UFEA President Lindsey Dickinson shared the following comments with the Board of Education during their July 22, 2020 meeting.
Members of the Board of Education:
I’m Lindsey Dickinson and I have the privilege and honor of serving as the president of the Unit Five Education Association. My comments tonight are on behalf of the nearly 1,000 educators in the district represented by UFEA, including teachers, media specialists, social workers, psychologists, speech language pathologists, school counselors and nurses.
Educators throughout this district care about our students and families. When the pandemic hit, our members immediately adjusted and adapted — working remotely to support the growth and learning of our students. This was not something our educators were taught or trained to do. Remote teaching and learning was an immense challenge for our educators, our students, and their parents and caregivers. While there was no way for us to replicate what we do in our classrooms and schools each day, we did the best we could with what we had and I am proud of my members and what we achieved working together in extremely difficult circumstances.
As the school year concluded and summer began, it became clear we would need to plan and prepare for a variety of scenarios for the fall semester of 2020. Tonight you have been presented with a reopening plan that was created by the district administration.
We want to make it clear that, while UFEA was invited to participate in the district’s Pandemic Advisory Council to provide input along with other stakeholders, and district administrators did seek our input to clarify and verify issues that were potential contract violations, we did not directly participate in the development of the Plan.
We would have preferred to work collaboratively with the district on the development of the Plan. Instead, we learned the details of the Plan at the same time it was released to parents and the public. As a result, we have hundreds of unanswered questions.
UFEA requests you prioritize the health and safety of our students and families, AND the staff in the final approved plan. As you decide tonight whether or not to adopt this Plan, UFEA requests you consider the following:
- Between the time staff and families were surveyed on July 8 and the time the survey results were shared on July 14, our community has experienced significant growth in positive COVID-19 cases. Many UFEA members have voiced concerns the survey data being used to develop the Plan and inform your vote is no longer accurate. If surveyed today, UFEA member responses would be different because of what has transpired the past couple weeks. The same is true for me personally as a staff member and parent.
- UFEA believes it is important for the district to continue to collect feedback and input from ALL stakeholders, including our members. We believe it is important to do that NOW, before a decision is made, but certainly before the Plan is implemented.
We know the meaningful work UFEA members do in classrooms and schools can’t be replicated by any canned curriculum or computer software. Educators are not, and never will be, replaceable. We all want to be back with our students and colleagues. But the question that STILL needs to be answered is: can we do it safely? Right now, in the Plan’s current form, we can’t answer this question with full confidence.
Therefore, it is UFEA’s position that we should revise the Plan and move forward in a way that reduces risk and keeps students and staff safe.