Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Calendar Vote

Yesterday afternoon we SRTA members at Montgomery High School had a visit from President Andy Brennan.  The sentiment in the room was strongly opposed to the new Calendar negotiated by SRTA with the district.  People made excellent points and raised serious concerns about accepting additional furlough days with no quid pro quo; the district is under no legal obligation to minimize layoffs even if these salary cuts go through.  Moreover, the district has put no offer on the table, such as reduced extra duty time, to warrant acceptance of these cuts.  Since so many of us in the room, and at the town hall meeting at SRHS this past Monday, have substantial misgivings about the rushed nature of this vote and the calendar itself, we implored Mr. Brennan to set up a blog in which a district-wide dialogue could take place before the last day of voting.  This request is obviously time-sensitive, but the newly created President's Blog on the SRTA website is closed for comments pending technical teacher expertise to block out spammers, a concern expressed by our President on the site.

Many of us in the English Department at Montgomery feel that this discussion needs to start right now.  The last day of voting is tomorrow, and we believe it is imperative that we have a vigorous dialogue among as many members as possible.  The low turnout at the recent town hall meeting might suggest that not all of our members have taken the opportunity to participate in a public forum regarding this momentous decision.  To paraphrase one speaker at that meeting, this is a critical moment in our school district's trajectory.  Decisions made now may haunt both students and educators in the future, and none of them should be entered into without dialogue and communication among members.  In that spirit, would all of you receiving this link please forward it as widely as possible to SRTA members.  Use Facebook or personal email addresses to spread the word about this forum.  Although it was started by people raising objections to the calendar, we invite diverse points of view and encourage as many responses as possible.  Some of us may have valuable information and wisdom that we need to share with others. 

Thank you,
Simone Harris
Montgomery High School


  1. Thanks for doing this, Simone.

    I would like to share what I said at our meeting the other day.

    I am willing to accept furlough days if absolutely necessary, but I think now is not the time to do so. As painful as it may be, I think the RIF notices need to go out. That is the only way the public will come to understand just how big a crisis we are in. We cannot keep bearing the brunt of the financial crisis ourselves in order to prevent public outrage. I believe it is time for some public outrage! We work in public schools, after all.

    Basically, if the public doesn't know how serious the crisis is, they will not make the right vote in June. If we take these cuts now, everyone will think things are reasonably okay and we will only be asked to bear even more of the burden again next year. It has to stop!

    If we must eventually accept a $2-3,000 salary loss, I cannot agree to it unless the days are grouped at the beginning or end of the school year, so that I can get a decent summer job and recoup that lost income. Spreading the days throughout the year is not acceptable, as we have no way to make up for that lost income. It seems like we should be able to get at least some minimal concession from the district for us taking such a whopping cut. Putting the days together and attaching them to summer is the least they could do in return.


  2. I believe someone mentioned negotiating extra duty hours at the last meeting, which is reasonable. If we are being asked to lose income--perhaps a necessary evil in these hard economic times--we should be able to make gains in other areas that can become burdensome, such as the mandated 15 hours of extra duty. That change would be equivalent to approximately two days right there. I know many of us come to extra-curricular school events anyway, but then it is by choice, not by mandate.

  3. I agree with Donna in terms of our
    placement of our furlough days: Why
    do we keep hiding these days next to
    three-day weekends and holidays?
    Why not shave a week off the year so
    the public can see it, and so we
    could get other jobs?

    In addition, I have the following

    --What other options have been
    considered and implemented/rejected
    to make the budget work before we
    ended up once again at the doorstep
    of additional furlough days?

    --How much does one furlough day
    even save? Is it just salary, or
    operational costs as well? I ask
    because I've been in my class on
    weekday holidays and been unable to
    shut the heat off, even though no
    students were present.

    --What have we done as a union to
    publicly align teacher interests
    with student and parent interests?
    We are fighting furlough days for
    students' education and parents'
    investment, not just "selfish"
    concerns. And, as Simone reminded
    me, newer teachers especially are
    actually risking RIF in standing up
    against furlough days.

