Racial Equity and School Reopening Plans to highlight CFISD board meeting

CYPRESS — Like a set of bookends for this past weekend, after a nearly four-hour-long work session last Thursday night, the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD board of trustees is scheduled to meet in the CFISD Instructional Support Center, at 10300 Jones Rd, Houston, TX 77065 tonight at 6 p.m.

In short, last week’s meeting opened with public comments from teachers and family members of teachers, lasting roughly half an hour. Another key point of the meeting was the administration’s reports on reopening the district to in-person and online-only learning this fall.

To catch up on last week’s school board work session, click this link to read our independent coverage.

CFISD committing to “Opportunity for All”

Also expected tonight is the trustees’ condemning of racism and affirming CFISD’s commitment for “Opportunity for All” within the district. Dr. John Ogletree, Jr., is slated to read the final version of a statement, and all board members have stated they will agree to it. School Board Vice President Don Ryan, who is expected to be absent tonight, has voiced his support of the statement, and on Thursday pledged to sign the document upon his return in next month’s regular board meeting, currently set for Sept. 10, 2020.

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However, there are restrictions on all Texas school boards when it comes to dealing with items not on the posted meeting agenda (click to download a copy of tonight’s agenda). While the board’s hands were tied on Thursday, and tonight, the repetition of the district telling teachers to “take leave or resign” was a telling shiver of reality.

Take Leave or Resign

“Unfortunately, this implication of “take leave or resign” may very well be the legacy left by this board and administration,” said Donna Lord, the president of the Cy-Fair TSTA/NEA. She explained via email that the district can do better by its teachers, by allowing those teachers with legitimate medical risks to work remotely until the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic is safe enough for everyone to be back face-to-face. “Teachers with legitimate high-risk medical issues should not be forced to work in fear, not only of the disease but in fear of losing their jobs, when there are viable accommodations available.”

CFISD administrators illustrate for the board of trustees the responses from the recent parent survey. (CFISD Communications)

“Senior administration’s report regarding the percentage of students choosing the online platform, shows that these teachers can be utilized effectively,” Lord added. “I don’t understand the difference between an online “live” interaction with a teacher working from the safety of his/her home and an online “live” interaction with a teacher in a classroom.  In fact, the teacher working remotely could better serve his/her students because she/he would only be engaging with the online students.  The teachers in the classrooms are going to have to engage with both their face-to-face students and online students at the same time.”

Additionally, the district’s reopening committee started without a single teacher in the group. Only after the lack of voice was brought to light in previous board meetings were three teachers added to the committee.

“As we have been saying since we first spoke about this situation at the June board meeting, teachers need to be involved in the decisions being made regarding reopening,” Lord said. “As I stated in my speech last night (Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020), the Reopening Committee graciously acquiesced to our request to place teachers on the committee.  However, it is our understanding – and no one has disputed us – that only three teachers were chosen.  There are over 7,000 teachers in CFISD.  With all due respect, the people making the decisions have not taught in a classroom for a very long time, some have not taught in a 21st century classroom.  In our opinion, this is short-sighted and disrespectful towards our teachers. Classroom teachers outnumber all other employees; Cy Fair TSTA/NEA is firm in our belief that classroom teachers should account for a majority of the participants on any committees affecting instruction and the well-being of our students.”

Although CFISD parents have been surveyed, district teachers and staff have not been asked their opinions yet. Compared to at least Katy ISD and Alief ISD that have conducted teacher surveys, Cy-Fair ISD is lacking a key data point.

“In our opinion, it’s just another example of not involving teachers in any decision-making process,” Lord said. “It is part of the continuing pattern of lack of respect for the teaching profession and not letting our voices be heard.”

Follow the Cypress News Review on Twitter as we live-tweet tonight’s school board meeting that begins at 6 p.m.

 

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