On Monday, May 10, the SAISD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to terminate kindergarten teacher Rachell Tucker and two other teachers on temporary contracts, despite the calls of nearly two dozen community members, parents, and the teachers’ union supporting Tucker and the other teachers. La Prensa Texas has chosen to publish Tucker’s statement to the board of trustees, which she delivered in public comments to the board at the May 10 meeting. We welcome a reply from the SAISD board of trustees so that the community can have an open dialogue regarding the termination of teachers by the board and the continued deteriorating relations between the board, district administration and teachers, the union, parents, students, and community members. The petition reads as follows:
My name is Rachell Tucker. I am the dual language Kinder teacher at Highland Park Elementary, a veteran of the US Army and hold a Masters in Bilingual Bicultural Studies. I have been deeply honored to teach in my community.
I come before the board today not because I have failed as an educator. This has nothing to do with my performance. – which really no teacher, unless they have done something completely heinous, should be fired or forced to resign for performance during this pandemic. My name, my career and my livelihood are all being defamed by my administration. The request for termination is the culmination of a campaign of harassment that started only after I advocated for the safety of my students, fellow teachers and my community.
I love my community, that is why once the pandemic hit I saw what was possible, what is now our reality. San Antonio has over 3 thousand dead and over 200K who have been infected. Victims include family members of my students, coworkers who have had family members die or have gotten sick themselves and passed it onto their families. This pandemic has ravaged our community and continues to do so. Since last May I have advocated for the health and safety of my community with the San Antonio Coalition on School Reopening. I voiced concerns about health and safety publicly, to my coworkers, and to administration. My
administration does not live in the Highland Park community. I question whether they feel what I feel when I saw letter after identical letter of positive cases at my school. Documenting cases and contact tracing were just another box to check.
The district made promises to staff, students, parents and the community to get students to come in person. It is now clear there was no intent to adhere to those promises. One example includes the safety measure to close schools if outbreak was rampant. They defined this as a 10% test positivity rate. When that number was reached, schools did not close. When it went as high as 26 percent positivity, schools did not close. Instead, you changed your safety plan and pursued the narrative that the ‘community,’ not schools, were the source of outbreak. What are schools to you, if not part of our community? Spread happens at our schools – not acknowledging that simple fact illustrates your deception and culpability.
The district’s work vaccinating teachers could have been a celebrated accomplishment if it was followed by an equally strong effort to vaccinate the community. Instead, teachers and parents were pressured to bring kids into the classroom even more than before – opening up to 80 percent, with some classes in my school having no more kids online. Our students, and many of their caretakers, are still not vaccinated, yet teachers felt pressured to call students back for testing purposes. Safety
standards continue to relax, which speaks to how much the communities they service are valued.
Why is it so wrong to ask questions of the institutions that we all trust to teach and keep the next generation safe? Why am I being terminated, defamed and disrespected for standing up for myself and my community? Why did people try to convince me to resign instead of stand before you today? Why do you say we have had a choice all along – when that choice is to leave our profession – our livelihood and passion – if we do not feel safe? This is no choice at all. Why am I being held accountable for the failings of this district?
I was an all around proficient teacher last year, still with a lot to learn and willing to do so. This year, according to my administration, I am the worst teacher and the only teacher on the campus that needed a growth plan during a pandemic year for classroom management. This added so much more stress on me that I have lost 15 pounds and I have had to file for a readjustment to my VA disability for anxiety. Everytime I hear keys on my door I get scared because I knew it was going to be a negative walkthrough. I was the only teacher that has found hybrid education challenging according to them. I say all this because there is a double standard, there is no empathy or understanding and certainly no mercy. My working environment was hostile from all of my leadership.
I was actively targeted by the administration for my advocacy for the safety of our communities. I have documented an entire year of attack, dishonesty and degradation for speaking up against unsafe practices in the midst of the devastating pandemic. This kind of political targeting shouldn’t be at the core of our educational practices.
In closing, Here are my demands: First of all, I ask that the board vote to retain my position at Highland Park Elementary without prejudice or retaliation.
In order to support me in being the best educator for my students, I ask for the Professional Growth Plan that was placed on me for performance during a pandemic year in the midst of hybrid learning as a punitive move for my advocacy for teachers, students and families be removed. My record should be wiped clean of any and all punitive measures, including negative evaluations. Furthermore, I request that for all future meetings I am granted union representation upon request and that the San Antonio Alliance for Teachers and Support Staff be granted access to the campus.
Finally, I request that the Principal and Vice Principal of Highland Park elementary school themselves be placed on a professional growth plan for the duration of one year that supports them in creating a working environment that encourages teacher retention and builds the kind of community relationships that best supports our students and our families.