I hope you have had a chance to read Dr. Gutierrez's op-ed in the March 1 issue of The Edinburg Review. His op-ed piece was written in response to my opinion column written in the paper’s March 22 issue. Both the op-ed and my column can be found on edinburgreview.com.
Here are some points I would like to make:
1. DR. GUTIERREZ: "22:1 student-to-teacher ratio for grades K-4.....The Edinburg CISD is not applying for this exemption in the District of Innovation Plan.
MY RESPONSE: I specifically indicated that this exemption was "among the allowable exemptions" under DOI AND that ECISD was only going for the calendar option.
2. DR. GUTIERREZ: "School calendar...This is the ONLY exemption for which the Edinburg CISD is applying.
MY RESPONSE: If you read my column, that is exactly what I wrote.
3. DR. GUTIERREZ: "Teacher benefits: Through a DOI, districts can take away a teacher's right to a 30-minute duty-free lunch and their right to 450 minutes in a two-week period for planning. Districts can also 'locally certify' teachers rather than requiring them to obtain a Texas teaching certificate."
The Edinburg CISD is not applying for this exemption in the District of Innovation Plan.
MY RESPONSE: I specifically indicated that this exemption was "among the allowable exemptions" under DOI, AND that ECISD was only going for the calendar option.
4. DR. GUTIERREZ: According to Chris Ardis, "(I would like to know if ECISD board members requested copies of all of the emails Dr. Gutierrez received in response to this email?)"
As noted at a previous board meeting, I do not recall receiving email responses regarding DOI.
MY RESPONSE: First, if there is one thing friends in the legal arena have taught me, it’s that we all know what "I do not recall" means.
Second: I have one of the emails sent to him in my possession.
Third: I also have the transcript of a speech given during the public comment period of an ECISD board meeting. In that speech, an ECISD teacher said, "There are SEVERAL members of Edinburg AFT, MYSELF INCLUDED, that have responded to this email and are awaiting responses from Dr. Gutierrez on our comments and concerns." (I put "several" and "myself included" in all caps for emphasis.)
5. DR. GUTIERREZ: "There was also assigned seating, and the ECISD teachers I met with said some teachers would not speak up for fear of retaliation from their administrators."
All Edinburg CISD teachers and staff present were encouraged and provided with the opportunity to speak on behalf of themselves, campus, and/or teacher organization. The dialogue and request for feedback was requested throughout the evening.
MY RESPONSE: Why didn't Dr. Gutierrez address the seating arrangement at the meeting? Fear of speaking out is real.
6. DR. GUTIERREZ: "Also keep in mind that school board elections occur every two years. And keep in mind that administrators come and administrators go. So how binding is that assurance clause?"
The Edinburg CISD collaborated with local teacher association representatives to include a clause clarifying that the Edinburg CISD District of Innovation Plan would not have any of the other options outlined in Section 12A.004 of the Texas Education Code. By Texas law, any decisions to change the plan within the five years would require ECISD to start the DOI process over again.
MY RESPONSE: Who chooses committee members? Central Office administrators and, at least in MISD's case, board members. Therefore, since DOI can stay in effect up to FIVE YEARS, a change in board members and/or in administrators can make all the difference when the DOI has such far-reaching implications!
7. DR. GUTIERREZ: "Edinburg: Are you paying attention? Get informed and be heard. Let your district's SBDM team and your school board members know where you stand."
The Edinburg CISD welcomes feedback from all staff. Members of the District-wide committee voted overwhelmingly on February 9, 2017 to support moving forward with the development of the plan voting 52-15 in favor of the initiative.
MY RESPONSE: Edinburg teachers, parents, and community members---this is your chance. The end of the 30-Day online posting of your district's DOI plan is March 11. DOI then goes back to the district’s site-based-decision-making (SBDM) team. It has to pass by a simple majority. Then the board has to pass the plan by a 2/3 majority for it to go into effect. In Edinburg, that means at least three board members must vote no to stop the plan from taking effect. Speak now, or for five years, live with your plan and its possible implications.
8. DR. GUTIERREZ: Our work with the Edinburg CISD District of Innovation Plan has been transparent, informative, and inclusive of all stakeholders. Our goal is to provide our students, staff, and families with a school calendar that benefits everyone for the next school year.
For more information on the Edinburg CISD District of Innovation Plan, please feel free to contact the Edinburg CISD Administration atDOI@ecisd.us or me,
MY RESPONSE: First, if you send an email, I would highly recommend you send it to all board members, too (although their email addresses are missing on the district's website). I would find a way to make sure it goes to them as Dr. Gutierrez does not recall receiving the emails from the teachers mentioned in #4. If you know board members personally, call/text/email them.
Second, I do have to address "transparent." Calling an "EMERGENCY" district site-based-decision-making team meeting on January 5, handing out a 50+ -page packet THAT DAY and then expecting a vote---then agreeing to reschedule the meeting so teachers can read the packet and talk to other teachers about it--AND THEN CANCELING THE MEETING AND PASSING A BOARD RESOLUTION INSTEAD---that would not be my definition of "transparency."
Third-"Informative"---This begs the question---how many teachers, parents, and community members knew the full scope of DOI PRIOR TO the board resolution AND before information was published in print and on social media?
Fourth--I will give Dr. Gutierrez "inclusive" but would argue you can be too inclusive when you invite 102 people to a meeting FOR A CALENDAR???
One more thing---I want to make it clear I have always gotten along with Dr. Gutierrez. This is not personal. This is business!
Finally, there is a bill currently before the Texas Legislature to allow districts to start school as early as THE SECOND MONDAY OF AUGUST. It is HB 620 filed by Rep. Jeff Leach. If passed into law, it would allow public school districts in Texas to start school as early as the second Monday in August rather than the fourth Monday as is currently required by law. This would completely remove Edinburg CISD’s “need” for a DOI distinction.
EDINBURG TEACHERS, PARENTS, and COMMUNITY MEMBERS--YOU DECIDE!