So It’s Not “About the Children” After All

by James C. Sherlock

The Chesterfield Education Association (CEA), a local unit affiliated with the National Education Association, is pushing back hard against a plan to have school employees report to their schools in order to use school facilities and support systems to professionalize remote instruction to their students. (According to the CEA president, the organization currently represents between 28% and 30% of the school system’s teachers, counselors and principals.)

The school district wants to ensure that the failed experiment with remote instruction in the spring is not replicated this fall. In-school platforms for remote instruction guarantee supervision and technical support.

From the Chesterfield Observer August 6, 2020:

“(Chesterfield School Superintendent) Daugherty assured the Board of Supervisors last month that all Chesterfield teachers would be required to work from their school buildings when they return from summer break – unlike last spring, when many teachers struggled to facilitate delivery of a hastily crafted virtual curriculum while working remotely following Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order closing all Virginia schools.

Since then, however, the School Board has received pushback from employees who don’t think they should have to work in school buildings if students aren’t present.

Last Friday, the Chesterfield Education Association recommended that all CCPS employees with documented health risks, those who have to provide supervision of their own children, and those who simply prefer to work remotely be given the option to do so.

“Having thousands of employees returning to worksites would contradict the governor’s advice that those who can work from home should work from home,” said the statement from CEA president Sonia Smith. “The fewer people gathering together in worksites will help suppress community spread of COVID-19 in Virginia and Chesterfield County, thereby making a full, safe return to the classroom, something desired by all, a quicker proposition.”

So, it is “desired by all” CEA members to return to a situation in which:

  • they won’t be able to work from home in their pajamas on personal equipment and internet connections;
  • they will be subject to supervision and evaluation; and
  • they will have to deal with children that are not their own.

So these adults with their own offices and classrooms won’t be smart enough to wear masks and socially distance if they return to their school buildings. Really.

In a related development, the Board of Supervisors is asking the county’s Internal Audit Department to investigate allegations that members of the CEA bullied and harassed teachers who disagree with its stance on reopening schools this fall.

Several teachers complained to the Board of Supervisors that they supported 5-day a week in-school instruction and were harassed into silence by the CEA.

The CEA is an organization that hopes to be the contract bargaining unit for all Chesterfield teachers should Chesterfield be unwise enough to authorize collective bargaining next May.

But we can be comforted that whatever they may demand, it will always be couched as “about the children.”

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38 responses to “So It’s Not “About the Children” After All

  1. “it’s about the children”.

    Yep – from the “open-up-now-or-we’ll-raise-hell” folks for sure.

    You apparently did not see this but I bet other teachers have:

    “An unspecified number of staff members at Shirley Heim Middle School in Stafford County have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a letter school principal Mary Grace McGraw sent to employees Monday evening.
    ….
    New Stafford teachers [had] reported to their schools Monday for a week of professional training. ”

    so these were new teachers who reported for training, no kids, – and they got COVID19.

    And this is not the only school this has happened….

    so these new teachers were told to go home and “isolate”

    Some are married with spouses who work. Some have kids.

    How are they supposed to do this?

    Apprently the “open-up-now-or-we’ll-raise-hell” folks as well as the “I-hate-teachers-unions” crowd could give a rats behind. Which is why teachers look out for themselves.

    • Very interesting about the outbreak at the middle school. How many individuals physically contracted the virus there at that school versus were there and tested positive?

        • Thanks very much for this. I think this outlines the problem- we don’t know enough of the specifics to make good decisions on how to proceed with anything right now. There are negatives associated with hunkering down as well as opening up. I really feel for our leaders (school, business, government, etc). They are in a no-win situation any way they go.

        • Larry, did you read the linked news article?

          The “outbreak at the middle school” had nothing to do with the middle school. It was a result of testing employees before they returned to school.

          Read further in the linked article:

          “All division staff are being asked to complete a COVID-19 symptom questionnaire every day before reporting to work. Employees who don’t feel well are encouraged to stay at home.”

          So Stafford County did exactly what they should have done and tested employees before they returned to school. That should give teachers more rather than less confidence about returning to the school premises for remote instruction, not less.

          So what is your point?

          • Jim – I think you’re reading it wrong – and/or it was not written clearly.

