Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Response to Gov.-Elect Snyder's "Idea"

Okay, so I am really not in a warm, tropical place this vacation, and thus, I'm reading the local papers! I submited this to the Detroit News in Response to Governor-elect Snyder's December 22nd article regarding public employee pay cuts.
You can write as well by using this link:

I always read articles about slashing teacher pay with great trepidation because the real story is not out there. At first glance, it must appear to people, including our incoming governor, that teachers have made no concessions, nor given up any salary. Quite frankly, I think this is brought up again and again because people will come to believe it if they hear it enough without looking at what has actually happened.

Because of collective bargaining, there are MANY different ways that a teacher group can help save a district money. We are not tied to the unimaginative, draconian cuts that business uses. Teachers over the years have again and again given up pay raises to maintain parts of their health care. Because of collective bargaining, teacher groups can look at their insurance policies and bargain in new riders that save a district money. For instance, higher prescription co-pays, higher office visits and deductibles.

Last year, if you looked around the state, teachers bargained away their pay raises, they increased their payment tracks, and they took furlough days. In addition, less teachers are doing more and more with bigger classes, without the help of interventionists or classroom aides, which saves districts, in some cases, 100’s of salaries.

Snyder’s proposals are also very shortsighted in that they will not improve Michigan’s economy. Lou Glazer, the president of Michigan Future, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, says that the future of Michigan is a “knowledge-driven economy”. He says it is “80% of the nations’ job growth since 2001.” He says that the problem with Michigan is that “we are 32nd in the share of our employment earnings from knowledge-based industries”. He goes on to say that employers will move to where the talent is, not places with “low taxes and weak unions”, the very things our own state leaders continually push forward as "policy".

We should be treating educators as the foremost leaders of the future of Michigan and paying them as such. We are not going to attract the best educators to the schools and thus have our children the best educated if education is seen as a place where the employee is continually bashed and at risk of major loss of compensation at the whim of a partisan government. That is the real crime in Michigan.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

School Heroes! Finally!

Good Morning! A more balanced view of "Superman" appeared in the Freep yesterday! I thought you might want to see it and read it. You can also click on the link below if you wish to comment on the writer's commentary!
Posted: Dec. 14, 2010, Freep

There's no ‘Superman,’ but there are school heroes
Earl C. Rickman III is the president of the National School Boards Association and president of the Board of Education of Mount Clemens Community School District.

Everywhere I go these days, people ask if I have seen “Waiting for Superman,” the documentary that chronicles five families who have entered lotteries to seek admission to charter schools.
I have indeed seen the documentary and feel it is provoking conversations that are long overdue about public education.

However, the messaging associated with these projects – “charters are good,” “traditional public schools are failing,” and “teachers unions are bad” – oversimplifies complicated issues and threatens to hinder thoughtful discussions about education reform. The “us” versus “them” mentality promotes division rather than the collaboration necessary for our public schools to succeed.

Instead of helping people understand the many challenges schools face and what it takes to address them, director and narrator Davis Guggenheim presents misleading information and simplistic solutions that benefit no one, especially those in classrooms who work so hard to help our children succeed.

We shouldn’t use a handful of outliers to make sweeping claims about policy. While the stories highlighted in “Waiting for Superman” offer inspiring lessons about how strong principals and committed teachers can transform children’s lives and futures, research shows that only 17% of charters outperform their traditional counterparts.

It’s also unfair and misleading to use the lowest-performing public schools as typical examples. While there are struggling public schools, there are also many successful public schools and teachers – here in Mount Clemens, across Michigan and around the country – that are helping children from all backgrounds reach great academic heights.

We know all too well how urgently change is needed, but not from a corporate-modeled agenda of teacher bashing, union bashing, elected board governance bashing, test-based accountability, and highly selective charters run by private management companies.

Despite a lot of empty rhetoric about the importance of great teachers, the documentary does not contain a single positive image of a traditional public school or teacher. It never shows real teachers who are working in the trenches in traditional public schools every day and how they are offering hope for the students in their classrooms. The film simply disrespects and discredits traditional teachers. Not a single one of these dedicated teachers has a voice in the film.
And there is no suggestion of how parents are working in collaboration with school leaders to improve the public schools their children attend, no suggestion of community engagement, no suggestion of how effective board leadership can improve public education.
There is no discussion of funding inequities, poverty, race, testing or the long dismal history of top-down bureaucratic educational reform failures.

The film displays a heart tugging and undeniably powerful emotional impact. The stories of the children and families it highlights are truly compelling for all of us. But the film uses these stories to advance an agenda that continues to hurt public schools and the vast majority of communities that depend on them.

Am I saying that we shouldn't criticize public education? No!

If there were not the perceptions that the current system is not getting the job done and not addressing the needs of all students, there would be no need or outcry for change by those who depend on public school districts to provide a quality educational experience for their children.
For 26 years as a member of the Mount Clemens Board of Education I have fought, argued and advocated to bring social justice to our classrooms, our schools, our districts and our unions. I’ve learned that there is no such thing as a “Superman”; rather, ordinary men and women must do extraordinary things for our children.

