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Class Size, Caseload, and Workload

Computer design classes NEED computer design software

I teach graphics and photography. My curriculum is designed around the programs Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Unfortunately, every year when I return in the fall, my computer lab is not set up with the programs I need. Since the move to the cloud-based “Adobe Creative Cloud”, not even my school provided laptop has the program installed. Since new features are constantly being added, those days before students arrive are crucial for me to get in to the Adobe programs and insure my lessons are still current. But no! I don’t have access. So I put in an E-ticket for my computer lab, and one for my laptop. And wait...and wait. 
I put in more e-tickets. I type in all caps. I call. I email. The last two years, despite my best efforts, it hasn’t been until the second week of school that I have all of the programs installed and running. Since students are signed up for a class called “Adobe Photoshop”, it puts me in an embarrassing situation when I spend two weeks saying “maybe tomorrow”. This is just absurd. Next year I plan on sending an invitation to the IT chiefs, the superintendent and the school board and see if they can help deliver my two weeks of “icebreaker activities” while the students who came back eager to learn patiently wait for the software tools they needed. I certainly hope it doesn’t come to that. Maybe with the 9 days staff are here before Labor Day next year IT can figure it out.

Workload stretches educators

It was a Monday. I was sitting in the back of my classroom, finishing up a rubric where I was scoring three students who had just completed an IB presentation. The next group was getting ready, and the other students were chatting a bit before the next group was to begin. As I finished my comments on the rubric, I overheard three students talking. “I emailed Mr. X at 9:00 last night, and he NEVER emailed me back. How does he expect me to do the work when he won’t answer my questions?” “It was Sunday,” I piped in. Your teacher doesn’t get paid to work on Sundays. Maybe he was grading papers, or writing a lecture. Or maybe he was asleep,” I said. “I’m so tired of teachers complaining about working on the weekends,” the student said. My parents work on the weekends, and they don’t complain.” “What do your parents do for a living?” I asked. “They are lawyers.” They are lawyers. Yes. I bet they do have work on the weekends. I wondered how much this student’s parents billed their clients to work on the weekend. I let it go, and returned to my job. The next group was ready to present; I was ready to focus. But that conversation bothered me. What had I done that weekend? I had woken up early that Saturday, and spent six hours writing letters of recommendation for students who were applying for college, including one for the student who thought teachers were lazy. We do not get paid to write these letters of recommendation, but we are expected to do it. And we do it because we want our students to get into good colleges. Of course we do. I had spent another five hours reading over outlines that students had prepared for these presentations. I emailed the students who were set to present and gave them feedback on how to improve their scores. Then, I graded papers for my creative writing class. At about 7:00 on Sunday night, I responded to student emails. “What is the makeup work? Do I need to make up that test?” Most of my responses were, “Take a look at my website. All the makeup guidelines are on there,” but knowing that most of the students would not have the time or energy to do that, I went onto the website myself, and cut and pasted the lesson plan and makeup guideline for that day. Then I went to bed. Before 9pm. I was exhausted. I arrived at school the next morning at 6:30 am. Fourteen students had emailed me after 9pm. I guess I was one of those “lazy” teachers who didn’t do enough for their students. Why is there a teacher shortage looming? Why are teachers exhausted? Because we are working all the time. Parents, students, and the general public think we are “on call” 24-7. And very few students have any idea how much we do. Very few parents understand it, ad the public understands even less. We need more money. We need more time. And we need more respect.

More Support Needed

As an ESL teacher, all of my students are immigrants and refugees. My students have always dealt with significant challenges and chronic stress. However, as our national and local political climate have grown increasingly hostile to my students and their families.I have seen a marked increase in anxiety, depression, and disengagement among my East African and Latinx students. Students express fear for their families, their friends, and themselves. They feel threatened and othered. It is a profound challenge to meet their social and emotional needs while also trying to develop curriculum and teach. The last two years have been more difficult than any others I've experienced in a decade of working with young people in Minneapolis Public Schools. With more counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses, particularly from the cultural backgrounds of my students, my students would have more support to process the very real fear, anxiety, loss, grief, and chronic stress that they experience daily. They would be able to engage more with school and learning. As a staff, we would have more access to expertise related to trauma-informed teaching, curriculum development, and discipline. We would be better able to meet the needs of all of our students. At Roosevelt, English learners make up one third of our student body. We do not have dedicated support staff to work with these students and families. Much of it falls on EL teachers, along with creating and delivering curriculum for our students and professional development for our colleagues. Our students and their families deserve better. They desperately need to be seen, heard, and served. We need more counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses to serve these students well.

