MVB first learned of high school chemistry teacher Shawn Beightol when he was unceremoniously and ham handily demoted to the bus depot by the Miami-Dade county school board for having the temerity of using a school computer to send out emails that were "political in nature." At that time he was the Krop High school steward representing the United Teachers of Dade, the official union representing over 20,000 teachers. He was also running for the office of the president of the union. One day when he showed up for work, school security met him in the teacher's parking lot and blocked him from entering the building. His punishment included banishment to the school bus maintenance depot where he basically did nothing for 17-days before being allowed to return to his classroom. Although we have corresponded through emails, we haven't met Mr. Beightol but our gut feeling is he's exactly what the teachers need to fight for their right to make enough money to live and work in Miami-Dade county. Right now, with the rising cost of living and the dearth of affordable housing, it is nearly impossible for current teachers to hang on and equally difficult to recruit new teachers. Teachers need more money and respect and we believe Mr. Beightol is the indefatigable bulldog that will make that happen.
Case in point, he is forming the Miami Professional Educators Association. It will be a non-profit organization setup "not to compete with UTD but (to act) as an active group of educators, many within the UTD, who seek to serve as a catalyst for change both in the school system and by working within our bargaining agent, the UTD to produce the best working conditions for our educators and support staff." The next meeting for this fledgling group will be August 14th at 7:30PM at the Denny's in Miami Lakes (just north of 826 on 67th Ave).
I was given permission to post the following email he sent out to his fellow teachers. I think many of MVB's faithful readers, i.e., Miami's elite intelligentsia, may find it eye-opening:
We believe the best working conditions, compensation, and benefits will attract the best and professional workforce available, thus delivering on the promise of public education, a true "world class education," as MDCPS has advertised, to Miami's children and future. Since under Florida law, a bargaining agent is necessary to formally secure these conditions and protect them via our contract, it is MPEA's aim to facilitate UTD's work from within it's organization. However, we recognize that some individuals will not join UTD for a variety of reasons and still have much value and benefit to share in the process of educational reform and should be provided with an avenue to do so. We hope that by being an active, proactive, aggressive tool for reform, we might provide a face for UTD that for decades has been missing.
This Wednesday, August 1, two issues may arise that MPEA would like to provide input: H5 - Ingram's proposal to award (Superintendent) Crew his bonus (which was essentially denied last month by the board's inconclusive split vote) based on Crew's quantification of his objectives being reached as 63%. This amounts to a bonus of over $40,000. The sum of Crew's bonus would take a teacher with a masters degree 13 years to reach under the NEW contract. Many feel that a bonus of this amount for what would amount to a "D" in class is excessive. Others debated that part of the assessment involved the FCAT and therefore was debatable. Regardless, debate was unanimous in the conclusion that until Crew delivers a living wage that recognizes financially his professional educators (who are delivering the product that brings him accolades from such places as the Broad Foundation) and allows his support staff to live with a measure of dignity (the current contract amounts to servitude for them), his bonus should be foregone. We will speak publicly in opposition to his raise.
E-106 - Wi-Fi - a board item addressing MDCPS' participation in a county-wide free wi-fi service will be discussed. At issue are whether MDCPS will "go it alone" and develop it's own wi-fi infrastructure at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars (possible board conflict of interest exists here with board member Evelyn Greer who is a director of a wireless telecom group, Fusion - see below) OR whether we will lease some of MDCPS bandwidth to the county - supposedly an absolute necessity for the county plan - which then puts board member Ana Rivas Logan in a possible "iffy" situation since she serves on the task force of the county's wi-fi program and on the school board which controls the lucrative bandwidth needed by the county... hmmm...more research and info needed.
Read more here: http://www.rayvaughan.com/wireless_miami_dade.htm and http://www.m-indya.com/shownews.php?newsid=819 and a very critical view here: http://www.miaminights.com/news/miami-wifi-the-200-million-pitch-into-the-ocean.
Please let me know by Monday if you'd like to join me at the board meeting to speak to these items. Send me your phone number and I can coordinate the speakers forms by Monday noon.
We discussed property tax measures and as a group (of both Dems and Republicans) decided that it might be a good idea to shoot down the current tax relief proposal which does too little for locals and has too many loopholes for out of town investor owners. It is believed that Marco Rubio has a backup plan that will be 100% relief for local homestead property owners by utilizing a 2 cent sales tax. The debate that this will be excessive on the poor and keep them further from owning was met by the point that current home prices already are WAY too far out of reach for the poor and that to do nothing will not only keep the poor from getting homes, it will drive the middle class closer to homelessness. So the conclusion in this (ONGOING) discussion was that to vote for the current proposal or to do nothing not only does NOTHING for the poor, but it pushes the middle class closer to extinction in Miami-Dade. So, we will lean toward Rubio's replacement bill with admission that this is an ongoing discussion.
