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The Sentinel Gets it Wrong

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By Jerry Waxman

“All I know is what I read in the papers………………………” Will Rogers

So, what else is new? They recently published two articles on the current contract negotiations between the Orange County School Board (OCPS) and the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association (CTA) with misguided slanted statements as well as with oversimplified rhetoric which is designed to sway public opinion against the teachers and marginalize their professional standing.

When you have an organization that that has made a fiasco out of well meaning collective bargaining over the recent years, reducing the level of professionalism in teachers and support staff, what’s your next move? That’s easy. Let the Orlando Sentinel take positions with facts from only one side and use generalizations to gloss over the true story. The first sentence of each of the recent articles seeks to vilify the CTA. The last we knew it took two sides to bargain. If one side is intransigent on a policy or a contract language, and it takes at least 2 sides to bargain, then bargaining cannot take place. The CTA has learned a lesson over time and it now takes contract language very seriously, as the spirit of the agreement has been broken by OCPS many times over the last 4 years devastating many teachers economically. One result is that CTA plans on tracking the number of teachers who have to rely on public assistance during employment and shortly after retirement. Yes, it is important to work together, but it needs to be done fairly, out in the open and collaboratively.

The point is did the reporter write the articles exactly as they appeared, or did the editor change the tone and nature of them? Quoting from the April 4 article:

The union wasn’t objecting to the raises, per se, but to other elements of the proposed settlement. In many cases, the objections are over language that union leaders contend would reduce teachers’ bargaining power.

They also objected to a middle ground on health care benefits. The district wanted to pass on health care cost increases largely to employees. The union wanted the district to pay the full cost of health insurance premiums for employees opting for higher-benefit plans. The magistrate recommended that the district pay the first 8 percent of any premium cost increases, with any additional costs split between the employees and district.

The union also wanted language that would have forbidden the district from using “directives,” which are written clarifications of expectations, against the employee. The magistrate, M. Scott Milinski, wrote that he couldn’t recommend that change, since directives are intended to improve employee performance.

The latest action by the union appears to be sowing some discord among teachers. Carl Howard, a teacher who has long butted heads with union president Diana Moore, wrote her a letter Thursday demanding that she poll union members — or at least school-level union leaders — on what they want done. “A reasonable person would have settled long ago,” wrote Howard, who is a union representative at Princeton Elementary.

The rejection comes amid a contentious union election, with observers from the Florida Education Association threatening to withdraw oversight.

Had the reporter or the editor properly vetted the people they talked to they would have found Carl Howard a completely unreliable source. True, he and current CTA head Diana Moore are at odds with each other, but that’s been his history for years. He showed the same opposition to past CTA head Mike Cahill and in the process angered mostly everyone in union leadership. In case the Sentinel had forgotten, this is the same Carl Howard, who was a sitting Water & Soil commissioner when he was arrested for shoplifting about $800.00 worth of marking pens a few years ago. Howard is also behind the recall petition for Moore which has pitifully few signatures. Howard has also been using the OCPS e-mail system to push his agenda which is both unethical and not intended for that purpose, which could have the school board take corrective action against the union. Moore has said that she has received a multitude of phone calls and messages from teachers complaining about Howard and his tactics

Then on April 5 The Sentinel again published an article focusing on Moore’s leadership. Here are some excerpts from that article:

The focus of the campaign is Diana Moore, who has brought a combative, aggressive style to the union presidency since she emerged victorious from a contentious election two years ago.

“She’s made enemies of the people we need to be working with,” said Teresa Yates, a West Orange High School teacher who has thrown her support behind Glyniss Hudson, a colleague running against Moore.

Still, Moore has many backers.

“I think she’s done a lot to revitalize the union,” said Vincent Johnston, a teacher at Rolling Hills Elementary who thinks the district has tried to undermine Moore.

Moore has headed the union with a strong hand and little interest in compromise. The school district agreed last month to a proposed settlement that would give 99 percent of Orange teachers a raise of at least $2,475 but also require performance pay.

The union on Wednesday rejected elements of that ruling, which was brokered by a special magistrate.

Why is it that a woman who is steadfast in holding the line is viewed by this local media as combative, yet a man would be seen as being strong? Why is it that a woman who shows leadership is aggressive and a man demonstrating leadership is in control? The issue of demeanor aside, the two recent articles fail to connect the dots in tracking just how much of the governor’s money will not reach the teachers for personal budgeting. It may be as high as 33 Million dollars. The union lost out four years ago on the contract talks because of weak leadership with no negotiating skills, and as a result only came away with $500.00 bonuses for all teachers. The union was determined not to let that happen again. They were much better this time and it was because of stronger, more focused leadership. They made some mistakes but you only learn by going through this kind of experience.

