Allen Riedel’s Speech at Last Weeks School Board Meeting
Here is the great speech Allen gave last week.
Good evening esteemed members of the board, Superintendent McCormick, administration, parents, community members, classified staff, students and fellow Val Verde teachers:
My name is Allen Riedel and I am a teacher at Citrus Hill HS. I was hired by Superintendent McCormick 10 years ago, and I must say that I was very pleased to hear that he(you) had been hired as our newest superintendent. When Mr. McCormick spoke to me after my interview a decade ago, he told me that he could tell by what I said that it was evident that I cared about children.
When I walk into a classroom, the students in front of me become my students, and some of your children have been in my classroom, now, by default, they are my children too. I have worked in Val Verde for years, and what I see are these values reflected in our teachers. And our students know it.
I’ve heard many things over the years, specifically mottoes such as “No Excuses”, the “Val Verde Way”, and “Be the Change.” I personally have taken to heart those phrases, my colleagues have too, in fact, we’ve embodied them. It is as evident in our proclamations as it is in our results. Val Verde teachers have endeavored to succeed with every twist and new direction the district and country has taken. Not only have we endeavored, but we have accomplished so much that our schools have become the talk of the county, of the state, indeed of the very nation. Other districts around our state with similar demographics are looking to us to find out exactly how we do it. Up until now, we’ve been doing it by building the staff of this district. We have recruited and retained the highest quality of educator. It has even been said that the skill and knowledge of our staff is our greatest asset in a 2015-2016 welcome letter.
But, I wonder what we as a district are building. I know we are literally building a new high school, the last time we built one of those, there was quite an extensive bit of fallout. I work there, I know how special Citrus Hill is, but I also know that VVTA accepted and took the hardest hits because of my school. Teachers were asked to sacrifice, and we did, and we have. Those cuts stayed in place until only very recently, and with monies available, the time is now to rebuild and truly put the future of the district first. It is the time to show that excellence and equity exist for our greatest assets and the future of our students and district.
As it stands, we have a membership where 40% of us pay around $1000 a month or more for health benefits for our families. How does a district attract and keep young teachers who might one day be the sole supporter or at least sole insurance carrier for their family (maybe a 60% chance)? If we are really a district that cares about children, what message is implicitly being sent to the young teachers thinking of starting their own families? Their own careers in this district? We are asking for a raise that is comparable to other districts in the area, I do not feel we are necessarily even asking for what we are truly worth, not with our gains and successes. Perhaps that is why there is an impasse, as people do not often value what they receive cheaply.
What are we building when the districts around us haven’t succeeded in the way we have, with testing, with AP, with AYP and API, with childhood literacy yet they are all receiving higher increases? What message does that send about the Val Verde Way? What message does it send to our greatest asset?
I’ve been here long enough to know many of you in administration, and I know that you feel the same amount of passion for this district as I do. I want to implore you to not let the things we are building get in the way of the relationships that we build. The greatest actions we have taken as a union have been wearing t-shirts and exclamatory statements of simply working the contract, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen a teacher who does simply that. We all care a great deal about this district, our jobs and our students.
When I started here, I was still a “young” teacher, now I’m not that anymore, but the teachers who are coming aboard after me seem to be cut from the same cloth and I see that dedication to student and craft and what can only be called The Val Verde Way, it’s almost magical. Are we as a district willing to gamble on that? Again, what exactly are we building?
Lastly, Mr. McCormick and I share a few things in common: we both love Val Verde, we both have spectacular bald heads, and we both have identical twin daughters. My girls are now entering the sixth grade, and they’ve looked forward to coming to the high school where their daddy teaches for about as long as they could form sentences. I’m hoping that in three years’ time, we will have continued to build the types of schools and teachers that we all believe in. I’m hoping that instead of quibbling, the district will see its way to approving what is fair. It’s logical and it’s simply the right thing to do.