Friday, September 12, 2008

Question & Comment

At the community information meeting hosted by the SEA last night (Setp. 11), people were encouraged to write their questions on paper to have them addressed.

One paper read aloud gave the opinion that there should be specific qualifications to be a school board member: that the candidate be a parent with children in the school, and that they be a resident of the district.

First of all, in order to run for a public office you are required by law to be a resident of the district in which you run. All school board members are residents of their school district, all across the nation.

In addition, our district consists of a majority of residents who do not have school-age children. Yet, every resident in our district pays school taxes. Was the writer of this note suggesting that 2/3 of our residents should not have representation on the school board?

For the record, the current school board consists of 3 members with children in our schools and 2 who have no school-age children.

That brings me to another point. It is important to remember that this board has been uanimous in its approach to contract negotiations. One member is married to a Swanton school teacher - three members have children in the system. One member is a teacher himself in a neighboring district. This board is keenly aware of the detrimental effect these stalled negotiations have on our community.

That is why we unanimously agreed to the offer we have placed on the table. Although I cannot give specific details without having the SEA file an Unfair Labor Practice action against us, what I can tell you is that the general increase percentage we are offering is higher than the percentage increases the teachers happily agreed to in at least 5 of the past 7 years. In addition, at our August meeting we increased their insurace benefits - and our contract offer does not include a premium increase for those increased benefits.

I am at a loss to understand their refusal to accept this offer.

One comment told to me is that our carryover "belongs to the teachers". Actually, the carryover belongs to the entire district, some of which will be used for the teachers, and some that will be used for other things that benefit a broader base than teachers alone.

This morning, we learned of further state budget cuts from Governor Strickland - some of which will affect school districts across the state. It's not that your state taxes are being lowered - rather, we won't be getting as much returned to our district. That fact affects our residents and our teachers (no matter where they live). Schools across the state are reeling from one cut after another from Strickland's administration. With our economy still depressed (have you seen the unemployment numbers for Fulton and Lucas Counties?), it is very difficult to predict the future of state school funding. Our plan at Swanton is cautious - yet we want to give our teachers a fair raise (again - we're offering a higher percentage than what they happily accepted in 5 of the past 7 years). Plus, we have offered a 2 year contract. Board members have unanimously agreed that this offer is fair - reasonable - and still allows us to remain fiscally responsible.

Our offer sounds like a "win - win" situation to me.

For an insight into what issues are valid when calling for a teachers' union strike, go to the National Education Association website (the national teachers' union) and key in "strike" into the search box. I'm certain you will find it interesting.

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