If children are our most essential investment, we must invest in their future and provide them with a quality public education. Instead, it is an annual ritual as we look at ways to cut education funding even when it will sacrifice student learning and achievement. We must make sure that we have the essential assets — great teachers, staff, curriculum, and key resources — to build an unwavering infrastructure for a solid education.

School leaders must nurture the ambition, creativity, curiosity and boldness of these young minds that come through our doors. These children will become lifelong learners and the leaders of tomorrow, and we must see that their dreams become reality through our work.

You can find real heroes in every traditional public school, but “Waiting for Superman” fails to recognize this, and that is the movie’s fatal flaw. Instead of bashing our hard-working teachers, school leaders, parents and community leaders, we should look for realistic steps we can take to improve achievement and make opportunities available to all children.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Good News and THANK YOU!

Good News!!! As reported by the Michigan Information and Research Service this morning at 5:06....."Tenure Bill Flunks Out - Legislation (HB 4410) to allow school districts to strip teachers of their tenure under certain circumstances, went literally nowhere in the Democratic-controlled House today. "

Thank you to everyone who called or wrote their representatives! Also, thank you for those of you who participated in the CYBER LOBBYING on the http://www.detnews/ site! We are a huge collective voice that needs to be heard!

Another highlight from Lansing; the corrected version of the federal EduJobs money legislation was passed by the legislature and will go to the governor for a signature later today, if it has not already done so. This version should pass federal muster and monies can be released to the schools. It appears that Walled Lake will only receive $111 per student, while other "poor" districts will receive $222, but final numbers will be forthcoming by Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Read the post and then CYBER LOBBY!!!!

Please be sure to read the current posting below for information. THEN----

1) Call or write your legislators (emails and phone #'s are below) - please use your cells or home emails!

2) CLICK on the following link and go to the DETROIT NEWS - Cyber Lobby and read other people's comments!!! BE VOCAL!!!!

Click here to CYBER LOBBY. Then click on the box in the top righthand corner of the Detroit News page to go to CYBER LOBBY. (It only allows you to vote once from a computer, so I can not give you the exact web address since I have already voted!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Late this evening the following Legislative update was sent out by our MEA Lobbyist, Dave Stafford. The Senate and House have made it clear that they have taken up legislation that SERIOUSLY AFFECTS TEACHER EVALUATIONS AND THE TENURE ACT. It is very important that we contact our legislators today (Dec. 2nd) as it looks as if they will be working all day and into the night!

FROM DAVE STAFFORD (MEA Lobbyist): “The Senate passed an amended version of HB 4410, a bill to change the School Code by inserting almost four pages of language to micro-manage the evaluation process for teachers and administrators. Included in this language is a requirement that at least 45% of the evaluation must be based upon student growth in academic achievement and using standardized test scores when possible. This amended version of HB 4410 was sent back to the House of Representatives where efforts are underway to buy or otherwise convince members to support this bill.”
Note: The Race To the Top Bill will already require schools to amend their evaluation process, but it allows for LOCAL BARGAINING and LOCAL Associations to bargain what is good for their district!!!!! We need to retain our LOCAL ABILITY to bargain the teacher evaluation process!

“There is also a bill attacking tenure rights that passed the Senate nearly a year ago and is currently in the House of Representatives. Part of the dealing that is going on involves the House amending that bill, SB 638, passing it and sending it back to the Senate. We haven’t seen a copy of the proposed House amendments, but we know they are already drafted and that they will probably involve taking away tenure from employees with no effective recourse against such action; and some form of additional hoops for probationary employees to jump through on top of their current four year probationary period.”
Note: The State controls what is in the Tenure Law, but they are functioning on very poor information. If your tenure is revoked, you should have the ability to pursue recourse for such action! Probationary teachers' evaluation timelines were already increased from 2 years to 4 years. The number of classes they need to take and the costs involved in meeting all of their certificate requirements have tremendously increased over the last 10 years. We should ask our legislators, are "more hoops" really needed, and what is the true agenda behind the tenure changes?

Please call or write your state representatives TODAY!!!!! Urge them to vote NO on HB 4410 and SB 638 if they come up for a vote. Representative Contacts Below!

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop
Phone: 517-373-2417
Fax: 517-373-2694

State Senator Nancy Cassis
Phone: 517-373-1758
Fax: 517-373-0938

State Senator Gilda Jacobs
Phone: 517-373-7888
Fax: 517-373- 2983

State Representative Vicki Barnett
Phone: 517-373-1793
Fax: 517-373-8501

State Representative Lisa Brown
Phone: 517-373-1799
Fax: 517-373-8361

State Representative Hugh Crawford
Phone: 517-373-0827
Fax: 517-373-5873

State Representative Eileen Kowall
Phone: 517-373-2616
Fax: 517-373-5843