Friday, July 1, 2011

An Independence Day Message to Walled Lake Educators!

Dear WLEA fellow members and supporters,

First, I want to thank all of the WLEA members who wrote and called repeatedly in an attempt to influence the decision makers in Lansing. I want to thank all of you who lobbied through your communications, your Facebook pages, and with your friends and neighbors. I want to thank the many people who came to the protests that started way back in February and many more times over the following months. I know I stood and walked in more protests during the first 5 months of this year, than I did my whole entire high school and college career….which by the way, was in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Last night was historical……..and not in the way the celebrating senators on the floor imagine. Never has one class of people lost so many rights in one night in my life time. While no one supports students having a poor educator in charge of them, our profession is not one that is inhabited by uncaring, selfish individuals. We are not inundated with poor teachers. These bills are being brandished as something to improve education, but let there be no doubt……it was something much more than making sure there are qualified teachers in every school room. Our rights were picked apart.

As I have traveled around the district in my WLEA job, I have encountered nothing but dedicated professionals who LOVE children. People who get to work at 6:00 am and stay until 8 or 9 pm. I have encountered people who are willing to go to bat for what they think is best for children, no matter what the fall out might be. The educators I have met in my travels to the buildings in Walled Lake are some of the most intelligent, well-educated people I have ever met in my life.

Frankly, I don’t know how all these new rules will play out. The bills supposedly have “immediate effect”. I don’t know how recall and placement will be affected. I don’t know if the WLEA will even have a say in how this will all come down since so many of these exact situations are now illegal to bargain. Of course, figuring this out will be the task for the immediate future.

My mother was a teacher; it was a long time ago. Interestingly, she was on some of the early teacher negotiating committees in our town. Her groups were some of the first to have MESSA insurance. She was one of the first teachers who didn’t HAVE to live in the town she taught in (although we did). She was one of the first teachers who could actually go to a bar and have a drink without recrimination. I don’t think she ever had to stoke the coal furnace in Moccasin School or anything like that. She reported a child who was being abused by his parents to the police and was afraid she might get fired. She gave all my and my sister’s winter coats and boots to kids who needed them. In her 30th year of teaching she made LESS than I did in my 8th year of teaching.

So, perhaps we will all live. However, we may be returning to pre-1957 times. I don’t think that’s a good thing. I’m sorry if you are a Republican (NOT one Democrat voted for these bills), but they are dismantling our way of life, our ability to make a decent living, our ability to have quality insurance and health, our safeguards against unsavory decision making, and much more. Our jobs could now depend on who likes us and who doesn’t. Some of the teachers in our district might not see much difference, but therein lies the problem. What is there now to insure that decisions will be made with an even hand, and in a fair, equitable manner; no matter what building you teach in?

We need to look to November, 2012 and if you don’t vote out the people who have cut your rights to the quick, then I don’t know what to say. I don’t remember when my profession became a part of a class of people that were worth decimating in the way we were decimated. I am discouraged, sad, and mad. And, I don’t think this is over.

As we all celebrate the Fourth of July, celebrating the United States’ freedom from the tyranny of the kings and queens of England, let us remember that we still live in a representative democracy. We still have the right to have a voice in the decisions that are made that affect our lives. This way of life is not always something that moves quickly, but we can look to the future as a time to be sure that our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not obliterated. It doesn’t happen unless we allow it to happen. FIGHT ON!