Adventures in Podcasting

Photo by Tommy Lopez on Pexels.com

This morning I spotted an article in the NYTimes, A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Into Podcasts. Podcasts are au courant these days and it seems as if everyone is starting one. Hey, maybe that explains why my partner-in-podcasting, Mickie Dumont and I have one.

Around the time that the Janus Decision was handed down by the Supreme Court, we started to think about an efficient way to get a lot of information out to people. The Janus case had some intricacies – historic and legal – that we wanted our UTL members to know about, but we felt we needed a new way to communicate that would allow members to multi-task.

From our first informational podcast, we have grown to include some introductions to amazing people working on members’ behalf at the Local and AFT-MA levels. And one of the most amazing and gratifying opportunities has come from talking to our UTL495 members, allowing them to share the phenomenal work they do each and every day.

We just posted one of those member spotlight segments this morning: a podcast interview with STEM Academy Newcomer Teacher and WGBH Educator Ambassador, Mariana Athayde. We invite you to listen to Mariana, who is joined by Lowell Technology Integration Specialist, Kara Wilkins, and WGBH Senior Manager Training and Educator Engagement, about the Educator Ambassador program and to learn about some of the outstanding resources available to every educator through WGBH/PBS LearningMedia.

We have 28 weekly podcast episodes posted on our podcast website, www.utl495-straighttalk.com. We invite you to browse the episodes we’ve posted on the website, listen, feedback and – if you like what you hear – subscribe to the podcast on ApplePodcasts.

Diversify and Commit

The Lowell Public Schools has a racially and ethnically diverse student population. This chart generated by Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) gives some insight into that.

Data from http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/student.aspx?orgcode=01600000&orgtypecode=5&

The teaching workforce, however, looks like this:

While the school building administrators (Principals and LSAA) looks like this:

With all the research – Google to find more – on diversification of the workforce and the positive impact on students, clearly Lowell needs to step up.

Lowell also needs to put far more serious import and effort into Human Resources and Recruiting. Recently, both the Interim director of Human Resources AND the Assistant HR Director left their positions. The School Department’s CFO is apparently attempting to take on many of the HR Director’s responsibilities.

In my opinion, that is definitely NOT OKAY. In order to recruit and retain diverse, qualified candidates for positions within the Lowell Public Schools, this department needs a full-time and, dare I say, professionally trained HR Director. If Lowell Public Schools is serious about diversifying the workforce to be more of a reflection of the students in our schools, throwing off the tasks of HR onto the responsibilities of the finance officer, who already has a pretty full plate, is ridiculous.

However, along with giving the Human Resources Department the resources – human (oh the irony) and fiscal – to begin to diversify the school work force, there needs to be other considerations that will call for a long-term remedy. Can Lowell can “grow their own” diverse education workforce? Read more about how one district in Oregon is doing just that.

Some years ago, Lowell had a program for Paraprofessionals that would enable those interested to pursue certification as educators, although at the time, I believe the certification was limited to Special Education. Would Lowell be willing to invest whatever monetary expense might be needed to help our Paraprofessionals transition to licensure as educators?

We also need to do a little soul-searching on how attractive a career in education may appear to students in secondary schools. Are there internships that could be explored for High School age students? Can Lowell partner with MCC and UML to make a degree in education affordable and accessible for LHS students who commit to working in District?

The conversations have started, and that is encouraging. But to achieve the vision of having a diverse education workforce reflective of our students here in Lowell, there will need to be some other commitments made. Let’s put our money where our mouths are.