The real culprit here is a lack of understanding the budgeting process by almost every member of the board itself, none more clueless than former chair Joie Cadle. She’s the main reason the teachers did not get raises four years ago, and she’s part of the reason that they are in that situation now. Another part of today’s problem is Chairman Bill Sublette, the only elected official in this entire country with two votes. Sublette is a former state legislator who would never question the state’s directives on VAM scores. Every other county in Central Florida, as well as all large counties in the state seemed OK without using VAM scores to settle, but not OCPS. A third part of the equation is Superintendant Barbara Jenkins. Jenkins is a graduate of the Broad Academy, which is notorious for school reform along with the Gates and Walton Foundations, which are dedicated to rigid testing, vouchers, mislabeled school choice and devaluation of teachers in general. It’s no wonder that OCPS schools are up for the Broad Prize, which was just announced on April 9. Barbara Jenkins needs to share her philosophy on union-management partnerships and the process of collective bargaining. Both the teachers and the public would like to know if Superintendent Barbara Jenkins is anti-union.

Most importantly did the Sentinel research the backgrounds of the candidates that have made comments in those articles that show an appearance to be biased in favor of one side? Is the Orlando Sentinel attempting to influence the CTA’s leadership in the upcoming election that will be held on April 11? Collective bargaining cannot properly occur with a board that begins and ends with the philosophy of “take it, leave it or lump it”. On the other hand, “advanced” public school districts with the highest scores from state to state on national tests also have the most productive union-management partnerships with true collective bargaining. They keep their word on agreements made avoided twisting terminology and false claims of legality. The issue here is what’s best for the children? This current school board has shown time and again that the 187,000 children in the system don’t matter to them. Obviously Jeb Bush’s education policies along with the Broad Foundation’s headlong attempt to destroy public education as we know it mean much more to them. The only people who actually do care about the children are the teachers. That’s why they teach. It’s certainly not to get rich.

It is the vision of CTA President, Diana Moore and her supporters to walk the narrow line through negotiations for a win-win result and a stronger contract to guide the growth of students, parents and teacher professionalism in Orange County Schools.

But Wait!!! There’s More—This just in!

In the April 5 Sentinel the article stated:

In a harshly-worded statement, FEA president Andy Ford wrote that the local committee overseeing the Orange CTA election “has no prior experience or expertise in conducting an election and that some members do not have the required neutrality to administer a complex elections process.” He said that the FEA would not continue to help oversee the election without specific direction from the CTA about what the expected role of FEA staff is.

Apparently, the Sentinel had gotten hold of an e-mail sent to Moore and others on her board expressing FEA’s concerns. When questioned by the Sentinel, Ford expressed confidence that the elections will be fair. Of course, when you read the article that statement wasn’t there. At 10:38 AM on April 9 Ford sent word to Moore that after several exchanges with union representatives he was rescinding his withdrawal of support, and at the same time he bemoaned the fact that the Sentinel chose to be deliberately misleading. Here are portions of the e-mail he sent to Moore:

Following thoughtful messages and requests from several committee members, I am rescinding my withdrawal of support for the election. The Chief of Staff has directed Tom Fackender and Aaron Hilligas to once again provide active support to the Elections and Surveys Committee, although they have continued to provide requested support to the co-chairs since last Wednesday because they knew the committee required that help.

Based on the work of the Committee and our staff, we believe that a foundation now exists for that purpose going forward.

I am aware that my email last week was provided to the press. That is an unfortunate occurrence most likely the result of someone forwarding a copy to the reporter, a likely symptom of the atmosphere that now exists in your local. We had no role in that release. When asked for comment by the Sentinel reporter, we told them that we were completely confident that the election was being conducted in a fair and legal manner and that our differences were related to lines of responsibility only. The Sentinel chose not to report our comments.

Stay tuned for further developments. There’s more to come.

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“Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”

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By Jerry Waxman

In B. Traven’s 1927 novel, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, part of the plot involved outlaws pretending to be police in order to murder the American gold prospectors for whatever loot they could steal. In the novel, Bob Curtin asks them for identification to which one of them replied: “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges (expletive deleted)!”  This was at a time following the Mexican Revolution when many of the revolutionaries split up into bandit gangs. The Mexican government had their own police force, The Federales, as well as the army dispensing quick justice to those that they caught. The 1948 movie was as faithful to the novel as the Hollywood Code would allow, but there were a few changes that did not impede the story. In the movie Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) asks the question, and Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya) responds with the now immortal quote in this piece’s title. Taken as pure entertainment The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of my favorite all time movies, and I’ve also read the book. If people actually read the books that most of these movies were adapted from they would be aghast at the liberties taken and regard them, no matter how entertaining, as cheap imitations. I hate what Hollywood has done to Steinbeck and Hemingway and so many others. So, why this diatribe? That’s simple; I hate cheap imitations and I hate fraudulent representations like Teach For America.

