Tuesday, June 24, 2014

January, 2011 -- Barresi Slashed NBCTs' Stipends Without Notice.

I found some old files from 2011, the year the dentist began reigning over the OSDE. This post is also about the first State School Board meeting, but it's specifically about the stipends promised to National Board Certified Teachers. 

By law, NBCTs are to receive a stipend every year by January 30, of $5000, as long as they teach full time in a public school classroom in Oklahoma. This is an amazing program that allows dedicated teachers to stay in the classroom where their heart is, and still contribute to their family's finances. 

The speech pathologists piggy-backed on the law for NBCTs, as they did in every other state that rewarded NBCTs, and they received an equal stipend..but they could earn the stipend doing part time work in public schools; NBCTs lost their stipend if they went half time.

The School Board meeting revealed the money to pay the speech pathologists' stipends was "gone." Obviously this was not new information to the Superintendent...she even had speech paths there to speak. No NBCTs were invited or told.

The Board's decision was to take the NBCT funding and add the speech pathologists to that 'bucket' of money. It meant a deduction of $1800 per NBCT, just weeks before the stipend was supposed to be sent to teachers. No notice. Just one fell swoop.

I listened to the Board meeting and took notes. I wrote a letter to the Superintendent. It was my first, and it was the first she ignored. To date, she has ignored every letter, email, snail-mail, and one note I delivered into the hands of her assisitant. Someone from her office has replied to three of my snarky tweets. Three-and-a-half years. Countless leters and emails and tweets. Three replies of under 140 characters.

My notes from listening to the meeting dated 1/30/11:

Ok -- just listened to the School Board discussion to combine all NBCTs and Speech Paths in the same fund. Superintendent Barresi prepared a memorandum (which I would love to see). There were speech paths and school psychologists who were there to speak. The Board voted to prorate PART TIME speech paths. If an NBCT goes part time, there is NO stipend at all. Lots of confusion...I think people just wanted to 'play nice' that late in the day.

In preparation for the meeting Super. Barresi said she spoke to speech paths and the 'legislature' to talk about the fact that the speech path revolving fund was low. A Mona Ryan, who was present and spoke, talked to Super Garrett when she discovered the speech path fund was not fully nowhere with Garrett.

The law that granted speech paths their stipend supposedly mirrors the NBCT-ELO law, but Board member Rozell several times talked about part time speech paths getting a bonus. No NBCT who works part time, or in a private school is eligible for a bonus. Hmmmm...One thing to include in any note to the Board.

Speech paths in attendance were allowed to agree with Super Barresi that their certification was 'life changing.' A school psychologist was invited to the podium to speak, and she had sent a seven-page packet 'comparing' the various 'national certifications.' The Board didn't have it...the attachment didn't open. No one from ELO was invited to speak.

Barresi says, " My understanding is those people (speech paths, psychologists) had to work just as hard for that year, and do the same...." Several times she repeats "We realized it was not...We researched this..."
The saddest thing was a side discussion that confused National Board Certification and national certification. I believe Barresi said "they are all national board certified.'

Again, NBCTs and nationally certified speech paths must NOT turn on each other, but I felt, listening, that there were points of truth that were glossed over or distorted or misunderstood.

I listened to the entire, toxic meeting, to hear if we could discover what happened to the revolving fund for the speech paths, but never heard. That's still the question in my mind...where is the money??
Now I have to take a shower to wash off the stink of that meeting.

More of Super Barresi's words from the recording "We realized, We researched, We talked to Mr. Herron (the man who brought the packet to the Board), We talked to the legislature (there were two legislators there and they spoke)." She certainly had her hand in this. You can almost hear the fatigue in everyone's voices by then...they just wanted OUT of there...

One thing I left out -- 2319 NBCTs eligible for the stipend...695 speech paths and psychologists...some of whom are part time, but getting the stipend.

NO NBCT one was asked to speak...nothing, nada. I don't even know if anyone knew before the agenda was published a couple of days before the meeting...

And my letter to Superintendent Barresi...I believe I sent copies to members of the Board as well. Dated 2/3/11.

Superintendent Barresi,
 I am a teacher in Norman, an NBCT, a finalist for Teacher of the Year at three schools, a Teacher of the Year at two, Norman Teacher of the Year, and a finalist for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. I have been awarded the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, Medal for Excellence in Secondary Education. I have taught 31 years in this state, and took a $1000 cut in pay in 1979, the year our family moved from Iowa. That’s $1000 real dollars of income lost, with one more year’s experience.  I have continued to lose ground compared to my colleagues in Iowa and Indiana, but I have been allowed the luxury to teach because my salary was never the prime salary in our family.

