Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A tenured teacher speaks on the definition of "WE" and collaboration

We have seen all of the "Anonymous" comments from teachers on the blog and questioned why they won't sign their name to anything. Lately I have noticed that some teachers are being more vocal and speaking before the Board of Education. Additionally, they ARE giving their input directly to the Board and signing their names to it. The letter below is from a tenured teacher:

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.

Shortly before Norm left, we were poised for change -- the kind of change needed in District 150.  The union, the board, and the administration were working together to push for progressive reforms. 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...

Monday, April 9, 2012

UPDATED: Second hand live blogging Board of Education Meeting...

Union President, Bobby Darling "out of order" at BOE meeting...

5:58  No picketers!
6:40  Meeting still hasn't started. Supposed to begin at 6:30
6:41  Meeting finally started
6:50  Teacher spoke regarding Harrison and Glen Oak. "Who is responsible for promising the taxpayers community schools and not delivering?"
6:52  Terry Knapp spoke regarding state baseball tournament. The IHSA baseball championship game help same day as 150 graduation. Lathan promised last June that would not happen. It was brought up last August and she did not change date. He is hoping that will not happen next year.
6:53  Mr Sierra said discipline is NUMBER issue that faces 150.
6:55  Bobby Darling states the district laying off  70 teachers...what will that do to class sizes?
7:00  Speaker asking why board meetings aren't televised live.  Asking for BOE to give community opportunity to watch meetings.
7:00  Public Hearing for Dismissal of Teachers.
7:09  Public Hearing people can speak a second time.
7:18   Bobby Darling asking if layoffs are really for economic reasons? Why does the District continue to buy more  programs if this is truly about economic reasons?
7:19   Teacher said that she has 34 kids in her home room. "…if district is laying off teachers next year will I have 44 or 54?"
7:24  Teacher said layers and layers of bureaucracy ..lots of people making 6 figures that never see the children.
7:25   So it came out that the teachers that will be dismissed tonight were not EVEN NOTIFIED!
7:40  Martha says she doesn't feel comfortable firing people without giving them notice.
7:41  Linda Butler and Dr Lathan says that Union given list.
7:43  Bobby Darling jumped up and yelled "IT'S NOT THE UNION'S JOB TO TELL PEOPLE THAT THEY ARE FIRED!!!!" Linda Butler.." Mr Darling, you are out of order! Mr. Darling you are out of order! "
7:51 Wolfmeyer.."Mr Darling, I totally I agree that it's not the Union's job to tell people that they are fired."
7:54 Martha said she will not support layoffs bc staff was not notified that they were being laid off before vote.
7:59  Does Chris Crawford speak?
8:00  Martha changed her vote 7-0 all teachers dismissed without notification.
8:04 Presentation by BOE. Patelle wants to know where the District is as far as televised meeting. Lathan said something will be in board minutes.
8:11 Meeting over.

Check back regularly for updates.
Hat tip to my friend on the Verizon Wireless BlackBerry