Union plans to ‘stress’ board members

The teachers union in Framingham, Massachusetts has asked members to provide personal information on school board members and their spouses so they will “feel the same stresses that we have,” reports the Boston Globe.

In a memo to teachers, Framingham Teachers’ Association president Sam Miskin directed them to an online survey containing pages dedicated to each of the seven members of the Framingham School Committee.

Below each name were blank boxes for the members’ personal contact information, employer information, length of time on the committee, membership to other groups within and outside the town, gym membership, names of their spouse or partner, and their work information.

. . . “Having as much information as possible about their lives, activities, and daily routines is crucial to design actions that will truly impact them.”

In a statement Thursday evening, Mishkin denied threatening school committee members’ families. “We are not out to hurt anyone — and we are certainly not going to involve children. EVER.”

Miskin said the point of gathering information was to determine if School Committee members traveled in the same social circles as union members, so the two sides could exchange views outside the atmosphere of a negotiating session.

Right. A teacher, who didn’t want to be named, told the Globe that the union had gone “way too far” and sullied teachers’ reputations.

Motor City meltdown

Detroit’s incompetent school board could regain control of the city’s worst schools, reports the Detroit News.

The state’s Education Achievement Author, modeled on Louisiana’s Recovery District, took control of the lowest-achieving schools last year under a contract written by Roy Roberts, the emergency manager. When Michigan voters repealed the state’s “emergency manager” law, the Detroit Board of Education canceled the contract, writes Education Gadfly in Meltdown in the Motor City. The Detroit school board, which one newspaper columnist said was “sauced on power and staggering with incompetence,” now wants to take back the schools, which are in the lowest 5 percent of Michigan schools in achievement.

‘Trigger’ advocate leads in school board race

Parent trigger advocates won their fight with the Adelanto school board in the Mojave Desert to take over a failing school — and now they appear to have ousted two incumbents and won a seat on the board, reports Ed Week.

The vote total  is not yet official, but it looks like voters have elected Teresa Rogers, a Desert Trails Parent Union member who backed the trigger campaign, to the Adelanto school board, along with challenger Elaine M. Gonzales.  School board president Carlos Mendoza, who strongly opposed the campaign to convert Desert Trails Elementary School to a charter school, and incumbent Holly Eckes, have lost their seats, if the vote count stands. A third incumbent, Jermaine Wright has won re-election.

School board lessons

After five years as a school board member, Peter Meyer summarizes what he’s learned on Ed Next. Among the lessons:

. . .  there are no absolute victories and no deafening defeats in the land of education governance; just the constant hum of the bureaucracy trying to control the flow of information and—if you’re lucky—the shouts and murmurs of the “the people” complaining. Unfortunately, there is simply no alternative to eternal vigilance, but it must be vigilance in the interests of freedom and equal opportunity.

There are plenty of reasons for wanting to leave “the people” out of it. They gum up the works, for one. They are lazy and apathetic for another. But what are the alternatives? I believe it was Churchill who also said, “Americans always get things right—after they’ve exhausted all the alternatives.”

“We have to get back to making democracy work again,” he concludes.


Oregon school boards: Show the love!

How do I love thee, Oregon school boards? Let me count the ways. Rick Hess pokes fun at the state association’s memo suggesting how students can spend time showing their appreciation of school board members.

Among many suggestions:

10. Elementary students could laminate place mats autographed by the class, for each board member.
9. Provide coffee mugs filled with candy kisses and cocoa mix with rolled up and tied recognition certificates tucked inside.
8. Send a general news release to local media about the governor declaring January as School Board Recognition Month and suggest interviews with your board members on the changing roles and challenges they face in managing America’s most precious, and politically popular, issue!…Also ask the paper’s editorial board or staff to consider publishing an editorial–it’s perfect timing because it’s newsworthy!
7. Have students from foods classes prepare snack trays, (e.g. meats and cheeses) for the January board meeting, along with goodies and coffee.
6. Have schools “Adopt a board member” for the month, by sending cards, inviting him/her to lunch, etc. Make sure students and staff are involved, including teachers, secretaries, custodians.

And there’s more!

The $1 million good-bye

An Indiana school superintendent received a $1 million retirement package, reports the Indianapolis Star. The Wayne Township School Board agreed to the deal with then-Superintendent Terry Thompson in 2007.  Board members now say they signed without knowing the costs.

Thompson, 64, retired in December after 15 years with the district. He received a year’s base pay at more than $225,000, hundreds of thousands of dollars for unused vacation and sick days, a $35,000 early retirement bonus and a consulting contract as “superintendent emeritus” that has been paying Thompson $1,352 a day to advise his successor.

That amount, over the 150 days laid out in the contract, would pay him more than $200,000 — bringing the total to more than $1 million.

In addition, the contract called for one other perk — a onetime $15,000 stipend for “retirement planning.”

Thompson already has collected about $800,000 but is now “negotiating” to resign the superintendent emeritus job.

Since 2007, Wayne Township schools have cut 127 teaching positions;  teachers did not receive a raise last year or this year. In addition, the district cut funding for elementary sports and math textbooks.

No sodas for teachers

San Francisco’s school board may take soda machines from teacher break rooms, to force teachers to set a good example for students. Students lost soda and candy machines in 2003.

“I know of one school, and I won’t name names, where there is a soda machine in the principal’s office,” (trustee Jill) Wynns said, adding that it sets a bad example if teachers are telling kids not to buy caffeine-laden drinks but sipping one themselves.

What’s next? Rip out the coffee machine?

EIA Online thinks teachers are making too much of this, but I think they should tell the board to buzz off.  Teachers are adults.  If they want to drink soda (possibly sugar-free and uncaffeinated) on their breaks — or lunch on coffee and chocolate-chip cookies — it’s their own damn business.