School Board Speech June 14, 2017
Good evening President Rothman, Vice President Perlman, School Board Members, Superintendent Martinez, Cabinet Members, APT and CSEA members, and community members. I am very pleased to be standing here before you as the newly elected President for Associated Pomona Teachers. I have been a teacher in PUSD for 16 years and an active union leader for over 10 years. I am very proud to be here representing APT members.
I would like to begin with why I became a teacher. I decided to become a teacher during my freshman year in college. I started my year with an undeclared major but thought that teaching may be the career for me. I thought to myself, “Teachers go home at 3:00, or earlier and they get the whole summer off. Sure, they didn’t make top dollar, but they have a good retirement plan and their benefits are paid in full.” As you can see, I was a very naïve 23-year-old when I started teaching my first class, and I soon realized, just after the first teacher day, that we don’t go home at 3 and we don’t get summers off, and we don’t get benefits paid in full. I also realized that teaching 4-5 year olds was not as easy as it seemed. There are no more naps in kindergarten, academic rigor is intense, and there is no way I can finish all the things I need to do by 3pm. My respect and admiration for all teachers grew immensely, and although my perception of what it would be like being a teacher were somewhat shattered, I knew I had made the right choice.
I love teaching students and I love being able to see that spark in their eyes when they finally understand a difficult concept. I love coming to work and hearing the children cheer when they see me and seeing their faces light up just because I came to work (this was a daily cheering squad). I love when my students tell me I am their most favorite teacher, even though they may have only had 1 or 2 others before me. I love how my students are so honest, sincere, caring, and absolutely hilarious with some of the things they do and say. I will miss having students cheering my name and I will miss their constant hugs and smiles. I will miss having my own classroom to create a loving and warm space for children to learn and grow. But…some things I may miss a little less, for instance, the paperwork, the testing, the grading, the ELD Profile Reports, the bulletin boards, the conferences, the mandated trainings, the constant changes made to curriculum or programs. Some other things I may miss a little less, like watching students pick noses or eat boogers, accidentally sneezing in my mouth, coughing on my face, or vomiting on my shoes.
I am looking forward to continuing the legacy our former President Michael da Rosa has left, especially with Community Schools and collaboration. I have been fortunate enough to attend an NEA Community Schools conference and I am very excited that we were offered a grant to continue to grow our Community Schools’ efforts. A huge thank you to Darren Knowles, Marlo Aubert, Ion Puschila and Ana Zambrano for all the hard work that they did, in a very short time frame to secure this grant for PUSD. We are also indebted to Kyle Serrette from Popular Democracy and his CA team for their assistance. I am looking forward to seeing and supporting more Community Schools here in PUSD.
Another legacy of former President Michael da Rosa, is the deep listening and collaboration work. The journey will continue because we know when there is deep listening and collaboration, we will see the student achievement gap closing. The old top-down model where management tells labor what to do, when to do, and how to do it is going to surely change. We will see educators making the decisions about what is best for our students. The practitioners are the ones who will guide their professional growth, their practice, their professional development, and the agendas for the needs of their sites. We know that change takes time and people’s beliefs have to change in order for lasting systemic change to occur. Each site is unique and each site’s progress will be different. Some sites are already seeing the benefits of deep listening and collaboration and some sites need more time and assistance. My intention as APT President is that school sites will get the support they need to continue moving towards a model where collaboration is the rule and not the exception. The beauty of this deep listening and collaboration is that it will improve teaching and learning and that will improve student achievement. What Michael began in his term as APT President, I intend to continue, broaden, and strengthen in mine.
There are many opportunities to grow in our deep listening, collaboration, and shared leadership. Middle school teachers at Vejar asked me to cite an example of such an opportunity which was unfortunately missed. Recently a decision was made to change programs from offering 6th periods to our 8th graders to offering “interdisciplinary teams,” which is also known as block scheduling or team teaching. One teacher is to teach Language Arts and History and another will teach Math and Science. The initial response from teachers at the site is that this is not good for their students. Teachers were not focused on how this will change their entire curriculum for next year, but more concerned with what this change will mean for students and their families. They are concerned that class size will be negatively impacted and that students will not get the individual attention they need. They are also concerned that the dominant subject (LA/Math) will get more time than the other. They are concerned that the change leaves only 2 true electives (AVID/Leadership). They are concerned that our pre-K-8 middle school students are going to be even more sheltered and not prepared to enter high school. All of these concerns are valid and legitimate, but a top-down decision-making approach prevented these concerns from having the impact that they deserve. This was a missed opportunity to listen, to collaborate, and to share in decision-making to produce the best outcomes for Pomona’s students. Vejar Middle school teachers implore the school board and district leadership to take a step back from this decision and re-engage with members at the site in the spirit of collaboration that has already begun to have such positive impact in our schools. This is an opportunity to work together which should be revisited.
In closing, I’d like to remind us all why we are gathered here this evening, why we gather each day in our classrooms, and in our offices all across this district: it is for the children of Pomona Unified. In all of our decisions, simple and complex, we mustn’t ever lose focus on those who are counting on us, those who are depending on us, and those whom we serve. Education is every child’s human right, and as educators it is our moral obligation to do our absolute best in every lesson, every decision, every school board vote, every contract negotiation, to bring to the students and families of this district nothing less than excellence. In this, I encourage each of us to be brave, to be courageous, creative, and innovative in our service. The results of our efforts will resonate far beyond Pomona for generations to come, for our students are not only our future, they are the future of the world.
Thank you for attending this evening, and thank you for listening.