KTHV reports on Little Rock School Superintendent Michael Poore’s response to members of the Little Rock Education Association who were only willing to work remotely today

He said 69 teachers had submitted letters to that effect and they would face unspecified disciplinary measures because teachers are required to be in schools unless specifically exempted. He said 91 percent of the district staff was in attendance. A subsequent detailed account altered that a bit:

Advertisement

He said the district was prepared with sufficient substitutes and these LREA absences along with others due to sickness or quarantine didn’t disturb student learning, according to a report by Ashley Goodwin of KTHV on Twitter.

He said the district was working hard to maintain a safe environment; that mask rules had been effective and that it would address a list of concerns in an LREA statement Sunday night.

Advertisement

He said at a news conference, however, that no other school district let a teacher determine if they would work in-school or away.

The district later released this point-by-point response to teachers’ concerns about safety practices.

Teresa Knapp Gordon, president of the LREA, has scheduled a 3 p.m. news conference today to talk further about the issue.

TERESA KNAPP GORDON

Advertisement

UPDATE: She began by responding to Education Secretary Johnny Key’s statement about the union action. “His disdain for the teachers of the LRSD came through loud and clear as they do when he talks about Little Rock School District generally.” She said the state is “willfully denying” a threat to teachers’ health and the state should not be immune from lawsuits should people die.

She said teachers who logged in for school today were still logging in with teachers who were teaching from home by virtual means, including all the teachers said to be likely targets of disciplinary action. She noted that two high schools, Parkview and Southwest, were shut down by quarantine today along with some others. She said it was “disingenuous” to say school went on as normal.

She insisted conditions are unsafe and “we are afraid for our students and ourselves.” It is false and irresponsible for anyone to say the conditions cited by LREA weren’t true. She said the custodial staff had been given additional responsibilities without more help. She said some teachers need to teach in person and others need to teach only virtually. The workload otherwise is too much.

Gordon also said she believed cases were being unreported and quarantine was being avoided by principals attempting to make their schools look good.

She faulted the governor for thinking business can proceed normally and the virus will eventually go away. But she said the state is months away from a decline in cases. And Pulaski County is a leader in a number of cases.

She said teachers are working harder than they ever have and “it’s unreasonable and unsustainable.”

In response to questions, she said she didn’t have final numbers on the number who stayed home, but in addition to those who wrote letters she said it likely included some who supported the effort but didn’t send a letter and others who were already in quarantine.

She reiterated that it was “unfortunate” that the response was discipline rather than an effort to solve problems.

The original action was based on a vote of continuing it until the numbers of virus cases drop or a vaccine is released. But she said there will be another vote tonight on whether to stick with the action and results on that by 7:30 or 8 p.m. She said teachers had been “hurt” by a critical response to their actions. Earlier she’d said they’d heard comments on social media that they just didn’t want to work. It’s not true, she said. And she responded to criticism that parents were surprised by the decision by saying teachers had worked for weeks to correct problems without success.

Advertisement

“If I could say one thing to parents, I would say this: You trust us to educate and take care of your chldren, trust us in this too. When we say schools are not safe, it’s because schools are not safe.”

She said it was unclear how the threatened discipline will work. There’s confusion around that, in part because many teachers DID work, just not where the district said they should work.

She criticized the state’s failure to spend federal CARES Act money to increase teaching and custodial staffs. “That bears investigation,” she said.

UPDATE II: teachers will return to work. Gordon issued this statement:

Just wanted to give a brief update.  The 69 members that took action have received notices of disciplinary action for tomorrow and the members voted to call off the action tonight.