Crisis Activities

October 29, 2011

The crisis team met this week to brainstorm activities that PEA members can do. These activities will begin to let the community realize that not all is well in their district (teachers working without a contract and facing frozen steps) AND pressure district officials to offer a settlement that is fair.

1. All PEA members are encouraged to wear the red PEA shirts on every Tuesday, beginning Nov. 8.

2. Starting Monday, Nov. 7, all PEA members are urged to “work to rule” — which means doing no more extra work than you currently do (not including schedule B duties, coaching, attendance at required meetings, etc.) and not arriving any sooner or staying any later than your contractual reporting time.

This show of unity works best when all PEA members in a building enter in the morning as a group, and depart in the afternoon also in a group.

When the community realizes that its well-respected teachers are working under the tension of no pay increase, increased insurance costs (since July) and a murky (at best) new evaluation process, they may begin to ask questions of our administration and school board. When principals have the sole responsibility for supervising students before and after school, they may also begin to ask that this contract situation be resolved.

How long will we have to do this? That depends on the school board’s level of cooperation and willingness to offer reasonable proposals. Our superintendent has made it clear that he is not being allowed to offer more than what the board is “comfortable with” economically. So the pressure from our side needs to focus on the school board. The red shirts and decreased staff presence should be obvious to older students and adults in the buildings within a couple of weeks. The crisis team will evaluate all proposed activities to determine when to change strategies or add new ones.

The leadership of the PEA knows that you don’t have enough time to do all your work now. Coming later and/or leaving earlier will be a burden. You’ll have to grade papers, organize lesson plans, call parents, etc. from somewhere other than your classroom. If you are an early bird, you may find it necessary to leave home at your usual time, but stop at the coffee shop to do your work before actually reporting to your classroom. Crisis activities are not easy nor fun. They are, however, necessary if we want to send the message that we are not pleased with the way things are. If we don’t change our behaviors in a clear, noticeable way, the district will assume we are content with our current contract situation, and the accompanying loss of pay and loss of steps.

The crisis team is also preparing a “fact sheet” of information to give to community members — you friends, neighbors (in Parchment) and parents. Look for this soon.

We cannot succeed without unanimity. Divided, we fall.

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What’s Happening Now???

October 16, 2011

It has been awhile since I updated this site, so here is what has been happening.

1. We had a pretty good turn-out on Friday, October 14 for the Homecoming Parade. I don’t know if our presence makes a big difference in the minds and hearts of the community, but I sure saw lots of students excited to see their teachers riding (or walking beside) a truck!

2. We are still without a contract. That means that the language in the old contract is pretty much still in place regarding working conditions and for sure in place regarding pay. As many of you know from personal experience, the step increase you thought you’d receive in September is not automatic, nor is the increase after earning an advanced degree.

The bargaining team plans to meet with administration on Monday, October 17 and hear their official counter proposal. Then we can give you a thorough update on the progress (or lack) at the PEA meeting on Thursday, October 20. This meeting has been changed from a regular executive board meeting to a general membership meeting, so we can tell you what our contract status is, and HEAR from you about where you want the negotiators to move next.

3. Teachers in all levels continue to struggle with the new evaluation system. Major changes were already in store as we bargained most of this two years ago. More changes happened after the administration took matters into their own hands. The result has been mass confusion, starting with how to complete a simple goal form. PEA leadership is monitoring the process and will protest if it seems that different principals are expecting radically different teaching behaviors, while using one evaluation form.

Note: If you are and have been (in the past) an effective teacher, you probably already know it. You have heard from students and parents that you helped a student learn. The evaluation changes should not suddenly make you look ineffective. Instead, our intention at the bargaining table was to help people who do struggle with various aspects of teaching identify and improve in those areas. Those already at the top of their game will continue to teach effectively, and simply need to keep clear records to show those things that your principal won’t notice in the quick observation.

Despite the changes made by the administration, I don’t personally think any principal is using the new method to “target” anyone. If they had concerns in the past, they still have those concerns. If they have been impressed with you in the past, they still are.

Part of the principal’s evaluation is based on our performance, so they definitely want you to be good at what you do!