School Climate

We do not have enough deans or behavior support staff at my school. While they are doing their best, they are highly overworked as most of their time is consumed by big issues such as responding to fights and drug use which means that they do not have time to do restorative practices. The result is that the response to behavior is often actions that further alienate students who have having issues and increase the likelihood that they drop out. With more behavior support staff there would be resources to actually interrupt rather than perpetuate the school to prison pipeline.

Social Workers are Essential

As a SERT many of the students that are on my caseload have high needs in their mental health. These students need more support than I (or Karen our social worker for resource) can give while still supporting all of our students on our case load (18 for me). There are usually 3-4 students that take up most of our daily focus. This takes away for the students need academic help Having more social workers and councilors to be able to point students to when they need so much more support.

If MPS continues to subject its talented, dedicated teachers to heavy workloads, low pay, and stressful, unhealthy working conditions, then I fear that many of those teachers will follow my footsteps and leave the profession for good. And the ones who will pay the biggest price of all if that were to happen would be the students.

Class size leads to safety issues in Science classes

I teach chemistry and class size is not only an educational issue but also one of safety. Several of my five classes are significantly over the safety limit. As an experienced teacher, I am able to adjust my lessons and the logistics in order for students to have the lab experiences they deserve in a safe environment. But as we entered the second quarter I was asked if I would be willing to allow one of my students to switch from a standard size chemistry class into the hour that was already over by five students. My first response was no way. Then I'm told this student, an AVID senior working towards the IB Diploma, was in a zero hour class and her mom would not allow her to take the city bus that early in the morning because she felt it was too dangerous. Of course I said yes and the student and I made it work. What a tough position this student was in. Safety vs. academic success (in a crowded science lab). These are not choices our students should have to make. And my classes should not be so large that I have to think twice about supporting my students when situations arise.

Comparing different workplaces

I've worked in 3 school districts throughout my career. San Francisco Unified School District, Sioux Falls School District and MPS. They couldn't be more different. Structurally, size, demographics, each school district has its own set of unique problems to tackle. There are general themes that were sim ilar across the districts such as issues of education and poverty, meeting the needs of ELL students adequately, and other similar issues. The nationwide ones we're all familiar with. The issues that have struck me most poignantly in MPS is that there is a profound lack of systems and structures for staff. I've never felt more set up to fail. I was drawn to this field with an interest in working with students who don't have access to education any other way than our public schools system and they deserve an EXCELLENT education just like students who can afford private school. So, I know the job is hard. It is. I was ready for that and felt that I could do it to the best of my ability in San Francisco and also in Sioux Falls and I was supported by the district and my leadership to be effective and successful and also to keep growing and becoming even more effective. Since I've come to Minneapolis Public Schools I have felt like I'm losing my mind, nothing makes sense, I do NOT have the information or tools I need to be successful in any endeavor and when I attempted to address issues, offer solutions, provide alternatives I was met with "shoulder shrugs." I've seen many other staff offer to set up systems to support a school they're at and be ignore, brushed off or turned down. Why? Are we afraid of doing good work here? Are we afraid of true accountability and what that might show the public? It's not the students. The students are like the students I worked with in San Francisco and Sioux Falls. They're kids. They want to be safe. They want respectful interactions. They want to learn. It's not the kids. Examples. I've worked in the school district THREE YEARS and never been trained on how to appropriately use CFS, design effective interventions and implement Tier 2 and 3 interventions. This is the only tool we have to identify students who might need and qualify for additional support. How many students have I failed because I didn't know I was supposed to be doing this, didn't know the expected timelines, didn't know what qualifies as a Tier 2 intervention or a Tier 3 intervention? Set up to fail. (In both previous school districts we had a team of experts, social worker, special education teacher, other specialized staff who met regularly and reviewed students we were concerned about with the teacher, helped the teacher build an intervention plan and review it at appropriate intervals to determine it's success. I knew what was expected of me and I did it well.) Data cycles - in both previous districts they had an appropriate timeline for completing a deep, thoughtful and effective collaborative process that advances instruction. Teachers chose the focus based on student data and their instructional growth needs. We were more invested because we had a structure to follow that we understood and because we got to choose our focus. In MPS every data cycle I've participated in has been too short, too crammed and SO micromanaged that no one on the team is engaged at a high level. Set up to fail instead of trusted to succeed.