    --Why hasn't a bigger deal been made
    by leadership that we're, once
    again, agreeing to give up
    librarians? Supposedly, I heard,
    getting rid of librarians would save
    "teacher" jobs, but librarians with
    credentials and seniority will
    obviously bump lower-list teachers
    anyway (and put librarians in
    classrooms unnecessarily, and
    destaff our libraries--?!).

    --Finally (and I'm complicit here,
    too): Why hasn't our union sounded
    the alarm earlier? How is it that
    we are just having this conversation
    now? Didn't we know months ago that
    a budget-related disaster loomed
    just around the corner?

    Respectfully submitted to my
    colleagues and friends,

    James Hart

  4. Thanks, Simone, for being proactive about beginning the discussion.

    If there is going to be a significant number of RIF notices sent out for the 2012-2013 school year, why delay? Yes, it gives those folks (myself most likely among them) another year, but why delay? I agree with Donna; the sooner we make the public aware of exactly how these cuts are affecting the school system, the better. And furlough days simply aren't "visible" to the public. They are another day off, nothing special.

    And frankly, how "off" are we? If you managed to not grade, plan or think about school work, I applaud you. I unfortunately succumbed to the desire to use that as a bonus day of work time. I know others did too. I saw their cars at my school. I heard their sighs on Facebook.

    But to get back to the point with which I was agreeing, teachers potentially losing jobs is visible. We can look at the schedules for next year and tell parents, "Your child will be in an English class of 43 students. S/he will be seated on the back counter of the room, or on a folding chair, sharing the desk top space with another student. I will not be commenting on their writing, as I have another 200+ essays to grade as well."

    And to those that would say we must appear willing to make concessions: We have. Why have we alone made concessions? Why should we make any more unless there is an incentive, something to make conceding salary loss more bearable?

    And finally, at what point do we stop pretending everything is fine? When do we actually confess to the several inches of water the kids must cross to get to their classrooms? Or the necessity of a warm jacket indoors during a particularly cold week in October when the boiler hasn't been turned on downtown? When do we show people the insides of Bungalows C and J? And then tell them there are classes in there? When do we talk about the non-students drinking and smoking weed on our campus during daytime hours on school days? When do we stop worrying that the glass panes won't shatter when we try to push open a particularly stubborn window?

    In summation, when do we stop making due and start making noise?

  5. I'm with Chris, why do 15hrs extra duty or staff meetings if we are getting less pay. The only thing that has changed in the contract seems to be our pay, everything else is basically the same. Health care costs continue to go up, I make less money, but my productivity has to remain the same if not increase. Something has to give...

  6. In the past, there was also talk of a "teach to the contract" year (or semester, or quarter). If we literally taught to the language of the contract, and nothing more, then the repercussions would certainly be felt everywhere and would be highly visible.

    We would all arrive at 7:45 am, and depart promptly at 4pm. We would grade what we could in that amount of time, and nothing more. What was ungraded would get handed back with no comments or feedback. We would not engage students or administration during break or lunch, no matter the emergency. We would not write letters of recommendation. We would not fix the malfunctioning technology on our campus, nor do any of the other things we do every day.

    There are plenty of ways to play hardball, if that is what we decide is needed.

    My only hesitation is that such a course of action ultimately harms the ones we really do all this for: the kids. However, the presence of this idealism and integrity is perhaps the very reason why we have traditionally been such poor negotiators. They know we will do all this extra stuff anyway, because of our love for our students.

    The recent outcry against unions in this country purports to want to make the public sector more like the private sector. Perhaps we should give them a taste of what that would actually be like, for a semester. If students became clients, then that would certainly cause a stir. I would hate to work that way, but it might be enough to start a real dialogue.

  7. Well spoken, James and Kristin! Chris, I am beginning to reach the same conclusion. It is a hard pill to swallow, and I'm not entirely sure I could pull it off, but the powers that be seem to be forcing us into that uncomfortable place. It is very hard to be idealistic and altruistic under these circumstances. Something has got to give!

  8. Yes, something has to give. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, I hope we can continue our discussion on this blog and elsewhere because our concerns are likely to escalate in the coming years.

