by Max Brantley
The Saturday Democrat-Gazette reported on a Little Rock School Board work session where board members made it clear that changes, perhaps seismic ones, were coming in its relationship with the Little Rock Classroom Teachers Association. There may even be sufficient sentiment to end recognition of the CTA as a bargaining agent for teachers. One board member figures this could prompt a short strike and then a court order forcing teachers back to work. All happy as clams, you may be sure.
A negotiated contract is undoubtedly an occasional hindrance to school officials like the autocratic Superintendent Roy Brooks. It insures due process in disciplining of staff. It gives a voice to employees who otherwise risk their livelihoods by speech. The dispute, sadly, reinforces the erroneous belief that the teachers union is solely responsible when students fail to achieve as we wish. Little Rock performs better than many districts, particularly when you consider the economic and other demographic circumstances that reliably predict school outcomes. It performs worse than some others. Its situation is little different than that of hundreds of school districts nationwide, some with professional contracts negotiated by unions, some without. LR needs some peace-making, not union busting. Some open government would be good, too. It is, for example, a good time for the board to disclose who paid for the force-fed PR campaign that took time out of teachers' work days to lobby them to vote for a misbegotten "merit pay" experiment. The nominally nonpolitical Arkansas Community Foundation was used as a cutout to hide the identity of the manipulator, but we suspect Superintendent Brooks knows or could readily find out who's trying to run the School District from the shadows.
All this is prompted by a letter we received from a teacher overnight, excerpted here:
The school board's position on the current teacher contract has me experiencing a myriad of emotions. The media, board and certain administrators as well as business men who have no children in our district have made a point of villifying the CTA and classroom teachers .
The latest diatribe on the need for negotiations and contracts fails to raise 2 questions. What was the original need for this process and how does the board's attack on the process promote student learning? In the world of education, administrators come and go, but teachers remain. This is why a contract is in place. So that a teacher's livelihood cannot be treated frivilously based upon the current principal or administration's moods, whims or personal view of an educator's role. So that teacher's are not given "duties" that intefere with the preparation and execution of quality instruction. So that teachers are duly compensated. We don't have a contract to hide behind to break rules, to be subversive or to keep from working. What is most amazing, with the current shortage of quality teachers, is why the board insists on focusing on portraying teachers in a bad light, using disrespect
and threats to administrate change.
Implementing policy that will create a hostile work environment for teachers
is not the answer. Change will only come when the majority of the responsibility for educating students is placed back on the student and the parent. Legislation needs to be enacted for parent's who send children to school with the idea its okay to disrespect teachers, classmates and administrators; send them with no supplies, no discipline and unprepared; who think school is a free babysitter and lunch provider!
The board, and administration need to sit down with teachers and come up with a mutual vision for our school and a workable plan for success.
I love children, I love my job and I'm tired of being portrayed as the bad guy in education in Little Rock.
The ultimate question is -- How does the superintendent and the school board's current conversation DRIVE STUDENT LEARNING??????
Anonymously signed for obvious reasons