Teachers: I Have Your Backs

When my board member literally turned his back on me at a recent public meeting, I was reminded about a time a brave JCPS teacher spoke truth to power at a Board of Education meeting on behalf of her students. I was also reminded how she experienced retribution. And how I stood up for her.

Not only will I not turn my back on you, but I have your backs! And I have an extensive track record to prove it.

I’m publishing her story, with her permission.

In December of 2018, Nationally Board Certified JCPS Teacher Tiffany Dunn, spoke at a JCPS Board Meeting. I spoke immediately after her. I blogged about it shortly afterwards, including transcripts from both speeches:

In her speech, she says,

JCPS parents, teachers, and stakeholders fought hard and made it clear we had no interest in being controlled by a privatization-minded, predatory state board of education and commissioner. We succeeded, but only to have our district wave the white flag anyway?

What does “operating as if we are already under state control” look like, you ask?

Our professional learning communities have been hijacked. We have district personnel sit in our meeting every single week. Instead of having collegial conversations about student learning, we are being forced to give common assessments. On the same day. No matter where we are in our teaching. And then analyze the contrived data as if it’s legitimate.

This type of control is not only attack on teacher autonomy, it’s an attack on student learning. Along with the classroom control, we have become obsessed with MAP testing and student data. We are losing precious class time to assess students. Most appalling is that ESL and ECE students are being denied their reader accommodation on the reading portion of the MAP test.

Tiffany Dunn, JCPS Teacher

Recognizing how this brave teacher had put her position and reputation at risk, I started my prepared speech with the following statement:

I sure hope that teacher does not experience any retribution for speaking up for her students tonight.

No teacher should ever experience negative consequences for doing what’s best for their students.

And that includes our teachers who speak out against these threats of privatization and excessive testing and everything that goes along with it.

Gay Perry Adelmann, Dear JCPS Co-founder

My speech went on to express the concerns that we have been warning our leaders about for years that if they didn’t take action, we’d be where we are now. And, guess what, here we are.

I am glad to have been reminded of this story recently, because there’s more to it than what we’ve shared publicly, until now.

“We’re putting you on a cart.”

The next day, when Ms. Dunn returned to her classroom, she was summoned to the principal’s office. At this time, she was informed by the principal (who has since retired) that she would no longer have a classroom for her ESL students to call home, but that she would be “on a cart” and have to move from open classroom to open classroom finding a space to teach her students.

She called me, understandably upset, to inform me of this latest development. It was obvious to both of us that this was retaliation for speaking up for her students the night before. No doubt, her speech brought a great deal of unwanted attention on those who had been responsible for and complicit with continuing the harm, despite everyone knowing it was wrong.

Dr. Pollio had assured me in prior conversations that teachers would never be punished for doing the right thing. So I immediately reached out to Dr. Pollio to inform him that Ms. Dunn had been retaliated against. By the end of the day, she had her classroom back.

I told the story recently on this livestream, around the 44-minute mark. She has given me permission to share this story.

If you are a JCPS teacher who has experienced retaliation or retribution for standing up for students or colleagues, please let me know by completing my survey.