Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Where you at? (After the dust has settled.)

As most, if not all, of the readers of this blog know, the contract dispute which spawned this blog has ended. A new three-year contract has been ratified.

The settlement that was finally agreed upon was almost surrealistic in its simplicity and fairness. It was a settlement that was overwhelmingly accepted by the teachers' union. (It also benefited other bargaining units who got similar offers.)

Had this offer been made earlier in the process... then it is likely that most of the difficulties that followed would have been avoided. But then, this dispute was simply part of a larger conflict.

My connect-the-dots conclusions?

1) The District unnecessarily wasted a lot of time, money, and goodwill in its fight to negotiate a new contract.
2) The District's lack of transparency, honesty, and care for its employees was unveiled. (The lip-service never stopped, but actions speak louder than words.)
3) The School Board's complacency in challenging "facts" and "findings" supplied by the Superintendent's office has been long-standing, and it has contributed to a lack of fairness and balance in District decisions. This complacency is also evidenced in the Board's general lack of seeking input both privately and publicly from other stakeholders in the District.

My connect-the-dots hopes for on-going improvements?

1) Voters have infused some new blood (and hopefully accountability) into an anemically performing Board via the election process.
2) Board members are beginning to ask a few meaningful questions, and/or calling for a delay in making decisions until they become better informed.
3) District employees are more on their guard regarding the District Office's oversight.

My connect-the-dots wait-and-see concerns?

1) Will the School Board evolve into a more informed, independent body that regulates the Superintendent, instead of vice-versa?
2) Will the voters and families of Lowell Joint continue to press for honesty, transparency, and change?

Although the contract disputed spawned this blog, that dispute was simply the tip of the iceberg. That dispute brought a sharper focus to what problems the District faces as it moves into the future. The problems are not chiefly economic: it's not the economy...

A telling feature in the new contract is the lack of "new" language that the Superintendent was seeking to add on many issues.

Why is it not there?

After the main economic disagreements were resolved, the union negotiators said something to this effect, "You want to change language? So do we!"

Given that prospect (and the changing political climate), the Superintendent dropped the call for "new" (and controlling) changes she had been seeking. By this time in the process, there was much more pressure from the Board and Public to settle the dispute.

One on-going concern?

The iceberg isn't gone.

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