Teachers’ concerns aired

Published 9:49 am Wednesday, June 1, 2011

FRANKLIN—City school officials said Tuesday they have addressed concerns raised by a local teachers’ group.
In a letter obtained by The Tidewater News, the Franklin City Education Association told school board members it had concerns about the work environment for teachers.
The letter states that teachers feel “they are just pawns in the system to ensure that the students perform in order to meet the demands of the score quota.”
Franklin City Education Association President Felecia Briggs would not comment on the letter, except to say that the organization did not want it to be released to the public.
Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle said she has met with the teachers twice this year in reference to concerns with the administration. The first was on Feb. 28. Belle said she addressed concerns related to school equipment at that meeting.  Belle met with the organization’s officers again on May 5.
A list of concerns was attached to the letter given to school board members on April 27.
The list included a concern over a loss of planning time and lesson preparation due to mandated meetings.
Belle said those concerns are related to mandated meetings required by the state in two of the system’s three schools. She said additional meetings are called at S.P. Morton Elementary to meet requirements related to the school’s first year in school improvement for failing to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress due to math and reading test scores.
She said additional meetings are required at Franklin High School because it’s under state sanctions to raise its graduation rate.
Belle said the school has a grant for three years to fund a dropout prevention program and extra meetings involving faculty at FHS are related to that.
Teachers also complained in the letter about “cumbersome lesson plan requirements, which do not result in any proven value added to instruction.”
Belle said this concern relates to the lesson plan templates teachers in the school system are required to use.
“Some teachers feel that it is cumbersome,” Belle said. “Others use it like magic.”
She said the system plans on continuing to use the lesson plan templates until AYP and other state requirements are met.
“My feeling is once we get to a point where we are meeting AYP requirements than we can looking at easing back into other methods,” Belle said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Another concern for teachers was that “morale is extremely low.”
Belle said the system is looking to fill 15 vacancies within teacher ranks as of May 16. She said none of those vacancies were caused by a low morale.
“Teaching is a difficult field to be in,” she said. “It’s a lot of work and you’re going to have a low morale.”
Teachers also raised concerns over being disrespected by administration and having to deal with a hostile work environment.
Belle said she has no evidence of this going on from the May 5 meeting, but said the system would continue to look into these complaints.
“I don’t take offense,” she said. “I’d rather you come forward. We can’t fix what we don’t know about.”
However, she said principals should be the first ones notified with complaints from teachers.
“I don’t think it would’ve come to this had they first brought the concerns to the principals,” Belle said.
School board Chairman Bill Scarboro said in an e-mail message that Belle addressed teachers’ concerns “adequately, thoroughly and promptly.” He added “no further comment from the school board is necessary.”