WTU: EVERY STAFF MEMBER AND STUDENT SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO SUBMIT A NEGATIVE TEST BEFORE RETURNING TO OUR SCHOOLS
WTU: EVERY STAFF MEMBER AND STUDENT SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO SUBMIT A NEGATIVE TEST BEFORE RETURNING TO OUR SCHOOLS
Washington’s Teachers Expresses Concern to Late Change in DCPS Test to Return Policies
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Statement by Washington Teachers’ Union President Jacqueline Pogue Lyons on D.C. Public School (DCPS) changes to return to school protocols:
“We believe it is in everyone’s best interest to keep our schools open and safe. Technical glitches and icy conditions may prevent many DCPS families from obtaining a test and uploading student’s COVID-19 test results to the DCPS website, but that should not prevent everyone from obtaining a negative test before returning to our school buildings. The solution offered by DCPS – to accept a note stating they tested negative – is risky. We need to have proof of every child’s negative test result for this highly transmissible virus to prevent further spread of COVID-19 through our community.
The Mayor and DCPS leadership should accept WTU’s solution, which is to test students in-person at school tomorrow if they were unable to upload a negative test result from home. Test results are returned in 15 minutes and I know that between the Department of Health and DC Public Schools officials and personnel, we can safely administer and register test results for all students.
“I will continue to push the Mayor and Chancellor to follow this recommendation.”
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To: WTU Members
Re: Transitioning to Virtual Learning / Test to Return Policy for DC Schools
From: Jacqueline Pogue Lyons, President
Date: December 19, 2021
Good evening –
Over the past week, our city has seen the number of COVID cases increase substantially and the city has entered a period of high transmission. On Friday, D.C. Health Department reported 844 new coronavirus cases, the highest case count reported throughout the entire pandemic. We’ve seen hundreds of students contract the disease.
I have been in constant communication with Mayor Bowser’s advisors, Members of the Council, and DC Public School Chancellor Lewis Ferebee. Earlier today, the Chancellor informed me that while a system-wide closure is not supported by Department of Health metrics several schools will be transitioning to virtual learning until the Winter Break. The Chancellor has additionally promised a daily review of case notifications to determine if additional schools should transition to virtual learning environments. DCPS will be announcing any school transitions to virtual environments as early as possible each day leading up to the Winter Break.
The WTU is also committed to ensuring that staff and students can also return safely to our schools in January. We have asked the Chancellor to implement a “test to return” program for all educators and students before we return to in-person learning in January. Details on this program are not yet available but we hope to be able to share them in the coming days.
We hope that you have a safe and enjoyable Winter Break. We know that these next few days will be trying given the surge of COVID-19 in our community. Please continue to reach out to your Field Representative with your questions and concerns regarding the number of COVID- 19 cases in your school. We encourage you to remain safe this week and throughout your holiday. Please watch for updates from the WTU and DCPS over the coming days and weeks as you relax and recharge over your break.
Jacqueline Pogue Lyons, President
Washington Teachers’ Union
Thanks to all our teachers who took the time to participate in the DC Educator Survey.
The demands on educators are through the roof, and our teachers are in distress. EmpowerEd and WTU conducted a survey with over 600 DCPS and DC public charter school teacher responses across all wards, which shows that a staggering 81 % of educators say morale has worsened from previous years. 14 % say they are considering leaving their posts before the end of the school year, with another 18 % seriously considering leaving at the end of the year and 14 % saying they are somewhat seriously considering leaving. Only 23 % say they would definitely stay.
DC already has the highest teacher turnover rate in the country, with 25-30 % of educators leaving their schools yearly- compared to the urban average of 16-19 %. While many have pointed to figures showing DCPS keeping teachers they rate as “highly effective”, 57 % of the teachers who have left in the past seven years were rated either effective or highly effective. DC also lost more Black educators than any city in the country in the 10 years following the implementation of the IMPACT teacher evaluation system- which was found by a study commissioned by the District to be racially biased.
