Testimony of Tasaday Messina to the Board of Education, August 15, 2019

Good afternoon.   I am entering my 20th year teaching special education.

I am committed and dedicated to my students and respected by parents and colleagues.

I am here today to speak up for my students who are being ignored, excluded and frequently forgotten.  I am speaking up for my colleagues who have become demoralized by the system. I am here for the parents who are not aware of what is happening.

I will no longer be silent about the deplorable conditions that we have for our most fragile students – the lack of support, minimal training and missing materials.  Yet we are still responsible for implementing interventions with fidelity and rigor and held accountable for showing data on legal documents.

This summer I have had the opportunity to teach in our ESY program.  I was given a roster of 52 students with a comment from leadership that ½ won’t show.  Why such low expectations and what was the plan if they all did show?

My ESY k-5 school does not have adequate resources to service our K-12 students.  Many classes have been combined into one room and the desks are too small for many of the students.

Would this happen in other neighborhoods that benefit from higher investment?  I am aware that the school district does have a handful of schools that are cared for and equipped with the resources they need.  Where is the equity of the school environment for our children? All Philadelphia public schools should have equal access to resources and safe spaces.  All of our students deserve to get what they need, not just the fortunate.

No ESY materials were not provided.  NOTHING! I BROUGHT MY OWN MATERIALS. Doctors are not expected to go into surgery without the necessary instruments or bring their own.  Why is it acceptable to expect teachers to do their jobs without the necessary tools or resources?

At ESY THERE WEREN’T any TEACHER  materials and in adequate professional development resulting in the inability to deliver instruction that is to be progressed monitored on the IEP.   The given scripted intervention program does not address each student’s individual goals as stated on their IEP. Feels like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Also our parents are being told that we provide free breakfast and lunch.  Yet most, if not all, of the food is frozen. Food that is not supposed to be frozen – like peaches, turkey sandwiches and milk.  My students sit hungry because the frozen food is inedible

We are aware that money has just been allocated. How will you distribute the funds? Will you include teachers input? We are the best resources you have to inform how the incoming $ will be spent in classrooms.  It’s time to put our money where our mouth is. It’s time we invest for better outcomes. It’s past time!

I am Tasaday Messina Member of Caucus working educators.