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Let's Keep the Debate Civil and Respectful

A group of Alameda Unified School District parents call for a stop to what they see as "the increasingly adversarial tone of negotiations" between the Alameda teachers' union and the school district.

Dear Editor:

Below is the text of a letter that was read at the Dec. 13 school board meeting:

As active, informed parents in the Alameda Unified School District, we are watching the deteriorating negotiations between the AEA and AUSD with increasing concern.

All of us are active volunteers in our children's classrooms and schools, as well as in the district at large. Many of us are friends with and/or collaborate with district employees, including teachers, staff, and administrators.

All of us supported Measure A and celebrated the profound unity on which the campaign was built. We also celebrated our community’s clear commitment  to our teachers, administrators, and, most importantly, the children of Alameda that was expressed in the more than two-thirds vote in favor of Measure A last March.

Yet we fear the increasingly adversarial tone of negotiations now threatens to destroy that unity – and with it our children's education, our school communities, and the long-term stability of the district.

Because of this, we'd like to offer a few guiding principles to which we'd like to see both parties adhere as they move forward:

1. We value the work AUSD teachers do. We also value the work of our administrators. We ask both sides to similarly value each others’ contributions and conduct themselves respectfully and professionally. Please  — especially —stop the personal attacks and inflammatory language in public.  

2. We recognize teachers are underpaid. We also are cognizant the state budget is putting severe pressure on the state's public schools.  We ask the district to look for ways to compensate our teachers fairly within the confines of a fiscally responsible budget plan.

3. We believe our teachers and our administrators share common interests. Please  come to the bargaining table with a sincere desire to listen to each other, discover those common interests, and find mutually beneficial solutions, rather than taking adversarial positions.

4. Please keep talk of the negotiations out of all classrooms — from kindergarten through 12th grade.

5. Given that some students are aware of what's happening, we ask that you model professionalism, leadership, and conflict-resolution skills , so they can learn constructive ways of handling disagreements.

6. We ask that you not ask the parents to choose sides – we support our teachers and we respect our administrators. We are concerned with the health of the entire district and would like student welfare  to be kept at the forefront of any discussion of programs or funding.

7.  We ask that all discussions of AUSD’s budget be based on objective, accurate, and current data.  

We also would like to see members of the Board of Education model leadership and professionalism on this volatile issue. You are charged with making the best decisions for our children and  for  the district as a whole ; your voice is our voice, the voice of the community. As such, we want to see you bringing  the two sides together, rather than pushing them farther apart or falling prey to the existing divisiveness.

Sincerely,

Greg Mauldin, Ruby Bridges Elementary
Amy Garcia, parent and volunteer, Franklin Elementary
Anne DeBardeleben, Fundraising Chair, Save Our Schools*
Sarah Olaes, Volunteer Chair; Save Our Schools, parent, Otis School*
Tere Hanson, parent and volunteer, Lincoln Middle School
Bram Briggance, parent and volunteer, Paden and Encinal Schools
Andy Currid, Data Management Chair, Save Our Schools; parent and volunteer, Edison School*
Lissa Merit, parent and volunteer, Edison School
Mike Merit, parent and volunteer, Edison School
Christine Strena, parent and volunteer, Franklin School, Academy of Alameda
Julie Hong, deputy volunteer chair, Save Our Schools; parent and volunteer, Bay Farm School
Jen Laird O'Rafferty, Franklin School Captain, Measure A
Linda  Mauldin, parent and volunteer, Ruby Bridges School
Page Barnes, Legal Counsel, Save Our Schools*
Susan Davis, parent and volunteer, Otis and Lincoln
Nancy Landreth, parent and volunteer, Lincoln and Alameda High
Amy Loughran, parent and volunteer, Edison School
Tracy Jensen, parent and volunteer, Edison School; former Board of Education member
Noel Wise, parent and volunteer, Franklin School
Michelle Colgan, parent and volunteer, Bay Farm School
Laria Pippen, parent and volunteer, Edison School; Edison School Captain, Save Our Schools*

*Affiliations are for identification purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by any organization.

 

Something on your mind? Your letters to the editor are always welcome on Alameda Patch. Send them to eve@patch.com.

