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. 

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