Thursday, June 24, 2010

Who said what? June 21st Board Meeting

At the June 21st Board meeting, a dozen or so attendees braved the speaker’s podium to share their concerns, cares, and opinions. Before the meeting, 20 or so teachers picketed in the area of Whittier Boulevard and Valley Home.

What are the teachers and support staff so concerned about? (School’s out, it’s Monday night, why are they coming to a Board meeting?)

Here are some names and some of their thoughts. (Names are mostly spelled right. Add a comment if I got something wrong. Thanks.)

Leslie Mangold (Meadow Green, 3rd grade teacher): Concerns over the increasing rift in negotiations.

Note: Comments made at an earlier Board meeting by a board member have incensed many of the classified employees in the district. The comments implied that the classified employees should carry more of the weight of needed cuts because they were less essential. (This is one reason board members seldom speak after comments from the audience, because their words – and beliefs – sometimes get them in trouble.)

Teena Serrano: Rancho-Starbuck (front office): In part, Teena informed the Board that she and many of her co-workers (non-teachers), consistently put in extra hours to make sure that the school site continue to function. She and her co-workers work above and beyond the call of duty!

Unknown: Another classified employee informed the Board of the many cuts the classified employees have endured over the past years: cutting of hours, cutting of benefits, cutting of jobs, etc. Classified employees have done their part in controlling costs.

Marilyn Durrazo (Meadow Green, Kindergarten teacher): Disappointment over...

MaryJane Barger: Disappointment at the lack of meaningful negotiations on the part of the District. The District called for a resumption of talks, the union complied, and the District just repackaged the same offer, for the 4th time. (Five meetings: one offer.) She noted that the union came with a one year offer with deeper cuts than the District had asked for, but the District was unwilling to consider anything but a three-year deal. The District came to the table and informed the teachers’ union, that the Board had directed the District’s team to offer no compromises.

Monica Redell (RSP instructional assistant): Concerns over paying people a fair wage for the work they do.

Martha Leonard (Macy Parent): Martha repeated her concern over a lack of fiscal leadership by the Board and Superintendent over pay. She asked the Board again, “What pay cuts are you personally taking to show good faith towards solving the fiscal problems?” 

Jeannie Nichols (El Portal primary teacher): She asked the question: Why is the District still not bargaining in good faith?

Teresa Herman (El Portal, 3rd grade teacher): She asked Mr. Najara, “You said you’d review the budget line by line… have you?” She noted that the District’s budget projections have been overstated 13 of the last 14 times. She knew the numbers, did they? Mrs. Herman was awake during the budget presentations tonight while two (of five) board members nodded, fighting sleep and boredom? She was awake, and they needed to be too!

Ronnie Mayer (CSEA president): Concerns over change in the philosophy of the District, especially in regards to classified employees. (Ronnie was cut off by the gavel, but finished her prepared remarks in a second three-minute segment donated by another speaker.)

Nancy Rogers (Jordan, 4th grade teacher):  Nancy raised concerns over the Board’s determined course to impose permanent solutions via permanent pay cuts, when the Board continually acknowledges that the problems we face are temporary.

Kelly Aldacoa (Macy teacher): What kind of the district is the Board building? One where tyranny runs rampant?

Marikate Wissman (CTA co-president): Concerns over negotiations, or lack there-of earlier in the day.

Margaret Palmer (Olita Kindergarten teacher): Concerns over the lack of true leadership being shown by members of the Board, who are more likely to ignore problems (head-in-the-sand) than to find meaningful solutions.

Don Evans (El Portal, RSP): I spoke first about the shameful and degrading enforcement of the three-minute rule. It was rude and disrespectful. Additionally, it demonstrated the District’s true avoidance of meaningful dialogue. I provided the Board a copy of the main part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed last year by the Superintendent that assured that “in no event” would a teacher earn less in 2010-2011 than they would have had not the teachers voluntarily taken a temporary freeze in the salary schedule. That this was true was evidenced by the line item in their own “Approved Actuals” report presented earlier in the evening. A Board, which preaches Character Education and Honesty, is guilty of attempting to renege on their written, signed contract. That’s hypocrisy! (And maybe illegal.) ---- Then the bell rang --- and I said, “Go ahead, hit the gavel.” (But they didn’t, and I walked away.)

Ronnie Mayer (Part two): Ronnie noted that the Board’s repeated actions against the classified employees have greatly undermined morale. Despite all the Board has done, employees have continued to show up and perform their duties as true professionals, quite often above and beyond contractual limits. These employees deserve respect, not disrespect.

My apologies for mistakes in content and/or the spelling of names. If I got something wrong, let me know. Especially if you think I missed the point of what you said! This post is more of second-draft. If you have improvements, let me know.

Final Thoughts: The employees of Lowell Joint continue to provide award-winning performance for the students and the families of Lowell Joint. The recent Distinguished School awards simply document a reality that has been in place for decades. The above-and-beyond level of service is predicated on the professionalism and goodwill of the work force. That goodwill is being undermined by repeated indignities (both personal and fiscal) being imposed by the Board of Trustees and its Superintendent.

Ultimately, it is the participating public that needs to provide the pressure needed to keep Lowell Joint the jewel it has been for decades.
Those who give of their time and talents volunteering on campuses, in PTA committees, may also need to consider serving at a higher level of the organization. 

Applications for running for the School Board are due… very soon! 

(Mrs. Averill announced her resignation at the end of the June 21st board meeting. The meeting closed with Mrs. Averill presenting a gift to Mrs. Rogers, who announced last month that she was not seeking re-election.) 

Three of five seats are up for election. Will the voters have a choice? I hope so.


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