I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Why One Teacher Joined the Union.....

I recently heard from a constituent about reasons why employees of this district join the union, even if politically these employees are at odds with the liberal, progressive political slant of the NEA.  from this teacher.....

"Jeff, teachers absolutely do not trust the school board nor the superintendent.  Most of the teachers I've known joined the union for the same reason I did--protection. The union will pay for an attorney"

entire email below.  Identifying characteristics have been XXXXed out-because while I have no reason to doubt what this individual states, I have no way to prove it either.


First, I'll tell you what happened to me.

My first teaching assignment was "regular" senior English at XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.   XXXX XXXXXXXXXXX was the principal and XXXXXXXXXXXXX was an XXXXXXXXXX and friend of XXXX  XXXXXXX.  About halfway through the year, several of my female XXXXXXXXX students came to me with some disturbing information.  They reported that XXXX  XXXXXXXXX who drove the bus transporting the girls to their athletic events, had been XXXXXXXXXXXXX and had made inappropriate comments to the girls.  About the same time, one of my best behaved and most serious students--an ESE student--reported an incident between XXXXX XXXXXXXXX and the student's father involving XXXXX's cursing at the father.

As you know, teachers are mandated reporters, so I reported the incident to XXXX XXXXXXX.  XXXX  XXXXXX's first comment to me was "I don't believe you." Then, against every policy, XXXXXXXX  XXXXX     told  XXXX  XXXXXXX not only about the allegations but also my name.  From that point on, every time I was in the hall, it seemed XXXXXXXX was there.  As I walked by, he would make some pointed comment such as "Seen any XXXX XXXXXX lately, XXXXXXXXXXXX?"  I was so frightened that I immediately joined the union.  I never again heard from XXXXXXXXXXX.  By the way, XXXXXXXXX was the only XXXXX  XXXX in this county to receive merit pay.  

There was another incident.  Coming home late one Friday, I was told there had been five phone calls from  XXXXXXXXXX.  When I returned the call, I was told to be in his office on Monday morning with my lesson plans.     

Twelfth-grade students, honors and regular, all used the same British lit book.  The selections began with the Anglo-Saxons and continued through the centuries.  Just before the Shakespearean play, Macbeth,  were several passages from the King James version of the Psalms, written in the same King James language used by Shakespeare.  Apparently, the father of one student had filed a complaint with the ACLU.  I tried to tell XXXXXXXXX that the selection was in the text, that I had no choice in class materials, but those comments made no difference.  That Monday, I was told I had to write a letter to the parents and to meet with them.  Fortunately, we had a good high-school English "supervisor" in the district office.  When I told XXX about the incident, XXXX immediately called XXX   XXXXXX to tell XXXX that it was the county, not I, who was responsible. I'm not certain what would have happened had this supervisor not been there.

When XXXX  XXXXXXXX, I was hired at XXXXXX XXXXXXXX to teach the same courses.  The principal, XXXXX  XXXXXXX and I had an extremely  good relationship at first.  XXXX once commented that I was the only teacher who always did what XXXXXX asked.  The year we received merit pay, more teachers at XXXX XXXXXX qualified than at any other school.  Reporters had come to the school to ask permission to observe and to interview one of the teachers, and XXXX XXXXXXX asked if I would be the teacher.  XXXX made some comment to the effect that I would do the best job representing the school.  

But two years later, our relationship changed.  Apparently,  XXXX XXXXXXXX had chastised XXX XXXXXX for our large number of lost textbooks.  XXXX was very upset, calling a faculty meeting where XXXX presented lists of textbooks that, according to records, had not been turned in.   I immediately realized that many of my students on the list had turned in their texts.  At that time, we had a wonderful "aide" who was in charge of textbooks.  When I asked her to check her records, she reported that she could not check them--for some reason, she was no longer allowed to access records. No one listened to the students--unless their parents showed up--or to teachers.  I was astounded with the rude, offensive manner in which both XXX XXXXXX and XXX XXXXXX treated me when I tried to support my students.  

