Oct 28, 2007

Jeff Nejedly shares his thoughts

I spoke with Jeff Nejedly, who's running against Frank Wilson for the District 1 seat on the Olympia School Board, and he gave me permission to post this publicly. All blockquoted words are his, unedited except for a removed phone number.
Hello Jim,

I was told by a teacher friend of mine about some of your comments posted on your blog, and went to your web page as well. I’m wondering why you think that I am in favor of pay for performance? I don’t recall this question being asked in the OEA interview. As a manager at the Dept. of Ecology, I am given merit based raises for Growth and Development. I can see why some might consider merit based pay for Principals, as school managers (of course not based on student scores). I personally would have to investigate if and how this has worked (or not) in other high functioning districts like ours, to see if I would support such a proposal.

I do not support Merit based pay for teachers. Although I would think this would be obvious to most, given my background as a teacher’s son who stood on picket lines with my father in Wisconsin, I am adamantly against Pay-For-Performance in any form for teachers. I am also keenly aware of how underpaid teachers are, and as a state worker and manager, I support annual increases in base pay based on time in service which equates to experience.

I was told that the OEA endorsement of Frank was due to his school involvement. I have been very involved volunteering in my children’s schools both in the classroom, school improvement projects, and PTA fundraising. Additionally, my wife was Fundraising chair and PTA Vice President for Boston Harbor, and chaired many other student activities at BHS. My wife also served on the Budget Advisory Group 2005-2006. Additionally, I have been to the majority of Board meetings in the last 2 years, and have learned a great deal.

I have serious concerns when the number of administrators grows in a year (2006) that the BAG is told that they need to carve $2Million off the budget to prevent the significant shortfalls that we are seeing now. I have concerns with the increase in other administrative costs that OSD is experiencing at this same time. It would be terrible to see teachers let go (as happened in 2004) due to budget shortfalls, at the cost of more administration.

I’m also concerned that the Math Adoption Committee was made so political by the district administration. In the past this committee would have been made up of teachers only. No administrators and no hand-selected parents (one was a principal’s wife!). The folks who will be teaching the curriculum should be able to fully weigh in on a decision of this type, as has always been the case in the past.

I opposed the middle school curriculum adoption, not only because the curriculum was weighted too heavily with one teaching style, but more importantly because of the process involved in the adoption. It has cost me politically, but that is fine, since my ultimate goal is not political, but an open, honest, and accountable school district administration. This would benefit the teachers in this district, as well as the students.

Since you’ve met with Frank several times (per your blog) and as of yet haven’t attempted to meet or even talk with me, I realize that you have already made up your mind on which candidate you are supporting. I send you this information, in hopes of clarifying the record.


Jeff Nejedly

I'd like to thank Jeff for his thoughts. Although I have made up my mind, I realize that other voters haven't, and should consider all the relevant facts when doing so.

Three things I should point out: in his first paragraph, Nejedly apparently refers to this post. As readers can see, I was talking about Russ Lehman, who, although he supports Jeff Nejedly, does not share all of Nejedly's views. (I was answering a question about what concerns I had about some of Lehman's--not Nejedly's--positions.)

Second, there's a simple reason I didn't contact Nejedly after the OEA interview process, when I first met him. After members of the committee labored through the difficult decision to support one candidate over another, and once the choice was made, I was asked to speak with Wilson about specific teacherly issues, to act as an informal liaison between the union and its endorsed candidate. Thus, I never imagined that my (small, informal) role in the process would go beyond that. I met with Frank a few times and blogged about the experience--it only confirmed that we had chosen well, especially since we couldn't make a bad choice between the two. Once the school year started, my political activities tailed off considerably.

I support Wilson because of his proven ability to build bridges and work with opposing sides through controversy, because of his kind and thoughtful personality, because of his willingness to reach out and actively seek opinions from those who aren't being heard, and because of his remarkable and highly-regarded career as a volunteer and participant in our schools. I wish I could vote for him. Too bad I live in the wrong district.

Now, back to breakfast.

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