Michelle Smith, President of the local Federation of Teachers union, addressed the Gillespie CUSD 7 school board Monday evening to express the union’s desire that remote teaching and in-classroom teaching will be approached separately in the coming school year. Smith thanked the administration and Board of Education for their support of teachers and students during the COVID crisis.
Because of the changing COVID protocols, she said, teachers were required to “divide their time and energy to provide instruction to both student who have attended in person and those who attended through online or remote instruction.”
Because teachers were stretched to fulfill both roles, Smith said, both in-person and remote students “were to deprived of having the best version of their teacher because our attentions were divided.”
The union acknowledges a likely continuing need to provide for remote instruction during the 2021-22 school year, according to Smith, but believes remote learners would be best served through a “program that is specifically designed for students to learn remotely.” A dedicated program for remote learning would not only benefit online learners but also students who attend in person in the classroom.
Revamping the instruction model to specifically address the needs of in person and online students ultimately would improve academic success, Smith asserted, particularly is parents commit to either in-person or remote learning for the entire year.
“A key element to academic success is consistency,” she said. “During the 2020-2021 school year, we have had several students shift between remote and in-person learning. Often when students returned to in-person instruction, they had not been working at the same pace as their fellow classmates. This placed added academic stress on returning students. We feel that in the best interest of the students, remote learning should be an option, but we also believe that when families choose remote learning at registration, they are committing to that decision for the entire school year.”
Given the challenges the 2021-22 school could bring, Smith said the union is committed to working with the administration to develop and implement a plan to provide students with a successful academic experience.
Supt. Shane Owsley said the district has received grant funds to address the challenges arising from the COVID pandemic and he pledged to work with union representatives to determine how to best spend those funds to address teachers’ concerns.
Smith also told the board 22 district teachers have been nominated for consideration as Madison Communications Teacher of the Year this year. Those nominees include: Becky Fritz, Valerie Jubelt, Jessi Luketich, Allison McElroy, Cate Plovich, Jami Schmid, Nancy Schmidt, Jake Bilbruck, Matt Brawner, Shanna Conner, Casey Edgerton, Kim Henderson, Jarrod Herron, Kyle Lamore Chase Peterson, Rachelle Prough, Ella May Roemer, Jeremy Smith, Elizabeth Thackery, Jacob West, Steph Wilson and Jennifer Brown.