    Kristin put it succinctly when she asked "why delay?" We are told by SRTA that the cuts in personnel are certain to be steep for the 2012-2013 year, perhaps by as many as 90 jobs. I'm not sure if that means positions or jobs. When I asked him, Andy said the district is likely to RIF as many as 60 people for this coming year in the event that we don't accept the furlough deal. I don't know exactly on what he is basing that estimate but he did explain that they will compensate for the lost revenue of the furlough days with our jobs. This is on the assumption that Brown's tax extension does not pass.
    (We have to mobilize on that one and I wish we had been active sooner. But those same jobs are on the chopping block for the following year with no relief is in sight. I don't think any relief will come without a grassroots effort in every state and district to make education a priority, a right, not a race. Testing does not = education.

    For some of the more recently tenured teachers, that extra year is hardly incidental to our livelihood. On the other hand, we don't seem to be taking a strong stance as a union that would prevent layoffs

  9. A voice from the west side...thanks for inviting all of us. I often wonder why, with such strong union representation and leadership nationwide, that teaching is still such an undervalued profession. I realize that there are many answers to this question. Why don't they pay us what we're worth? matter what our salary, our working conditions, our benefits, or our contractual hours, "they" know one thing....we'll do it anyway. We'll do it for the reason we all went into this profession....for our students! Who, ultimately, will suffer next year if (when?) school is closed an additional six days? Our students may not realize it as they celebrate another long weekend, or sleep in an extra morning or two, but they are the ones who will ultimately lose. For example, every furlough day in my AP Biology class corresponds to one topic that we won't cover before the exam in May. I have had to cut out three experiments this year already due to the furlough days this spring. Those essays will still be graded, those lab reports will still be scrutinized, because we are teachers. We will do whatever it takes to make sure that our students receive a world-class education. We are teachers. We know that writing that letter of recommendation, making those comments, spending that extra half-hour on the phone with a parent at 8 pm might make or break a child's future. I feel that because of this, we are powerless. We deserve better. When and how can we be treated as professionals? I, for one, am NOT voting for the contract tomorrow. I am very glad that I took the extra time to think about it.

    Thanks for listening, even though I've never met most of you,

  10. Sorry. I was going to fit that last bit in later. My would be point there refers to the one James made earlier. We need to take charge of the rhetoric. Some of us are willing to vote down a tentative agreement that we are told we must pass or risk imperiling our jobs. The threat of being unemployed is imminent, and yet we are taking a principled stand we believe is essential to the health of our schools, our students, and our communities. That is sacrifice, not greed, and we need to define it as such.

  11. I have to say at this point that even if we end up being a little too late to influence this year's agreement, we need to hold on to this forum for next year's inevitable issues--imagine how much we could get done if we kept up our discussion and organization here for the next several months.

  12. Even though this blog is called, "Calendar Vote," I hope it can launch a broader discussion of the role of our union, particularly in light of the question that Jenny raises about why we are undervalued.

    Everyone who knows me, knows that I have never been particularly supportive of SRTA or CTA because the union makes no distinction between an excellent, highly effective teacher, and a mediocre, unmotivated, just-treading-water teacher. In the union's eyes, we are all equal. In my mind, that is a travesty, and is the core of why we get so little respect in society at large. A salary schedule that is based solely on years of experience and the number of post-graduate units earned (neither of which are good indicators of a teacher's effectiveness) is simply ludicrous. It is virtually impossible to remove an ineffectual teacher from the classroom once he or she has attained tenure, and this sad fact taints the rest of the profession. No other professional would tolerate such bogus equity. Because we do, and make it the hallmark of our union's principles--to protect the jobs of all teachers no matter how effective they are--we undermine our moral authority and our prestige.

    I am not saying that testing should be the standard by which we are measured. I am also not saying that administration should be the ones to decide who is and who is not effective, necessarily. What I do suggest is that determining the effectiveness of teachers, championing high quality teachers and leading the charge of removing the bad ones should be the union's primary prerogative. Since we don't police ourselves well, detached officials do it for us, and not always with the best interest of our students in mind.

