May 2012


In Eagle Point, a city official, board members, and administrators were trying to guess who was posting about them. They assumed it was someone in their ranks.

Gresham-Barlow administrators were playing the same guessing game about who the blogger was in their midst. One of the people holding up a sign making grouchy faces at them during board meetings? A person they pass by in the grocery store? A fellow board member who dresses in costume before sitting at the computer?

Reynolds school board members make stuff up online and try to browbeat confessions (resembling Eric Idle’s “ya know what I mean, eh?” Monty Python character)  to figure out who in Reynolds has been posting this entire blog.

It’s revealing about human nature that all these people across the state (we note Parkrose is NOT obsessed in this way – must be more well-adjusted there) think it’s someone in THEIR community, perhaps someone THEY KNOW. Their focus is on not reflecting on their own ill deeds, but to root out a conspiracy.

Vanity makes these people lose track of the variety of geography these few posts have taken on. They lose track of just how small this corner of the internet is.

The answer(s) is/are truly boring. But externalizing personal bad behavior into some conspiracy is easier and more self-aggrandizing than trying to learn to not be such a jerk in the future.

Oregon educators who belong to unions should be proud of how things played out this spring. They fought against a coordinated strategy by districts to use financial factors as an excuse to overreach and attack contract protections. Facing tight financial budgets(ish) (except in Reynolds) ALL ended up with stronger contracts and better public support and a sense of collective power.

Back to Reynolds…

It was not long ago that we expressed our dismay at the new crop of Oregon school district leaders taking the helms of complex contract negotiations with little or no knowledge of how to get a deal done. The teachers in Reynolds have finished the second day of their strike, and it seems that inexperienced district leaders are not the only problem Reynolds teachers face.  The Reynolds Board has actually hired a lead bargainer who doesn’t seem to know how to find a deal.

Word on the street is that Reynolds Board attorney Paul Dakopolos is more seasoned on the litigation front and unseasoned when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of contract negotiations.  This might not be a problem if he was negotiating a contract re-opener in Jordan Valley, but strike negotiations in Reynolds, of all places, is a whole other story.

Let’s face it. The Reynolds Board needs some help. Their recent history is notorious.  Other area teachers tell us that it is not uncommon for districts in the region to preface statements with things like “At least we’re not as bad as Reynolds…” The Reynolds Board needs reasonable and experienced leadership. It is possible that some of the more seasoned contract negotiators passed on the chance to lead this Board because they saw the writing on the wall.  Who knows?  What is clear is that it is time for the community in Reynolds to stand up and demand that the Board put the brakes on their newest train wreck.

We’re not eternally pessimistic. There was one time in NFL history that a first year starting quarterback actually led his team to Super Bowl victory after a train wreck of a season the year before. Does Paul Dakopolos have what it takes to channel Kurt Warner?  Probably not. The Reynolds Board does seem like they are running a circus at times, but they’re definitely not the Greatest Show on Turf.

The Eagle Point educators and the school district reached a tentative agreement early this morning. While the details aren’t being shared out yet, it’s difficult to know whether the union-busting tactics by the administrators held, or were rebuffed (based on the student walk-outs and public demonstrations of support for educators, we’re guessing mostly rebuffed).

One thing that IS certain: a woodchuck (prairie dog? chupacabra? noncommital varmint?) bellowing “Allen! Allen! Allen!” over and over in this Eagle Point video is a total ear worm:

If you know the specific animal, comment below. Apologies for not being up on our zooology as much as we should.

Eagle Point educators, both certified and classified staff, are still on strike. The district continues to behave dishonorably, hiring bus drivers who break the law (as captured on video), avoiding coming to the bargaining table determined to starve out their employees (quality service to students be damned), intimidating employees and students (see video below), and preparing to open sham classrooms with babysitters early next week.

The Eagle Point community deserves better behavior from their district. People now see students getting disrespected by the district in the same ways the district has disrespected their employees for months.

The district is luring replacement educators with bonuses to cross the picket line. Paying for hotel rooms and buses (doesn’t that get expensive?) from as far away as Portland. Most educators are saying no, and are heroes for doing so.