I  am open to changes that may come in the future with a new administration. That said, I was embarrassed, not just by the members of the Oklahoma School Board last week, but by you as well. You were elected by 56% of ‘the people,’ but that means you now represent 44% of ‘the people’ who did not vote for you. You represent us all…even those who voted for someone else, or didn’t vote at all. I’m hoping in the future there will be recognition that you’re working for all the students and all the teachers of this state, not just those who support your quest to expand choice and ‘competition’ in the schools.

I was disappointed by Senator Rozell’s remark about Ms. Russell, but as I listened to the entire meeting, I see two things clearly that I feel you and Governor Fallin deliberately distorted: 1. He is right. She ‘would (will) be worthless to us’ when she is home on leave, during the most critical weeks of the Legislative session. We will have no voice at the State House protecting the interests of teachers and students. 2. I believe without a doubt, you misrepresented the situation for political gain. He did not say she was worthless as a human being. He did not attack a pregnant woman. He pointed out she will not be on the job when all the students and teachers of Oklahoma need a strong, active advocate. Why did you and Ms. Russell even think she should take that job this year, knowing she would be on leave? And why has the position of Legislative Liaison been added to the SDE this year, only to be awarded to a person who will not be present?

This was a highly-charged meeting, and that off-the-cuff remark by a public official who should know better was unfortunate. The way you and Governor Fallin twisted the story made my head hurt from the spin. You chose to attack him, whereas he was attacking the situation we would be in now that Ms. Russell was hired.
I listened to the entire meeting to hear the discussion about the NBCT and speech path stipends. More concerns, Madam Superintendent.

It appeared, through your words, as if you and Mona Ryan worked together with Mr. Herron (I do not know if I spelled his name correctly) on the proposal to use the NBCT stipend fund to cover the losses in the speech paths’ fund. You continuously used the word ‘we’ when talking: “We researched…we realized…we worked with Mr. Herron…we talked to the legislature.” If there was time to do all this prior to the Board meeting, why was there no time to alert OCTP or ELO, or any NBCT of the meeting and the concern?

Your contention that “My understanding is those people had to work that year as hard…and do the same…” is not true. The two national certifications are extremely different.  But while I am deeply concerned, and always have been, that speech paths and school psychologists piggy-backed off the NBCT law, that’s a done deal.  I refuse to turn on a fellow education professional in these troubling times. Some policymakers may actually hope we’ll be distracted by in-fighting  and forget what the real concern is. I hope you misspoke when you said, “They are all National Board Certified.” Only NBCTs have National Board Certification.

It sounds like speech paths can earn the stipend if they’re working part time. If so, that law does not, as Senator Rozell believes, mirror the NBCT law. To earn the stipend for NBC, a teacher signs a promise every year that she works full time in a public school in Oklahoma. I’m hoping you can clarify that, as I have several  NBCT friends who gave up their stipend when health concerns forced them to work part time. I would hope their lost bonuses will be pro-rated back to them if that is the case.

I have three other deep concerns about that discussion. First and foremost, where did the money go for the speech paths’ revolving fund? Why aren’t any of you screaming that question? Where is the money? Why was it gone?

Why were no NBCTs allowed to speak at the meeting, why was the director of OCTP not recognized to speak, when there were speech paths and school psychologists who seemed to be invited to the meeting specifically to speak? Was OCTP informed of this meeting, or was it only speech paths and psychologists? You even prompted them, “Your national certification was life-changing…?” and asked them to speak. Any NBCT could have been eloquent and specific about our certification, and the impact on student learning.
And, finally, why did this all happen literally days before the checks were to be in the hands of the NBCTs and speech paths, by law? Why did this happen NOW?

You are my boss and I assure you I will work as tirelessly as I always have for the students of Oklahoma. I am a fourth-generation teacher. This is my family’s business. My heart and soul are in this profession. I will go to school tomorrow and revel in the student learning I will witness. I will be here tomorrow and beyond, no matter if policies and laws make my job increasingly difficult. I’m a teacher; I adjust and make things work.

Politics aside, I will go back to my classroom and do what I do best: teach, and impact the learning of my students.

I am requesting copies of the proposal Ms. Ryan gave the Board, and would further request a copy of the ‘comparison’ chart the school psychologist who addressed the Board referred to. I think all of us deserve to see this information.

I appreciate the opportunity to be honest here and await a reply.

Claudia Swisher
National Board Certified Teacher
Norman North High School

Needless to say, I never received the answer to my question, "Where did the money go?" and I did not receive notes. I received nothing from them then, and less since then.

This is why we must vote today, and if need be, in the runoff. 

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