            “An unspecified number of staff members at Shirley Heim Middle School in Stafford County have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a letter school principal Mary Grace McGraw sent to employees Monday evening.

            Stafford County Public Schools spokeswoman Sandra Osborne–Peters said Tuesday the division is not disclosing how many employees are affected to “protect staff privacy.”

            The Shirley Heim staff members are isolating at home and will remain there until their symptoms improve and it has been at least three days since any fever and at least 10 days since the onset of symptoms, the letter states.

            Shirley Heim administration learned about the positive test results Monday afternoon. Facilities staff conducted electrostatic cleaning of the building Monday evening.

            “ McGraw wrote in the letter. “In accordance with our health plan, SCPS Health Services or the Virginia Department of Health will contact any employees who we believe may have had close contact with the infected staff members. Close contact is defined as contact within six feet over a 15-minute period.”

            All division staff are being asked to complete a COVID-19 symptom questionnaire every day before reporting to work. Employees who don’t feel well are encouraged to stay at home.

            New Stafford teachers reported to their schools Monday for a week of professional training. Returning teachers report next week and virtual instruction for all students—except those in certain exempted categories—begins Aug. 31.”

            so the way I read this was that new teachers had reported to the school – got tested – and it returned positive for one or more.

            see where it said the “facility was cleaned”?

            I don’t think they are testing teachers at home… they would have to report to some facility to get tested, right?

          • Larry, Here are the procedures provided for employees of all workplaces in Virginia published by the VDH. The sequence:
            – self-screen for symptoms;
            – don’t go to work if you have them;
            – get tested;
            – Get the results – between a couple of days and a week later in Virginia since we don’t yet have widespread use of the 15 minute test;
            – if negative and feeling well, report to work;

            That appears to be the procedure that Stafford Schools is using. There may be some, but I don’t know of any school system in Virginia that preemptively tests all staff.

            One thing is sure. These school staff in Stafford County did not get infected at the place and time they got tested or they would not have shown up positive in the test.

            The other issue is that you can be exposed 5 minutes after you get a test, so preemptive testing absent symptoms for the teachers and other staff for over a million school children in Virginia is hard to justify. It would pretty much have to be daily to lower the risk. Only professional sports teams have those kinds of resources.

  2. I had not paid attention to what Chesterfield was planning. If carefully planned and executed, the concept of the teachers working from their classrooms has some merit. However, there would need to be some flexibility to accommodate those teachers who had school-age children, who otherwise would have to be left home alone.

    I am just glad that I am not a teacher having to figure out how to put together a virtual class curriculum. I bet James Whitehead is constantly congratulating himself on his timing for retirement this past June.

    • Oh you missed it. James has signed on again – with an Academy… 😉

      I was hoping that he would be willing to share his experiences as he encounters them. Perhaps Jim can give him posting credentials!

    • Walking by several Fairfax County Public Schools on a regular basis, the parking lots are rarely empty. It looks like a number of teachers have been onsite this summer. The trend seems to be growing as time passes. I would think that, in most cases, it would be a lot easier to handle online teaching from a classroom than from one’s dining room. Of course, there can be exceptions.

      • I have driven by several elementary schools this morning in the Fredericksburg area and they have a fair number of cars in the parking lots and as reported in another thread – we have an outbreak of COVID19 at a middle school that was training new teachers.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Mr. Dick I have been drafted! Retirement lasted 52 days. Randolph Macon Academy in Front Royal had an enrollment spike and they needed a teacher in a snap. So I answered the call. 1 year only. We all have to get tested on registration day, staff and students. Masks at all times. Plan to utilize outdoor spaces as much as we can. Temperature checks every morning. 8 kids per class with strict distancing rules. We shall see how it goes. I will keep you posted.

      • Eight kids per class will be a lot better than 25–both with regard to teaching and COVID. Also, in a private school, it will probably be easier to enforce the mask rule. You obviously like teaching. I hope all goes well.

  3. Another secondary casualty are the thousands of community organizations that use the school space as part of the Community Use programs. Right now, that is not the biggest problem because most groups (at least in NoVA) are not yet ready to go back to active status (due to age profile in many cases, and also due the hideous nature of COVID spreading so fast in indoor group settings).

