Dallas Teachers Are Mad They Won't Get Paid Extra for Parent Conferences. Should They?

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Dallas ISD's teachers are feeling beaten down, their union rep told me this morning: "Physically, emotionally and financially." The latest blow, she said: no longer getting paid for time they spend at after-school conferences with parents.

The News' Matthew Haag had the story last night: DISD teachers used to get paid for the eight hours they spend over two evenings meeting with their students' moms and dads. But those two four-hour sessions, once combined to count as a "professional development" day, are now just tacked onto the end of the instructional day.

"It just kind of goes to what the teachers are feeling ... [that] there's no respect for being the professionals they are," local union president Rena Honea said. "They know that it's important, but it's like, We have to do this because they say we do. Normally they would be compensated for that time. Now there's just an expectation you do it or you're in trouble for it if you don't."

Honea said the calendar change wasn't communicated to her or to the teachers directly. And it isn't the only such change that has them frustrated, she said. A stretch of five pre-school-year prep days was cut down to two this fall, she said, with most of the remaining time filled with meetings. That left teachers, many of whom had changed grade levels or even changed buildings, with no time to prep their new classrooms.

"They weren't valued enough to be given time to do that," she said. "They were expected to use their personal time. The employees just feel not valued at all."

District spokesman Jon Dahlander acknowledged the changes. He said an ongoing focus of the school board -- which predated the arrival of superintendent Mike Miles -- has been to maximize the amount of time teachers spend with their kids, in the classroom, teaching. But whether the changes predate Miles or not, they're obviously seen by teachers as part of Miles' aggressive, reform-minded playbook.

It's an approach some observers surely welcome: Most salaried workers don't get paid overtime for staying late for a meeting, the logic goes. Why should teachers?

But it's the speed of the changes, the lack of dialogue, and the general sense of not being as valued as they once were that has teachers on edge, Honea said.

"They're not afraid of accountability, they're not afraid of doing their jobs," she said, but: "It's been a very rough year -- so many changes all at once."

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