Lawrence school board discusses ways to decrease teacher workload amid pandemic; teachers union calls for removing Trump from office

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Lawrence school board

Lawrence school board members, teachers and administrators discuss teacher workload issues and possible solutions in a breakout group during the board's meeting on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.

The Lawrence school board has started brainstorming some ways to help decrease teachers’ workload at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing educators to adapt to teaching remotely and running hybrid classes.

Leah Wisdom, the district’s director of equity, instruction and student services, told the board at its meeting on Monday that the pandemic had made the teaching profession more difficult. She said COVID-19 required teachers to learn to use new and unfamiliar technologies to teach their classes, and that their “tried and true” teaching methods that worked when students were in the classroom were now less effective, among other issues.

“The dynamics and complexities of teaching continue to shift,” Wisdom said. “We have a lot of ideas on how to combat this … and everyone has a perspective. We want to bring those to the table.”

To think of some possible solutions, the board broke up into groups and spoke with some local teachers, who told the board members what they’d been experiencing and what they thought should be done to change it.

Board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood said the discussion she participated in included a teacher who voiced frustration about having to work in the evenings and on weekends during the pandemic. Cadue-Blackwood said she’d heard similar concerns from other teachers, too. She said she appreciated the small-group discussion format and that she would like to have similar small-group conversations with teachers in the future to check in on how they are doing.

At the end of the discussion, the groups suggested several ideas to alleviate workload. One suggestion was allowing pass-or-fail grading this school year, which would cut down on the amount of time teachers spend on grading. Others ideas included hiring additional staff to support elementary teachers and changing teacher schedules to allow for more planning time.

Whether any of these ideas will be put to use will be decided later. Wisdom told the board the district administration planned to take the suggestions into consideration and would report back at a future meeting on whether they could be implemented.

Teachers union calls for removing Trump from office

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Lawrence school board

Lindsay Buck, LEA interim president, speaks to the Lawrence school board on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. During her remarks, Buck said the teachers union joined calls for President Donald Trump to be removed from office for his involvement in inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol last week.

In other business, the Lawrence teachers union joined a growing chorus around the country in calling for President Donald Trump to be removed from office after the riot at the U.S. Capitol last week.

During the public comment period of the meeting, Lindsay Buck, interim president for the Lawrence Education Association, said the local union joined the National Education Association’s call for Trump’s removal to “protect our democracy and the safety of our nation.”

Additionally, she said that the union condemned those who participated in the riot, and that it also called on the Kansans in Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results to resign. The Kansas lawmakers who voted against certifying the results include two members of Lawrence’s congressional delegation, Sen. Roger Marshall and Rep. Jake LaTurner, who are both Republicans.

“This was a direct assault on our democracy, which resulted in the death of five people, damage and theft of property, and a weakening of our nation’s security,” Buck said of the riot. “We condemn the actions and inactions of lawmakers who have enabled Trump for far too long, causing overwhelming harm and injustice to our nation and ultimately leading to the dangerous, seditious actions we saw last week.”

Prior to Buck’s comments, Superintendent Anthony Lewis, who also condemned the riot, said the district was serious about educating students about democracy, civility and respect.

“As a school system, we are feeding our democracy,” Lewis said. “Our schools are safe places for our scholars to engage in open dialogue, where they can listen to the views of others and it’s OK to share a different view than someone else.”

Lewis also said the school district would provide students with social and emotional support “as we all attempt to process these historic events.”

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