Kimberly Webber is a Columbus City Schools teacher.
I should have been walking into my building, preparing my room for my 21st year of teaching Monday.
I should have been moving tables, shelving books, making copies and trying to figure out how I am going to get to know and connect with my students as quickly as possible so we can start building that community I love so much in our room.
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That’s what I want.
It’s why I am teaching still. For my students. Anyone who has met me knows this within minutes of talking to me about teaching. Anyone who knows me knows exactly where my heart and head are when it comes to my kids.
But on Aug. 19, our board shared their “best, last and final offer” publicly on our district website. And that offer is not respectful, nor is it strong or responsive. (These are all words they used when sharing it for the world to see.) And because it is none of these things, we are faced with a choice.
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We can continue to push through — working in subpar conditions, not making a livable wage (but spending that wage we do make trying to put Band-aids on the big problems we encounter with unhealthy building conditions, inadequate supply issues, etc.), continually doing more with less and just getting through a day. We could, but we don’t want to.
Our students deserve better.
Since negotiations started back in March, every single move the board has made has been calculated, deliberate and punitive.
From asking us to clear out our rooms to surrendering our technology, everything they have done is designed to remind us who is in charge. Not once have any of these directives been respectful or responsive.
Our board has painted us (those of us in our union) as difficult and unyielding … as teachers who do not want the best for our students.
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Who showed up during the pandemic shutdown? (And who disappeared?)
Who pivoted every day sometimes to ensure continuity of education?
Who walked into those buildings and classrooms that were not being cleaned nor being set up to align with CDC COVID protocols and taught?
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Who covered for teachers who couldn’t be there because they or family members had contracted COVID?
Who covered for teachers who couldn’t be there for any other reason – and because a sub shortage continues to exist?
And these are just a few scenarios over the last couple of years.
I can tell you that none of the deciders showed up. Not in our schools. In fact, they continued to meet over Zoom – saving themselves and sacrificing all of us.
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And these issues that all of us in our schools encountered and confronted over the past two years — they have always been there. The shutdown just amplified the issues that have long existed, and long been swept under the rug.
And the shutdown shined a light that allowed others to see what we do and the conditions in which we do them, differently.
The board planned a levy for this fall. They removed it this week. (One can form their own opinions as to why they decided in this last week to remove it.)
The board then posted their offer publicly, for all to see. And then, the board released a statement saying that they will have to go to the taxpayers next fall to cover any wage increases born out of a new contract.
None of this is in the spirit of transparency. All of it is in an effort to polarize the community. All of it is an effort to get families to turn against the teachers and staff in our schools. All of it is in an effort to punish us and to silence us. They know that if they come to the community saying that your teachers will cost you more money that you may abandon supporting this effort to make our school district better. And that is not OK.
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Please know that we cannot be silent. Please know that we can no longer pretend that we are OK— because none of this is OK. And at the end of the day, we know that our students are not OK … that they deserve so much more.
And that the resources and funds are there to help our kids and the buildings where they learn to be better than OK. And I will fight all day long for that.
If you have a question, or if you want to talk more about all of this, reach out to a teacher. We have so much to say. If you have something to share, please reach out to a board member.
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We are not difficult, but we will be unyielding. Because we believe in our kids – and our schools. We believe our kids deserve so much better. I want so much to be able to start my 21st year as I have started the last 20, but that can’t happen without the change our district so desperately needs and deserves. We hope you will stand with us and help us fight for the schools #ColumbusStudentsDeserve.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism