Wednesday, April 11, 2012
A tenured teacher speaks on the definition of "WE" and collaboration
Members of the District 150 Board of Education:
When Norm Durflinger came to our district, I didn't trust him. I thought, "What can this man from a small town know about an urban district like ours?" However, what Norm understood -- and what he helped me to understand -- is the power of collaboration -- of getting everyone on board with a solid plan and working together to carry that plan out. No matter where you are or what situation you're in, if you can work together for improvement, you'll improve.
With all of that said, it must be noted that in the last few years, the Peoria Federation of Teachers has transformed itself into an instrument of leadership, collaboration, and meaningful change. The union has invited administrators and board members to TURN conferences, where unions, board members, and administrators learn to work together for the benefit of their districts.
As I said, Norm had our district poised for meaningful, collaborative change. As a union, we were poised for taking a collaborative approach to getting our district on the right track. Norm asked for input, developed a plan, and made it his business to get everyone in the district on board with that plan.
We have two SIG grants in our city -- millions of dollars funding reforms at Manual High School and Peoria High School. Obtaining and maintaining a SIG grant is heavily dependent upon the board of education, the central administration, and the teachers' union working together. Had there been hints of a district about to splinter, we could have kissed those grants goodbye. Further, with Race to the Top dollars being dangled in front of Illinois' nose, it's critical, again, for districts to be able to show that their unions, administrators, and board members are willing to work together -- to collaborate -- as they usher in meaningful change.
Our superintendent is saying, "You don't have to like me; you don't have to love me; I'm asking you to respect what we're trying to do in our schools."
The question begging to be asked is . . . WE who?
The president of the Peoria Federation of Teachers is saying that so much harm has been done by the current administration that he's not sure the district can be fixed. Doesn't sound like collaboration to me.
You have a split board on decisions being touted as "part of the strategic plan." Doesn't sound like collaboration to me.
You have the bus drivers' union, the aids' union, and the campus police union all up in arms. Doesn't sound like collaboration to me.
There are whisperings (more like shouts, actually) of the teachers' union taking a vote of no confidence in the administration and the board. If the teachers take a vote, I can almost guarantee that the other unions will as well. Then what?
This WE needs to be defined. Is it Dr. Lathan and the board members who agree with her at any given time? Certainly, it's not the district as a whole. That's very clear. WE who?
Guiding a district must include getting input from and securing buy in from all stakeholders. This "you don't have to like me / you don't have to love me" nonsense might make for a good soundbite on a late night reality show; however, it's no way to lead a district. The father (or mother, now) knows best approach is an antiquated, beurocratic approach that simply won't fly. There must be buy in and collaboration. For state and federal money, it's required.
It must be noted too, that saying, "Change is hard . . . Change is painful . . ." . . . well, those hackneyed cliches don't mean anything and, quite frankly, they're downright insulting. The implication that the superintendent and the board members, sans two, are the only ones who understand and can handle change is absurd. Then, when you throw in the red herring, "It's about the children," you might as well just slap all of us in the community in the face. Essentially, you're saying, "If you don't agree with what we're doing, you are against the children."
Read more here, as a tenured teacher talks about the potential of the vote of no confidence...