Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Ernest Hooper: A salute to the students who walked out in support of teachers

RECOMMENDED READING


When I was in grade school, I landed in the principal’s office and they called my mom down to the school.

She arrived and delivered one stern warning: "If I have to come down to this school again, you’re going to be in trouble."

"But, but, but ..."

"But nothing. And I mean that thing."

That moment shapes my parenting perspective today, one in which I work to openly side with teachers and school administrators even if I might privately disagree. I’m the dad who likes to back the district in its efforts to instill rules and maintain order.

However, I’m compelled to salute the students who chose to walk out of class Tuesday and Wednesday at various high schools around Hillsborough County. The teens decided to stand up and stand out as a show of solidarity with teachers embroiled in contract negotiations with the district.

Tensions have boiled up between the district and the Hillsborough County Teachers Association ever since district negotiators balked at delivering an expected pay raise, noting it would cost $17 million to give roughly a third of the 14,000 teachers raises of $4,000, which they expect to receive every three years if they have high enough evaluation scores.

The district is in the midst of a budget crisis and wants to forgo the raises so, negotiators say, it can avoid layoffs. The union says they should re-examine other spending, including the growing number of administrators earning more than $100,000 a year.

Whether you agree with the district or the teachers, the walk out by students — reportedly 15 minutes conducted with peace and quiet — merits respect.

I understand the U.S. Supreme Court does not extend constitutional rights to school students, deferring to the authority of principals who must diminish disruptions and maintain control. I understand freedom of speech and freedom of press are not protected within the bounds of a school.

However, this nation was founded on acts of civil disobedience — men polluting the Boston Harbor with overtaxed tea. Successful protests call attention to an issue peaceably but demonstrably. By design, they should create a level of discomfort.

At some schools, principals have acted punitively, utilizing in-school suspensions, referrals and marks in a student’s permanent file to try to curb the behavior. That’s too bad, because such actions are antithetical to education’s mission.

These are teachable moments and the lessons shouldn’t be taught with punishment and threats to impair a student’s ability to get into college. The kids are courageously following in the footsteps of some of our greatest citizens in trying to show support and bring about change.

If given a choice, how do we want our students to respond to this issue? With apathy and indifference, or care and concern for the men and women touching their lives on a daily basis? I’m heartened by the show of love. It’s a great statement about the work of the teachers and the relationship they have with the students.

Instead of deterrent action, principals should create boundaries and offer an acceptable time and place for the students to express their views without disrupting the day. A 15-minute silent display allows students to engage and teachers to feel love. Principals may not want to encourage a daily demonstration, but they also shouldn’t discourage.

As for the district, it’s created an atmosphere where everyone seems to be making sacrifices except the top-heavy administration. Students have worked in classrooms without air conditioning, some bus drivers remain unhappy with conditions, parents will have to adjust to a new bell schedule and now teachers are being asked to forgo bonuses.

The district can point to cost-cutting measures that have frozen hundreds of positions and shaved tens of millions of dollars in salary costs by shedding more than 600 employees through attrition and reassignments, but difficult times demand that sacrifice begins with the leaders.

Talk about demonstrations. Superintendent Jeff Eakins hasn’t made a show of reducing staff or costs in the downtown office. We shouldn’t want to see anyone lose their job, but even a symbolic cut in pay among the top brass would make a bitter pill easier to swallow for the teachers.

The impasse likely will grow and at some point both sides may have to accept a compromise that neither likes. In the interim, however, we should celebrate the bond between teacher and student and hope that the testament they make today will be remembered well into the future.

I think my mom, God rest her soul, would stand with them.

That’s all I’m saying.

Comments

Police: Family hit on Dale Mabry Highway in stable condition

TAMPA — The mother and two small children who were hit by a Toyota Camry while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were all in stable condition by Thanksgiving morning, said Tampa police. Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, 5-year-old Jordan Wil...
Updated: 23 minutes ago

Pasco County put under immediate tornado warning

The National Weather Service has put out a tornado warning for Pasco County. Thunderstorms capable of producing a tornado and strong winds are expected over Jasmine Estates, New Port Richey and Hudson until 1:15 p.m., according to the NWS warning. Ba...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

It’s going to be a wet Thanksgiving across Tampa Bay, but sunny skies are coming during the long weekend, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

A self-proclaimed Nazi is banned from the University of North Florida’s campus — but will remain a student, university officials said.Ken Parker, a 37-year-old Navy veteran who once served as the grand dragon, or highest-ranking leader, of the Ku Klu...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

CLEARWATER — On Tuesday, Jon Mott had a 103-degree fever. That was not enough to keep him from maintaining his dominance Thursday at the 39th Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.The former Northeast standout added to his record with his fifth title in the ev...
Updated: 4 hours ago
President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump has a Thanksgiving Day message for the nation: Look at all I’ve done. Trump is telling followers in an early-morning holiday tweet that, "your Country is starting to do really well." He says: Jobs are "coming back,...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Lutz pedestrian dies in accident on U.S. 41

LUTZ — A man is dead after deputies said he walked into the path of a car on U.S. Route 41 Wednesday night.Charles Miller, 69 of Lutz, was walking east across the highway at 7:34 p.m., according to Florida Highway Patrol.Daniel Johnson, 35 and also o...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

TARPON SPRINGS — The city is considering a way to honor the legacy of the late longtime sponge merchant George Billiris at a city building. "We know how he promoted Tarpon Springs," Commissioner David Banther said at a recent City Commission meeting....
Published: 11/23/17
New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

WEEKI WACHEE — Mark Lee was looking for an accomplished coach to take over Weeki Wachee High’s boys basketball team. Not only did he find what he was searching for, but he may have gone above and beyond with the hiring of Rick Scruggs.The 30-year vet...
Published: 11/23/17
Bar review: Fashion and adult beverages at Bartique in St. Petersburg

Bar review: Fashion and adult beverages at Bartique in St. Petersburg

Like many people, I treat holiday shopping as a terrifying last-minute ordeal — a scramble to fill out gift lists with a number of items that, despite a complete lack of planning, will somehow seem thoughtful.You know what would make this whole thing...
Published: 11/23/17