An open letter from JFT President Kesler Camese-Jones to the JPPSS Superintendent and members of the JPPSS School Board.
December 16, 2021
Dr. James Gray
Mr. Clay Moise
JPPSS Board President
Dr. Gerard Leblanc
JPPSS Board Vice President
On behalf of the employees of the JPPSS, we write to express concern about the distribution of this year’s performance stipends. We applaud those teachers and administrators who received the JPPSS performance stipend as approved by the voters of Jefferson Parish in 2019. Their accomplishments cannot be overstated, but they are not the only educators in Jefferson Parish who have gone above and beyond for their students, despite the unprecedented hardship of the last two years. Much has transpired since this millage was originally passed, including a world-wide pandemic and a catastrophic hurricane. Now, schools are facing a major teacher shortage.
Every school employee who continues to show up for their students in the midst of the unprecedented turmoil of the past two years has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Countless employees are working evenings, weekends, as well as arriving at school as early as 6AM and staying until they are ushered out at night by their Plant Manager to meet the needs of their students and the requirements of their administrators. They are regularly covering classes, attending meetings, and losing valuable time that they need to plan for their own students.
Last year, employees pioneered synchronous learning for students with little help from the district. Teachers were left to manage an in-person classroom as well as a virtual classroom simultaneously with little-to-no guidance because this method had not been used in Jefferson Parish. Managing two types of classes required two types of planning, yet teachers were given no extra planning time. In fact, much of their planning period as well as hours before and after school were spent sanitizing classrooms and filling in for staff that had been quarantined or on medical leave. Teachers became technology troubleshooters, grief counselors, safety monitors, nurses, and so much more so that their students could attend classes safely. They were building the plane as they were flying it and they should be rewarded for the smooth landing.
Due to the exceptional hardship of the last two years, schools and school districts have been held harmless from VAM and letter grades, our teachers should be extended the same courtesy. The business-as-usual attitude, and the excessive demands placed on our employees will continue to drive them away from the profession.
As the largest school district in Louisiana, Jefferson Parish Public School System should lead the state in its treatment of employees. Instead, this stipend allocation policy is telling 80% of our staff that their service and dedication is lacking at a time when they are already feeling drained and burned out. Our employees are so much more than a rating on a chart, and there was nothing normal about last year. We cannot quantify their work during a global crisis with the same standard rating system.
We urge the district to find ways to compensate all employees who were rated effective and above last school year for their extraordinary service to the students and families of Jefferson Parish.