Friday, January 27, 2012

Cautiously Optimistic

A few teachers have asked a building administrator about their rights as SEA union members and how to best use those rights.  This is a huge first step in the right direction - I cannot emphasize that enough.  

Those of you out there in the SEA who may believe you are all alone in your desire to make things right in our district can take heart - you are NOT alone!  Stand firm on what is right and our entire district will benefit from your courage!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Challenge to the SEA

I have just seen the most recent propaganda piece by the SEA which has charged the Board of Education with breaking Ohio law in their implementation of the contract.  Specifically, the complaint (as listed in the flyer) states that a pay freeze on steps effective Sept. 1, 2011 was implemented.

Now - all of you who have read the Swanton Enterprise Letter to the Editor by Russ Griggs know that allegation is false.  All of you who have taken the time to go to the district website and read the actual contract language know that the allegation is completely FALSE.

Yet, this is the latest tactic by the OEA rep to stir up trouble in our community, and the SEA leadership is allowing him to do it by following his directives.  In addition, he has deliberately had them LIE about the facts by filing an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) which will now require more expenditure of district money to mediate in Columbus.  While the SEA members will bear no cost in the matter, your school district is now required to use precious district funds to state their case!  It would certainly be appropriate if the charges had even a hint of truth in them, but they are patently FALSE - and what's worse is that the OEA rep know they are false! 

So here is the challenge to the SEA members in our district:  Go to the school district website, all of you, to this page  - scroll down the page to the bottom and look in the right column for this button:  Swanton Teachers Deserve a Fair Contract.  There in the center of the page, click on "2011-2012 Board Implemented Contract" and read exactly what was put into place this past December.  In other words, do not take my word for it - read it for yourself!!

Then, SEA members, read over the flyer your "leadership" just put out that charges the BOE with breaking the law.  Use that educated brain that the good Lord has given you, and decide for yourself whether the OEA rep/SEA "leadership" has told the truth in this matter. 

THEN you must do one of two things:  either stand behind what has been done, fully understanding what you're doing - OR join with the others within your membership to remove those "leaders" from their positions of authority over you, and elect new ones to take their place.  That includes your OEA rep.  You either keep them all or toss them all.

This is a watershed situation and your personal character will be revealed.  You must choose.  You either stand with the Truth, or you stand with lies.  There is no middle ground.

Which will it be??

Thursday, January 19, 2012

TV Land


The vast majority of our teaching staff at Swanton are great.  They love their job, they honestly do care for the kids in their classrooms, and they do their best on a regular basis. 

I know there are a few bad apples - there are in any district - but by and large, we have good people. 

So why is it that when contract time rolls around every couple of years, some of these same people suddenly lose their good sense?  It's as if their OEA rep is able to to hypnotize them to swallow hook, line, and sinker, any and all drivel he can concoct.  He becomes their Svengali - their own perfectly good grey matter is put on a shelf and they blindly do whatever he commands.  It is downright bizarre! 

And not only does the SEA negotiating team fall victim - they pass it onto the rank and file, who take all they are told at face value with no visible attempt at discernment whatsoever.  All those years of working with school board members as parents and friends suddenly mean nothing because the OEA rep has declared it through the SEA negotiating team!  (I hear the theme from "Twilight Zone" playing in the background . . . )

Here are just 2 examples: 

  • A teacher "unfriended" two students from Facebook because their dad serves on the F.A.C.T. Committee. 
  • Another member of the F.A.C.T. Committee had some teachers cancel their insurance coverages through his firm for the same reason - his participation with F.A.C.T.
They are bewitched.

I've Got A Secret

If it wasn't so lame, it would be laughable.  I'm talking here about the flyer put out by the SEA that speaks about the "secret" committee that lurks in dark corners, beholden to no voter, who conjures up evil intent against the teachers of our district:  the F.A.C.T. Committee!  Quick - get out your garlic necklace!!

After all those many articles in the Bulldog Bulletin and discussions at regular school board meetings, the people who put out that flyer can call it a "secret committee" with a straight face??

good grief

Now maybe the flyer creator(s) don't bother reading the Bulldog Bulletin.  It's possible.  It's also possible the board meetings where F.A.C.T. Committee members were introduced and spoke were not attended by these flyer folks. 

The F.A.C.T. Committee is made up of 5 business leaders of our community.  Four live within the community and one has his business in the village.  It was deliberately constructed to include NO school board member and NO teacher so as to avoid any undue influence from either side.  It functions as an independent advisory committee to the school board on matters of financial concern.  There is nothing "shadowy" about them and they make no decisions - decisions are the sole responsibility of the school board, who makes all of their decisions at public meetings (which you may listen to via podcast if you're unable to attend). 