School Climate and Support

I am a teacher at Olson Middle School and have been teaching in Minneapolis Public Schools for four years. One of the greatest challenges in my teaching experience has been large class sizes. One of the joys of teaching in an in urban school is the opportunity to work with diverse populations of students who can learn from and teach one another. This diversity also comes with a unique challenge, as classes of students often have a wide range of abilities and skills. To compound this issue, every year that I have taught in Minneapolis Public Schools class sizes have increased, making it even more difficult to provide meaningful support to students with varying academic needs. When I first started working at MPS my average class size was 20. At the start of this academic year my average class size had increased to 28. In one such class of 28 middle schoolers there is a wide variety of reading levels, ranging from students reading at a second grade level, to students reading at a eleventh grade level. These students all deserve quality one on one instructional time with a teacher, but with an instructional block of 50 minutes, 28 students, and 1 classroom teacher, the most these students can get is less than 2 minutes of personalized support in reading, not nearly enough to make the gains in reading necessary to keep them on track for academic success. In order to provide a quality and equitable education for all students are class sizes must be smaller.

Importance of Class Size Caps

I served the district for almost 19 years as an ESL teacher at Folwell Middle School, Wellstone High School, Edison High School, and Roosevelt High School before deciding to permanently leave the profession in 2017 mostly due to the students’ lack of respect, lack of moral support from administration, and the high level of stress. I proudly served mostly low-level English language learners throughout my career, some of whom were illiterate in their native language, some of whom had gaps in their educational histories, and many of whom were suffering due to poverty, lack of education, trauma, racism, and violence in their communities. In spite of doing my best to fulfill the needs of this student population while trying to meet the high demands of district administration, I was brought to a final breaking point in 2017 when I suffered a mental health crisis that almost cost me my life. I attribute this health crisis partly to the stressful working conditions of Roosevelt High School, whose lack of support and respect for the work of its ESL teachers was demeaning and demoralizing in every true sense of the words. We teachers often suffer in silence because we wish to be positive role models of strength and resilience for our students in the face of adversity. I decided that the price I was paying in my own personal health was way too high for me to continue teaching in the district, especially since my work with the ELL population was greatly undervalued and unappreciated. And so I decided to end my tenure with Minneapolis Public Schools.

If MPS continues to subject its talented, dedicated teachers to heavy workloads, low pay, and stressful, unhealthy working conditions, then I fear that many of those teachers will follow my footsteps and leave the profession for good. And the ones who will pay the biggest price of all if that were to happen would be the students.

Lack of access limits aspiring educators

Please send this note to whomever has the power to change the practice of not giving student teachers access to the Gradebook Portal, Google Classroom through the MPS system, etc. Without official student teacher login access, I cannot take attendance for any class periods on my own. I cannot create and enter grades in Gradebook for the homework, classwork and assessments I have created, nor am I able to see what students are English Language Learners or have IEPs or 504 plans. Additionally, I am unable to see student parent/guardian information, and it makes it that more difficult to contact parents or guardians about their student(s)' progress. It is an impactful hindrance to be unable to do these things, as I either need to always borrow my cooperating teacher's computer- which inconveniences them and the class-, or I am unable to do it all, which is a hindrance to my student teaching, my currents students, and to my future students who will be impacted my lack of practice and experience in current educational system practices. This is especially true as other districts, but not Minneapolis, give their student teachers personal log-ins to fully participate as student teachers. Please consider changing this outdated, inconvenient practice. Thank you. Sincerely, a Frustrated Student Teacher

