April 2012

Theresa Delaney-Davis

Theresa Delaney-Davis, President of the Reynolds school board, regularly claims to be a solid union supporter. At various school board meetings over the past year she has said that she is the strongest union supporter on the Reynolds board.

It’s a pose.

Unfortunately, the real Delaney-Davis unveils herself in the parking lot after school board meetings.

She has been overheard yelling at Reynolds Education Association (REA) union leaders, jabbing a cigarette into their chests, threatening to have their licenses revoked by the State or otherwise terminated for advocating on behalf of REA members (which is exactly what they’re elected to do).

Maybe she turned her memo upside down, missing that it’s union members who are rumored to act like thugs, not school board members.

Even at a recent celebration for graduates from a trades training program, she told attendees that elected REA leadership does not represent its members.

These are not the deeds of a pro-union Board President. Or, maybe Delaney-Davis is a 2012 union trailblazer: preach from the pulpit, but sin in the dark rooms.

Delaney-Davis proclaims at various Democratic party functions she hopes REA goes on strike. Is teacher and labor-bashing a good position for a Democrat? And she WANTS a strike? How about wanting a reasonable bargaining process instead?

Delaney-Davis thinks a statewide strike of educators can wake up Salem to the plight of education funding. Awkward for her at a time when her own school board has a 20% fund carryover. School boards are advised by their state school board group to strive for a fund carryover of 6-8%. She’s holding on to funds that could go to classrooms, to restore services for students who need them.

NOPE! Why fund those things? Strive and bellow for a strike instead!

Preacher Theresa seems willing to proselytize her anti-union spiel anywhere and everywhere.

Clif Davis & Theresa Delaney-Davis

TOO-CRAZY-TO-BE-TRUE (yet is): Delaney-Davis is married to progressive trade unionist Clif Davis, Business Manager for IBEW Local 48. Does Theresa Delaney-Davis’ anti-union public proclamations lead to tense conversations at home as she pushes REA to strike while her husband battles aggressive employers who act just like his wife?

How awkward will it be once the Oregon AFL-CIO comes out in support of the Reynolds teachers? With Clif as a shining leader within the Oregon AFL-CIO, how can he explain Theresa forcing, wanting nearly 600 teachers out on strike?

For Delaney-Davis, forcing a teachers union out on strike is the 2012 version of union support. Boasting about wanting strikes, attacking teachers, menacing people in parking lots are forms of support the community can do without.

Focus on what people are telling you, Delaney-Davis, try to listen to the union workers, work for a reasonable contract and stop the posturing and union-bashing.

BONUS: Here’s a clip of Delaney-Davis in action, openly chiding teacher Evan Selby during a school board meeting for giving a charming, impassioned, informative statement in the form of human beatboxing (ask you kids if you don’t know). Someone order her a copy of a Justin Timberlake album right away!

Another thought about the scare tactic/scab-fishing memo Gresham-Barlow and Parkrose districts sent far and wide.

Randy Bryant

Gresham-Barlow Director of Human Resources Randy Bryant sought to encourage teachers to cross the picket line. Bryant also threatened teachers who choose to invoke their right to strike: “Teachers who work during the strike will not be in danger of jeopardizing their license or their employment status with the District.” Classic fear-mongering.

Well, Randy, teachers who act ethically and choose to stand with their colleagues against the power-grab by your boss Jim Schlachter also will not be in danger of losing their licenses. But you probably knew that. You just wanted to press a fear button and try to break a teachers union. But your clumsy letter is making educators laugh across many districts.

Teachers who choose to invoke their statutory right to strike will not endanger their employment status.  After great deliberation, teachers have decided to defend themselves and quality instruction against a strategy hatched among many districts to concoct a perceived emergency and use it as an excuse to go after teachers’ rights to have a say in their work schedule, preparation time for quality student instruction, and their personal and student safety in the classroom. Asking trained educators what is needed for educational instruction sure is pesky, isn’t it? Better to try to scare them rather than talk with them about their expertise, or find out what students need, or engage the public during public meetings. Or as your bosses say: “meetings in public, but not public meetings.”

It is a shame Gresham-Barlow administration has hired an outside Strike Coordinator, and that Randy Bryant is being forced to carry the water for Jim Schlachter and a few misguided voices on the School Board.  Teachers and the community see through the threats. Somebody needs to take a stand for sanity before Schlachter drives the District off a cliff.

As if identical attacks on teacher contracts (and yelling the same things at the public) weren’t enough of a clue Gresham-Barlow, Parkrose, and Reynolds school boards and superintendents have been coordinating their efforts for months, here’s a joint memo from Parkrose & Gresham-Barlow districts looking for scabs to work as babysitters in the event of a teacher strike against them (click to zoom):

Substitutes are CRITICAL to keeping schools running under normal circumstances. Many educator careers flow from substitute to full-time to part-time gigs.

But most substitutes also understand that good working conditions and learning environments for students come from the hard work teachers have put in to establish and protect fair contracts. Hard work it’s especially important to respect when teacher union members go out on strike to fight for them against the districts attacking them.

And many substitute educators also belong to unions!

We bet these colluding districts will have to stretch very far and very deep into dark places to find certified educators willing to work as scabs. Ethical educators rely on trust and interpersonal relationships and know enough to say no. Ethical educators set their eyes on the long term.

Districts are declaring it over and over again: “This is a meeting in public, not a public meeting!”

This morning, the Parkrose school board joined the misguided traditions of the Reynolds and Gresham-Barlow school boards by refusing to accept public input while acting as public officials and meeting in public.