Marie Long December 16, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Add my name to that list of parents that signed that letter: Marie Long, Lincoln Middle School Parent, Encinal High School parent and volunteer. What a well-written letter! It says it all without an accusatory tone. Kudos to you!
Heather Jarecki December 16, 2011 at 07:56 PM
Mine as well: Heather Jarecki, parent & volunteer, Edison School & AHS. I would like to add that I'd appreciate it if all involved parties would cease holding hostage sports & arts programs to scare up enough votes. I for one do not respond well to threats. You must look to yourselves first before stealing away the very things that keep our kids motivated to do well. What's best for the kids comes first.
Jon Spangler December 17, 2011 at 09:29 AM
I agree with this letter's sentiments. I have seen far too many uncivil exchanges over matters of public policy in Alameda...
Debby Meyer December 17, 2011 at 02:47 PM
For 14 months teachers have quietly tried to negotiate with the district. We are now speaking out . How a group of parents can respect an administration the refuses to work with it's teachers and staff is puzzling to me. Please parents, go talk to teachers and see why we're speaking out now. The above letter is just fueling the fire.
Lynn December 17, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Bravo. I am.not a parent but I am still an I ferreted party who is payIng the additional parcel tax which I had understood was the answer to our school district problems. The letter is well written but what a shame it had to be written.
Tracy Corbally December 17, 2011 at 04:01 PM
I am a teacher who addressed the board on Tuesday. I am also an elementary parent and volunteer. I am friendly with some of the parents who put forth this statement, and also have a congenial working relationship with some board members. When I spoke at the meeting, I mentioned the divisive nature that has developed. It is toxic, and I appreciate this group for outlining it so articulately. At the meeting, I also tried to convey the deep pain and frustration that teachers feel. As Debby said, we have tried to negotiate, in good faith, for fourteen months. The district has refused to discuss any proposals. Obviously, this builds strong raw emotion, and as humans we each respond to that pressure in unique ways. Even if we do not condone the way someone responds to such pressure, we can strive to understand the cause. Like the authors of this letter, I do not like the us v. them tone this has taken on, and I would also hate to see things divide even further into three factions.
parent of an AUSD student, wife of a teacher December 18, 2011 at 06:57 AM
Yes, you naughty teachers. Behave yourselves. Sit quietly with your hands in your laps. This is UNION negotiations. These are people who work hard and will always be incredibly underpaid. What you are hearing is extreme frustration. Maybe it makes you uncomfortable because your sainted teacher used a cuss word at a school board meeting. Get over it. Take sides. Tell the school board that 3% for Vital = 3% for teachers. Fully paid medical for Vital = fully paid medical for teachers.
Mandy Chang December 18, 2011 at 08:10 AM
The teachers on this thread apparently didn't get the memo. The "facts" that you quote above - negotiations have been going on for 14 months, the administration refuses to work with teachers, the district refuses to discuss any proposals, etc. - are anything but. In some cases they are just plain wrong (negotiations actually started in January, 11 months ago, not 14 months ago, and the article on pay was opened barely 5 weeks ago, in early November). And in other cases they are simply opinions, that plenty of people don't agree with you on. The point of that letter is simple: quit trying to sell your story by any means possible on the blogs and at school board meetings and show up to negotiations in January with realistic expectations and a realistic negotiating position. Enough already.
Tracy Corbally December 18, 2011 at 09:50 PM
Mandy, I keep my politics out of the classroom because I think it is unprofessional for a teacher to involve students in such matter; however, the school board and blogs are public forums where people may speak out on issues. All teachers do not attend negotiations; that is reserved for the team. Thus, you will continue to see and hear teachers in these forums. Why does that bother you so much? Conflict and disagreements are part of public life. I know many teachers who have very realistic expectations for negotiations. If your sentiment is "enough already" then just bury your head in the sand and stop reading and listening.
Mandy Chang December 18, 2011 at 11:06 PM
There is no issue with teachers speaking out in forums, nor is there any issue with disagreement. The letter asks that discussions be "based on objective, accurate, and current data", and that both sides "conduct themselves respectfully and professionally". It is the teachers' failure to do that which has annoyed people and is damaging to the process.
Khandrola Dechen December 19, 2011 at 03:24 PM
mandy chang sends her kids to private school and resents having to pay any taxes for public school. the greedy 1%.
Mark Irons December 19, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Khandrola, even if your claims are accurate, to my ear they are not helpful. I agree with the sentiments in the letter generally, but with regards to defining specifics, I'm bothered when somebody like Mandy seems to try and to define "reasonable" for all of us. I understand that according to general understanding of the budget giving teachers the 3% and full health is unattainable, but I don't think it is an inappropriate opening offer as negotiating tactic and a statement about how they feel about superintendents raise. As to "facts", I have been trying very hard to get it right and I'm not certain about technicality of teacher pay having been reopened five weeks ago. My understanding of MOU at impasse is that three articles do not include pay. If one examines the time line for negotiations very carefully, ( as opposed to reading and accepting district FAQ as gospel) you realize how very complicated this issue is and how dangerous it is to try to simply pick sides. My sympathies are with teachers in many respects, but I am waiting for clarification of discrepencies in claims by both sides about reserves and other issues.
Susan Davis December 19, 2011 at 05:33 PM
Hi Mark, The AEA itself reported that it opened articles on pay/benefits on November 7th (see their newsletter here: https://sites.google.com/site/alamedaea/home/negotiations). The impasse, however, only applies to the negotiations around class size.
Jeff Mark December 19, 2011 at 06:37 PM
Is the timeline really the issue? Isn't that a distraction? OK, Tracy's rhetoric was overdone, her factual assertions exagerrated. How does that apply to the questions impeding agreement? I may disagree with Mandy, but where she sends her kids is not relevant; I don't have kids, but I would vehemently challenge any assertion that this devalues my opinion. That I don't know the details, *that* would devalue my opinion. ;-) So let me say that I supported Measure A because I think we've imposed 'way too much austerity on our schools, and it's time to reverse that trend. Much like defense, I think education is so important that it's OK if we waste some of the money we spend.
Mark Irons December 21, 2011 at 06:46 AM
I previously hadn't seen Patch reporter Dixie Jordan's helpful article on the negotiations which contains the following quote from the district's PERB filing: "On November 7, the Association attempted to open two additional articles." [Articles are other parts of the contract.] "The District contends AEA's submission of new articles for negotiation is not timely under the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] now in effect between the parties." We all know AEA asked for 3% and full health back in November, but I don't read the quote above as saying the pay article is now open and how can it be if the district won't recognize it? I took Mandy's statement to say that the pay article was opened November 7th, as in currently open, which confused me but is apparently is not the case.

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