To Tell the Truth…

One thing from my last meeting with Dan McMinimee has been bugging me.  At one point, he essentially called me a liar, which—if I had been lying—would have been fair enough, since I’d pretty much called him the same.  The thing is, anyone who knows me well will tell you I’m sort of freakishly honest.  Not brutally honest.  I won’t express a negative opinion about your haircut unasked, but really, I just don’t lie naturally.  I had a tough time doing the whole Santa Claus thing, because, you know…

See, I told Dan that all we talk about at JCEA is kids, and yeah, he basically called me a liar.  He seemed so sure, and honestly, I was shocked.  At first, I thought, “Geeze.  The very concept of focusing on kids is really this unthinkable to him?”

But I’m not the kind of person who just takes a glib, unexamined position.  (I had to laugh internally when a colleague was explaining to me how “complicated” this whole school board thing is—like I don’t research both sides of everything ad nauseam before I take a side.  I know the key arguments of both sides well, and if you think this is a “union” issue, you need to study up.  If you know what’s really going on, it isn’t complicated.  It’s a “schools are yet another great place to push a free-market ideology” or “schools are a place to teach children” issue.)

Anyway, on closer examination, I want to clarify my statement that all we talk about is kids:

Conversations at JCEA begin and end with our commitment to kids.  We believe passionately in public schools (and yes, that includes home-grown, quality public charter schools).  We talk a lot about the importance of public schools in any democracy.  We talk a ton about the kids we teach.  It is no coincidence that many (though certainly not all) of the most active members of JCEA teach vulnerable kids—at risk, low-income, special ed, etc.  Our kids are lost without strong neighborhood schools, and to us they are people with names and faces.  They live in our hearts every day.

But in between—sure, conversations go other places.  We talk about the Tea-party attack on public schools, waged primarily by attacking teachers couched as attacks on “unions.”  Why do we talk about this?  Because this attack is hurting our kids.

We talk about negotiations and what will happen to our contract.  Why?  Because our contract protects kids from being buried in class-sizes or teacher loads so heavy they get lost in the shuffle.  Because the contract keeps our voices in the decision-making for our students.  Because we want teaching to stay the kind of profession that attracts people who will love kids as we have, but if young people never see their way clear to the kind of salary they can raise a family on, good-bye committed teachers of the future.

Have we talked about a strike?  How can we not?  It’s what the board majority wants most in the world.  Teachers don’t want to strike.  We want to negotiate in good faith.  In the secret confines of JCEA, those teachers who teach vulnerable kids worry desperately what will happen to those families if we strike, but we also worry just as desperately about what will happen to public schools if we don’t fight for them with everything we have.  Talk about complicated.

We talk about what we can do to get the general public involved.  How do we get JeffCo small business owners, and retired folks, and folks with no kids but who care about the quality of life in JeffCo and the nation to take notice and care enough to act—go to school board meetings, write letters, talk to friends and neighbors.  Why do we talk about this? Because it takes a village to raise our children, and our village is patently under attack.

So I guess these things are not directly children, but they are 100 percent about children.

A new aspect of conversation about negotiation for us is the board majority’s insistence that these talks occur part of the time during the school day.  It was pointed out that the teachers on the negotiation committee have students.  Every day that they are forced to miss school for negotiations, they are unable to teach their students.  Negotiations may very well occur during the high-stakes test window.  Our kids need us.  We need to get them through these high-anxiety tests, and then they need our instruction.  Julie Williams kept saying, “But their leave time is paid.”

THE MONEY IS NOT THE POINT!!!  The teachers on the team have made it clear—they want to volunteer to do this in their free time because they need to be with their students.  Paid or unpaid, they do not want to leave their kids.  The board majority just didn’t get it.  They kept coming back to the idea that the leave is paid.  They simply cannot wrap their minds around the idea that kids could possibly be anyone’s first priority.  Because to them the negotiation process is all about ideology, they are unable to conceive of any other paradigm.  Negotiations being about a good learning environment for children?  About preserving neighborhood public schools because kids need them?  It just doesn’t compute.

I think Dan and I just come at this from very different angles.  He cannot imagine a group of adults so focused on kids that it’s all they talk about, and I can’t imagine a group of teachers not having kids at the root of every conversation.  To him, when we talk about negotiations, we’re talking about money for us.  To me (and the vast majority of teachers, including very active JCEA members) it’s about great schools and great teachers for kids.

About admin

Paula is an author of historical fiction as well as a wife, mom, and teacher.
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16 Responses to To Tell the Truth…

  1. dee vee says:

    The Board majority realizes that teachers are interested in kids and all about them. That is exactly why they want to hold them during the day so the rest of the teachers can’t show up in support. McMinimee is unqualified to lead this district. The people in this community deserve better to lead this district. I can’t wait for the day when Jeffco rids itself of WNW because then we get rid of the puppet McMinimee with them.

  2. Michelle Gallagher says:

    Paula,
    Everything you say is right on point. I left DougCo because I couldn’t give my students what I gave them the previous years before the reformers stepped in. I was up at 2am in the morning everyday due to the stress of trying to keep up with the workload. I felt like a horrible teacher because I didn’t know my students due to the decision of increasing my student numbers from 150 to 180. The money was the last thing I cared about. I was willing to lose half my salary to get out of DougCo. I just wanted to teach my students again and feel good about it. Thank you for all you do Paula!

    • admin says:

      In case anyone reading your comment doesn’t already know this: The decision to increase high school teachers’ student load from 150 to 180 in DougCo was Dan McMinimee’s. THIS is why JeffCo’s teachers are fighting so hard for a contract. This isn’t some Chicken Little worry. We know for a fact that, free from the confines of a teacher contract, Dan McMininmee has made terrible decisions that negatively impacted students.

