Tensions high after Broward high school organizes work-to-rule for teachers

PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - A high school teacher in Parkland organized a work-to-rule, or “Work to the Contract Weeks,” action at her school, which has sparked tensions between teachers and parents.

According to the Broward Teachers Union, Language Arts teacher Melissa Falkowski from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, organized “Work to the Contract Weeks” for the weeks of Sept. 19 and Sept. 26.

“Today, we’re working to the rule. We’re working from 7:15 to 2:45, and that’s it. Just fulfilling our contractual obligations and not doing anything extra, not grading papers at home,” explained Falkowski on Monday, “I make 45,000 dollars a year and teachers at the top set are making 73 and both the state and the district have made it impossible for those of us who are on the lower part of the scale to ever reach that number. It’s very disheartening. I work every day until five and then I work and grade papers at home when I go home at night, and then I work on the weekends.”

Some instructors even work 60-hour work weeks yet struggle to pay bills. “Especially the younger teachers,” Falkowski said. “We can’t afford to buy homes. We can’t afford families.”

Parents like Carol Bracco are siding with the teachers. “They can’t be good teachers during work hours if they’re not recharging their battery outside of work hours, so actually, I have no problem with it,” she said.

“I can’t imagine that it would be good for the kids either to be backed up when grades aren’t going in properly, and they’re checking their grades everyday on the school website, and if things aren’t updated, then they’re not gonna know where they stand,” said parent Sherry Lewis.

The Broward Teachers Union has encouraged members at other schools to do the same. “The Broward Teachers Union fully supports the teachers at Stoneman Douglas and hopes other schools will follow suit,” said Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco. “The Broward School District and school administrators have been taking advantage of and bullying teachers and support personnel for too long by ignoring our contract, which defines very clearly what each bargaining unit’s specified work hours are. It’s time for our education professionals to take back their rights and let the superintendent and administration know that the demands being placed on them daily fall far outside what is possible to accomplish during normal working hours.”

Tracy Clark of Broward County Public Schools responded with a statement that read, “Broward County Public Schools respects and values our teachers, and their dedication to providing high-quality instruction to our students.”

The “Work to the Contract Weeks” two-week movement encourages teachers to observe the following rules:

  • No grading papers, planning or checking e-mail at home
  • Work only contract hours (7:15-2:45, except for those teaching an extra period)
  • No extracurricular activities, i.e. clubs, unless the teacher is being paid a stipend
  • Speak to their classes and students about what teachers are doing and use it as a lesson about civil disobedience and activism.

However, according to the teacher’s union, the announcement has sparked tension between parents who are misunderstanding the meaning of “working to the rule,” believing instead that Stoneman Douglas teachers are on strike.

“The goal is educate our community about our current working conditions and to harness the power of our outspoken Coral Springs and Parkland parents to put pressure on the school board during contract negotiations, and perhaps to encourage them to write to the legislature about the damage that pay-for-performance has done in our classrooms,” Falkowski says.

According to Falkowski, she has the support of her school administration, which has agreed to comply to the rules previously stated during this time period.

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