I have never spoken before the School Board until now. Presently, my parish is proposing that we have only 171 contact days with my students when, once upon a time, it used to be 180. Everyone keeps emphasizing the quality of the time, but I keep emphasizing the paltry nature of 171 contact days. Here was my speech to the board, which I judged to be about three minutes. I spoke after Jonathan Cole and before Joel Armentor, all three of us teachers at Lafayette High.
“I’ll never be able to match up to taking a bullet, like my father did in World War II, but I can fiercely defend what I deem to be quality education.”
“Dear Dr. Cooper, School Board Members, Honored Guests,
My name is Vincent P. Barras, a 23 year veteran teacher, presently—and happily—employed at Lafayette High School. I wish to express my concerns over the proposed calendar for next year.
When I hear the statement that I have 385 instructional minutes in a day, I want everyone to understand that is both true and false. In terms of Carnegie units, a subject for which a student earns credit, there are only 350 minutes. Five minutes are for announcements. Thirty minutes are being counted from RTI, the Response to Intervention class in the high schools, but students don’t earn a Carnegie unit for it. More importantly, those minutes don’t count for me. That is not extra time I have with my 158 students. I am only going to get 50 minutes a day, times 171 days, or 8,550 minutes when I used to have closer to 9,000.
And there is something else you should consider: I lose instructional time regularly. There are eight days of exams, where I’m not instructing. This past two week, I lost a day giving the PLAN and Explore Test, and another day giving the mandatory ACT. In math, I am also required to give Data Director tests and that took another four days away from me. These tests asked five to eight questions on one skill, when one or two should do. They also include questions on topics I was not supposed to cover, and vice versa, there are topics I was required to cover that never showed up on the test. When I taught Algebra I years ago, I lost six days to give those tests. This year in May, I will lose more days giving a PARCC Field test, when the Louisiana Legislature is presently considering withdrawing completely from PARCC and Common Core. Is it any wonder why I jealously want my time with students?
In closing, I wish to apologize for not being able to stay. I am going check in on my Dad who just spent four days in the hospital. He’s a WWII veteran who will turn 88 this May. He was shot at Iwo Jima, fighting for freedom, my freedom to stand before you now and speak my mind without fear of retaliation or retribution. I am here simply, to ask, to beg for more time with my students. In an ideal world, I shouldn’t even have to ask.
Thank you for your time.”
As I walked away, I was humbled by the polite applause in the room. I’ll never be able to match up to taking a bullet, like my father did in World War II, but I can fiercely defend what I deem to be quality education. It’s a shame others don’t share the same goals that I possess.