The number one ranked solution educators say would keep them in the classroom is flexible scheduling, with hundreds of educators noting in comments the overwhelming hours and impossible demands being put on teachers to make up for “learning loss”. Educators see their peers in other professions gaining additional job flexibility since the pandemic, but education has not innovated in the same ways. Many note working 10-12 hours and again on the weekend, feeling forced to choose between their profession and their commitment to family and their own well-being. One of the key things highlighted in our survey, is the demands on educators who are also parents- managing unsustainable hours. One educator said “I have a child and for most of her life I have been exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally because I typically work 65 - 75 hours a week (often giving up one to two full weekend days a month). She deserves better.” This sentiment was echoed across the survey.
Teachers also noted higher pay, less focus on standardized testing, more professional autonomy to do their jobs and additional classroom support as key shifts needed to retain them.
Importantly, educators made clear that they are leaving primarily due to city-wide and system-wide policies, not challenges working with students. 59 % identified city-wide and LEA-wide policies as the primary culprit, while only 14 % pointed to challenges working with students. (24 % blamed school level policies and only 4 % noted challenges with colleagues).
See the full results of the survey along with notable quotes from educators on morale, how the pandemic has changed their perception of teaching as a profession and what would keep them in the classroom!
President Jacqueline Pogue Lyons has signed an MOA on the impacts & effects of Mayor Bowser's COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
- WTU successfully bargained for Teachers to receive sick leave for getting vaccinations or boosters. Specifically, the MOA requires DCPS to grant each Teacher three (3) hours of sick leave per injection for a vaccination or booster against COVID-19. In addition, the MOA provides each Teacher with eight (8) hours of sick leave for getting fully vaccinated or a booster.
- WTU also fought hard to secure concessions from DCPS to provide COVID-19 testing for Teachers to help keep our school communities safe.
- The MOA protects Teachers who have submitted and are awaiting a decision on a request for a medical or religious exemption by providing that those Teachers may continue to test weekly in lieu of complying with the mandate.
- The MOA also provides that Teachers who choose to resign or involuntarily separate from DCPS as a result of the vaccination mandate shall have their personnel records expunged of any disciplinary actions taken on the basis of their vaccination status.
For Immediate Release
October 13, 2021
Jacqueline Pogue Lyons
WTU’s Frustrations Boil Over with No-Confidence Resolution
Membership Upset Over School Reopening Concerns, Protracted Contract Negotiations, No Action on IMPACT Evaluation Changes
WASHINGTON—Frustration with District of Columbia leadership over school building safety, protracted contract negotiations and inaction on IMPACT evaluation changes boiled over this week with Washington Teachers’ Union members voting that they have no confidence in city leaders.
“This is what happens when teachers raise legitimate concerns that affect students and teachers, but then time passes and nothing gets done. We need a relationship with city and school district leaders built on respect and mutual trust, and that means addressing problems together in a timely way,” said WTU President Jacqueline Pogue Lyons.
At a meeting Tuesday evening, WTU delegates passed a resolution of no confidence in city and school leadership, primarily calling them out for reopening schools that were not fully safe. These include reopening schools without fully functional HVAC systems and inadequate filters where students are regularly present, failing to recognize the need for a virtual option despite accommodations made for charter schools, and underfunding mental health and social and emotional support for students and staff dealing with trauma related to the pandemic and record-setting shootings in the city.
Pogue Lyons also said teachers are exacerbated by protracted negotiations over a contract that expired in September 2019 and inaction on changing the flawed IMPACT evaluation system, which research has shown is not helpful, actually hurts teachers’ well-being and is racial biased.
“Our teachers went above and beyond during the height of the pandemic to make sure their students got a quality education. They were excited to go back to school in person this fall despite their concerns regarding the continued spread of the virus, and yet the district is slow-walking negotiations. Teachers feel terribly disrespected and have had it with district leadership. This resolution reflects their deep frustration,” Pogue Lyons said.
She also said that the city is failing to work to resolve a serious teacher shortage and retention problem. “If the city refuses to recognize the problem and work with the WTU to improve it, the situation could turn into a major crisis. This is bad for students and bad for our schools and community.”
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For Immediate Release
Aug. 13, 2021
WTU Responds to ‘Inadequate’ DCPS Evaluation System Fixes
WASHINGTON—The Washington Teachers’ Union today called the District of Columbia Public School’s solutions to fix the IMPACT evaluation system ‘monumentally weak’ and unresponsive to the numerous flaws raised by teachers and an American University report on the system.
