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OCPS- History Will Be Your Judge

August 10, 2020

A status hearing was conducted today to set dates for the lawsuit OCCTA filed against Orange County Public Schools. (Fox 35)

The court hearing dates have been set as follows:

Friday, August 14, 2020 - Two hour hearing at 8:30 a.m. to discuss the threshold of legal issues

Monday, August 17, 2020 at 1:30 - A 3.5 hour evidentiary hearing on CTA’s claim for injunctive relief to enforce public records law (if the judge decides on Friday that an immediate hearing is appropriate)

Wednesday, August 19, 2020 - A full-day evidentiary hearing on CTA’s claim to enjoin the District from unsafely reopening schools until an arbitrator makes a determination on the grievance. (if the judge decides on Friday that he has the authority to hear that claim)

The District still has not responded to our class action grievance that was filed on 7-24-2020. We asked for it to be "expedited and submitted to an arbitrator immediately to be heard and decided within 72 hours of this grievance."  

When it came down to making a decision about reopening schools, District leaders had a choice. It seems that our District leaders felt that the implicit threat of losing funds outweighed the threat of losing lives.  The District choice was funds over lives. Even at the hearing today, the District's attorney John Palmerini said that the District would lose FTE funding if the District did not consent to a brick and mortar reopening.  

The State responded to the School Board’s waiver request with the response that the local district has the authority to make decisions on reopening schools.  To quote the letter: “. . . the decision to open or close a traditional public school in Orange County rests with the School Board of Orange County. As a result, the waiver you have requested is unnecessary.”

Still, our leaders acted as followers, not leaders. It is difficult to watch District leaders defend their choice, as we listen to some lament that they "cannot sleep at night" because of the difficult decision and situation. Please do not ask for our pity. We do not feel pity for you because you had to make a difficult decision. That is what leaders are called on to do. You will have to live with and take responsibility for your decision that will surely be at the expense of the health and safety of innocent people. 

Other school districts and local and state leaders are not following, but they are leading as they base decisions on not what they are allegedly told they must do, but on what is the right and moral thing to do.

What is the current status as far as COVID-19 cases in Florida?  NBC News reported  that "Florida shattered its record for weekly hospitalizations, making it one of the biggest coronavirus hot spots in the nation." 

It was reported today: "There is a 90% spike in positive COVID-19 cases among children in the U.S. . . .Some health experts like Michael Osterholm, a director at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, are concerned another big spike in cases is on the way."

"We think we're going to see an explosion of cases in September that will far surpass what we saw after Memorial Day and this is just going to continue increasing, getting higher and higher in terms of numbers."

We are calling on educators, parents and community members to join us today as we remind our School Board members and District leaders to reverse the dangerous decision to reopen schools on August 21, 2020.

Car caravan

Why Did OCCTA File a Lawsuit?

OCCTA filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Public Schools regarding the School District’s failures to keep students, staff, and the community safe during this COVID-19 pandemic, and their refusal to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of educators and children regarding the safety of the OCPS community. This includes a list of schools and worksites with COVID-19 outbreaks and what is being done to sanitize those worksites and keep students, teachers and all employees safe. The community is entitled to information to make informed and fact-based decisions. 

Since the start of this pandemic, OCCTA has been fighting hard to keep our students, our educators, and the community safe. The District has not only failed to collaborate in good faith with us to work on real solutions and comprehensive plans, but it has failed to be transparent on safety-related information. Its actions and inaction put real lives at risk.

We should be working together on planning for the safe and effective re-opening of schools in Orange County. Instead, with just a few weeks to go, we are still in the dark about the District’s plans to keep students and teachers safe. Since the District leadership has shown that they will not stand up for the health and safety of this community, we have no choice but to challenge their illegal actions in court.

Every educator wants to get back to the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so.  That time has not arrived. We have a moral obligation to protect every student teacher and employee.

 

The Orange County Classroom Teachers Association Condemns the Attempts of District Leaders to Censor Our Messages

August 7, 2020

The OCCTA contract requires the President to send emails for the District to “review” before she is allowed to send them to the bargaining unit members using the OCPS email. Yesterday, the District rejected the email below from the union President.

Letter to Bargaining Unit Members

OCPS “Legal” (whoever that is) claimed that OCCTA's email communication is "derogatory to the board." Truth is derogatory? What is derogatory? Putting the lives of students, teachers and the community at risk is derogatory. What is derogatory? Censorship is derogatory. What is derogatory? Non-transparency is derogatory. What is derogatory? Making unilateral, reckless decisions outside of the bargaining table is derogatory. What is derogatory? Refusing to disclose the schools and worksites where employees or students tested positive COVID-19 is derogatory. What is derogatory? Day in and day out disrespect for teachers is derogatory.

Preusser email

Take Action! Please email the school board members and let them know how you feel about your current situation. Let them know how you feel about censorship and what your definition of derogatory is. 