    But I would like to say a word about the importance of the Community Use programs. As we all know, Virginia is somewhat of a crazy/unusual place. Here remote in my Pennsylvania home town, we actually have a “town” with a High School, many schools, town fireworks, town halls, etc etc. That town structure gives venues for groups to meet, and perform for also. Because eg NoVA the vast numbers of residents have no towns or town halls, our organizations need some space help to exist.

  4. I predict the following:

    Once public school teachers have 100% gotten their way and they are not required to teach in person and are not required to remote teach from a school classroom, they will next demand to be paid extra money for the inconvenience of having to teach classes from their own homes.

    Oh, and LarrytheG will support them… 😉

    • Actually if the will not do either – they’re violating their contract and can be fired… and some are… and I suport that… with the proviso that if they report to school and they have to be with other staff that safety protocols be followed. – i.e. the 6 feet and masks… and testing… so that they know as soon as possible that someone is affected – and if so – the contact tracing and quarantine.

      You’ve also got to ask yourself if the teacher lives in a home with others , spouses, kids, parents, how are they supposed to quarantine?

      What’s your answer to that?

  5. “You’ve also got to ask yourself if the teacher lives in a home with others , spouses, kids, parents, how are they supposed to quarantine?”

    No I don’t.

    • Well no you don’t but teachers will wonder about and fold that into their decision-making so you might need to recognize that…

      One teacher getting infected not only has his/her own home issue but it will blow up the school staffing also if others also have to quarantine that then impacts their home situation.

      I would think most ordinary people would have concerns along these lines. They would want some assurance about protocols.

      Notice some pro sport players have similar concerns…

      And we’re don’t have libraries open, or cafeteria type buffets, or most govt meetings now are “virtual”. The State fair and local fairs are kaput.

      I got a COVID19 test this morning. I was told to do it for an upcoming procedure and despite all one hears – no one was allowed in that line of cars that did not have a doctor order… no testing of anyone…

      • There are plenty of people already having to work in offices in much closer proximity to their coworkers than a teacher lecturing alone in a classroom would be.

        Many of those people live in homes with spouses, kids, parents, etc.

        What is it about teachers which entitles them to being treated differently from the rest of us?

        • You say that but a LOT of offices are now remote!

          People have a old-time view of teachers and classes.

          There is a fair amount of staff interaction at schools.

          For instance, kids with learning issues have to be sent down the hall to a reading specialist. And the teacher ends up with grade level meetings and meetings with the principle over kids who need help to get on grade level. Kids do stuff like throw up and you have to go get the custodian… Kids act up – yep – and they get sent to the principals’ office… etc.. Kids get sick and have to see the nurse or have mom/dad come pick them up. A lot of elementary classes have a lot of hands-on stuff for the kids.

          Many K-6 have para-educators in the room so that when a lesson is done – kids are grouped according to ability …

          paras can be paid or volunteers and they may vary by classroom.

          teachers have substitutes that come in when they have to be somewhere else – like a doctor appointment… etc..

          the average person has little idea of how schools actually “work” in terms of staff interactions…

          • Perhaps you did not understand what I wrote. I thought it was pretty clear that I was discussing a scenario in which the teacher is alone in a classroom, teaching remotely, but doing so from a classroom at the school. So, no kids being sent to the office, no kids throwing up, no unnecessary contact with coworkers. Just a teacher alone in a classroom giving lessons which are being sent out to children sitting at computers in their homes. Given the size of most classrooms in public schools, social distancing standards would be more than met.

            Also, phrases like “a lot” and “a fair amount” do not negate the fact that plenty of people are already having to work in offices in much closer proximity to their coworkers than a teacher lecturing alone in a classroom would be.

            So, again I ask, what is it about teachers which entitles them to be treated differently from the rest of us?

          • I did misunderstand. For the teacher in a classroom by himself it should not be an issue but why would he even have to be in the classroom if he had internet at home?

            So no, if they don’t want to teach then fire them.

            No problem with that.

            But let’s make sure that’s the circumstance when hearing about it not that any critics would make up stuff! 😉

          • “…but why would he even have to be in the classroom if he had internet at home?”

