Fort Smith Public Schools apologizes after backlash over "teacher appreciation week" post

On National Teacher Appreciation Day, Fort Smith Public Schools posted to their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, a picture of a note and pen as a "token of appreciation" for their teachers.

Despite their other efforts to show their teachers appreciation this week, like greeting teachers with thank you signs and pompoms, this post continued to receive backlash.

The post received over 700 comments and 360 shares on Facebook, some from former and current teachers.

Chris Rink commented, "What a slap in the face for all teachers. A 10¢ pen and a printed note. Why is the district advertising this pitiful attempt at appreciation. Why not give them the 14% raise the superintendent got. Do better FSPS!"

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Ben Webber commented on the post, "This coming on the tail of a $675 “raise” when the superintendent got a huge raise. Teachers took a 7.5% pay cut last year due to inflation and he’s getting a 14% raise. Pitiful on the school district."

Many commenters used the same phrase to describe the post, "a slap in the face."

FSPS captioned the photo "In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week 2022, every FSPS teacher and staff member across the district will receive a pen with this note as a token of appreciation for all they do for our students."
FSPS captioned the photo "In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week 2022, every FSPS teacher and staff member across the district will receive a pen with this note as a token of appreciation for all they do for our students."

Retired teacher Kathie Wheeler Pattermann said "Wow! Had I not retired in January 2020, this right here would certainly qualify as the straw that broke the camel's back. I cannot even imagine how you felt receiving this, especially after the last two years of added stress and turmoil. It's a bit telling."

Former teacher Brenda Corbin Kesner expressed her opinion about the appreciation week at FSPS.

"I retired after 36 years and we usually received something with the logo on it and cookies or donuts in the lounge. Remember this district has about 2700 employees and yes they are not all teachers. Just like a previous post mentioned there are all kinds of celebrations going on at each campus. Teacher Appreciation is also designed for students and parents to show their gratitude. So unless you have been gracious with your gratitude to a teacher stop complaining."

Former teacher Susan Parker Griswold said she was "loving the comments."

"At Northside back in the 90s, we got nothing. At Darby, a box of apples was left in the office and we could each take one. Nothing has changed, and if cancer gave me one good thing, it was early retirement!"

The school district quickly commented on the post to remind users of their community guidelines.

"The FSPS Facebook page is intended to serve as a resource for students, families, district employees and the general public. Read our Facebook Community Guidelines here: Fort Smith Social Media Guidelines."

After more comments from users about this redirect to their guidelines, the school district issued an apology last night on Facebook stating:

"Please accept our sincerest apologies for suggesting that a sparkle pen is an adequate token of appreciation for the incredibly important work that teachers and education teams accomplish each day.

The sparkle pen and note was sent by the FSPS Guiding Coalition as an inexpensive but fun everyday kind of treat like the peppermint patties and bags of chips sent to the staff in the months before.

Our teachers are our greatest asset and we celebrate them every day in Fort Smith Public Schools."

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Current teacher, Shay Kane Winn said she personally appreciated the gesture and knew what her salary would be before taking a teaching job in the district.

"I also knew the pay scale for those in the state and how it compared," she said on the post. "Do I think I am worth more? Yes. This job is mentally and emotionally damaging, yet very rewarding. I took a pay cut when moving here, but I knew that. If I were a single parent I wouldn’t be able to make it … I am aware that there are those out there struggling as a single parent and can see where the frustrations are. I am just thankful for a secure job and if it gets to the point to where I am disgruntled with pay or workload, I will find a new job. I can use my new pen to write a thank you note."

The apology post has already racked up over 150 comments and 40 shares.

This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: FSPS faces backlash over lack of teacher appreciation this week