Oct 14, 2007

this year's strange and confusing School Board races

Commentator msndis asks some good questions about the WEA's funding lawsuit against the state, and its relation to the current Board races. I'll answer each in turn.
Have you (as a union member I assume) talked to Russ Lehman about this?
Yes, I'm a (low-ranking) union member. No, I haven't personally spoken to Russ Lehman about why he pushed for the lawsuit without taking steps required by the WEA; my knowledge of the situation comes from discussions with union leaders. If they have more specific comments about the situation, they're free to speak up.
If the union is so in favor of this idea, why aren't the teachers actively working on this? Has the union been working with Nafziger, Parvinen and Barclift on this? If so, why hasn't it been suggested by one of them at a Board meeting? As you know, they do have a majority and can pass anything they'd like.
Since the issue was first floated, the situation has changed immensely. First, Shirley and Lehman voted against the "simple majority" resolution (a resolution strongly supported by the union). Second, Lehman and Shirley surprised the Board with a "merit pay for principals" plan, backed neither by the principals nor the union. Third, Lehman sent a threatening email to the union insinuating that the Endorsement Committee (of which I was a member) had base motives for choosing Frank Wilson over Jeff Nejedly. The strange turn of events, combined with bad timing (now that the campaign has heated up and the crush of the school year is full on), has put the lawsuit issue on the backburner, at least as far as I can see.

Part of the lawsuit issue is that, at this point, the District's joining is largely symbolic, since there are already several other plaintiffs. Add to that a tight budget and the intense personal feelings on both sides, and I'm not surprised that the combination of personal and situational factors had led to the present impasse.
It appears to me the union wants to have the status quo maintained and back the board members who have the majority but aren't doing anything to help the union.
Most people forget that, up until recently, the Board had voted unanimously 90% of the time, largely agreeing on the direction the District should go, and the Board's role in that process. It should be added that all the current Board members have, at various points, disagreed with the union. But there are disagreements, and there are disagreements.
What do Barclift, Nafziger and Parvinen do that benefits the teachers in the district? I'd like specific examples.
Parvinen is a bit of a moot point, since she's leaving, and her replacement, whether Wilson or Nejedly, will be a different voice on the Board. Barclift and Nafziger...
  • By and large, have trusted teachers' and administrators' judgment in instructional and curricular issues.
  • Have advocated at the state level for a more stable funding structure for basic education.
  • Have supported a Strategic Plan to streamline the budget process, reduce waste, and set priorities.
  • Have supported competitive pay for principals and for our Superintendent.
There have been areas of disagreement between the union and Barclift and Nafziger, but always in good faith.
Now, what do Lehman and Shirley do that doesn't support teachers? I'd like specific examples.
They have...
  • Proposed merit pay for principals, despite the objections of principals, the District, and teachers. The scheme, brought out of nowhere at a late budget meeting, and since promoted in The Olympian, is not only counter to the aims of the principals in our district, but is a likely first step toward merit pay for teachers, which brings up all sorts of equity concerns.
  • Proposed increasing collaboration time, at untold cost to the district, without asking teachers whether they need more time taken away from classroom instruction, instead of further compensating the time we take over and above the school day. (I don't need more collaboration time to finish the stack of journals I have to grade this weekend.)
  • Voted against the simple majority resolution because it was "hyperbolic" and had "poor grammar," even though the resolution comes from the Washington State School District Association and, to this English teacher's eye, was a little clunky, but conceptually sound.
This isn't to say that Lehman and Shirley are anti-teacher, or that Barclift and Nafziger are saints. In fact, the OEA's endorsement of Wilson and Barclift was made based on their experience and capabilities, and not on the political wrangling that came to light after we decided, with Board members lining up on either side. I can't emphasize enough how difficult our decision was, considering the strengths of the candidates in this year's election. Wilson, Nejedly, Gentry-Meltzer, and Barclift are all good people--sometimes I think that, as the campaign intensifies, we forget that.

I can only hope that, no matter the outcome, all involved can put the past in the past, and work toward strengthening what's already one of the best districts in the state.

Back to grading stacks of journals.

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