Yes, it’s coming to OCPS and that is tragic. Ask yourself a few questions. Would you choose a doctor or dentist who only had five weeks of training out of college and not a member of the AMA to diagnose and treat you? Would you hire someone who only had five weeks of training without having taken the bar exam, and is not a member of the ABA to represent you? Would you hire any professional be it an electrician, plumber, air conditioner repairman who isn’t licensed? If you would even think about it you’re a fool. There are plenty of con artists out there who fool people all the time and they pay dearly for it. TFA is just another con that our very lackluster school board has fallen for. Shame on them. OCPS spends well over a billion dollars on construction and maintenance every year and I’m sure that their building contractors are quite reputable. That’s no Penny Saver handyman doing that construction, yet they’re quite willing to put people in the classroom that are in no way qualified to teach our most precious assets, who don’t have any stinkin’ badges. Where’s the sense there?

You might want to blame it on OCPS. Their divisive policies have forced 2300 teachers out of the system since 2012 with more to follow. They’re still fighting the teachers over a minimum raise which should have been settled long ago, yet they are willing to bring in TFA people and pay them the same money as hard working teachers who have years of classroom management experience as well as professional credentials in their chosen fields. The money will be supplied by funding from Race to the Top, which is something that any sensible school board would have rejected, but then this board has no guts. Instead of advocating for the children, they act as babysitters for their funders. They are as culpable as any Orange County and state agency, yet they could not have that power unless they were elected, and there is the missing part of the equation. Shakespeare said it eloquently: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”  There’s more to that quote but its meaning is clear; we elected them without knowing who they are or what they do and we pay for it dearly. This is very traceable back to former governor Jeb Bush, who at the time was quite popular. Unfortunately, the Bush era brought in legislators that harmed this state, especially in the area of education. Bush founded some foundations that set about to siphon off public money to fund unaccountable charters and enable nonproductive testing to evaluate teachers and school systems. The real enemy of education in this state is Jeb Bush and his minions, yet he was able to convince big money, like The Waltons, The Broads and The Gates Foundation to go along with his ideas. Until we completely discredit and reject Jeb Bush, Florida will wallow in less than mediocre stature

Why do we elect people who do us harm? Why do we elect people who leave us worse off than we were before? The answer to me is obvious. It’s from another famous novel and movie, All the king’s Men, where the main character reveals who the voters really are: “Now listen to me, you hicks. Yeah, you’re hicks too, and they fooled you a thousand times like they fooled me.” Again, this is not the entire quote but the message is clear-the average voter in this state is a hick who will continue to be fooled come election time. The eleventh largest school system in the country deserves much better. I just got this e-mail from Diana Moore, president of the Orange County CTA and I want to share it with you:

“Our school board members think that spending the $1.5 million additional dollars they just received from Race To The Top on a group called Teach For America is a wise investment.

Well, your Orange County teachers want you to know, that there is NO substitute for training and experience!

Orange County children don’t deserve a revolving door of teachers due to the low morale, inconsistent implementation of this evaluation system by poorly trained principals and assistant principals and holding their step level raises hostage. 2300 teachers have resigned in Orange County since 2012.  The school board members set the tone and vision for our schools, but you as voters elect them.

Paying TFA $41k and $3250 bonuses after 5 weeks of training to go into inner city schools is another slap in the face to your hard working Orange County teachers who have still not settled their contract to bring starting pay up by $3000 to $40k. That is $26.00 an hour to $28.10 since not getting a raise since 2007.

Parents and community members, now is the time to ask your school board, what they are planning for your children, and If the question at the end of the day will be “Who was your teacher today?” instead of “How was your day today?”

Read this article to see:

http://atthechalkface.com/2013/06/30/an-open-letter-to-new-teach-for-america-recruits/

Meet at 445 W. Amelia Street at 4:00 on March 11th to stand with our teachers before the next school board meeting.

These members are running for re-election in August 2014: Joie Cadle-District 1, Bill Sublette, Chairman, Daryl Flynn, District 2, and District 3. Call them about your concerns at407-317-3200.

Diana.Moore@floridaea.org

This is not a time to sit back and complain about what’s going on. This is a time to take direct action. The teachers need the support of the public and the public needs to know the facts. There’s an election coming in August and it’s time for the public to demand accountability from these people. After all, these are Public Schools we’re talking about. I have no complaint at this time on the construction projects recently. These edifices are magnificent and beautifully done. They were built by first class, licensed and insured builders. Shouldn’t what goes on inside these structures demand the same degree of competence and professionalism that went into building them? And OCPS and CTA teachers DO have those stinkin’ badges.