Rumors of Caddo Parish high school teachers and principals retiring at the end of the first semester are effecting the start of school. Parents are asking what can be done to keep effective teachers and principals in our schools. To know what is motivating the rumors and find a solution to the problems, it is vital to understand the latest cause of widespread low morale among high school teachers.
The Caddo Parish School Board voted to follow staff recommendations and take away half of high school teachers’ planning time. It means teachers have three planning periods on even weeks and only two on alternate weeks. This move also added one more class to every high school teacher’s load, giving many teachers over 240 students. It was done even though planning time is the one variable proven in every single study to improve student performance.
The increased teaching load, lack of planning time, and huge increase in paper work due to the new evaluation process are demoralizing to effective teachers. They simply can’t work any harder. Numerous teachers who planned to teach for years more have taken or are planning early retirements.
The central office staff fooled the board into thinking that cuts would also be made to non-student-contact positions such as “special ed facilitators.” Then, central office changed the facilitator title to “teacher,” Voila, magic, fooled again! And again, those who never see a classroom are saved and cuts to classrooms are increased through manipulation of budget category labels. As we learn in Statistics 101, “statistics don’t lie, but liars use statistics.”
The school board voted on the changes without ever having in their possession, much less reading, a copy of the budget they were required to pass. When confronted, central office staff say there are no other areas to cut, but there are many.
An itemized copy of the complete budget, obtained through a freedom of information request, reveals many areas from which jobs can be cut and not impact a single classroom. For example, the attendance department, with a payroll of almost a million dollars, was fully automated two years ago at a cost of over a million, and student enrollment has declined for years, but this department has not been reduced by one employee.
The itemized budget also reveals frivolous spending on out of state travel for staff and board members, multiple out-of-state consultants, little-used services such as parent education, and many other unnecessary expenses. These total millions. And these wasted millions take teachers out of classrooms and pile students into classes at increasingly higher numbers per teacher.
It will take careful analysis, time, and hard work to find enough cuts that do not impact students, but it must be done. School board members should obtain a copy of the detailed budget and do the hard work because staff has proved they will not do it.
The board must also discover how many positions labeled “teacher” are actually working directly with children. Just because a position has a label does not mean that staff define it in the commonly excepted way. Direct contact with students is the only way to determine if persons labeled as “teacher” are really teachers as defined by reasonable people.
If citizens care, they should call their school board representative and demand teacher planning time be restored, class loads reduced, and cuts made in areas that do not directly impact students. The students of Caddo Parish are worth the hard work that must be done.
Writers at Forward Now realize that the cuts have impacted elementary and middle school classrooms, but we do not have specifics at this time. As we find specifics, we will report the facts.