Friday, May 29, 2009

THANK YOU for Standing in Solidarity with YOUR Association, YOUR Profession and for What is Right: An Editorial on Our Arbitration

On May 28, 2008 I was proud--and still am--to be a member of the LCEA. On May 28, 2008, I was proud--and still am--of being a member of the ISEA. On May 28, 2008, I was ashamed--and still am--in the behavior of our school district's advocates who represent our school system's leadership. I feel that this commentary is in order.

Tom McLaughlin
SWUU President, ISEA

An Editorial on the Arbitration of LCEA vs. LCCS
by Tom McLaughlin, SWUU President
“...The credit belongs to [those] who [are] actually in the arena, whose faces are marred by dust and sweat..., who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
--Teddy Roosevelt

I am relieved that the arbitrator's decision has finally arrived. As expected, he agreed with the Association on several main points. One of the many reasons that I continue to wear my membership as a badge of honor He agreed that Lewis Central does have the money to afford its teachers the raise they deserve; he agreed that when comparing salaries across the state that the Association's position and facts were "in-line" and "more-than-reasonable" when compared to other state averages; he disagreed, however, that our insurance issue (which was settled months before arbitration without contest) could be divorced from his decision. In short, he believed that it was this single issue (that our board did not contest for months) alone that "tipped the scales in favor of the school district.

We can be proud in the representation that our Association brought to the hearing. We can be proud in our customary "professional" behavior. We can be proud that we "held the line" after years of hallow promises that one day "when the district had the money, it would pay our teachers what they deserved." The day came--it went--and when all was said and done, a situation that could have been convivial was reduced to profanity and name calling. The district had the opportunit to give a "top-notch" staff a "top-notch" salary but it refused to do so; instead, it chose to use "hired guns" to demonstrate how it really feels about its teachers.

Although it kills part of this editorialist's soul to admit this, we should not be disappointed that our board contested our offer. It is the job of management to maximize the amount of productivity that it can yeild from the state's "third most educated faculty." We should, however, be disappointed with the language, the demeanor and the "attitude" that met our distinguished faculty at the arbitration hearing. Mr. Phillips, a 30 year veteran of the ISEA, was clear in his rebuttal statement that, "there are two sides to every story" and that this arbitration was "intended to tell both sides without "inflammatory language" and disdain.

In a situation like ours a "win-win" scenario might be a bit ambitious to expect. However, a "lose-lose" scenario is foolish. It's foolish for anyone who is a smart manager. It's foolish for anyone who is a strong leader. How could a competent leadership team hope to alientate the state's third most educated facutly. Apparantley, there was more going on at the table than reason.

Unfortunately, for us, the conversation "twisted" into a maze of terribly colored "ad homenum" arguments, profanity, polarization and disrespect. It was unneeded. It was unwarranted. It seems to characterize the feelings of our leadership and our board.

Mr. Hoskins was loose with language, generalizations, colored-points-of-view and quick with profanity. Mr. Gruhn's condescending, insolent and dismissive attitude might have been worse. One might not expect a "choral number" in an arbitration hearing; however, one should expect more than a premature, inappropriate eulogy.

Thank goodness that the LCEA and our district's teachers, our chief negotiator and our ISEA Uniserv Directors were present in great number do demonstate and model what professional behavior should look like.

I was ashamed of our community when I watched its advocates at work. There are more professional ways to make an argument that to use inappropriate language or to dismisse sound arguments with disdain. I was proud of our Association. We are in the arena each day, we stood our ground, we behaved professionally and--even if we lost the battle--we stood for what was right, what was righteous and we need to be proud of our solidarity, our strength and what we accompish (beyond the chuckling of our elected officials at the dismissive language) with our students each and every day.

We lose nothing by standing together for what we earn. We lose mountains by watching our leaders and their advocates throw stones at the castles and the dreams that we build.

Thank you for being the ISEA. Thank you for being the LCEA. Although I know you didn't hear it in the rhetoric at our arbitration hearing, thank you for changing live positively each and every day. Stand proud for standing unified against a district that promised to pay its teachers when it had the money. It had the money this year. We took freezes for two years. It chose to pay outsiders to prevent us from getting the $15.00 extra on the base vs. those in the trenches each and every day.