    Once we assume that role as a union, then we have true bargaining authority, in that we can be confident that our membership deserves to be treated as a body of effective, highly-trained professionals. When we defend mediocrity, then we get treated accordingly.

  13. Jenny, yes! We will go the distance for our students no matter what. We love them, as Chris said earlier. Not voting for the contract is a show of support for them as much as for our profession, for the two are inextricably linked. To borrow an oath from another profession, first do no harm. I've felt for some time now that we teachers have been put in the untenable position of harming our students. I feel, in a sense, that I harm my students by ignoring the rotting infrastructure and making the best of it, by participating in the administration of high stakes tests (and countless practice high stakes tests) that, in my professional opinion, are counterproductive to authentic teaching and learning. I allow it to go on and on because I feel helpless and I don't want to rock the boat too much. I want to be seen as a team-player and a good soldier, and yet, there is dirty work involved in upholding the antidemocratic agenda of corporate foundations, and I didn't sign up for that.

    This was a calling for me, a passion. I love literature, critical thinking, philosophy, and history. Most importantly, I love and want to support my students. I want to do right by them, and I want that more than anything. I find I am increasingly willing to put my job security at risk to protect their interests, my interests as a working, thinking person, and all of our interests as stakeholders in this democracy.

    I don't know which evils are necessary and which sacrifices shared. I suspect this recession is being used to cut social programs and advance a corporate agenda anathema to the interests of middle and working class people. I want to know why the Wall Street elites who started this recession are not being held accountable. I want to know how much money we would save by ending imperial wars and tax breaks for the wealthy, including the obscenely wealthy. Until I get those answers, I will assume that the money this district claims NOT to have for functional desks, proper heating, libraries and librarians, windows that are earthquake proof and won't shatter, instructional time and enough teachers to utilize it, is money that CAN be found. Even if it can't be found at the district, (and I'll leave that question for others to explore), it CAN be found in this country, in this world that is supposed to put our children and all human beings before profit. I believe we'll only find it out in the street in solidarity with each other, Wisconsin, and a nation full of decent, hardworking, altruistic people who want justice.

  14. Chris, I will rename the blog after tomorrow. I think this discussion should definitely continue. I think the comment you just made gets to the heart of the criticisms of teacher's unions. Is it factually true that it is next to impossible to fire ineffective teachers? I don't know. I tend to think of tenure as due process, a right to which all working people should aspire and not a privilege to be resented, but the reality is that people do resent it. Tenure should not insulate bad teachers from scrutiny or accountability, but it should protect those who would be arbitrarily dismissed based on the questionable psychometrics of test scores. I hear you that you're not saying that testing should be the measure, but in the current climate that is precisely the trend. I think administrators should feel emboldened to give negative evaluations where they are earned, and to do the necessary paperwork to get rid of bad teachers.

    How we define bad and good teaching is an important discussion unto itself.

  15. I'm glad we will keep this ball rolling, Simone, because I know I enjoy the discussion. You say that you are not a boat rocker, Momo, but this blog very well could change that perception. Like it or not, you are rocking the boat, in the best possible way.

    I would love to try and define what good, effective teaching is. I think too often we get mired in fighting against the tests, but we never offer a counter-proposal of how we would want to be measured. We should! In fact, as I said before, that would be a brave new role for unions to perform. WE define it, WE figure out the best ways to deliver it, and WE hold each other accountable when any of our number fail to measure up, either through training, or, as a final resort, through the recommendation of removal from the poor teacher's position.

    It is factually true that it is virtually impossible to remove a bad teacher. I have been at Montgomery for 16 years. I can only recall one removal, and that was for a serious criminal offense. Can we honestly, and in good conscience, say that the rest of the faculty in all that time, has been a highly effective teacher? Hardly. Why can't we talk about this as working professionals? Why do we tolerate it? Administrators can fill out paperwork as much as they want, but at the end of the day, our union fights against every "unsatisfactory" evaluation that comes along, regardless of whether that teacher is worth defending or not.

    If we, as teachers, become the guardians of good practice, then the tests could disappear. Until that time, they will continue to plague us.