Students Suffer without Support

Yesterday, I spent 30 minutes with a young woman (10th grader) who was having a fairly sever panic attack. She was brought to me because all of our social workers were busy helping other students, and since I have a relationship with this young woman, the staff her brought her in thought I could help. Luckily, I was able to put time aside from her. We did breathing exercises together, talked through where she was, what had happened, and came up with some strategies to remain present and calm for the remainder of the day. During our time together, we were trying to reach the social worker, which never happened. It is not easy for a young person to reach out for help, and then it is not easy to receive services that day given our limited resources. I am happy that I have a background and some training and have struggled myself with issues, so that I can offer support to our students-- though it is limited and not to the full extent that a social worker or counselor could. And there have definitely been plenty of times when I could not help a young person or when they needed to be seen and could not get an appointment. This, of course, is not the first time I have helped young people facing similar situations. When I was teaching full time, it was weekly that I would be helping a student through anxiety or a troubling situation due to lack of staffing.

Need for more Counselors

I, for one, think that we are in dire need of more counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses at school. I teach ESL classes, and regularly find myself trying to deal either personally or through the deans with the effects of physical and emotional trauma of our students because of the lack of trained professionals available in our building. I know that the medical and mental health professionals are doing all that they can; we just don't have enough of them. This has been true as long as I've been working in Minneapolis Public Schools. Just yesterday I had two students arguing and escalating in another language. I called the front desk to see if their was a native speaking dean and mental health professional who could meet with them for some sort of mediation. Instead, about 15 minutes later, and English speaking dean showed up and brought them down to our detention room. Later that day another teacher informed me that the argument had continued and escalated even further, with the female student quite upset. Earlier in the year, I have dealt on numerous occasions with students who are under the influence of drugs and students that suffer from addiction. I've referred these students to the health office, but they have always returned, usually without any sort of intervention. Many of the students in my ESL classes suffer from the trauma of migration, the journey to the US, family separation, and severe culture shock. When symptoms of these traumas present themselves in class, I do the best that I can, but usually students really need to process outside of class. I try to work with the counselors and social workers, but our social workers are tied up in paperwork almost full time (especially the Spanish speaking social worker), and the counselors schedules do not often allow for drop in appointments. The students and myself have become quite habituated to the fact that there aren't enough outlets to deal with external emotional issues, and I believe this greatly affects the learning and well-being of the classroom community.

Grievable Class Caps

We need grieveable class size caps because... I teach 160 total students while several teachers in my school with the same license teach fewer than 80 students. One has a class of 4 students. Each of the last 3 years, I have taught 40+ students in one high needs high school core class. Many of my students read at a 1st -2nd grade level and beg for more attention. I can no longer assign writing assignments because even the short answer essay tests I give take me 6 hours to grade (90 tests × 4 minutes per test) + additional time to enter into that glacial-paced Gradebook grading program. One very competent tenured teacher in our building is assigned to be a hall monitor .25 time during the same hours that I teach even after he requested to push into my class to balance the workload. This is a waste of money and a waste of talent. Principals create TOSA positions to help the administration while teachers are staggering under their workload. Cut paperwork for admin and get TOSAS back in the classroom.

If MPS continues to subject its talented, dedicated teachers to heavy workloads, low pay, and stressful, unhealthy working conditions, then I fear that many of those teachers will follow my footsteps and leave the profession for good. And the ones who will pay the biggest price of all if that were to happen would be the students.

Lack of Staff and Lack of Admin Support Makes Work Difficult for Everyone, especially Special Ed!

Where do I begin... Because of my previous work in the understaffed trenches of the School DCD program as an SEA, I was given 4 extra steps in pay when I signed my 1st contract as a teacher with MPS. I was impressed at first. Then I was hit by the reality of the worst staffing crisis ever. A program that required 10-12 support staff, had only 4 support staff. It was utter chaos. There was hardly any teaching going on. All 4 of the DCD program teachers were working as support staff in order to meet all the needs of the students.

