Wednesday, November 22, 2017
News Roundup

Ernest Hooper: A salute to the students who walked out in support of teachers

RECOMMENDED READING


When I was in grade school, I landed in the principal’s office and they called my mom down to the school.

She arrived and delivered one stern warning: "If I have to come down to this school again, you’re going to be in trouble."

"But, but, but ..."

"But nothing. And I mean that thing."

That moment shapes my parenting perspective today, one in which I work to openly side with teachers and school administrators even if I might privately disagree. I’m the dad who likes to back the district in its efforts to instill rules and maintain order.

However, I’m compelled to salute the students who chose to walk out of class Tuesday and Wednesday at various high schools around Hillsborough County. The teens decided to stand up and stand out as a show of solidarity with teachers embroiled in contract negotiations with the district.

Tensions have boiled up between the district and the Hillsborough County Teachers Association ever since district negotiators balked at delivering an expected pay raise, noting it would cost $17 million to give roughly a third of the 14,000 teachers raises of $4,000, which they expect to receive every three years if they have high enough evaluation scores.

The district is in the midst of a budget crisis and wants to forgo the raises so, negotiators say, it can avoid layoffs. The union says they should re-examine other spending, including the growing number of administrators earning more than $100,000 a year.

Whether you agree with the district or the teachers, the walk out by students — reportedly 15 minutes conducted with peace and quiet — merits respect.

I understand the U.S. Supreme Court does not extend constitutional rights to school students, deferring to the authority of principals who must diminish disruptions and maintain control. I understand freedom of speech and freedom of press are not protected within the bounds of a school.

However, this nation was founded on acts of civil disobedience — men polluting the Boston Harbor with overtaxed tea. Successful protests call attention to an issue peaceably but demonstrably. By design, they should create a level of discomfort.

At some schools, principals have acted punitively, utilizing in-school suspensions, referrals and marks in a student’s permanent file to try to curb the behavior. That’s too bad, because such actions are antithetical to education’s mission.

These are teachable moments and the lessons shouldn’t be taught with punishment and threats to impair a student’s ability to get into college. The kids are courageously following in the footsteps of some of our greatest citizens in trying to show support and bring about change.

If given a choice, how do we want our students to respond to this issue? With apathy and indifference, or care and concern for the men and women touching their lives on a daily basis? I’m heartened by the show of love. It’s a great statement about the work of the teachers and the relationship they have with the students.

Instead of deterrent action, principals should create boundaries and offer an acceptable time and place for the students to express their views without disrupting the day. A 15-minute silent display allows students to engage and teachers to feel love. Principals may not want to encourage a daily demonstration, but they also shouldn’t discourage.

As for the district, it’s created an atmosphere where everyone seems to be making sacrifices except the top-heavy administration. Students have worked in classrooms without air conditioning, some bus drivers remain unhappy with conditions, parents will have to adjust to a new bell schedule and now teachers are being asked to forgo bonuses.

The district can point to cost-cutting measures that have frozen hundreds of positions and shaved tens of millions of dollars in salary costs by shedding more than 600 employees through attrition and reassignments, but difficult times demand that sacrifice begins with the leaders.

Talk about demonstrations. Superintendent Jeff Eakins hasn’t made a show of reducing staff or costs in the downtown office. We shouldn’t want to see anyone lose their job, but even a symbolic cut in pay among the top brass would make a bitter pill easier to swallow for the teachers.

The impasse likely will grow and at some point both sides may have to accept a compromise that neither likes. In the interim, however, we should celebrate the bond between teacher and student and hope that the testament they make today will be remembered well into the future.

I think my mom, God rest her soul, would stand with them.

That’s all I’m saying.

Comments
Brian Setzer talks about Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and his third act with holiday music

Brian Setzer talks about Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and his third act with holiday music

Brian Setzer knows he’s overdue for a trip to Florida. For 13 years, the Grammy-winning rockabilly guitarist and big-band frontman has been packing theaters coast to coast for his annual Christmas Rocks Tour. But somehow, he keeps skipping this area....
Updated: 19 minutes ago
University of Tampa volleyball finds playoff form in time

University of Tampa volleyball finds playoff form in time

TAMPA — Earning an NCAA Tournament bid is usually not cause for celebration with the University of Tampa volleyball program. It has become routine.But after hitting the abyss of a 3-10 record, after players felt their confidence was shot, after coach...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
At 107, hard work, loving family and lots of milk are retired milkman’s keys to long life

At 107, hard work, loving family and lots of milk are retired milkman’s keys to long life

HUDSON — The oldest resident at Atria Windsor Woods just happens to be one of its newest arrivals.When he was 104, Lloyd Klement still drove his car and exercised at local gyms. And until just a few weeks ago, he still lived in his Port Richey home.N...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot: What you need to know

Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot: What you need to know

Just like the several types of dishes you’ll see at Thanksgiving, you can run any type of race before you stuff your face. The Tampa Bay Times’ annual Turkey Trot offers a race for nearly every distance, from a one-mile run/walk to a 10k race. • Clea...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bowen: A legislative wish list for which to be thankful

Bowen: A legislative wish list for which to be thankful

This column took some time to compose.The initial scribbling came late on the night of Sept. 10 inside Pasco’s Emergency Operations Center as Hurricane Irma tracked across the county. Away from family. Stuck in a too-small work space with a bunch of ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top 5 at Noon: Workers at luxury St. Pete condo say they’re owed thousands; Will toy stores go extinct?; see stores’ Black Friday sales early

Top 5 at Noon: Workers at luxury St. Pete condo say they’re owed thousands; Will toy stores go extinct?; see stores’ Black Friday sales early

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:WORKERS AT ST.PETE LUXURY CONDO TOWER SAY THEY’RE OWED THOUSANDS Nearly three dozen workers at ONE St. Petersburg, a luxury condo tower under construction in the heart of downtown, haven’t be...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sports doctor pleads guilty to sex charges that involved Olympic gymnasts

Sports doctor pleads guilty to sex charges that involved Olympic gymnasts

LANSING, Mich. —A former doctor accused of molesting girls while working for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University pleaded guilty Wednesday to multiple charges of sexual assault and will face at least 25 years in prison. Larry Nassar, 54, admi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Workers at luxury St. Pete condo tower say they are owed thousands

Workers at luxury St. Pete condo tower say they are owed thousands

ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly three dozen workers at ONE St. Petersburg, a luxury condo tower under construction in the heart of downtown, haven’t been paid in weeks and are owed thousands of dollars.With the holidays nearing, some of the men say they are ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco County mulls preserving former Ft. King ranch

Pasco County mulls preserving former Ft. King ranch

LAND O’LAKES — Nearly three decades after Freeman Polk unsuccessfully attempted to auction his massive Fort King Ranch, the thousands of acres north of State Road 52 just might have a new buyer — Pasco County.Last week, a county advisory committee re...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘Fun Home’ opens at the Straz, ‘The Little Prince’ at Freefall

‘Fun Home’ opens at the Straz, ‘The Little Prince’ at Freefall

LIFE AND DEATH: FUN HOMEEvery year, the Straz Center tries to mix it up a little, injecting a not-quite-so-safe show into an otherwise bankable lineup. Last year, that was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This year it’s Fun Home, a ...
Updated: 1 hour ago