What Kind of Partnership Is This?

Below is the text from a speech given to the School Board on Wednesday, February 10th from Barbara Landwehr.  Barb is a member of the Kentlake High School ELL Department, as well as a member of KEA’s Executive Board.  She stated on behalf of many KEA members the frustration and disappointment that they are feeling with the KSD and its handling of important issues such as class size, workload, and the assigning of Instructional Assistants (aka, I.A.’s or paraprofessionals).  Despite the fact that the new language in our KEA contract calls for specific remedies to overcrowded classrooms, our English Language Learner and Special Education teachers are especially seeing their caseloads remain at unrealistic levels.  Help from the District has been slow to non-existent, despite their assurances that they, “Continue To Work With Our KEA Partners.”  Talk is cheap!

 If you are experiencing similar issues in your job, we encourage you to share your concerns by commenting on this post.  Here is the text of Barb’s speech:

Good Evening. My name is Barbara Landwehr and I am a National Board Certified Teacher in ELL at Kentlake, in my 11th year in Kent.

I have heard several times over the past couple of months and three times tonight, “Our Partners, the KEA.” I am here tonight to ask, “Where is the partnership?”

In the last school year, several board members participated in a meeting with teachers. Over the four meetings, the same message was heard.

1)     Workload is an issue. New teachers often had two jobs, the stress was so high, at every meeting, a box of tissue came out, as teachers gave personal input to their stresses of working in Kent. At all four meetings, the same message was heard, high workloads, lack of teacher input, top down decision making, and low pay .

2)     In the year since, where are the changes? Wouldn’t you think it’s a problem if 25+ teachers at each meeting cried out for support? Where is the school boards action to remedy any issues or problems? Where is the “partnership”?

At my school, we have 7 IP teachers. NONE of the special Education IP teachers have the base para time of 6 hours. Just last week, they were asked if they “wanted any hours”. Most of them asked for the full base para time. The following day, when the new Instructional assistances schedule was handed out, at most, they got 2 hours a day, some only one. If the contract says 6.0 hours, why do our IP teachers have to “ask” for them, and then get turned down? Where is the partnership?

Why is it that an art teacher in our building can have 21 general ed kids in a class and 9 SC kids with little support? Yet 8 or 9 kids is an average sized SC classroom on it’s own.

How can we expect our culinary arts teacher to teach a 2 period block of “Careers in culinary arts” but in the second half, teach a creative cooking class as well.

Why do we expect our drafting teacher to teach drafting 1, 2 and 3 in the same class period where there is only one drafting 2 and one drafting 3 student in the class. This teacher has to plan for three sections within one class period, not to mention his other classes.

Why is it that an art teacher can have drawing 1,  3 and AP art all in the same class period? And that drawing 3 can actually be drawing 3, 4, 5 or 6 combined. Did someone not read the newspapers or see the news to realize that WORKLOAD in Kent is already a sore subject. Again I ask, “Where is the partnership.”

On a final note, as an ELL teacher I’ve been told that next summer, a training will be offered, so that I can become a Language! expert. I’ve seen how well received this has been in special ed. Therefore, I can return to school next fall and teach ELL, special ed and mainstream kids all at the same level of Language! in my classroom. Why is it when I say, “This is not what is best for ELL kids! “ My principal responds, “I don’t make those decisions.” When, as an ELL teacher, will I be given the chance to give my input? Where is the research about best practices for ELL kids? I don’t know of any that states ELL issues are the same as special ed issues, or that combining them is what is best for kids.

I work hard at what I do. I’m good at what I do, but at some point I’d like some respect. Heaven forbid we use an “inclusion” model for the teachers in the Kent School District.

 Again, I conclude, “WHERE IS THE PARTNERSHIP?”


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3 Responses to “What Kind of Partnership Is This?”

  1. Teacher Says:

    I challenge KSD administrators to look to themselves and ask, “What are we as an administration doing to help our teachers’ workload so they can meet the needs of ALL STUDENTS? By pointing out where the needs are, are we in essence putting more on their plates without support? Class sizes can be reduced. Should we take the certs who are not serving students all day and make them into classroom teachers? Would this be a better use of monies while reducing class size? (Uh, yes)”

    A quick survey of classroom teachers’ needs would be a start. And btw, I’ve never believed an online survey was anonymous. No way.

  2. Got boxes? Says:

    I sent a similar email to my colleagues last week. I don’t understand how this is continuing to happen in our district.

    I was at the board meeting on January 13. I couldn’t escape the feeling that our school board is getting hoodwinked by the district administrators. It was disturbing to watch. Did anyone else count how many times the security boss answered the board with the words “I don’t know?” How about the district IT guy?

    Or when Merri got up to explain the overload numbers…was that information clear as mud? It was refreshing to hear one board member ask a question about why our kids with highest needs are the ones not receiving support? It was met with applause from the audience. The district responded with more “I don’t know”s and “We’re working to remedy the situation”s. Does this sound familiar?

    This is a load of baloney.

    It was disheartening to attend the Language! training and hear that the district hadn’t piloted the program, nor had it asked teachers for input. I would NEVER insist that teachers be the only ones to make decisions about adopting programs, but it sure would be nice to know that we were valued enough to be on the team as well as have input. Where is the collaboration Vargas promised? Does this sound familiar?

    I think the biggest problem with Language! is that the district has NO PLAN for HOW to implement the program. They’re adopting a 90 minute per day program WITH NO PLAN! Does this sound familiar?

    Have you heard the saying about good intentions? Our new contract does not EXPLICITLY state that special ed teachers get additional certificated support after they reach their overload. So how does the district want to handle oversized special ed classes, for our kids with the highest need for support? Let’s throw in another para!!! That should do the trick!

    If you just want to sort of finesse our achievement gap to sort of MAYBE close, then let’s just do more of the same….

    Come on Vargas! Come on Kent School District! Come on Kent parents and community! Wake up and DO something about this insanity!

  3. Start Asking the Teachers, Vargas Says:

    This top down management style is hurting kids in Kent. The more that administrators pressure classroom teachers with their ridiculous and unrealistic demands, the more apparent it becomes that they don’t give a crap about teachers and students. Moreover, it proves how out of touch they are with what their teachers need. Does a physician not listen to his patient? I’d think something has been stinking in KSD for quite awhile. Too much fat at the top is wasted money. We don’t need a Data coach to tell us what we already know! We don’t need an Instructional coach that really only serves the newest teachers. Turn some of those into classroom teachers which will lower class sizes and help bridge that achievement gap.

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