Any one of the F.A.C.T. Committee members would be glad to share with you about what they have talked about in their so-called "secret meetings" !!  The current chairman of that committee is local resident Bill Pilliod.  Give him a call!  Set up a time to meet him for coffee uptown and bring a few friends along - he'd be happy to chat with you.

"Secret" committee indeed.  How ridiculous.

What that screed about the F.A.C.T. Committee tells me is that the OEA rep is grasping at straws - but the more flyers he has the SEA do, the more desperate they sound and the more people are annoyed with them. 

It's time that people ask questions instead of blindly accepting whatever nonsense is fed to them.  Ask the school board - Ask the superintendent - Ask a member of the F.A.C.T. committee - and get to the bottom of the real story instead of filling your head with rhetoric cooked up by an OEA rep.

Friday, January 13, 2012

If At First You Don't Succeed - Lie - Lie Again

apologize in advance for the title of this entry - with a journalism background, I am well aware of the power of words.  I have tried very hard to avoid provocative phrases and words in my postings, knowing that sharing the truth, even when stating it carefully, will still anger some people.  But this latest nonsense from the SEA has really frosted my cake.

Did you go to the home basketball game recently and get YOUR copy of their flyer??  They had plenty of them!  And they were passing them out to anyone and everyone they could!  Yup - these folks who look you right in the eye and claim solemnly that their biggest concern is "the children" thought nothing of trashing a home basketball game with their propaganda.  Every time I think they can't stoop any lower - they prove me wrong. 

What they might not realize is that these assaults are not winning them any friends - far from it.  As people learn the TRUTH, these ridiculous accusations by the SEA against the school Board are shown for the lies that they are.  Folks don't appreciate being lied to, ya know?  Half-truths and innuendos do not make you popular, no matter what your OEA rep tells you. . .

For those few who might not have seen this garbage from the SEA, allow me to share the highlights. 

First, the flyer whines that the Board's December implementation of the proposed contract was "not a contract" because they didn't agree to it.  It states that it is "indicative of a complete breakdown in the employee-management relationship".  Right you are!!  When you have one side of "negotiations" threatening to strike at the very first session (April 2011),  it's a safe bet to figure things are going to be a bit rocky.  When that same side refuses to present a counter proposal since June 2011, you can safely figure things are not going well.  When that same side refuses to actually talk until they see how Issue 2 fares in the November election, it's bad.  When a federal mediator is called in to help and even THAT person is unable to get them to see reason after several attempts, it's a fairly accurate statement to declare there's a "breakdown" in the "relationship". 

So that little piece in the flyer - while only a small piece of the story - is true.  They just neglected to tell you exactly which side caused the "complete breakdown".  a-hem

But then it gets completely wacko.

Next the writer(s) of the flyer reveal their mind-reading proclivity by stating that the Board's "full intention" is to "set a precedent where it will NEVER AGAIN be required to bargain in good faith." (emphasis added)  Say, what???  According to the SEA flyer, the Board will cause the teachers to lose the ability to negotiate over working conditions such as class sizes, etc.

I would not have believed it, had I not read it for myself. 

Lest we forget, here is what has their undies in a bunch:  they want a raise in the face of deficit spending, AND they don't want to pay 10% of their insurance premium.  That's it!!  That's what has them so hot and bothered!  How DARE the Board insist that they pay anything more than what they already pay - which is peanuts by any stretch of the imagination, whether you're comparing with other schools in the county or any other job in the nation that requires its employees to pay a portion toward benefits.  Please note that the benefit package itself was not changed - it's still the best one in the county.  All we had asked was for them to pay 10% of the premium - and on those months when the district took a moratorium on the premium (which means "skip a payment") the teachers would also skip that month's payment. 

How draconian!!  How UNFAIR!  How HURTFUL to our children!!


The flyer states the teachers are "doing everything within their power" to get the Board back to the table, but they need "your help".  The SEA kindly provided the contact information for each individual Board member so that You, John or Jane Q. Public could call or email to show how strongly you feel this is "unfair and unreasonable" of the Board toward the teachers, the poor dears.  Your calls, cards and letters will help "protect the integrity of education" of our kids, because - after all - the SEA only cares about "the children", right? 

Ex-cUUUUUse me, but when the very first meeting has the SEA declaring that if their demands are not met, they will STRIKE, who in their right mind could honestly view that as "doing everything within their power" to "bargain in good faith"??  How do they look at themselves in the mirror after statements made about "doing everything in their power" when they have presented NO counter proposal since last June??  As they maintained that attitude throughout the entire process, that is why the Board had to declare impasse in December and implement the contract, albeit for only 1 year (to June 30, 2012). 