We were changing and feeding kids, and keeping them from running out of the building and from hitting each other. We were timing seizures like well trained nurses, and modeling deep breathing relaxation strategies for our students. We kept students calm during all the fire drills and code reds. We worked with a student who cried all day long and one who threw everything she touched. We had a DPF who loved binders and thought they were the solution to every issue we faced, and ultimately required us to make a binder detailing every move we make all day I guess to micromanage us. Maybe she thought the staffing problem was our fault? Deep sigh. We had a few laughs and fun times in there too, but mostly we felt like we had to be stealth, calculating, invincible superheroes in order to balance the extreme behavior and all the due process paperwork that goes along with all those behaviors. We dealt with staff who were crazy. We defeated (got her removed permanently) a racist enemy teacher who tried to tear apart our awesome team of support staff by discriminating against them because of the color of their skin. We had to learn how to document the inappropriate behavior of a teacher this year, on top of putting a student in multiple holds per day because be tried to dig his eyeballs out of his head multiple times per day (which takes up 3 staff and distracts any teaching and learning going on in the room). We have students who hit and kick us daily, but we come to work with that super duper loving patience, and determination to help see our students increase their independence, no matter their starting point. We have a fearless leader who I lovingly call B Squared, because B is her first and last initial. BB is so amazing, so inspirational! She rebranded the DCD Program the ALPHA program because our students are more than their disability label. ALPHA stands for All People Have Access. Anyways BB is awesome and although we struggle daily with very difficult situations with staff, students, demands of administration, lack of transportation consistency, or angry parents, we take it all on together as a team. We truly value all our support staff, and that's why we have a meeting weekly to discuss their concerns, ideas, and any additional training that might be needed. We have even had circles that brought us so much closer through difficult times. I personally lost 4 loved ones in 2018, and it was the hardest year of my life, but my work family always had my back. I didn't get any heat from administration or colleagues when I needed to take a personal day or bereavement day. They always said take the time you need. I appreciated that. I also got cards and plants from my coworkers, and that really meant a lot. I am feeling so much better and able to move forward now past the grief because I am full of hope and ideas for my future. I am still alive, and I just feel thankful for that. After seeing so much death, I really just want to take advantage of LIFE as cheesy as it sounds. I really do shudder at the thoughts of starting my teaching career in a staffing crisis or having to work with an outwardly racist teacher while teaching children of color, working with support staff of color and being in an interracial marriage myself. I have sown blood, sweat and tears into my career, and I am now investing more money as well. I am pursuing my master degree right now to become an even better teacher, and to get a little raise. Just as I want to push my students to be resilient, I am pushing myself to focus on positive things. It's really hard to endure so much grief, trauma, the staffing crisis situation, the racist teacher mess and STILL want to come to work every day, but I come for my students. I know they depend on me and look up to me. I want to be the best me I can be for them. I am a twenty-year veteran School Psychologist in the Minneapolis Public Schools. I currently serve three elementary schools (two K-5 and K-2), with a total population of 1150 students, including 142 special needs students, 388 students qualifying for free/reduced lunch and 104 English Learner (EL) students (Spanish, Oromo and Somali). It is extremely difficult, at this ratio, to provide even the most basic of psychological services as defined by the National Association of School Psychologist (NASP). I struggle to provide mandated evaluation tasks and reports in a timely manner, and find it very difficult to adequately consult with teachers regarding at-risk students. I unfortunately do not have the time to provide direct supports for those youth identified as in need of mental health supports, despite the obvious needs in our inner-city schools.

Need for More Counselors

he school counselors at Roosevelt High School strongly support a budget and contract that ensure more school counselors. At Roosevelt, there are currently three Counselors of Record, and we each have a caseload of about 350-370 students, grades 9-12. Counselors serve ALL students in the building, those who are doing well academically and emotionally, those who are not, those with special needs, those learning English, those who need more acceleration and challenge in their learning, those who require non-traditional methods of learning. As counselors and educators who have decades of experience in our field, we have seen a notable increase in the social/emotional/mental health needs of our students. Our teachers see this in each of their classes, and their classes grow larger each year, making the task of supporting students with these other needs that much more challenging. Earlier in our careers, for example, we each had a handful of students with 504 Plans for anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns; now, over ten percent of our student population has a diagnosis and 504 Plan, and that does not account for the many more students who go undiagnosed. We are fortunate to work in a school that houses a mental health clinic, but this clinic has a waiting list each year before school starts, and never clears the waiting list. We are fortunate to live and work in a metropolitan area that has mental health services in the community, but these, too have waiting lists, and it can take a family months to get in to see a practitioner. Additionally, we work with cultural populations who are sometimes suspicious of mental health providers, and by whom mental health needs are not acknowledged. This means that school counselors (and school social workers) are often the only support systems that families have for these needs. We truly want to help every child be successful in school and in life. We are here to help them in that regard, and to help them plan for their futures. We are here to support not only our students, but their families, too. We are all prepared to work hard, to work long hours, to do our very best. And yet, we feel like we are losing the battle because there are simply not enough of us to meet the needs. We hope that this district will make it a priority to find the means to ensure that every school has a counselor, K-12, and that our middle schools and high schools have enough counselors to actually meet the needs of our students and families.

