To members of our Bull City Community who are divided and hurting:
On March 2, 2021, we watched as the Durham Board of Education convened to make a decision on the reopening date of Durham Public Schools. In March of 2020, we watched as Durham Public Schools did everything in their power to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our Durham community. It is clear that the safety and well-being of all is no longer a top priority.
Our team has witnessed the work of the Durham Association of Educators organizing and advocating for a safe reopening plan for all school staff as part of a successful statewide effort by NCAE to get school staff vaccinated as quickly as possible. In Durham, the school board abruptly changed their commitment from plan C made during the board meeting on January 7th, 2021 to Plan A (no social distancing) and Plan B without warning. As we speak, frightened school staff are teaching, providing lunches, etc, while simultaneously working extra hours to make schools as safe as possible for opening in 10 days. We are deeply concerned about the breach of trust between school staff and the DPS administration and board. Transparency in all parts of the reopening process moving forward is essential to the restoration of trust.
Parents — For almost a year you have been asked to manage aspects of your child’s education that you never looked for or wanted, but you’ve done your best in the face of quarantine, devastating loss, and economic and political upheaval. Thank you. As schools reopen, you should expect that your child’s teacher will do their best every day to keep students safe. Please help them be successful in this task -- continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and get the vaccine when you can. Remember that venting on social media may be cathartic, but threatening educators and elected officials is illegal and doesn’t lead to productive collaboration.
School staff — We see you and we appreciate you. We value your lives and your professional expertise. Thank you educators for teaching through a computer for months when what you wanted most was to give your students hugs. Thank you school staff for your essential presence at our learning centers for these past many months. When you say that you are worried about safety, we believe you. There is no one right choice in this situation, but public verbal attacks are inappropriate and do not support the efforts of the collective. Get vaccinated as soon as you can, and make the decision that is best for you and your family. Reach out when you need support. Students need their warm and brilliant bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teachers, IAs, and custodians healthy to welcome them back to the building.
School Board Members — We appreciate your leadership and guidance during this impossible time. Please remember that angry words from a few individuals are not representative of an entire profession. It is unbefitting of the office you have been entrusted with to denigrate thousands of your employees during a public board meeting due to the comments of a few. Leveraging collective strength of workers is a good thing, and we want employees in all sectors to feel empowered to advocate for their own working conditions. Please remember that school staff ultimately work for you, and they need you as much as you need them.
Durham — This is our charge: Let's disagree without hating each other. Let's hold one another accountable without making threats or hurling harmful accusations. Let’s keep each other safe, give one another the support we need, and make it through this pandemic. Together.
Still “In this together,”
Education Action Team
Durham People’s Alliance