Thursday, July 2, 2015

Love Wins. Teachers Lose. (Not Causal)

Two completely unrelated things today.  It’s not a round up.  Don’t call it that.

First, love wins.  Yay.  Of course there was a sea of social media around the Supreme Court decision (you may have seen some of it) and County Executive Kittleman tweeted “Proud to have championed marriage equality in the MD Senate & across the state b/c it was the right thing to do.” 

My first reaction was to be a bit annoyed at this.  I watched tweets and Facebook posts fly by from people with all kinds of involvement in this issue and this was the ONLY one that felt a need to slice off a hunk of credit instead of simply being happy about the victory.  It struck me as a tad gauche.  In the end I decided playas gonna play [1] and in the grand scheme of political offenses, it was a pretty small one and I have other issues to address anyway. 

And now I return to the topic in this post, the way teachers are being talked to by the school system, specifically Superintendent Foose.  I received from several teachers a forwarded email from HCEA President Paul Lemle.  As I explained in the linked post above, the Superintendent promised pay increases she was already contractually obligated to provide and seemed to be pretending that this was a result of her good graces and hard work fighting for the teachers in the budget.  She explained that  “I am especially pleased to announce that you will see a pay increase in your first July paycheck.”  In the recent Lemle email he reports that she followed up with (definite paraphrasing here) “Did I say FIRST paycheck in July?  I meant second.”  When asked for clarification from HCEA, the Superintendent gave three very logistical answers [2].

I get that we are not talking about a lot of money between starting on the first paycheck of July vs the second.  That’s hardly the point though.  First off, all three points the school system uses in defense were true when they made the promise.  If they couldn’t logistically pull off the first paycheck then WHY PROMISE TO?  Secondly, since you are already presenting your legal obligation as a show of some sort of act of good faith and partnership, the least you could do [3] is do it when you said you would.

In the end, this is what will continue to happen quite simply because they have the power to blatantly disrespect teachers.  I did propose a potential solution where the teachers might flex what muscle they have[4] but it wasn’t exactly met with great fanfare.  Believe it or not, the idea was really steeped in Saul Alinsky power dynamic organizing, more specifically, his threatened “fart-in” at the Rochester Philharmonic.

I can’t possibly do this whole thing justice so I won’t really try but you can read his account of it here.  The important part is that the tactic (which he never had to actually employ) was perfectly strategic.  It threatened something his target (the executives of Eastman Kodak and the leaders of the community of Rochester) held sacred in a way that was safe and morally acceptable to the community striving for power and acceptance within the community (the African-American community at large in Rochester).  Until the teachers can find something that accomplishes both of the above, I’m not sure if I see a route where they don’t continue to be so disrespected.

This is entirely my opinion but I do think that this Superintendent is treating teachers the way administration and school boards have wished to do so for years.  If she accomplishes it without real negative consequence, the result will be an embiggened[5] administration henceforth.

[1] Play play play play
[2] 1)   “The July 17th paycheck covers the pay period beginning June 25th and ending July 8th
2) The lump sum is to be paid from funds in fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1, 2015;
3) HCPSS’s payroll system can not accommodate a stand-alone payment for all employees on July 1.
[3] And I mean the very VERY least
[4] I will say one more time that the problem seemed to be that it got caught in the debate over standardized tests which I was taking NO position on but rather searching for a place where teachers could exercise their power without violating their own sense of morality.
[5] Yes of course I know it’s not a word.  But watch this for the reference


  1. Gold star for your use of "embiggened".

    1. Between you and me, that might have been my proudest blogging moment so far.