School Board Member Email Addresses:

Teresa.Jacobs@ocps.net

Angela.Gallo@ocps.net

Johanna.Lopez@ocps.net

Linda.Kobert@ocps.net

Pamela.Gould@ocps.net

Kathleen.Gordon@ocps.net

Karen.Castordentel@ocps.net

Melissa.Byrd@ocps.net

Barbara.Jenkins@ocps.net

OCCTA will be announcing a major protest for next week

Please look for updates from Action Network if you are a member.  If you are not a member please join today! We are stronger together!

Below is the message to the bargaining unit:

 

OCCTA DECLARES IMPASSE

August 6, 2020

Today after weeks of unproductive bargaining with the District, the union declared impasse. Meeting after meeting, the District team came to the table unprepared, surface bargained at best and showed no interest in hearing teachers’ views or compromising.

What is Impasse? Either party can declare impasse when it becomes clear that there is no path to reaching an agreement.  Typically, the issues will be brought to a special magistrate for a ruling and then to the school board for a decision. OCCTA hopes that the District will waive a special magistrate hearing so we can go directly to the school board to resolve these life and death issues. We will continue to attempt to bargain in the meantime.

If you watched the bargaining sessions, you could understand that the parties are hundreds of miles apart. (Some bargaining sessions are posted on OCCTA’s Facebook page at this link: https://www.facebook.com/OCCTA7448.)

At every bargaining meeting, the members of our bargaining team have read passionate emails from concerned teachers. The District's bargaining  team members never responded. Not one word. Not one empathetic statement. Not one expression of compassion or understanding. They never responded to the emails from teachers who pleaded for adequate PPE or any PPE. They never responded to the emails from teachers who begged for schools to be kept closed because they were terrified to risk their health or their family’s health.  They never responded to the emails from the teachers who said they were ready to walk away from the profession that they loved. They never responded to the emails where the teacher expressed concern about showing up at their school only to discover it was closed for cleaning due to an employee having tested positive for COVID-19. They never responded to any one concern or plea. Not one.

Below is the statement from President Doromal:

Today, August 6, 2020, the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association (“OCCTA”) declared impasse after reaching a deadlock with the Orange County Public Schools (“OCPS”) regarding the District’s unsafe re-opening plan. The OCPS proposed plan threatens the health and lives of the over 14,000 educators represented by OCCTA, their students, their families, and the community at large.

Teachers want to return to on-site instruction more than anyone. However, we must re-open brick-and-mortar safely. In the middle of the uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19 in Orange County, the District is forcing thousands of teachers to engage in face-to-face instruction while refusing to listen to the advice and guidance of health experts across the state and the nation. The District has rejected the implementation of all CDC recommendations proposed by the Union. Instead, the District ambiguously proposed to rely on the recommendations of local health officials and “industry guidance”—without any commitment to follow even those recommendations and without the ability to answer what it would do if those recommendations conflict with each other or with the CDC and other national health authorities.

Further, other than vaguely stating that Dr. Raul Pino, Interim Director of the FL DOH in Orange County, spoke at two Board meetings, the District is unable to confirm affirmative assurance from any health expert that it is safe to open brick-and-mortar schools on August 21 or that it is safe to ignore the guidance of the CDC.

The District has failed to meaningfully engage with stakeholders including educators, parents, and health experts. The District has failed to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of students and educators regarding the safety of the OCPS community. The District has failed to bargain in good faith. The District has failed to listen to the science. The District has failed its students and educators.

With the start of the 2020-2021 School Year only 4 days away, and with students scheduled to return to in-person instruction in just two weeks, there is no time to allow the District to continue to stall at the bargaining table. The Union was left with no choice but to declare impasse to get these serious disputes resolved before it’s too late.

OCCTA and the thousands of teachers it represents implore the School Board to act with urgency to protect the lives of our students, educators and community.

OCCTA FILES A LAWSUIT AGAINST THE DISTRICT

July 30, 2020

OCCTA filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Public Schools regarding the School District’s failures to keep students, staff, and the community safe during this COVID-19 pandemic, and their refusal to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of educators and children regarding the safety of the OCPS community. This includes a list of schools and worksites with COVID-19 outbreaks and what is being done to sanitize those worksites and keep students, teachers and all employees safe. The community is entitled to information to make informed and fact-based decisions. 

Since the start of this pandemic, OCCTA has been fighting hard to keep our students, our educators, and the community safe. The District has not only failed to collaborate in good faith with us to work on real solutions and comprehensive plans, but it has failed to be transparent on safety-related information. Its actions and inaction put real lives at risk.

We should be working together on planning for the safe and effective re-opening of schools in Orange County. Instead, with just a few weeks to go, we are still in the dark about the District’s plans to keep students and teachers safe. Since the District leadership has shown that they will not stand up for the health and safety of this community, we have no choice but to challenge their illegal actions in court.

Every educator wants to get back to the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so.  That time has not arrived. We have a moral obligation to protect every student teacher and employee.

To view the lawsuit: CLICK HERE

For a summary of the lawsuit: CLICK HERE

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