For me, the past three months have been full of intense conversations with members, families, students, and elected officials. In my visits to school buildings and worksites across the district, I have had valuable in-person conversations with so many members. Being in school buildings is scary right now, and members have shared with me that they are afraid. Many of our members who are reporting to work in school buildings don’t want to be in the position they are in. However, the fear that people are experiencing is making them more inclined to share stories. I think it’s important for all of us to share our experiences about being in school buildings, because our stories have power.
I have spoken to secretaries who don’t feel safe giving temperature checks, and don’t feel protected behind the flimsy desk shields that are supposed to be keeping them safe. Members also expressed concerns about being in the building without having the opportunity to be fully vaccinated (hopefully by the time you are reading this, members who want to be vaccinated have received their full vaccination). At one building I visited, a staff member who is also a parent of BCPSS students said that they think this entire school year needs to be chalked up, and that we should begin planning for next year and take the time to do it right. Their co-workers agreed. One educator who spoke up and shared their perspective made it safe for other staff members in the conversation to do the same.
While visiting Central Office I spoke with school police officers who expressed concerns about cleanliness and whether there was enough custodial staff and whether they have enough of the correct supplies to truly disinfect spaces the way they should be disinfected. A member of the custodial staff shared his concerns about the ventilation in his building and taught us how to use toilet paper to see if the ventilation system in a room was moving any air.
All of these stories have had a major impact on me. It gave me and continues to give me more strength to keep on fighting. I’m fighting so that the members who have to be in buildings in unsafe conditions can get what they need to feel safe. I’m fighting to keep even more people from having to go into unsafe conditions in the first place.
The opportunity to have in-person conversations with people is priceless, and although they are more difficult in a pandemic, in-person conversations build trust. When we trust each other and we have these relationships and connections based on in-person experiences, we can support each other and work together to fight for safety, and reasonable workloads, and for the resources we and our students need.
President Diamonté Brown