This letter was submitted via our open letter form. It does not necessarily reflect the views of Dear JCPS.
When I heard about the stories about a study done on Jefferson County Public Schools, my first initial reaction was “really?”
How many more studies can be done to figure out the underlying problems in a problematic school district?
Listening to the rhetoric about teachers’ salaries and salaries of the support staff, the memories of why I left the district came back again.
I began my short three-year journey with the district in 2009. It was for a classified clerical position at Atkinson Elementary in the Portland neighborhood. They titled it “lunchroom / office assistant.”
Signing on, the district is sure to let you know “other duties assigned” is also in the job description.
It was a wild card that meant whatever they told you, you do it without objection.
For the first half of the school year, I pretty much stuck to helping maintain control in the lunchroom, greeting parents daily and maintained attendance records.
On the flip side, I was the first line of defense in dealing with unruly parents who had issues with teachers or students with behavioral issues who sat at my desk area because they needed a “voice of reason” to help them get through their school day.
It became routine, especially when I moved on to becoming an Instructional Assistant at the same school in 2011.
This time I was under different leadership with a principal who had the mentality of “her way or the highway.”
I was running the SuccessMaker Lab, working with kindergarten teachers and used as a stand-by teacher if they didn’t have a substitute in special areas or if the teacher left work early.
I was two years in and received a “minor” increase in pay. I was at $12,500 for the entire year. Most will look at it like that’s not bad considering working 185 days out of the year.
When you factor in escrow (money taken out of your check so you can earn pay in the summer) health insurance, union dues, and taxes, you were barely left with enough money to put a scratch in the monthly rent.
I kept it classy and put the kids first. However, I did ask about pay raises and was never given a clear answer – yet always given the runaround.
The game changer for me was being pressured into assisting with K-Prep testing without proper training or given any background information as to why these kids are taking these statewide exams.
All I was given was a photocopied handbook on what you can and can’t do when working with students during testing which pretty much let me know that I had to figure things out on my own.
You couldn’t question why you had to do it, it was part of that “other duties assigned” note listed on your job description.
It was a pattern with JCPS because it was a terrible training practice that trickled down from the administrative offices.
Everyone talks about being professional and developing yourself in becoming great at your job, yet the biggest joke and money waster are Professional Development Days.
Having years of experience in training before JCPS and it was going to be different being trained.
Lo and behold, more let downs.
It was very shameful to be handed out photocopies of “teaching tools” only to find out some of the trainers were making more than $100,000.
I instantly thought I could have been more effective with less money spent. What made it even sadder is I never walked away with the feeling of being professionally developed.
Every time those days came around, I cringed. In order of have a day off with the students, you had to sacrifice your soul for 6 hours of bull crap.
When you add a non-supportive principal to the mix, it didn’t make things any better.
Many of the classified staff who have visible supporting roles in the school district are often overworked, underpaid and definitely underappreciated.
For those who paid for the ridiculous study, ask yourself, for all of the things you have to deal with, would be satisfied with someone “freezing” your salary? Many of the support staff and teachers go beyond the call in making JCPS a place where kids can learn to their greatest potential.
I wanted to share with you a letter I wrote to the principal at Atkinson and purposely sent to all classified staff on August 29, 2012 as the school bell rang.
“Leadership roles in education require lots of dedication, hard work, commitment and responsibility. Understanding how to maintain control of the aforementioned while maintaining professionalism is an added bonus.
Throughout my life, I’ve seen individuals awarded positions based on the buddy system while no one gives second thought of what their qualifications are or how they handle themselves in various situations in professional environments.
It disturbs me when those who are awarded positions in administration are more concerned about the acquired power instead of using the power to influence a quality educational experience for students and a loving environment for their professionals.
Once you sign the dotted line to become the head of the line you have a choice of where your administration is going to go. Most employees who are not used to change have a hard time dealing with it although they fall in line to keep things going strong out of respect for the person in the leadership position.
When inflated egos become a part of the equation, that’s when friction and problems arise on the job.
It’s not appropriate to address staff members in front of their peers. It’s not appropriate when you have an issue with other staff members you belittle them to others. It’s definitely not appropriate to turn off communication with staff at any level because you’ve had disagreements.
Whenever holes needed to be filled, I was there. Whenever substitute teachers didn’t show for special areas, I was there. Whenever children who misbehaved needed somewhere to go, I was there. Never once did I object or complain. It was never about me, it was always about the children and their needs.
A good, reliable staff is harder to come by and having those who are equally as passionate in motivating children to live their best lives, harder. It’s one of many reasons why parents respected my stern, jovial attitude and my passion to always see the good in their children regardless of how others think of them.
Making me feel unwelcomed or as a complete stranger on during these first couple of weeks of school up to my last day left a sour taste in my mouth. I had to remind myself that I walked in this building as a humble individual and I will leave here as one. Being empathetic, sympathetic and compassionate to others why people enjoy me. Thanks to those who helped me realize my smile is more important than small issues.
I’ve been very blessed to have this opportunity at Atkinson as well with JCPS. I grew up in this district and it’s nice to know there are good people who truly cherish the value of children and their employees.”
Jefferson County Public Schools has a lot of work to do and needs to reinvent itself to not only rebuild trust with the teachers but do more in creating an environment where they can continue to help these kids excel.
You shouldn’t need a study to determine the value of the people who are on the front lines daily.
I will support those teachers who I know firsthand are working their behinds off well before students arrive to ensure a great learning experience.
I will support teachers who are often put in harm’s way when students are out of control.
I will support teachers because no one understands the heart and emotion they put in their lessons and how they proudly wear them on their sleeves.
They are my friends and colleagues.
They are definitely JCPS.
-C. J. Daniels