I am excited to introduce the second issue of the Baltimore Teachers Union’s new quarterly newsletter aimed at furthering our union’s democracy and deepening our fight for educational justice in Baltimore. The COVID-19 crisis has thrown everyone into uncharted territory that brings about new challenges daily. Our members have navigated this transition to long-distance long-term learning with grace and vigor. You are connecting with students emotionally and academically despite massive technology disparities and vague and incomplete guidance, all on top of family responsibilities that would be full-time jobs in and of themselves amidst this global pandemic. The BTU has been fighting every day to ensure your professional autonomy and personal obligations are protected from micromanaging and rigid supervisor overreach.
Our leadership team has successfully negotiated essential employee pay and personal protective equipment (“PPE”) for Community School Site Specialists now supporting with food distribution to our families. Our field representatives are supporting members whose rights and needs are not being properly respected. Our staff has worked tirelessly to communicate with membership frequently and in a variety of formats. We will continue to update our Coronavirus FAQ google document as a central hub for information during constantly evolving circumstances. We have begun hosting our weekly email blasts and updates on our website and are re-posting the content for safe discussion on our private Facebook Group. Over two thousand people viewed our first ever Facebook Live Stream with PSRP Chair Sandra Davis, COVID-19 point person Zach Taylor, Public Relations Coordinator Candance Greene and myself. We’ll continue to listen to your ideas on how to best communicate so that you can be informed on the issues that matter most to you. You deserve nothing less than professional and prompt responses from BTU field staff and towards that end I have implemented a new policy that member communications must be responded to within 24 business hours. If BTU field staff do not get back to you in that time please email Tiffany McCallister, Office Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disasters of this scale expose and exacerbate already existing inequalities that confront our entire state. These inequalities such as the digital divide are felt even more acutely by the families BTU members serve. The 2013 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau ranked Baltimore 261 out of 296 cities surveyed when it comes to households with internet connections. Disaggregated data shows that lower-income and racial minority households are disproportionately disconnected from the internet and lack desktops, laptops, and electronic tablets at home. I am working with Baltimore City Council members to provide the necessary emergency funding to equip our young people with the tools they need to navigate long-distance long-term learning, participate in Baltimore’s YouthWorks program, and maintain social and emotional connections to their loved ones.
The union’s work expands beyond the city level, and in a normal year, we would be in the streets celebrating the Maryland General Assembly’s passage of the Blueprint for Maryland’s future, the most significant infusion of resources into Maryland’s public schools in multiple decades. Your emails and phone calls to legislators, attendance at rallies, and policy feedback resulted in legislation that was greatly improved from its original first reader version. We will continue to fight for the reform’s full funding, implementation, and revisions where necessary.
I remain honored to serve as your president. Together, we are a force for change in our city and state. When we fight, we win!
President Diamonté Brown