  16. Hello everyone,
    Here is a piece of information you might like to know. I know it's too late to influence your vote, but you should know it anyway. This is a piece of an email from Tawni Johnson, our SRTA Secretary.

    "You are absolutely correct that there have been very few negotiations updates and the info has been scarce. When Andy approached Mark about becoming chief negotiator Mark told him flat out that he couldn't take 20% off his job like Julie had to do the job and he wouldn't be able to come to a lot of meetings because he had evening jobs. What didn't get told was any of that to exec board. Mark was brought forward as the appointee and Exec board approved it. It wasn't until Exec board asked for a meeting with Mark because we were not happy with the quantity and quality of info and getting the info we needed to make informed decisions that we were finally told that this was the deal that had been made with Mark. We had an uncomfortable meeting with Mark in November and but thought it best not to ask for his resignation in that he's the only guy on the negotiating team who has been there before."

    So, Doug Bower with years of negotiating experience strikes the deal with a part-time chief negotiator. Has anyone else on our team ever negotiated? or gone to training? Who do you think is getting the better deal if this TA passes?

  17. Thank you for sharing that information, Sonja. Andy is aware of this blog and has said he is in favor of a healthy dialogue, so perhaps he will respond. I know if we continue the various strands of this discussion that people will make controversial and provocative remarks. Others may censor themselves from a self-protective instinct or the fear of creating or exacerbating a polarization of our membership. I think we need a transparent discussion! Everyone deserves a say and we all should be fearless in speaking our minds. It could be valuable to hash these issues out on a blog which can be read and reread so that myths can be dispelled and distortions corrected.

    Chris, it would be disingenuous of me to say I'm not a boat rocker, but I am frequently torn between the desire to make change and the comfort of maintaining the status quo and getting along with others who seem to support it. At a time when teachers and their unions are subject to intense national criticism, it feels seductive to say only that which will not risk feeding the widespread perception of us as inflexible, selfish, lazy, and complacent. I appreciate your comments and your insights about what we can do as teachers to preempt those attacks by holding each other accountable and defining how we want to be measured. We definitely should continue a dialogue about what good teaching is, and I know you started that dialogue with the Teach Like a Champion reading/discussion group.

    I do think we need to hold ourselves accountable but we also must hold our district, state and federal government accountable. I will continue to give 100% to my classroom teaching no matter how high the water rises, but poverty and other social ills are not irrelevant and must be addressed along with an internal reckoning. Not everything can be measured in numbers and some of the most inspiring teaching and serious learning is difficult to quantify. This is not an evasion but my firm belief. However, you are absolutely right to challenge our profession to reinvent and reinvigorate itself, and I am grateful for your participation in this forum. Please let's continue talking!

    Below I am quoting from Diane Ravitch's review of "Waiting for Superman." I think it's an important review to read and discuss. I also recommend her book The Death and Life of The Great American School System.

    "Ultimately the job of hiring teachers, evaluating them, and deciding who should stay and who should go falls to administrators. We should be taking a close look at those who award due process rights (the accurate term for “tenure”) to too many incompetent teachers. The best way to ensure that there are no bad or ineffective teachers in our public schools is to insist that we have principals and supervisors who are knowledgeable and experienced educators. Yet there is currently a vogue to recruit and train principals who have little or no education experience. (The George W. Bush Institute just announced its intention to train 50,000 new principals in the next decade and to recruit noneducators for this sensitive post.)"

    She goes on to say that "If we are serious about improving our schools, we will take steps to improve our teacher force, as Finland and other nations have done. That would mean better screening to select the best candidates, higher salaries, better support and mentoring systems, and better working conditions. Guggenheim complains that only one in 2,500 teachers loses his or her teaching certificate, but fails to mention that 50 percent of those who enter teaching leave within five years, mostly because of poor working conditions, lack of adequate resources, and the stress of dealing with difficult children and disrespectful parents. Some who leave 'fire themselves'; others were fired before they got tenure."