We are actively seeking qualified interested parties to back/support School Board Elections in the Fall of 2008. We identified the following candidates as either being replaceable because of their lack of educator support, or in the case of Ingram, his health:
- Martin Karp - a former teacher, has turned into a big disappointment for those of us who backed him. He has proven to be too malleable and weak, has not advanced an educator's agenda as was hoped from his campaign talk. He seems to be afraid of both Crew and Greer to be of any good to educators and thus the community. Sided with Crew and Greer during the famous "censorship" meeting in which on-air board broadcasting and open-mike were threatened to be shut down or dramatically modified in a way that would hurt educators need for publicity.
- De la Portilla - 2nd go around on school board, wasn't voted back in last time, got invited to replace Bolanos this time, like Karp has been pro-Crew and Greer to the point of antagonism. Walked off dais during a Doral vote on school boundaries that should have had his decisive leadership. Was the major mouthpiece in siding with censorship agenda at the "censorship" meeting.
- Ingram - is sick. If he is unable to run, we hope to work with him identifying an educator ally for a friendly passing of the baton.
- Greer - ever get an email from her or a verbal response? 'nuff said. You teachers should be grateful for what you get...yeah, right. Maybe if our family controlled a low cost housing corporation while the school board was deciding on developing its land for low cost housing for teachers (why not just fix our salaries so we don't qualify as government aid recipients?!) or if we held major stock in a telecom company while voting on bidding out telecom contracts...conflict of interest anyone?
- A couple of members may join together to pass out flyers at the New Teachers Orientation to recruit membership by sharing about our aggressive campaigns to reform public education by attracting and retaining professionals via professional and dignified contracts. Date is August 9th. Let me know if you'd like to assist.
- We are currently addressing the issue of the growing feeling that membership is losing control of the renewed "member-driven UTD."
Info on Greer's telecom company and involvement can be found here.
Evelyn L Greer, Director at Fusion Telecommunications International, Incorporated, New York, New York. TECHNOLOGY / WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS. Director since January 1999. Evelyn Langlieb Greer, 56. Director. Ms. Greer has served as a director since January 1999. Ms. Greer is the President of Greer Properties, Inc., a Florida-based real estate development company founded in 1976. She is also a partner in the law firm of Hogan, Greer & Shapiro, P.A. Ms. Greer has been a director of City National Bank of Florida, N.A. since 2000, a member of the Board of Trustees of Barnard College since 1994 and is Vice Chair of the Columbia Law School Board of Visitors. Since 1996, Ms. Greer has served as the elected Mayor of the Village of Pinecrest, Florida. And from http://www.marketwatch.com/tools/quotes/person.asp?siteid=mktw&pid=5100 EVELYN GREER Declared Holdings Relationship/Company Reported Shares Value Director Fusion Telecomm Intl IncRoster, Transactions 101,715 shares as of 7/26/2007: $38,651.69.
As you can see from the email, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. We hope Mr. Beightol won't be standing alone before the School Board on Wednesday, August 1st. We hope that he will be surrounded by a large group of in-your-face activist teachers who will keep putting the pressure on for better salaries and working conditions. No matter what our skyline looks like or whether or not we have a half billion dollar performing arts center, if the county can't retain and recruit good teachers, it won't mean a thing. A good public educational system is the foundation and magnet for the creation of new jobs and businesses that rely on college educated professionals. Without good schools which are built on good teachers happy with their salaries, nothing will change for the better here. In our humble opinion, Mr. Beightol's Miami Professional Educators Association is just the kind of thing the school system needs to kick start itself into putting teachers first.
UpDate (8/2): Don't know how many stood with Mr. Beightol yesterday in front of the school board, but he was quoted in today's Miami Herald. When it came up to grant Crew his bonus, Beightol said this to the superintendent: ''Lead by example and turn down your increase until you can use your creativity to give us all an increase.'' It appears no one was listening because the school board passed a motion 5-4 to give Crew a $41,000 bonus. By 2010, Crew's contracted salary will reach $360,000 with potential bonuses up to $80,000. Considering that the "performance gap between black and white students widened this year, and the number of F schools increased from five to 26" under his leadership, we can only think that somehow the board has confused the increasing number of F schools as a good thing. Why else would they give the man the bonus?