            Because school classrooms typically have teaching resources other than the internet to assist teachers with preparing and presenting their lessons.

            Plus, to be perfectly honest, I think actually being in a classroom will lead to [most] teachers putting more effort into their lessons/lectures than if they are teaching from their own dining room (Just my opinion, of course, and no offense meant to any teachers out there). And they will definitely face far fewer potential distractions.

          • The types of teaching “resources” needed for remote are different than for in-person.

            For instance , something simple like drawing on a chalk-board – can’t do that with one fixed camera on a monitor ….

            For in-person, teachers typically do not sit at a desk and talk … they move about the room , ask a kid a question or respond to another kid with his hand up… or pass out things for the kids to handle, etc… When all you have is a fixed camera…on the monitor, that “camera” could be anywhere…

            I don’t see how teachers will be able to, for instance, go to the chalkboard unless there is a way for a camera to follow…

            And that teacher (I think) will be basically looking at a screen full of zoom mini-squares of kids ?

            So it’s not going to work like an in-person classroom I would not think.

          • Whatever assets, including special cameras, recording devices, high speed internet, large computer monitors, technical assistance and any other thing the teachers may need will be more readily available in the school buildings than a home.

            A key feature of being in the same building is that some teachers will be more capable at remote teaching than others. The principals can monitor that and provide assistance where needed.

            I simply think the “recommendation” by that Chesterfield teachers association was ignorant and not in anyone’s best interest. They need to ask for what matters.

            For example, I know that our daughter’s school district in Colorado in which she is a speech therapist is setting up day care for the staff children at the same locations as the schools to support remote teaching.

          • I can’t disagree with what Jim Sherlock is saying – though I do doubt that classrooms are set up as “studios” for broadcast and such. I doubt schools have that much technical support and expertise.. and much of it is going to be fixed camera , i.e. teacher sitting at a desk looking at the monitor with a ‘zoom” display of the kids… but it may not even be that…

            the point about child-care for teachers kids is a good point, I agree. I’,m not sure it works that way locally though.

            here’s Spotsylvania:

            As a reminder, on July 15, 2020, the School Board Approved the recommended Return to Learn plan that included both hybrid (in-person learning and distance learning) and 100% distance learning options with the following specific modification:

            *All students will begin the school year on August 17, 2020, via distance learning for the first nine week grading period.

            *Address connectivity challenges for students by opening up some schools as hubs for more equitable internet access.

            The board voted to extend the 100% distance learning to the end of the first nine weeks – in-person learning will now begin on October 12, 2020.

          • I sit on a citizens transportation committee and we have been virtual for several months now and so we use GOOGLE’s “go to meeting” which allows the presentation of hard copy material like agenda’s , reports, schematics, graphs, etc… while the person presenting is talking and paging through the material.

            They can go back to prior pages or bring up new ones, etc.

            So using that tool, a teacher probably could do a “chalkboard” that all the kids on the remote ends could see – ask questions, etc… and the teacher could call on individuals, etc.

            So this was brand new for the Citizens Committee and it had a few bugs at the start but gradually got it dialed in.

            just speculating below – I do not know how our local schools are doing this yet.

            So – the teachers would have to learn to use a tool like this – there are probably a half dozen including one called ZOOM. I don’t know if they are using one of the off-the-shelf ones or they are using a customized one from a software company.

            Fairfax was using a customized but hadn’t been keeping it up-to-date because they really were not using it until the pandemic hit and when it did – it was a disaster.

            I don’t think Fairfax will be alone… there’s gonna be lots of lessons learned…

            I don’t know if they have one camera on a laptop/desktop or several cameras in the room or how to switch between them, etc… I suspect they do not – at least not yet.

            But once they figure out how to use the tool, then they would have to set up their lesson plans in some kind of a sequence when they could “page” through them for each lesson.

            The local schools have computer “techs” and some kind of IT function. I imagine the’re busy as heck.

          • The idea that having teachers be physically in the school and that in and of itself will affect the quality of instruction is silly. There are many teachers who will bust their tails to help their kids regardless of where they are physically located. There are others who will do little regardless of where they are. Whenever we paint all with the same broad brush, we usually don’t get the best results. This is something that is better addressed on a case by case basis.

