DISD Teachers Claim ‘Culture of Contempt’


DISD Administration building | Image by Stacy Rickard/Spectrum News

There was a common thread to many of the public comments made during Thursday’s Dallas Independent School District (DISD) Board of Trustees meeting, as the district was repeatedly accused of ignoring the concerns of both hardworking teachers and staff.

More than a dozen members of the Alliance-AFT teachers union wore red and stood up in solidarity with the various teachers voicing their complaints to the board.

Many of the complaints were centered around teacher retention and how the administration has allegedly been treating teachers and staff.

Andrew Kirk, a social studies teacher at Sunset High School, said teachers and staff needed to be treated with dignity and respect.

“Our schools are in the midst of a crisis of morale, but one that was largely avoidable,” Kirk said. “I say this because many of the issues affecting us did not just start at the district, but the practice of education as a whole.”

As previously reported in The Dallas Express, the phenomenon of teachers with low morale looking to get out of the profession is statewide, with low pay and high stress playing important factors in an individual’s consideration of quitting teaching.

Kirk said the Alliance-AFT union has been raising some of these issues for decades.

“Teachers are collapsing under an untenable burden of mandates and duties, assessments that produce little data of instructional value, and regimentation that dehumanizes students and teachers alike,” Kirk stated.

“School nurses and counselors whose real incomes declined last year against inflation are increasingly seeking better options elsewhere,” he added.

Kirk also noted that some bilingual staff members were basically working as translators on top of their regular duties without additional pay. He suggested they should receive a stipend.

“So many teachers are taking that on, and there’s no compensation for it,” he said.

Another teacher spoke up and claimed that the chemistry teacher who originally inspired her to become an educator would never have passed the intensive evaluations new teachers must undergo as part of their training.

“I find it hard to seek advice from [administrators] because [their] suggestions are [to put] a ton of … rubric sections and district mandates that sound like buzzing in my head, not authentic dialogue about the art of teaching,” said math teacher Rosie Kurtz.

“I’m trying to be a great teacher, but the district doesn’t want to help me with that. They want to put me in a box and give me a script. All that does is demoralize,” she said.

Elizabeth Farris, who spoke at a previous DISD meeting covered by The Dallas Express, also spoke about some of the frustrations DISD teachers were having with the district.

“The moment we start to manage people as if they are things, we’re going to end up with no people and a lot of things,” said Farris, who said she felt people working in the district were not being treated like people. “As such, we are experiencing critical shortages of teachers.”

Farris further stated she felt there was a “culture of contempt” for teachers and students in the district.

“I do want to emphasize that we have some very good people in our central office,” she said. “They are eclipsed by the majority of people who have these concerns to maintain the status quo and, I quote, ‘protect their check,’ at whatever the cost to teachers and students on campuses.”

The Dallas Express reached out to DISD and asked about the accusations the teachers were making but did not immediately hear back.

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