The Parkrose School Board President, Ed Grassel, gaveled down community members and shouted that he would have them removed “if he heard any crowd” because, “This is a meeting in public, not a public meeting!” Watch the video linked below from KATU, catch the absurd statement 39 seconds into the report:

He was duly elected by the citizens who live within the boundaries of the Parkrose School District, but he apparently no longer wants to hear what the people who elected him have to say. The Board then went on to unanimously vote to implement a contract on its teachers – meaning each teacher paying about $700 per month for the next five months. Classy move. And unnecessary.

Just last night, in a similarly sickening fashion, the Gresham-Barlow school board granted Superintendent Jim Schlachter broad authority to ignore any Board policy at any time and all he would have to do is inform the Board after the fact that he has done so.  The Board also claimed the District is in a state of emergency and therefore would not need to provide notice of future meetings nor meet in public. Good thing public dollars don’t run these institutions, and the public doesn’t elect these people. Wait, they totally do!

In the short time we have before teachers walk out on strike the public deserves more access to its public officials, not less.  More dialogue, not less.  The disinfecting quality of sunlight needs to permeate the East County school board meetings rather than allowing the stale funk of closed doors and secret meetings to grow. Is this behavior by school boards and administrators acceptable to you?

These school boards defining meetings in public as not-public meetings echoes the classic line in Dr. Strangelove: “Gentlemen! You can’t fight in here, this is a war room!”

Oregon is not necessarily a prolific state when it comes to teacher strikes — which is a good thing. For the most part, the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA) has fulfilled its stated purpose of promoting the “development of cooperative and harmonious relationships between government and its employees.” In fact, other states that actually prohibit strikes like Washington have seen more teacher strikes in recent years than Oregon. There are a variety of factors that have led to resolution of contract disputes in lieu of strikes, but one of the key factors that cannot be overlooked: more often than not, representatives on both sides knew how to get a deal done.  During the 70s, 80s, and 90s there were some harsh, bitter negotiations, but in the end, a lot of those potential strikes ended in resolutions because the bargainers at the table knew how to cut the deal.

Fast forward to today and we have a change of scene.  Many of the baby boomer bargainers have retired, especially on the management side, and in their place we have a lot of 40 to early 50-something administrators who have been in management for 5 years or less and have no idea what a bargaining crisis even looks like.  They have no connection to the early days of collective bargaining.  The better part of their professional careers has been spent in a bubble.  They don’t know how to resolve a real crisis because they have never seen a real crisis.

Jim Schlachter

You combine this lack of experience with an unrefined desire for popularity and you get managers like Gresham-Barlow’s current Superintendent Jim Schlachter.  Schlachter is trying to fulfill a popular management dream nowadays.  He wants to be the one who “stands up” to the union.  Schlachter has used the common rhetoric of combating “unsustainable” contracts from the initial proposal stage of the current bargain in Gresham-Barlow. He has said, quite directly, that he would be the man to do the combat.  These are bold statements for a man who has never been in charge of a contract bargain before — bold and ignorant.  “I want my way and I want it now” might work for kindergarteners, but it rarely pans out in the politics of grown-up negotiations, especially when bargainers on the employee side actually want to cut a deal.

So what we have now is a strike close to one week away: the first teacher strike in Oregon in six and a half years. We have a union side that has conceded on the district’s monetary demands — demands that they don’t like conceding, but would have probably made all along to protect the integrity of their instructional programs.

But surprise, surprise, the union is not going to sell the rest of their contract down the river just because Jim Schlachter wants them to.  In fact, they are going to continue to expect reciprocity on issues like safety protections and preparation time because this is what Gresham-Barlow teachers want and after all — this is not rocket science here — they are represented by a union that is charged with advocating for what their members want.

Strikes should not be replacement experiences for real management bargaining training.  These are tense negotiations, and it is no time for Jim Schlachter to learn on the job. It just might be that the Gresham-Barlow School Board needs to go out and find a retired baby boomer superintendent who actually remembers how to cut a deal.  It seems that Jim Schlachter needs mentoring.

Being a Board member is not an easy gig. It’s a volunteer duty. It’s an important role. For people not using it as a stepping stone (up or down) from a political career it means a lot of work. And most Board members do very good work.

Some Board members don’t want to read about the issues. A few Board members want to make a crisis all about them. Not about the hard work and careers of hundreds of educators. Not about using available resources to ensure a quality education delivered by trained professionals to thousands of students. A few Board members want to take any opportunity to bellow online, trumpet their ignorance on camera and on the radio (often with more highly-skilled blowhards) and make a crisis all about them in a demand for attention and to shore up a rickety political career.

A few like to cover themselves in Attention Sauce and try to make us all watch. Ick.

For these few Board members — instead of dialing it in, how about paying attention to the issues? How about paying attention to the classrooms? How about understanding the demographics and lives of students in your community? How about not openly disrespecting educators and students to their faces and on camera during your Board meetings?

Bruce McCain

One of these few Board members: Bruce McCain.

A few Board members like McCain act like they’ve been jilted at some point and other people unrelated to their hurt feelings must pay the price.

Is it that Bruce McCain once represented notorious gay-bashing hate group the Oregon Citizens Alliance, a group now all but dissolved, leaving a trail of scandal?

Is it that Bruce McCain lost a political race in 2006 to Jeff Merkley?

Is it that Bruce McCain has found something new to do other than attack a person he lost an election to, after the election?

Is it that Bruce McCain lost his hoped-for union endorsement in his race in 2010?

Some Board members thrive on negative attention. It disturbs them when they are ignored. While this blog is obscure, we wonder how long it will take before he reads this post. If someone will find the link and pass it along to him, or if Bruce McCain will find it during a several-times a week (perhaps several times a day) vanity Google search.

Spend more time with educators, Bruce McCain. Spend more time with students and understand the job you’re elected to do better. Your community deserves it. You may even get elected to something else some day.