The following is my 3 minutes. I have intentionally left out the name of the district.
Good Evening. My name is Kate Sacco. I have been a teacher [in this district] for more than 20 years. I have been consistently rated as Highly Effective. This is the first time that I have ever felt compelled to speak at a board meeting. But I am here tonight to speak to you as a teacher who is very concerned about what I see happening in our district. I am here knowing that my voice represents many other teachers who are afraid to speak for fear of reprisal… myself included. Our credibility and our mental state are investigated when we ask questions or speak out.
I want you to know that I grew up in this District. I attended [a local elementary] from Kindergarten to 8th grade. I have taught in [this district] since 1992, first as a student teacher, next as a substitute, then as a gifted and talented teacher and have been a full time teacher since 1994. I purchased my first house in [this district] and my oldest son attended [one of the Elementary schools] as a kindergartner.
When I was hired over 20 years ago, [our District] prided itself on hiring “the best and the brightest”. [This District] was a school district that other districts emulated. At that time, Interview committees looked for creativity in teachers and the ability to understand children and their diverse needs. Those same teachers who were hired for those qualities are now given scripted lessons to teach and spend inordinate amounts of time collecting and inputting what amounts to meaningless data.
I am concerned that the heavy focus on this data is derailing our children’s experience in school. The numbers are taking precedence over teacher observation and interactions with children. I am concerned that teachers are not valued and that our experience, expertise and opinions are ignored and minimalized. I am concerned that growing poverty and our increasing ELL population is not being addressed in the best way possible for the success of our students. This has nothing to do with achieving higher standards, rather it has to do with acknowledging that we need to have realistic expectations. Larger class sizes, the increasing difficulty to obtain services for students who need intervention, the lack of substitute teachers and the constant message that what we are doing is not good enough is contributing to extremely low morale.
I am extremely concerned that we are laying off people who work with students, and instead purchasing curriculum aligned to tests and not aligned to children. I am concerned that we have narrowed our focus to ELA and math at the neglect of other subject areas. I am concerned that we are lengthening the day for our youngest learners with no consideration for their stamina, their families and for the teachers who work with them. I am concerned that we are losing families in this district because they feel that, although they love their child’s teachers, moving to another district gives them hope that their child will have a more well-rounded education.
I grew up here. I chose to make my career here. I choose to speak to you tonight, at great risk to my career, because I want you to know that it is not a vocal minority that is concerned. It is many of us. In fact, it is most of us.