In my twenty-three-year career with D51, I was part of the teachers’ negotiation team for seventeen of those. We brought eight to ten teachers, paying attention to having representation from each instructional level, content, and area of expertise. D51 administration brought a similarly representative team, with administrators from each level, the Chief Financial Officer, Executive Director of Human Resources, and Superintendent as key parts of their team. And, of course, all five Board members were there. Always.
Decisions are made by first building a base understanding of the facts surrounding the issue, often called the “story.” After building a complete picture, we begin to list interests. When discussing salaries, for instance, our CFO might say, “I have an interest in ensuring that we can pay our bills.” I always shared that interest, as I wanted my paycheck to clear the bank. Our HR representative might say, “I have an interest in attracting and retaining quality teachers.” I also shared that interest. Having a strong team around me helps make me a more effective teacher. I might then say, “I have an interest in my paycheck keeping up with inflation.” That made sense to everyone. Once we each had shared our interests, we then looked at options. We only looked at options that met all of our interests because our process required all Board members, all administrators, and all teachers to agree to support the decision publicly. If you couldn’t agree to do that, we kept talking. We laughed, we cried, and we adapted our positions based on new information. It’s a long process requiring patience and emotional resilience, but our kids, our teachers, and our community deserve it.
Sure, we all groaned and moaned about the time we were donating to this exercise, but we also recognized its importance in arriving at good decisions.
Each of the twenty-five people in the room had a unique perspective and experience necessary to ensure good decisions were made. And we kept coming back, year after year, because we knew the importance of our work, and also because we learned so much from listening to the other people in the room. Sitting in that room was the proverbial “drinking from the fire hose” of knowledge. Board members commented every year how valuable it was to their understanding of both teachers’ perspectives and the complexity behind every decision we made. Seemingly simple issues were riddled with the potential for embarrassing and costly missteps. That’s why it was necessary to move slowly, methodically, and with great care to ensure unintended consequences don’t happen. And we left Negotiations each year with a better understanding and appreciation of the complexity of our issues, a better understanding and appreciation of the people who help it achieve its mission, and a better understanding and appreciation that we are all on the same team.
Tammy Eret (Photo: LinkedIn)
D51’s mission is to “engage, equip, and empower each and every student, each and every day.” Who actually accomplishes that mission?
Every other position in D51 exists to support teachers, the people who actually carry out the mission.
Every Board has understood that basic truth and took care to work closely with teachers. They listened to them. Problem solved with them. And showed them the respect they deserved by sitting down with them each year to discuss their wages and working conditions.
David Price (Photo: CraigDailyPress.com)
Well, until this Board majority, that is.
Why they have chosen to abdicate that responsibility to highly paid lawyers baffles me.
Is it because the master contract between MVEA and D51 is up for renewal this year, and they intend to oppose it? Many teachers think after denying students life-saving services at Grand Junction High School
, and opening charter schools while closing neighborhood schools,
this board majority’s next move is to attack the organization that protects the public teaching profession. As MVEA president, I occasionally heard people say, “We like teachers but don’t like teachers’ unions.” I often smiled at that comment because it’s a distinction without a difference, as the majority of teachers are part of the union. So, while I don’t know the motivation for this Board majority to sit out negotiations this year, I can mentally add it to the growing lists of moves that destabilize our public schools.