John Hopkins teachers want to be heard
Two weeks after the troubles at John Hopkins Middle School boiled into public view, teachers there are wondering why they haven't heard from Pinellas School Board members or superintendent Julie Janssen, teachers union president Kim Black told the Gradebook today.
"It's surprising to me that a situation of this magnitude that was reported on March 1 has not driven the School Board members and the superintendent to meet specifically with ... those who are in the classroom every day," Black said. "The teachers told me they felt they clearly had not been heard."
Black and union executive director Marshall Ogletree met with about 30 teachers last Thursday before the SAC meeting that Janssen attended. Nearly 30 staffers also sent a letter to Janssen and the board Friday in which they made recommendations. But passing on concerns through the union or in a letter isn't the same as a face-to-face meeting, Black said.
"I think there's a disconnect between what's really happening at the school and what's happening at the administration building," she said. "Those who are experiencing this situation firsthand need to be heard, and not just in the St. Pete Times."
UPDATE AT 6:09 P.M.: By coincidence, Pinellas board chairwoman Janet Clark was at Hopkins today. And she says Black is right.
"We owe it to the teachers," Clark told the Gradebook. "They've been under fire for a long time, and they deserve to be listened to and to know that we're hearing them."
Clark said she decided to visit with one of the teachers after reading the letter that Hopkins staffers sent last week. She spent most of the day in one teacher's classroom, where she said she witnessed too many kids getting out of their seats and talking out of turn. They were run-of-the-mill kids, not chronically disruptive ones, Clark said, yet their actions reminded her of the students she taught for years as an ESE teacher. "It wasn't her classroom management skills that were in question," she said of the teacher. "It's very hard for one person to manage that level of behavior."
As far as meeting with a group of teachers, as Black suggested, Clark said she's willing. She also said the district should have done that by now, and that perhaps she should have taken it upon herself to organize it. "Something fell down somewhere," she said.