One absolute rule at XXXXXX XXXXX was that students could not transfer to another class just to have a different teacher.  (Imagine the chaos if they could.)  At the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year, XXXXX XXXXXX was on my class list.  When XXXX didn't show up for the first two weeks, I reported XXX absence, only to be told XXX had been transferred to another teacher's class, a class meeting the same period.  I had also been asked to tutor XXXXXX as XXX third try to pass the FCAT would be XXXX last.  (I opted out when XXXX didn't show up the first two times we had scheduled a session.)  But what was really astounding was XXXXX’s new class was an honors class!!!  I had a reputation as a "hard" teacher, one who didn't use worksheets and films, but XXXXXXX’s new teacher did exactly that, making XXX honors class much easier than my regular class.  This teacher was also a XXXXX XXXXXX, with XXXXXX XXXXXXX all over her classroom.

In our first faculty meeting of the 2009-2010 year, we learned that our XXX XXXXX, who was responsible for XXXXX XXXXXXXX had been suspended without pay, for two weeks, as punishment for XXXX XXXXXX XXXXX XXXXX.  As XXXX XXXXXX told us of the suspension, XXXX was defensive about the XXXXXX’s suspension, claiming that "we [teachers] didn't know the whole story."  An appeal for money to help XXX XXXXX survive the two weeks was also circulated among the faculty (I declined to contribute).  I had many XXXXXXXXs in my classes that year, and I asked whether any of XXXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXXX, but was told the matter was "closed."

It was that next spring that we learned our XXX XXXXXX had been fired for stealing and reselling textbooks. It was difficult to believe that the previously suspended XXX XXXXX was chosen as her replacement.  I was astounded, as were the other teachers.  I had first believed in XXXX XXXXXXXX’s ethical standards, but after these incidents, I joined the union.  

Then there was the day I made a comment about our dress code in a faculty meeting. (We weren't consistent.  A student could get to his or her last class with an obvious violation.)  I could not believe the tirade from XXX XXXXXXX, a loud rebuttal that lasted at least 15 minutes and embarrassed me in front of the teachers and staff.  

 I guess I had the reputation of working well with difficult students, and the last year I taught--the year I resigned--I was asked to teach the most difficult students of all--the low-level incoming ninth-grade students.  The previous teacher had been "promoted" to a county job (don't ask me why), and I agreed.  Because I had so many ESE students, I also had an aide who had also worked with the previous teacher.  I was actually looking forward to working with the students until I learned there were absolutely no books, no materials whatsoever, for these students.  The aide told me that the former teacher had downloaded grammar lessons from the Internet, and I knew that he had read to the students a lot.  When I talked with XXX XXXXXX,  XXXX first insisted there had to be books, and I suggested XXXXX might look for XXXXXXXXX.  The next comment was there was no money for books--period.  I asked our reading coach if she could help, but she had no funds.  

I had already spent thousands of dollars on my classes, and I started buying books and other materials for these students, but by October, I was so disgusted that I resigned.  I hated to leave my students, but I felt that by being there, I was contributing to what I had begun to believe was an "evil" system.

Jeff, teachers absolutely do not trust the school board nor the superintendent.  Most of the teachers I've known joined the union for the same reason I did--protection. The union will pay for an attorney.  I've worked with two principals as a teacher and several more as a long-time volunteer.  I've also been the secretary of two advisory councils.  The unprofessional (and unethical) behavior of some XXXXXXXXXXX is unbelievable!  

I wish there were a way to improve communication--and I don't mean meetings with union representatives.  Why not have forums where school board members and the superintendent and his or her staff listen to teachers--average teachers, not the department teachers or chosen representatives. 

I've learned, through my own experience, that the best way to alienate people, to lose their trust is not to communicate--especially when the communication flows only one way.  I was a senior editor for Harcourt Brace Jovanovich when the textbook division of the company was acquired by Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.  We editors knew of the sale several months ahead, but were left totally in the dark about our future with the company.  By that time, I had already been responsible for a best-selling composition/grammar text for grades 7 - 12, and I had always gotten excellent reviews.  I remember the humiliation of the uncertainly and how I began to doubt my own ability and my judgment in the several months before I finally heard that I was being promoted to  executive editor and transferred to HRW.  

We talk a lot about taking lessons from successful corporate executives, but what no one has mentioned is the one quality that is absolutely consistent with the very best corporations-- good employee morale, based on employers' willingness to listen to employees and to make them feel a part of the company.  

I've already checked out XXXX XXXXXXX Thank you!!!  Your concern for and dedication to our schools is astounding.  Not only that, but you  have that XXXXXXXXXXX--you XXXXXXXX.  

I'd dealing with XXXX XXXXXX  XXXXat the moment, so if you don't hear from me for a few days, that's why.

Thank you again,

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