The Paz Ten
By, Joey McDermott CTU Field Representative to UEU and Chi-ACTS
A group of ten teachers at Octavio Paz have been affectionately nicknamed "The Paz Ten" after going to great lengths to stand up for student safety. Beginning in the early fall, many long time staff noticed a change in school climate and student behavior. The teachers noticed bullying, disorderly students in the hallway and classroom behavior issues.
Many of these negative behaviors were new experiences for the staff. In the past, when incidents happened under the former administration, the director would communicate with the staff. The staff would be alerted, warned to take any pre-cautions – all while protecting the privacy of any individual students or staff involved. This year, that wasn’t happening. Incidents would happen, and then word spread throughout the school and not everybody really had a good indication of what actually happened.
The teachers attended regular all-staff and grade band meetings. On several occasions individual teachers asked questions of the director about the incidents they only heard about second hand. Teachers also asked the director to address some of the culture and climate concerns that they had. On several occasions the director told the staff, “this is not the right time,” or, “let’s schedule a meeting.” Each time they asked the principal to address the issue, the teachers feel like they were being disregarded and blown off.
On October 4, 2016, it came to their attention that there was a serious bullying issue at their school. A well-known and well-liked child and been hurt and the teachers were very disturbed by it. They went to their afterschool meeting intent on asking the director to address the issue with the entire staff. They were told that the director was not going to attend that day’s meeting, because she was in the main office.
Ten of the teachers then went to the director’s office to seek a conversation about an issue that was now deemed urgent. Too much had now happened, with no action or attendance, and this was the final act that moved the teachers into action.
The teachers respectfully entered the office, once the director was done with her appointment. They were turned away and told to make an appointment. The teachers pleaded with the director to address the issue right then, because it was so urgent and it involved the safety of the school. The principal, despite the pleading of the teachers, refused to meet and discuss the safety concerns and told them again to, “make an appointment.”
Several days later, each teacher was given a notice of an investigatory conference. The notice indicated that it, “might lead to discipline.” The teachers were alleged to have been insubordinate by refusing to leave the director’s office. The teachers were alleged to have “skipped” their after school meeting (for the four minutes they went to her office). The director then issued an official written reprimand for all the “Paz Ten” teachers they entered her office. One veteran teacher commented, “I never thought I would be reprimanded for going to speak with my director.”
Since then, all of the “Paz Ten” filed grievance to dispute the discipline and argue that this was not just cause. The Paz ten meet with the principal for ten individuals first step grievance meetings. Each teacher eloquently and passionately described the issues that lead to their sense of urgency on that date. They all described their frustrations in being rebuked and ignored when they tried to address the issues of the school.
Since the grievances, there have been some improvements in the school climate. The director also agreed to meet with the UEU building reps on a regular basis to discuss safety concerns and issues. The teachers, as a whole, are still concerned about safety issues but are pleased that things have turned a corner and shown some small signs of improvement.The Paz ten now await the fate of their grievance appeal hearing with the UCSN leadership. Let’s hope that they can see what the director failed to see. This was not insubordination or dereliction of any duty. This was a collective action taken by ten teachers that demanded better conditions for their students and their colleagues.