DCPS sent a letter directly to educators that outlined its analysis of surveys of teachers and school leaders and the AU report on the IMPACT system.
In the union’s response to members, WTU President Jacqueline Pogue Lyons said: “We believe that the DCPS document distorts the data collected from teachers and school leaders and glosses over what the American University research actually found—that IMPACT is not working, is stressing teachers out and is punitive rather than helpful to improve performance.” She also called out DCPS’s “evolutions,” which apparently are solutions, saying they are “monumentally weak and do not adequately respond to the finding.”
Pogue Lyons said: “It’s stunning that DCPS clings to a fatally flawed, unfair evaluation system when there are so many effective models that we could adapt that actually help teachers and students and aren’t punitive or cause anxiety.”
AU’s summary of findings included:
- “Overall perceptions of IMPACT were more negative than positive, but with a great deal of variation in perspectives across teachers as well as school leaders.”
- “Many teachers and school leaders perceived that IMPACT created an unhealthy environment of distrust, fear and competitiveness in schools that trickles down into the classroom.”
- “Subjectivity, bias and gaming the system were all cited as threats to validity in teacher interviews, in school leader focus groups, and in the school leader survey.”
- And it found that “teachers perceived that the high-stakes and anxiety-producing environment may cause them (or others) to leave DCPS.”
Pogue Lyons said DCPS does not adequately address these issues.
WTU has been fighting for years to either comprehensively revise IMPACT or throw it out and start from scratch, with WTU as a full partner in the creation of a new teacher development and evaluation system.
“We need a dynamic teacher development and evaluation system that focuses on continuous improvement of instruction and learning in all classrooms, not a small portion,” Pogue Lyon’s letter to members said. “We need a system that provides ongoing supports dedicated not only to improving academics and instruction but also to lifting up each student.”
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WASHINGTON—Statement by Jacqueline Pogue Lyons, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, on the new mandate requiring District of Columbia Public School teachers and other school staff to be vaccinated or be regularly tested at the city’s expense and with no penalty for taking time off to be tested:
“The get-vaccinated-or-be-tested mandate is the right protocol for DCPS educators and school staff, though most already have been vaccinated. Now that we’ll be back in school buildings, it’s important for educators to be healthy so they can provide in-person instruction to students five days a week. We also strongly urge all children 12 years and older and their families to get vaccinated. The Delta variant has thrown us a curveball, and we need to do everything we can to keep our school community protected.
“The vaccine policy, as we understand it, will ensure that no employee is subject to discipline as long as they either are fully vaccinated or submit weekly test results. Testing will be available in the workplace or can be done during work hours for employees who need it.
“While we support this policy, the WTU has a right to bargain with the school district over vaccination policies and how they will be implemented, now and in the future. We disagree with the city’s claim that this policy is not subject to bargaining, and we will not hesitate to enforce our bargaining rights if DCPS takes action that is not in the best interest of educators, students and the community.
“It’s been a long year and a half, and we can’t wait to see students and do everything we can to help them thrive in the new school year.”
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Council of the District of Columbia
Committee of the Whole Public Oversight Roundtable
Statement by Jacqueline Pogue Lyons, President
Washington Teachers' Union
on the Re-Opening District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and District of Columbia Public Charter Schools (DCPCS) for School Year 2021-2022
Good afternoon. I am Jacqueline Pogue Lyons, President of the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU).
Everyone is anxious for schools to reopen this fall. After more than a year of being away from our school buildings because of the public health pandemic, it’s imperative that students and teachers get back to school.
Our schools must fully reopen.
But my worst fear is that we fail to protect our youths and our community from the still-deadly coronavirus, especially with the surge of the Delta variant and the emerging Epsilon variant of the disease in our communities. We must ensure protections are in place to prevent students from being exposed and potentially carrying the disease back into their family.
And, we must also prevent disruptions to learning, including when a student is exposed to the virus and will be required to quarantine at home. This is hard on everyone – the student, their families, and our teachers – and it creates tremendous disruptions to learning and student mental health. The last thing that educators want to do is see a student sent home, or for a classroom or our schools close again.
Today, as I sit here before you, I do not believe that we have done enough to protect our students from the coronavirus. We can do more to help prevent exposure in our schools.