Good news! Apparently there were just some messaging problems again in the district communications I recently wrote to Dan McMinimee and the board about. (I’m sorry, am I speaking clearly enough? My tongue is in my cheek, you see.)
Our superintendent of schools assured me that when he wrote to parents about the district’s ability to “develop and implement community based solutions to give students all the resources and the systems they need to succeed” being “distracted by outside influences,” he wasn’t talking about JeffCo teachers. He handed me minutes from the Boulder Valley Education Association at which John Ford (the president of JCEA) spoke. I read it. Nothing new. John Ford is, after all, a JeffCo teacher.
Yes, I confirmed, the National Education Association and the Colorado Education Association, accompanied by JCEA members, did knock on the doors of Jefferson County teachers over the summer. I explained to him that teachers are actually not outsiders in education. We are, in fact, very much on the inside. The NEA and CEA (both organizations comprised of teachers) were providing support to their members. (If you’re a member of JCEA, you are, by extension, part of CEA and NEA.)
Why did we need them? he asked. I explained that 5,200 doors (the number upon which we knocked) required more manpower than we had. I detailed how we went in pairs, and while one person carried on a conversation with the teacher, the other was recording data: What were the teachers’ concerns and what did they want from their association? This is a perfectly appropriate thing for such an association to do. Furthermore, I informed him, Jefferson County is not the only public school system that is, indeed, under attack from outside organizations like Americans for Prosperity and the Independence Institute—neither of which is comprised of educators. The representatives from NEA were learning what kinds of steps teachers can take to preserve public schools across the country.
He agreed—by the way—that the outside forces I referenced are becoming very influential on school boards across the country.
I asked him repeatedly how our summer door-knocking activities distracted anyone from education. Did they delay the start of the school year? Did they prevent teachers from planning? No, no problems there.
So he did what many debaters try to do: pivot. This only works with me when I want it to. In this case, I was happy to take the redirect. He referred to a video John Ford released to JCEA members telling them we were getting in shape for a fight. What fight? he wanted to know. “The fight for public schools,” I replied. “The fight to keep the voices of teachers—the people who actually know what kids need—in the decision-making process regarding classroom conditions.” I also invited him to share that information with the board—we will fight.
Of course, I assured him, the worst could be avoided if the board decided to negotiate in good faith. He said we don’t know what will happen when negotiations begin. I said the last round of negotiations hadn’t done much to instill confidence. “In DougCo,” I said, “teacher voices in schools were lost because people weren’t geared up for the fight they had on their hands.”
Eventually I brought it back to my issue: “Groups like the ones we’ve talked about are using a general anti-union sentiment to gain ground.” He nodded as I said that. I continued, “I have an issue with a district publication that looks as if it is trying to deliver that message.” He assured me again that this was unintentional. I pointed out that it didn’t look unintentional when the inflammatory sentence about being “distracted by outside influences” was included in the parent communication but not another communication to teachers which included all the other connected verbiage. He apologized and said he wasn’t aware that a different message had gone out.
I brought up that teachers do not use district communications to express our viewpoint, and this is where things got a little interesting. He tensed visibly and disagreed. “You have those buttons and the—the posters plastered everywhere!”
If you don’t know, we teachers have been wearing buttons that say, “Stand up for all students.” On our classroom walls are 8.5X11 “posters” (sheets of paper) with a fist holding a pencil. Underneath it says, “Educate!” I pointed out that this was all they said. He said not everyone agreed with our point of view. “Not everyone agrees we should stand up for all kids?” I asked. He said they stood for something else. I repeatedly asked what he believed they stood for. He never answered. He would only say they stood for something not everyone agreed to. Well, true that, I suppose.
We chatted briefly about the Lisa Pinto appointment. He was definitely not happy that I know as much as I know. We didn’t spend a lot of time on it, and it was another of those agree-to-disagree kinds of things.
I don’t know how enlightening this is to anyone, but I will say this: Wear your button everywhere! We do not want Newkirk, Witt, or Williams to ever forget that it is we who have not yet begun to fight for Jefferson County Public Schools and the kids who attend them!