Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Rachel Duncan's letter to the School Board 1-13-14

Dear Members of the Board and Community,

I am sorry that I cannot attend this important meeting tonight, but I am at the limit of hours and energy that I can expend for the day.

This weekend I spent 12 hours organizing and playing in a band for a function that our Central H.S. choir was invited to perform at, I wrote 2 formal recommendation letters for senior scholarships, prepared a new syllabus for a new college-level course at the high school next semester, and got a whooping cough immunization. Today I used my lunch break to drive to West Salem and let my dog out so that I could stay after school and volunteer to play the piano for our upcoming all-grades musical, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I love doing all these activities to support our students.

But I have had an 11-hour day today, and it’s not unusual at all. It’s not unusual to use my weekends to chaperone retreats, support the theatre program and choir, grade 8 hours worth of papers at a time, and spend my own money in the process. In the first 4 weeks of school I logged 60 hours of extra work for the school, and about $200 worth of supplies that were necessary for my students and work here, like planners for 10th-12th graders. I’m now at $670 for the year, and we’re not through with semester 1.

And I am not alone in this. This is the pattern for the vast majority of teachers and even staff in this district. And we are exhausted from overwork and underpay, not to mention the ongoing disrespect of going 197 days without an acceptable contract.

I am sorry that I cannot be here in person tonight, wearing my red shirt with my colleagues.

I’m sorry I cannot be here in person to express the abominable way we have been promised year after year the very things we’re standing up for now:
that that basic costs of living increase would continue after freezes,
that our salaries would be commensurate with other districts our size,
that actual time with students would be increased again,
that acceptable class sizes would come to fruition.

I am sorry that you can’t seem to hear us when we keep reminding you that you assured us everything would return to normal as soon as  possible after we’ve already suffered cuts, furloughs, reductions in force and giant classes for 4 years. The budget outlook is the best it’s been in years, and yet we still wait.

I am sorry I cannot be here in person tonight to show you my fatigue over this issue.

But most of all, I’m sorry that I cannot be here in person to somehow further prove to you that we care about our contract.  I’m sorry that you don’t seem to believe our union reps, who we elected, and who speak for us in this regard. I’m sorry that you seem to need a mass showing and wasting of hours by hundreds of people before you will take us seriously. I know I don’t have time for that—I’m busy working harder than ever.

I’m sorry that you think we aren’t for real until you see our fatigued and appalled faces. I’m sorry that your dragging heels on the issue of this contract continues to take a toll on my health, and on the joy I usually feel in volunteering for our students.
But most of all, I’m sorry to our students, who need more days, more time, smaller classes, and above all, the surety of a qualified, stable, long-term district teaching staff who doesn’t move on or fail to apply in Central 13J in the first place over poor teaching salaries, benefits and treatment.

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