If MPS continues to subject its talented, dedicated teachers to heavy workloads, low pay, and stressful, unhealthy working conditions, then I fear that many of those teachers will follow my footsteps and leave the profession for good. And the ones who will pay the biggest price of all if that were to happen would be the students.

and failures of previous superintendents but it should not be on the backs of the district employees…we had no say in how the money was spent and we didn’t buy out the contracts of unsuccessful leaders.

Classroom and Student Support Lacking

My first few years of teaching I waitressed at a bar on weekends and I made more than at the bar than I did teaching. After listening to the new ethics video I don’t even know if waitressing or bartending is still an option for district employees. I also worked retail around the holidays and in the summers. I was single until eight years ago so I needed to work so I could save money to purchase my own home. I have been working ALC and summer school for several years to help to make ends meet and try to put away a little money for the future because I wasn’t able to put away much when I was younger. When it comes to health benefits something needs to change. I would love to be able to carry my husband on my health insurance but I don’t due to the cost. I think it is ridiculous that we could have a family of ten and pay the same amount as my husband and I would have to pay as a couple. We need to have employee plus one as an option. We lack support in the health office! She is trying to balance all of the high needs that we have in our building. Children with diabetes who have to have their sugars checked before each meal, children with asthma who need inhalers before recess and P.E. let alone the children who have the flu, etc. I see her eat lunch at her desk and I have never seen a break. Which reminds me that I too work at my desk during lunch. I no longer eat in the staff lounge and I don’t know any teacher that does. We are all trying to teach the curriculum that we are required to teach even though there are not enough hours in the day. Yes, you might say we can dovetail the curriculum but that too takes teachers time and it isn’t always possible. I arrive a half an hour to forty-five minutes early each day and I bring work home in the evening. Yes, that is my choice because I want my classroom to run smoothly. Classroom support is also lacking. I believe in mainstreaming special education children but it is not appropriate for all children. Closing the class programs, EBD programs, and limiting the autism programs is not the answer. Many children can be successful but other children simply need more support than a regular classroom teacher can provide. I find myself spending so much time on my special education students that I haven’t enough time for my regular education students and my struggling learners. I understand much the problem is due to the federal government mandating special education services without sending the dollars to support the children’s needs but we can and must do better. As far as curriculum and materials I am doing pretty well because I have purchased thousands of dollars of books and materials myself. I have also been able to squirrel away-discontinued curriculum/math materials over my many years. Class size is another challenge. Last year I had 27 kindergarten students, which was overwhelming especially due to mainstreaming children that in the past would have been in a different setting. This year I have 21 students, which allows me to free up another table however I do have children that would be better served in a different setting. This is also a challenge because as a professional I wish I could tell the parents that their children would be better served in another setting however, we no longer have the programs that would best meet their needs. Our building is clean but that is because our head janitor works her tail off. She is constantly working overtime because it’s hard to find help with the salary cuts that the janitors took a few years ago. I understand that the district is trying to balance the budget due to the mistakes

and failures of previous superintendents but it should not be on the backs of the district employees…we had no say in how the money was spent and we didn’t buy out the contracts of unsuccessful leaders.