            In my experience I have found that the most successful schools and divisions place a lot of trust and faith in their teachers to do the best for their students. When teachers have this, they tend to work harder. In those schools and divisions where that trust is not there, a more adversarial culture tends to abate the vim and vigor with which teachers approach their work.

  6. Here is something I’ll bet Terry McCauliffe doesn’t want you to remember if/when he runs for governor (again):

    https://augustafreepress.com/mcauliffe-veto-blocks-virtual-education/

  7. Dems don’t like virtual education either and especially so if it means they have to stay home from work to do it themselves!

    😉

    Virtual Education is going to stay with us – it’s not going to go away.

    Conservatives used to love it because they saw it as a way to break public schools monopoly on education… but now of course, it’s fertile ground for plowing the partisan divide….

    It will get better especially in the lower K-6 area.

    Everyone can learn in a virtual environment. You Tube has become king of the “how to” world. Social Media has become so good at virtual that all kinds of “information” including misinformation spread like wildfire! “Educated” has become a real conundrum!

    Just a few years back – a women named Dragan got another woman named Sullivan fired from being President of UVA for not doing “virtual”…..MOOC!

    Millions of people, right now, today, do home-schooling using a lot of virtual -including for young kids.

    The basic issue is that public schools – K-12 are not good at it and to this point – really did not want it… they have been more or less devoted to “in-person” which if you think about is – is also said to be a “massive failure” when it comes to disadvantaged kids… because of a persistent achievement gap with economically disadvantaged kids of color! And the “solution” is , you guessed it, more “in-person”.

    If disadvantaged kids CAN be taught – and we KNOW they CAN in some schools like the Success Academy – and the online Khan Academy, why not extend it to virtual for other kids of color who are not doing well in conventional public school settings? In fact, some special needs kids actually thrive with virtual….especially autistic.

    Some schools are going to get it right – likely some non-public/private schools who don’t have all the resources of public schools.

    20-30 years from now, folks are going to wonder what all the hew and cry was about…. learning virtually will be common even for young kids.

    • Baconator with extra cheese

      Autistic kids, who by definition have serious social issues, thrive in virtual environments? This is absolute craziness. As a longtime volunteer, volunteer advocate, and parent of an autistic child I will tell you most, if not all, of these kids take exceptional amounts of time to even be able to perform basic social interaction functions. It takes years and years of patient training, coaching, and repetition.
      You are right most autistic kids would love nothing more than to be isolated in a quite room in front of a screen. But that is not education. That is passing 12 years without meltdowns.
      You’ll never understand how painful it is to watch your child suffer through missing subtle social cues most of us take for granted. And the fear that they will never find love or a true deep friendship. I am not willing to have my girl placed in front of a screen just so things can be easy for our public education system.

  8. Baconator with extra cheese

    Did you read what you linked? The section at the end warning of obsessive use of computers by autistic children? And you have the audacity to advocate for their entire eduction to be done online in front of a screen?

  9. It is not advocating ONLY computers!

    Here’s another:

    How can computers and technology help autistic children?

    https://www.typekids.com/blog/can-computers-technology-help-autistic-children/#:~:text=Using%20Computers%20to%20Improve%20Communication,for%20all%20smartphones%20and%20tablets.

    I get how you feel. But there is a lot of evidence otherwise and other parents of autistic don’t think the way you do.

    I first heard of this by the way from a teacher of autistic kids and she said that some kids who have never spoke – did so after interacting with computers… not all… not everyone agrees… but there is evidence it works for some ..

    right?

    • Larry, what compels you to feel you have to opine on things you appear to know nothing about? Baconator is “a longtime volunteer, volunteer advocate, and parent of an autistic child “. You challenged his knowledge and experience with autistic kids with something you found on the internet. Just leave it be.

    • Larry, I think you would argue with a fence post about whether it knows what it’s like to be made of wood.

  10. I made a comment based on things I have read about some of the benefits of computers with regard to Autism….

    I had fogotten that Baconator had an autistic child and I do respect his viewpoint but I have also heard from others who have a different view.

    And I have no problem at all apologizing if I rubbed him the wrong way.

    But I’m also not going to disavow what I’ve read and heard from others about autism and computers.

    Sorry about that.

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