest 19 for violent crimes (%-wise),
· the highest 5 for property damage crimes (%-wise)
· the top 10% for free and reduced lunch
· the top 10-25% for Limited English Proficiency
· the top 25% for (in)stability (mobility of students transferring)
By raw data alone, our schools are struggling with violence and criminal acts 4 times any other urban district in Florida, with 13,000 violent/disorderly acts reported last year (that’s almost 1 violent or disorderly act experienced per teacher!). And there is no comparison with the non-urban (we have HUNDREDS of times the violence and crime of these districts).

Dr. Crew and School Board, We Stand. We Teach. We deliver.

It’s time to deliver your end of the bargain. I urge you to deliver across the board the cost of living adjustment that has been demonstrably withheld by the last decades salary agreements.

Deliver to your employees, many of whom are living in poverty, paid like work-camp employees, forced to sell their homes and live off credit cards, Deliver the necessary COLA averaging $7,000 per employee, invoking FL Statute 1001.42(e) to Borrow money, as prescribed in ss. 1011.12-1011.16, when necessary in anticipation of funds reasonably to be expected during the year as shown by the budget. Basis for reasonable expectations? 1) extrapolated $800 million in audit savings (we have many teachers who can share over media instances of inefficiencies) 2) DCD reversal and 3) the safety valve of being able to suspend technology expenditures 1 year “Smart Teachers before Smart Boards”
If you will not fulfill your word and your duty to us, then I call on all employees to cease all voluntary activities beyond the contract starting tomorrow. Parents, this will affect clubs, tutoring, sports, instructional quality (plans and paper grading).

Regards, Shawn Beightol Beights@yahoo.com

shawn beightol said...


I enjoyed your blog...thanks for doing what you could to hold the dam together.

On 3 we all gotta run or it will blow us all away...