For Rebekah Cohen Morris, speaking often about issues is a way to shine a light on problems and seek solutions. Even so, she said going outside official district channels was a last resort.
“The issues teachers and students faced — and still face — in DeKalb were not things I could ignore,” said Morris, who returned to Gwinnett County Schools last fall after several years teaching for DeKalb Schools, which she left in 2017. “I went through the chain of command multiple times before deciding to “tweet” about something, speak to the press, or speak before the (school board). I tried to work with parents in the district to raise their concerns. I sent emails and had multiple meetings with my local school principal, assistant principals, school technology coordinators, etc.
“When none of these avenues seemed to work, I decided the issues were just too important and that this was negatively impacting kids’ achievement with every day that passed without action.”
She said, “I decided that if speaking up meant I didn’t get promoted — or that I would eventually face retaliation — it was worth it because kids and teachers deserve well-functioning, safe, and successful schools. I felt that it was morally wrong to sit by and let months of inaction pass, when I knew there was something more that I could do.”
This week, Morris posted several dozen photos of maintenance issues at Cary Reynolds and Montclair elementary schools — DeKalb schools — showing missing ceiling tiles, chipped paint, overflowing trash receptacles and trash cans placed under leaks in roofs, catching the falling water.
After speaking for this article, she said "I'm not going to be sick to my stomach all day. I'm going to go teach in my classroom and work with students and try to make small impacts in individual lives. Which really is all that many teachers want to do."
DeKalb County School District teacher Monise Seward said she’s spoken to reporters over the years because she wanted to make sure an accurate narrative was being given.
“I don’t want anyone to be my representative,” said Seward, who teaches at Henderson Middle School. “I don’t trust anyone to deliver my message. It could be tailored to fit the ‘everything’s fine’ narrative. Public education is too steeped in politics and appearances. No one wants to hear the truth.”