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Palm Beach County teachers' union president addresses school board on Wednesday

Justin Katz has 'grave concerns' as brick-and-mortar schools prepare to reopen
Posted at 11:04 AM, Sep 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 20:45:25-04

The president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, Justin Katz, addressed school board members on Wednesday about a list of "grave concerns" he has as students prepare to return to brick-and-mortar schools later this month.

During the meeting, Katz said the CTA's demand for the removal of the Human Resources Chief stands.

"This isn't about one individual, this is about accountability. This is about when an employee does something wrong and there are catastrophic consequences... if this had been in a classroom, if this had been a teacher, if this had been a bus driver who had dropped the ball in this manner they would have been written up, they would have been reprimanded and they might have been terminated. So what we are requesting is equity in treatment of employees. Whether you're making $14 an hour driving a bus, $25,000 a year as a teacher, or 6 figures as an employee that works in this building. When you make mistakes and it is determined that it was your fault you need to be held accountable," Katz said.

Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association President Justin Katz addresses Palm Beach County School Board members on Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Katz also expressed concerns that information regarding safety in the school, PPE, safety procedures, and things like spatial distancing of desks have not been conveyed well enough to employees so they are comfortable enough to return to classrooms soon.

Earlier this week, Katz sent a letter to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Fennoy, asking for the following:

  • Immediate removal and replacement of Chief of Human Resources Dr. Gonzalo La Cava
  • Fix the issue of simultaneous teaching (educators teaching both in-classroom and distance learning students at the same time)
  • More planning time during the school day for teachers
  • Better inform employees about all personal protective equipment and sanitization products available to them in classrooms and schools

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Katz said his biggest issue is communication, and teachers need to know more about what's expected of them when in-classroom instruction begins on Monday, Sept. 21.

"The worst thing a professional, someone who's dedicated can do is give 100% and fail because they didn't have the support in place to make them successful," Katz said during a news conference on Wednesday. "They're begging for help."

In Katz's letter, he said La Cava failed to create a policy for employees who have "legitimate medical needs" and can't return to brick-and-mortar schools for fear of contracting COVID-19.

"We cannot have leaders in high levels in the district who are capable of fumbling the ball so profoundly," Katz said.


CTA president holds news conference

It should be noted that the School District of Palm Beach County is now allowing teachers to apply for remote work for when brick-and-mortar schools reopen. To apply, click here.

With regard to simultaneous teaching, Katz called it an "abysmal failure" and a "Frankenstein model" in his letter, saying teachers have not been given enough instructions on how to do it effectively.

"We have not been given any actual guidance from the school district to date on how to accomplish that task," Katz said. "Someone's gotta tell us how to fly that plane."

Katz went onto say that many teachers remain in the dark about certain safety protocols for brick-and-mortar schools.

"We just have been told nothing. Teachers have been told nothing about what [personal protective equipment] they're going to be given, about what safety precautions are going to be taken in their classroom, let along school itself," Katz said.

WPTV reached out to the School District of Palm Beach County for a response to Katz's letter. A spokesperson said they received the letter, and the topics could be discussed at Wednesday's board meeting.