OPINION: Open letter to the Grand Prairie School Board on behalf of the teachers

June 2020 GPISD Scchool Board Meeting Photo Credit: GPISD

By: Malcom Chakery

Dear Grand Prairie ISD School Board and Superintendent Linda Ellis,

As the editor of the Grand Prairie News, I am writing in support of our local teachers. I ask that you give them the bonuses and stipends that they deserve during the pandemic. While other area districts have paid their teachers the additional pay that they deserve for their work during this time, Grand Prairie ISD has failed to do so. This situation is untenable. The teachers in the Grand Prairie ISD selflessly give of themselves while risking their safety to ensure that our children receive the education that they need and deserve. However, they have gone unrecognized for their efforts for long enough.

Despite the great risks that teachers in Grand Prairie face each day, they have not received the raise or bonuses that they deserve. Teachers arrive at their schools early in the morning every day and continue working late into the evening trying to ensure that their students continue to learn in a difficult environment. They do their jobs because of the love that they have for the children of Grand Prairie and a deep desire to help them to enjoy bright futures. Many of our teachers in Grand Prairie are at a high risk of contracting COVID-19 because of age or underlying health conditions, but they continue to go to work to try to give their students a sense of normalcy and to encourage continued learning.

Despite the vital work that teachers in Grand Prairie do, they do not receive salaries that are commensurate with the services they offer. Many teachers are forced to take on second jobs simply to make ends meet. Some educators have lost second jobs because of the economic downturn, and others have found themselves as the sole providers for their families because of the loss of their partners’ jobs. Recently, educators in the school district and the community mourned the loss of two members of the Grand Prairie ISD family due to the COVID. Even with the knowledge of all of the challenges that our teachers are facing, the school district has still not rewarded its teachers for their hard work and dedication during this challenging time.

Surrounding school districts understand the important work of their teachers. Duncanville ISD recently gave its teachers stipends of $2,000 to thank them for their work for students during the pandemic. Similarly, Fort Worth ISD gave each full-time employee a one-time $1,000 bonus and each part-time employee a one-time $500 bonus for their willingness to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cedar Hill ISD recently approved a 3% salary adjustment for all auxiliary staff and a stipend for all of the district’s staff to thank them for their dedication and reliability. While these other districts have acted, Grand Prairie ISD has failed to do so.

While money is always a concern for school boards and superintendents, there are several ways that Grand Prairie ISD could fund bonuses or raises for our dedicated teachers. The district recently contracted to sell real estate located at Camp Wisdom and Robinson. The money realized from the sale could help to support raises or bonuses for teachers. The district could also sell the unused million-dollar property located across the street from Tom Thumb commonly referred to as the TxDOT property instead of allowing it to lie in waste. You could also hold off on spending 14 million for network routers and switches and invest in your teachers. As the school board and superintendent of the Grand Prairie school district, it is your responsibility to look for needed sources to provide teachers with the relief they need.

While I understand that teachers had $900 added to their salaries at the end of last year we know that those funds came from the State of Texas through House Bill 3. That is insufficient to keep up with inflation and the cost of benefits and you are aware of that. Two years ago, former superintendent Dr. Susan Hull saw fit to give all the teachers a $500 Christmas bonus. However, the teachers have not received bonuses since that time.

If we expect our teachers to go above and beyond to inspire learning, teach beyond the test, and help to mold our children into the leaders of tomorrow, we have to be willing to give back in thanks for their hard work. Grand Prairie ISD should not lag behind other districts. Instead, I urge you to take action and provide the educators in our district with the financial help that they deserve during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. When teachers are not paid what they deserve, they might be tempted to head to districts where their work is more valued. So let’s stop chasing blue ribbons and invest in human capital. Teachers are already emailing you asking for help. Will you answer the call?