  18. The more I think and talk with people about Chris' suggestion regarding teaching to the contract, the more it becomes an idea with significant potential. I find the idea terrifying and appealing all at once. What if we did this for the 4th quarter? Why not now? I mean, it's the last quarter. As a very insightful colleague said (I'm paraphrasing slightly), "If they can't teach themselves by now, I haven't done my job." But by the same token, I know we all still have plenty left to do and to teach. It's not as though we're giving up time that would have been spent doing nothing anyway.

    If we make this statement now, we have the benefit of drawing attention to the issue and making it visible before the potential vote to extend the taxes in June. That vote, should the measure make it, would mean a great deal to everyone in terms of money and jobs. Why wait until it passes us by to make a statement, to show why we are justified in our concerns?

    And frankly, if people are going to trash and demonize teachers for it, what might they say that they aren't already saying? What's the process for doing this? Any reps out there that know?

  19. Kristin, I agree. It is terrifying and intriguing all at the same time. Perhaps it is the time for a little anarchy?

    Chris, I also wholeheartedly agree with your point about holding teachers accountable. Unless we come up with our own way of doing this, the politicians will do it for us with a completely unrealistic and unreasonable measuring stick.


  20. Perhaps Simone can post separate blogs for these different issues and we can start having more specific conversations in response to each topic.

  21. Keep it all here, just start different threads. Hopefully, folks from other sites will join in soon.

  22. I'm on it. Already posted a couple new informational threads and will post separate issue threads shortly.

    Possible subject titles:
    Fighting for our Schools: Teach to the Contract and other Strategies
    Upcoming Union Election
    Legislative Actions and Demonstrations

    Other ideas?

  23. I was thinking we could discuss Chris's "Teach to the Contract" idea under "Fighting For Our Schools."

  24. Susan Farkas has given me permission to post the following statement that she composed yesterday but was unable to post. (Technical difficulties.)

    Once again, I am appalled by the placement of the furlough days. I said this last year and I'll say it again- any concession of salary and days should a least provide us with the opportunity to recoup the income lost. Anything else is disrespectful. I am particulary surly about the proposal to place the two furlough days at Thanksgiving, during the first semester. When I pointed out last year that our three days (for year 2010-11) should come off the beginning of the year, I was met with the argument that the first semester is shorter than the second and the district wouldn't consider such an idea. My, how things change!
    Also, I completely agree about the extra duty hours.

    Lastly, I think the community needs to understand that the teachers of our district have been nothing but generous when it comes to giving up salary to keep class sizes smaller and help the district balance the budget. Since I began working for the district 7 years ago, we have not had a salary increase that even remotely keeps us up with the cost of living in the Bay Area. Couple that with the exponential increase in our healthcare cost (and our district has not covered that increase), we are actually making less money (in real dollars) than we did in 2003!
    Yes, times are tough. Yes, many people must make difficult finanical decisions. I just want those decisions to be considered and transparent.

  25. Thanks for joining us, Lee!

    We have had 356 views since yesterday afternoon when I set this blog up. People are reading though not everyone is posting. Let that inspire you to write!

  26. Sounds good. I'm assuming accountability speaks to Chris's comment about how to evaluate teachers?

    How about suggestions for negotiation? Chris and Matt mentioned dropping the extra duty hours. If we feel we should take the furlough days at some point, we should have some things on the table that help.

    Also, this thread isn't so much about the calendar anymore, so maybe one for the calendar? Some people have mentioned being okay with furlough days, but not the way they were arranged in the current version.

    Just tossing ideas out. I like the ones you suggested, Simone.

  27. While I appreciate the blog, I would like to see regular union meetings. In particular, I'd like our negotiating committee to be in regular contact with the membership via district wide meetings, much like the meeting last Monday. Is there a reason why that can't be accomplished?

  28. Susan, excellent suggestion. Email Andy!

  29. Okay, folks. The calendar vote is, unfortunately, over. So much of this discussion is now branching off into the various topics listed under "blog archive" above and to the right. Please continue to discuss these important issues under the relevant topic listed. Post here if you have suggestions for other topics.

    Work for you, Simone?