      • Michelle Gallagher says:

        Yes, it was his decision to cut teachers and increase student loads. He says it was due to budget cuts, but we found out later that the money was really there and the cuts really didn’t have to happen.

  3. Heather Malcolm says:

    Your words resonated so much with me today and got at every single thought and feeling I have been feeling this week.

  4. Bob Giusto says:

    You write, “He [McMinimee] cannot imagine a group of adults so focused on kids that it’s all they talk about, and I can’t imagine a group of teachers not having kids at the root of every conversation.” You are so on the money with your assessment, but I would like to add: I cannot imagine a school board so blinded by their own ideology and political agenda that they fail to hear the voices of so many teachers, parents, and students who are all basically begging the board not to steamroll a district that really is functioning so well in so many ways. And yet that is what we are facing. In 28 years of teaching, this is without doubt the most frustrating and infuriating professional quagmire I have ever faced. Thank you for your blog, your voice, your passion.

  5. Columbine Student says:

    Dear Mrs. Reed:

    I go to Columbine. I’m a Freshman. And you know what? I support the school board. I helped them get elected. One of them is my personal friend. I think that the Tea Party is great. I am a conservative. And yes, us conservatives do care about kids. Heck, I have 5 young cousins, and I LOVE them. I think we deserve to get an education without having to deal with propaganda in the form of tshirts, or buttons, or teachers encouraging us to walk out.

    Sincerely,
    A Columbine Student

    • admin says:

      Good for you! I’m always glad to see kids take an interest in politics. I wish you would have posted your name, simply because I hate to think anyone feels there would be negative consequences for speaking their truth openly. You should be respected for that. I was also very politically aware, even as a freshman in high school. I hated it when people assumed I didn’t know my own mind just because I was young.

      I would really like to know the names of any teachers who encouraged you to walk out. The teachers I know were very careful not to. In fact, I flat-out told my students not to walk out when they brought it up in class. All the T-shirts and buttons say is that we will stand up for all students. To us, that means we will fight to preserve public schools.

      That said, let me make clear that this is not a conservative-liberal issue, though it has been painted as such. My husband is a small-business owning, lifelong Republican, and he is absolutely opposed to the way this board wastes taxpayer money and disrespects the community they were elected to serve. Many conservative teachers who swore they would never join JCEA because of their overall opposition to unions have joined. They see that teachers, parents, and the rest of the community must join together so we do not lose our public schools. There are a few conservative teachers I know who still won’t join JCEA, but they are speaking to their friends and neighbors, clarifying that this is not about being conservative or liberal. This school board majority is ultimately trying to make it possible for a small group of people to make money from public schools without actually providing goods or services for kids. That’s not a political issue.

      Now, I realize that some folks believe the free market, unfettered and unregulated, is the answer to everything. That flies in the face of history, but people are certainly entitled to their opinions. They believe that nothing should exist for the public good alone. Everything should turn a profit for someone. They are entitled to that opinion, as well. I’m simply old enough to remember when conservatives were very community-minded. This money-motivated madness is not the conservatism of my youth. I don’t think it’s really conservatism at all.

    • admin says:

      You even inspired a whole new entry! I hope this makes my position clearer: http://paula-reed.com/blog/?p=490

    • Grateful Columbine Student says:

      Do I go to a different Columbine? Not one of my teachers told me to walk out. I don’t know of ANY teachers that told students to walk out. And when did a tshirt and button that says “support all students” become propaganda? Columbine Freshman, if you’d like to see propaganda, check out those phony newspapers Ken Witt’s supporters read. I’m tired of school board suppporters trashing my teachers who work their butts off every single day for us. I guess they are trying to take attention away from the fact that the people they support are making stupid decisions that are hurting kids in the Jeffco. I made a CHOICE to walk out because Ken Witt and his school board minions are trying to tear apart my education and attack my teachers. So THANK YOU Mrs. Reed and all of the other amazing teachers at Columbine for working so hard for all of your students. Hopefully by the time this freshman student is a senior he or she will truly understand all of the sacrifices you make for us, and next election work to make sure that this school board is not reelected again…because that’s what I’ll be doing!

      Sincerely,

      A Columbine student who appreciates all that teachers do (and also loves her younger cousin)

      • Columbine Student says:

        Do you think I don’t appreciate my teachers? I do. I love my teachers should be wearing those in school, because I support Ken Witt, and the newspapers are not propaganda.

        Don’t get me wrong, I love my teachers. (Also, Leyba is amazing!) It’s that people shouldn’t be indoctrinating us. Everybody knows what those shirts and buttons mean. If that isn’t indoctrination, I don’t know what is.

        Sincerely, the Conservative Columbine Student who loves his teachers.

    • Jules says:

      Oh my…the buttons are for YOU, the student. The teachers stand up for you, whether you’re atheist or fundamental, black or white, hetero or homosexual, activist or pacifist.

      Regardless of buttons, if your friend has his way, for I sense it’s The W, since he lies just over the hummock from Columbine, he will secretly direct The M to cut teachers (as he did in Doug Co, and that’s not hypothetical, M) increase class sizes, and get everyone so angry, that the whole kit and kaboodle will be passed over to Privateers. Wait… I think that’s what is happening, for according to a fairly smart gentleman named Noam, as in Chomsky,

      [They’re applying] the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.

  6. admin says:

    Whew! That’s a relief. Truly, every teacher I spoke with during that period felt it was very important that we not influence kids to walk out. I’m glad you see the T-shirts for what they are, too!

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