Psychologist Workload is Untenable

I’m a School Psychologist and I’m in love with my profession. I also used to be a consultant, and after more than three decades working my way through college and graduate school in various positions in both academic settings and the private sector, I have a level of appreciation for collective bargaining and union membership that is boundless. But first, I’ve wanted to work in Minneapolis Public Schools from my first term in the doctoral program in school psychology at MSU, Mankato. When asked where I wanted to do my practicum, I didn’t hesitate but said MPS immediately. After two terms of practica, I broadened my experience to a small rural school in Belize and an internship and another year in greater Minnesota, where I was the school psychologist for two K-8 buildings 12 miles apart. I liked the variety but felt isolated and didn’t appreciate how school psychologists were not really considered during bargaining, which led to frequent turnover. At the end of my second year in that district, I considered leaving the profession and going back to consulting. I actually shared with my professor that the only option I would consider meant a return to MPS. After he received a query from our lead, I responded immediately and literally turned in my keys on the last day to drive to the Davis Center for my interview. Driving here was like coming home. There were many reasons for my eagerness, but the main one was an opportunity to work in partnership with families and committed educators. I was given the opportunity to work with the families and students with some of the most significant and complex needs at the secondary level, and I felt like I was made to be here. I shared an office and assignment with one of the most talented school psychologists I know, and I became a part of the best department and team I’ve ever had. And then it was time for the March budget review at the middle school. The first thing on the chopping block was the portion of our shared duties that was focused on providing mental health supports through helping students who were going through typical emotional issues for middle school. Then, the next year, more money was cut, and the mindfulness room grant I worked on (& won!) with our school counselor couldn’t be implemented because her position was eliminated. I received funding for MTSS coordination, but with guidebooks not yet available and last minute funding after the block schedule was developed, I found myself as a team of one with inconsistent messages from REAA and the building about my role, and constant pushback from my colleagues who were not consulted about how to make this initiative happen. So I focused on helping my team dig out of a special education due process hole created by a hasty hiring decision by administration. For 2/3 of that year, I watched helplessly while a colleague struggled to meet the needs of her caseload in a federal setting III behavior program with only one special education assistant instead of the two required. My friend was successful, but at a significant personal and physical cost for her, including sacrificing her prep time daily to cover for her SEA’s break. During the March budget cycle, we heard about the budget cuts and at an ILT meeting learned that we would lose a social worker and have the SEL needs addressed through hiring more behavior deans. Behavior deans are great people, but most are not licensed, do not have graduate training or licensure in providing mental health or emotional learning, and several directly challenged consultations provided by our licensed staff. But we lost a social worker.

We were promised things would change after this year, if only we passed the ballot initiative. So, I helped rally voters, including friends who never voted and those who voted only for the president. Even though I don’t live in Minneapolis and couldn’t vote for the referendum myself, I worked tirelessly and volunteered and donated my limited free time to get out votes. We were successful. But now I learn that, for the fourth year in a row, in spite of the promises we received, the school budget is cut again in this cycle. I feel like going out to every house I visited and every phone I called and begging for forgiveness for misleading the voters that this money could help us with mental health and other support services as we were told. I’m one of two stewards for the school psychologist team. Every month I hear different horror stories about the limited funding for our due process tasks and our desperate choices between meeting best practices as our field designates and the shortcuts we need to survive our due process schedules. I work at 3 schools. I knew it would be tough, but my teams don’t realize that for two of my schools, the roulette wheel of snow days and professional development can result in an entire week being redone. Yesterday, the combination of a teacher absence on my sole day/week at the school, a snow day, a student living with someone other than their parent, and inconsistent information and a shortened evaluation window collided with a parent having to juggle funeral arrangements with my phone calls. I wish I could say this was an isolated case or situation, but I knew it wasn’t when I look at my entire caseload. As I work with complex cases, I appreciate that we can’t exactly calculate a fair distribution of school psychologists with our existing department budget for due process. I know this, because for three years I’ve also been the analyst assisting the department lead. I, and most of my colleagues, struggle daily to achieve some work life balance. We work far past our contract hours writing reports. We give up family time and neglect our health. For me, work life balance is not met through days off in the summer, but by sane working conditions and reasonable workloads throughout the school year. I finally set a minimum sleep level of 5 hours a night and have too many nights of late edits to finalize reports. This isn’t sustainable.

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