  30. Oops, now I see there is a new thread for topic suggestions. So what are we using this thread for now?

  31. There are lively discussions going on in other threads, people. Chime in.

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  34. I don't know that tenure and lack of policing ourselves is at the core of this country's disrespect for teachers. I can think of a few others that make more sense to me. Perhaps it's a holdover from the days when teachers were only young, single women or old maids; women weren't held in terribly high regard in the not-too-distant past, and it's logical to believe teachers, therefore, weren't either. Perhaps it stems from this country's anti-intellectual nature. I'm not sure the US has ever really valued public education. When compulsory school began in Boston in the 1840s (?), soldiers had to march the kids to school with bayonets. I guess my point is that the teaching "profession" has never been held in high regard. The tenure/teachers' unions issue is a relatively recent one and, I would hold, is purely political in nature driven by powerful business and anti-democratic interests. Our unions--and anybody who knows me knows I'm not much of a union participant--are among the few things still standing in their way. Hence, Wisconsin.

    I'm not a fan of our so-called union either, but not for the same reasons. It's not the union's job to distinguish between excellent and bad teachers; the job of the union is to advocate for and protect our interests as teachers. The SRTA is not good at that. If they were, we'd still have health care; if they were, we'd have logical furlough days and the other simple things mentioned earlier in this blog. Am I concerned about bad teachers? Not much, honestly. We've got bigger and far more dangerous fish to fry.

    Honest (probably naive) procedural question: is our contract a totally done deal now? Are there take-backs?

    Another question: although it may be counterproductive, can we start our own new union? What good is our union if many of us feel like voices in the wilderness?

    I have done.

  35. And another thing: we need to begin to think about a powerful response--like a general strike involving all public unions and as many private sector unions as possible throughout the country--triggered by either a failure to extend the tax increases this June in CA (?) or some other sequence of events in other states. Enough is enough. Let's see how the people of this country like no school, no governmental offices, no police, no fire fighters, etc, etc. Scary? Damn right! We can shut it down! We really have the power; we just have to hang together and exercise that power.

    At the very least, we should work-to-contract next school year. All year. Quit worrying about the kids. The kids will be fine. In fact, they'll probably support us, and it may turn out to be a powerful lesson in civic participation and even re-kindle some interest in their own education.

    I'm serious. And I'm ready.

  36. Grant, we are of one mind. I'm about to start a new post to continue this discussion. You may want to copy and paste your last two posts to the new thread.

  37. Such powerful and inspiring sentiments.

  38. Does anyone know what SRCS has done to intervene on our behalf or postpone any punitive measures given to our district as a result of possibly not meeting our mandatory test score thresholds for NCLB? It seems these two conflicting pressures -where we are asked on the one hand by the federal government to increase test scores but also asked on the other hand by our state government, to do so with larger classes and fewer instructional days. This needs to be dealt with. Maybe we should stop calling what we do teaching and refer to it as preparation for standardized tests. I am no longer an educator, I am a Test Readiness Professional.

    Also, I noticed that some folks were talking about what we can negotiate for instead of money. I would love to see a teacher collaboration day at the beginning of the school year. Instead of going to SRHS and listening to another bureaucratic pep talk at the beginning of the year, and having a day of endless meetings, lets negotiate for meaningful planning time as a way of increasing student learning through relevant, cohesive curriculum development. We need an extra day without students to plan effectively.

    My final comment is this, if we want to create change within our union we have to find a way to communicate with every teacher in the district. Our voice, though growing, has not reached the other schools and we need to find a way to make that happen. Grant is correct. Our union is ineffectual. It is so in part because communication is blocked. The district blocks union reps (president and negotiators) from having a voice and even attending meetings where decisions are made and the union fails to both communicate to its members and also to register our needs and desires with the district. No offense to any union representative but, we need a full time advocate, not someone who takes a couple hours out of their teaching day to figure out the district's intentions.

    I love hearing all these revolutionary ideas but we need to start at home first. We need to stand together in solidarity as a united force for the good of all in our union or we will continue to be treated as a small but vocal minority.

    We all need bumper stickers on our cars that say: BAILOUT EDUCATION NOT BANKS.