Times are tough, and slipping in to get some money while waving the “For the Kids!” flag may seem like a good idea, but that’s wrong.

By benefiting from the working conditions decades of union educators have fought for — while current educators are out putting their careers and families at risk — to cross the picket line drags everyone down in a race to the bottom.

Good contracts are not granted, they are fought for. Union educators in Oregon have fought for good benefits and working conditions for generations, sacrificing their own income and putting their careers on the line to build fair contracts and learning conditions for students.

Employers did not automatically grant child labor laws, worker safety protections, weekends, 40-hour workweeks, pensions, health care benefits, living wages. The labor movement, employees standing together, established all of those things.

Whether accepting a bonus of $10,000 or 30 pieces of silver, money is temporary. A reputation for having helped your brave colleagues on the picket line, or violating their union picket line for a quick money grab to hit their careers and families, is something they will remember forever.

School board members are essential to making a school district run and accountable to the interests of the public.

Being a school board member is a volunteer gig. The hours can be long and always in addition to the responsibilities of other jobs or occupations, family, friends. It’s a labor of love driven by a sense of mission for a good, quality public education system.

When the days and tasks seem too long and unrewarding, stop by a school and see the great work done in classrooms and student services done every day. They are great places to regain a sense of purpose and inspiration. Not the school your own child or grandchild attends, but other schools in other age groups and other parts of town.

It can help with reputation and build rapport and contacts with students, educators, and volunteers and can re-energize and inform the meetings.

It is not advisable, if serving on the school board is a way station for future public offices, to attack unionized educators as overpaid. That’s a tactical error. Poll after poll shows an overwhelming majority of the public views educators as under-paid and under-appreciated. Striking an anti-educator position may earn a few atta-boys or atta-gals on the radio or among cranky online commenters, but that’s not where the voters are at.

If you keep doing that, people will notice. People will notice if your conduct changes depending on the location. Pro-educator and pro-union in one place, and anti-union and anti-educator in another. People will notice you’re not representing their interests anymore.

Read “Reynolds Recall Effort Underway” at OregonLive.com

The Oregonian's photo about the Reynolds school board recall effort

If you are an Oregon public employee, once sent an email to an Oregon public entity, even sneezed or blinked near a public library then you were probably among the 475,447 surprised souls that state Representative Dennis Richardson (R- Central Point) felt compelled to email this weekend in a fact-challenged, teacher-bashing email about striking Eagle Point educators in a legislative district far from his own.

It brought the State email servers down for two hours, slowed State websites and streaming legislative hearings to a crawl.

What was so gosh darned important for Richardson to share that he formed a one-man Occupy the Internet movement? Wisdom, folks. Like the people in the streets challenging the 1%, he just had to tell truth to power, yo. ‘Cause who’s controlling the state? Those darned teachers, duh!

He told the Salem Statesman-Journal: “I knew it was a big issue. Who will take on the teachers’ unions? Some people just don’t want to know the truth, or just don’t want to deal with it.” Thug life, represent, Richardson!

Anyone who works in schools knows that the true ills of society are those teachers who run everything! Who decided to fund the state’s own Quality Education Model (QEM) at only a 65% level? Teachers. We’d never suspect them, though, with their diminishing benefits, hours extending into evenings and the weekends because their classrooms are overcrowded. Oh, and let’s not forget losing earning power against the cost of living, and constantly paying out of their own pockets to keep their classrooms running. Only Dennis Richardson and those blessed with such penetrating perceptions see this truth!

No one would ever suspect people dedicated to a job they love, working themselves to near exhaustion for the students and purpose of public education,were secretly in control of all of their underfunded circumstances. That’s a genius plan!

It’s not as if Oregon legislators like Rep. Richardson have any control over the level of taxation in our state and the decades-long trend shifting the tax burdens onto the middle class and away from the wealthy and corporations. Other than setting the level of taxation and funding in the state.

No, no, no. It’s the job of elected state leaders like Richardson to slow down the normal functions of things, make the system FEEL the discomfort, man. Is Dennis Richardson a student of Saul Alinsky?

