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Open Letter to United Teachers of Dade: Miami teacher, "Where have you been?"

Maria Babani, a Miami-Dade County Public School teacher, who is undeniably pro-union, is nonetheless distressed with the current state of affairs and the undemocratic displays of the United Teachers of Dade, the teachers' union.

Ms. Babani understands the importance of supporting the union - and like many of us, she does support the union.

Yet, she makes the - strong - case that the union is unresponsive and does not reciprocate that support to its members.

Please read her letter.

Do you feel this way, too?

Please share this blog with your colleagues and ask them to remind United Teachers of Dade that "support" is to be reciprocated.

As Ms. Babani demands to know, "Where have you been?"

Dear UTD,

I think we have understood your message about the loss of our union which will "take away our working rights and silence us so that they can have free range to dismantle public education." However, the message from teachers to you has not been understood. Public education is not a PARTISAN issue. Public schools and funding has been lost to charters under BOTH Republicans and Democrats. You alienate many of your teachers when you take this stance. Your scare tactics alienate most teachers as well when our working conditions are lacking and do not uphold our "wonderful" contract already.

In the front lines, for the last decade or more, under union leadership, teachers have lost planning days to required professional development(PD). Attaining credit for those PDs has become more cumbersome and has added to teacher workloads. My Learning Plan process is not user-friendly. Teacher work loads have doubled and tripled, but planning times and days have dwindled, sometimes being non-existent. DPGT and IPEGS process has added more paperwork. Technology, the use of emails, has increased communication with parents, accordingly it has tripled and quadrupled teachers' responsibilities to reply and address every little issue sent in those emails. The Gradebook has decreased teachers needs to average grades at the end of the grading period, but it has also added to our responsibilities. Parents have instant knowledge of a child's grades. Great! At the same time, teachers need time to address a parent's every concern and question any time there is a tiny single change in the Gradebook. UTD has not seen that these new technologies have affected the width and depth of a teacher's responsibilities as well as affected our need for time and planning, clerical.

The lack of safety and potential risk we take in this profession is not apparent in the lack of salary increment or raise. The responsibilities continue to pile, but the time and pay has decreased according to the cost of living in our beautiful South Florida. The salary step I looked forward to the most for 15 years became obsolete. Thanks to your wonderful "bargaining". Don't blame legislature and past UTD leadership. When my school had no union steward between 2005-2007, as a union member, I stepped up and became the steward just to keep my colleagues informed. Attending the union stewards' meetings were an eye opener. Stewards' ideas and opinions, representing their teachers from their schools, were shut down by boos from friends of the union leadership. I saw first hand the beginning of the end, UTD's demise. The UTD officers and leadership only worry about lining their pockets at teachers' expense, now with intimidation, doom and gloom.

How have you protected teachers? The quantity of 504s, gifted and talented, learning disabled, ELLs in Miami-Dade County have increased over the last decade adding to teachers' paperwork, documentation, required meetings and, ultimately, responsibilities. On all of these legal documents teachers are responsible for an infinite number of accommodations, but we are not given assistants, clerical, or even TIME to effectively handle and juggle all these, while at the same time, having to plan creative and interesting lessons that meet the standards. Where has UTD been for all these additional responsibilities? Times HAVE changed, our contract has shown that it represents more and more the needs of the superintendent and the board. At times, it represents more the needs of school administrators, not the instructional staff. I thought DASA represented administration. I guess I am wrong. Where is the representation? Unless UTD reps have been teaching under a rock, they are the FIRST to know that teachers have overwhelmingly lost more and more planning time. This year we lost 2 planning days to Hurricane Irma. Ironically, and, most fortuitously, the required PD days were not affected. If the leadership knowingly, across the regions and district, constantly and continuously cancel planning, then IPEGS, DPGTs, workplace requirements and deadlines should also be canceled. IPEGS, DPGTs, and VAMs should reflect the loss of planning and instructional time. Contracts need to be upheld by both parties, not one-sided. Teacher evaluations should be challenged throughout the district for the reasons stated in this letter.

No substitute teachers equals no planning. Field "week"(March 19 -23, 2018), no planning and grades were due, no changes to deadline to account for the changes to schedules. I didn't have P.E., Music or Art class. I was also requested at an IEP meeting. Needless to say by Wednesday evening I had a severe migraine from the unnecessary stress and had to take a sick day. I have always prided myself on my school attendance, not this year. I am finding more and more that this work situation is making me sick, the stress is out of hand. Testing, no planning because special area teachers are used as proctors. Teachers’ schedules don’t match special area teachers’ schedules. Teachers are advised to "work" out schedule issues with special area teachers who are not going to give up 5 minutes of their planning. Elective teacher goes on field trip, no planning. In elementary, we are at the mercy of special area classes. We do not need compensatory time, we need PLANNING time to create effective lessons, plan differentiated instruction, grade papers, input grades, answer emails, conference with parents, meet and talk with support staff, and confer with administration.

If teachers have adapted to years of not upholding the contract, so should the leadership adapt and change. Teacher burn out and apathy are at an all time high. Take responsibility for the effects of your lack of bargaining on the teaching profession here in South Florida. Our esteemed union has never addressed these issues or bargained for teachers. You reap what you sow. You have sown discord, mistrust, and apathy. Are you listening? Do you hear our message?

These issues and many more affect MDCPS teachers today. Where have you been? Under a rock...

Sincerely overworked and underpaid,

Maria Babani

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