The Norman Public Schools Board of Education held a special meeting July 20 where, as a parent of Norman Schools students, I gave a public comment along with seven Norman teachers.
Earlier that day, I with two other Norman parents sent an email containing an open letter to district leadership and the school board with over 2,000 signatures from Norman schools parents, staff, and community members, urging the district to delay the start of in-person instruction until it was safe for teachers and students to return and the spread of COVID-19 is under control.
I learned Monday night my fears for sending my children back to school in-person mirrored our teachers’, and I am urging our community to push the district again to delay the start of any in-person instruction.
An hour before the meeting began at 6, Superintendent Nick Migliorino sent out a districtwide update, announcing that Norman teachers would be leading a limited portion of the online instruction options for students this year, answering to an extent a request in the open letter and widespread concern in our district.
I almost lost my nerve after reading this email as I waited in the lobby for the board meeting, but I ultimately stood firm in my statement to delay the start of instruction.
But then, seven Norman teachers bravely stood up and gave heartfelt and heart-wrenching comments, testifying on the record about their deep fears for returning to the classroom as the pandemic surges in our state unmitigated.
Our teachers talked about what it felt like to lose colleagues, to lose students, and how they’ve prepared their wills they hope not to use for 40 more years. They despaired at the prospect of losing colleagues and students if we reopen schools in August. And I realized, I hadn’t even tapped the depth of concern in my comment to the district.
Here’s where my problem lies: At the end of the meeting, a school board member asked why teachers felt their voices weren’t heard, and if teachers had been on the back-to-school task force. Please note, this board member did not even know what the task force was called. And he obviously did not know who was on it.
Dr. Migliorino said, yes, teachers were on the task force.
There were, in fact, no current, full-time classroom teachers on the task force listed by NPS, only a teacher/librarian.
Norman parents, we have work to do for our teachers who work so hard for our children.
To diminish the teachers’ pleas for their lives and workplace safety by asking if their voices were simply “heard,” greatly understates the gravity of their comments Monday night.
This is where we need to step in, Norman parents. And quickly. Over 2,000 of us signed a letter that at its heart insisted the district ensure our teachers have a safe workplace. If teachers are safe, our kids are safe.
That did not seem to register with the school board or administration Monday evening. Our teachers pled for their lives. Our job now is to amplify these concerns, harnessing the energy of the 2,000 people who signed our letter to push the district further, and protect our teachers.
Please call the district and the school board and ask them to protect our teachers and children by delaying the start of in-person instruction. Oklahoma City Public Schools did it Tuesday night. Schools nationwide have done the same. We can do it, too.
For our teachers. And our children.
Martin is the parent of three children in Norman Public Schools.