Rising stars in the Occupy movement like Dennis Richardson should be saluted as heroes. How DARE teachers ask for better! Haven’t all major social changes happened from people asking politely for things? Like separation from England? Giving women the vote? The civil rights movement? A 40-hour workweek? Weekends? Non-lethal work environments? An end to child labor laws? Work benefits? Just ask nicely, people, and things will be granted to you without needing to get all uppity or ask questions!

If you have questions for Rep. Dennis Richardson, email him at: Rep.DennisRichardson@state.or.us

You can also call Richardson (unless he’s engaged in a new Occupy the Phones movement in the Capitol): 503-986-1404.

Districts across the state seem to draw from the same playbook in using a budget shortfall, whether real or not (we’re looking at you, Reynolds School District!), to go after basic contract protections and rights and quality learning conditions they’ve been licking their chops over for years. Communities and parents push back, causing board members to have “public” tantrums in front of news cameras. It’s becoming a thing, as the kids say.

But Eagle Point School District is taking it further, going beyond scare tactics and bad information to bullying and illegality. Here are twelve examples on the eve of a possible May 8 strike of district attempts to attack educators, harm the community and students, and generally be lousy:

  1. Telling educators on disability they must cross the picket line and return for ‘light duty’ or else lose their disability. Does it matter that they have not been released for work by their doctors? Nope!
  2. Half-time employees are directed to work more hours or be fired. FUN FACT: if they work more hours they can join the union. Does the district mean to bully people into becoming Eagle Point education union members and making the picket lines larger? Weird strategy.
  3. A high school principal disregards student concerns about a strike, neglecting the opportunity to create a teachable moment about conflict resolution and non-violent demonstration. Frustrated and disrespected, students leave school to protest the situation, and the principal expels them. Another kind of teachable moment.
  4. Mayor has been calling businesses and asked them to stay out of the conflict (probably to make sure the principal doesn’t try to expel businesses, too).
  5. The district is using Craigslist to offer more than normal sub pay for replacements to work 5 hour shifts. Where is this magical money coming from? Isn’t Craigslist used more often for, ehm, personal connections? Don’t real educators use EdZapp instead? (EdZapp, if willing to donate $ for this free plug, let us know).
  6. Teachers are being asked to write 10 days worth of lesson plans before they check out for the strike. When they aren’t given time during the day to plan their lessons anyway. Why not only work extra time, to help replacement workers stealing their jobs? Genius!
  7. Every employee is being asked to check out and to take their personal belongings home, turn in keys, and computers. Some teachers are being asked to turn in textbooks as well. Days before the strike. The district should put their energy into bargaining seriously instead of ramping up for a strike.
  8. Security guards have been seen giving high fives to picketers (put in as a good-news item, figuring you wanted a break).
  9. Renting nearby private property for parking space, threatening to charge people parking there with trespass, and ordering security to only arrest those who look like they are “congregating”. “Racial profiling” is a common phrase, might this be “educator profiling”?
  10. Principals polling individual educators about their plans to strike or not, attempting to coerce employees into not striking. It’s been a few centuries since a good Inquisition, way to go old school! Are Eagle Point administrators certified at Wal-Mart?
  11. Telling educators they may not speak to parents or students about bargaining issues at all, any location or time, not just as school.
  12. Claiming publicly to be willing to meet to continue bargaining with educators, but consistently refusing to meet beyond the mandates of the limited availability of the state mediator.

Loyalty oaths or be fired! Ailing educators: detach the i.v. and hobble into the school or be fired! No free speech rights no matter where you go! Once the Eagle Point School District installs loudspeakers with songs of praise that proclaim the wisdom and great feats of its leaders, its transition to North Korea will be complete!

BONUS GOOD NEWS! DISTRICT SHENANIGANS BACKFIRE!

The Eagle Point School District encouraged people with concerns about a possible strike to call a provided phone number to voice their opinions. The phone number? Went to the union members of the Eagle Point Education Association. Clever.

However the union reports that over 75% of the district-directed calls have been in SUPPORT of the local educators. USA! USA! USA!