Which reminds me - someone posted on Facebook in December that they were angry that former Board President Rick Ueberroth had said any strike days would be made up at the end of the year - in this person's opinion, that was a terrible thing to do to the kids.  (summer vacation, etc)  Here's the thing:  the last time the SEA went through this tired routine, the Board in office at that time made preparations to keep school open during the strike by contracting to have substitute teachers in the classrooms.  (As we all know, there are hundreds of teachers out of work who would give their right arm to have a job in NW Ohio.)  This Board preparation resulted in SEA members at Crestwood speaking in the presence of the children about the criminals that the Board was going to put into the classroom.  When a little kid tearfully asks his mom "what is a rapist?" you know something is very very wrong.  That is why if the SEA decides to strike over paying a measly 10% of their insurance premiums, school will be CLOSED until they return to the classroom with the days being made up at the end of the year.  

In their haste to get their flyer printed off, the SEA accidentally forgot to include contact information for their negotiating team members (with their OEA rep, who has a cavalier attitude toward the districts he represents - after all, his actions in those districts have no effect on him).  So in the interest of fairness, below is a list of the contact information of their team - feel free to contact them with your comments:

Josh Eppert   419-320-7935  (lives in Old West End Toledo)
Deisa Thielman   419-877-5594 (lives in Anthony Wayne school district)
Renee' Gothke   419-877-5532  (lives in Anthony Wayne school district)
JoEllen McDonnall   419-822-9035  (lives in Delta/P-D-Y school district)
and spokesman Steve Brehmer  419-825-3266  (the only one in this group who lives in the Swanton school district)

Please do not hesitate to contact your school board members with any questions you might have on this or any other issue in the district (they all are required to live in the district in which they are elected).

And I'm sure the SEA team members would also love to hear from you as well - just make sure you have fresh batteries in your B.S.-O-Meter before you call . . .

Friday, January 6, 2012

A New Year - A New Board - But Some Things Never Change

The organizational meeting of the Swanton School Board was held this past Tuesday night.  I did not attend, but was told it lasted a whopping 11 minutes - might be a new record!  The organizational meeting is primarily a housekeeping meeting, where routine matters are handled that cover the entire year ahead.  This includes electing a president and vice president of the Board.

This year, Kris Oberheim was elected to the position of President of the school board.  Having worked with Kris, I am confident she will do a great job - the board is in good hands.  The vice president slot went to Michelle Tyson.

No doubt the podcast of the meeting itself will be placed on the school website soon, but voice recordings - while great - aren't able to give you the full picture of what happens at school board meetings.

Case in point:  in attendance that evening were more than two dozen teachers, all sporting new buttons that said something like, "I don't want to strike, but I will"


I took my grandson uptown to Club Salon for his haircut yesterday, and a couple of the gals there were talking about the signs in people's yards and these buttons, and they were NOT speaking favorably about those who had either one of them.  In talking with others, too, I find little support for the stance our teachers' union is taking.

When the "strike" word is used at the very first negotiation meeting by the SEA (which it was - last April 2011), you know it's going to be an unpleasant situation.  Their peers in surrounding districts are even disgusted with them.  Yet they continue to follow the lead by their OEA rep, down the road to trouble.  It's too bad no one has the courage to tell him to take a hike - he is certainly doing them no favors. 

Most of the rank-and-file don't even know what's going on - they are trusting their leaders to do what is best for all of them.  But the reality is that when cuts have to come, the newest teachers are the ones thrown under the bus by their fellow union members.  It's a shame to lose the fresh enthusiasm and energy that come with new teachers and be left with some who are just going through the motions (every district has them).  But that's how it works, and the losers in this game are always our kids. 

It's unfortunate and it's a shame - but it's reality.  I just keep praying for a change of heart in these people.

Ya know, once we had to implement the contract in December, I had really hoped that the SEA would maybe grumble a bit about it but focus their energy on negotiating the next contract.  By implementing the contract, it can only go for 1 year - which means that it will expire at the end of June 2012.  THAT means that negotiations for the NEXT contract will need to begin in March!  But instead of the SEA regrouping to focus on the next round of negotiations, they're telling people they hope to have a particular new board member move to rescind the contract just implemented.

I am not making this up.

Look though we may, it is mighty hard to find the logic in that approach.  And in the meantime, our kids are the ones who get the short end of the stick as the teachers "work to the contract" which means that anything not specifically spelled out in writing within the contract pages is not done. 

It doesn't have to be this way, but until enough members of the SEA stand up for what is right, that's the way it will remain.