Sandra Nichols, Bruce Woolpert, teachers union, PVFT, California Budget Cuts, Binding Arbitration

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April 16, 2009

Teachers are not 'in it for the money'

Sandra Nichols
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Email Sandra Nichols
  "Time and again we've heard that teachers want binding arbitration to make sure their contract with the district is honored...Even-handedness in the resolution of grievances is hardly the same thing as 'managerial control'."

I write to shed the light of common sense on several issues addressed by Bruce Woolpert recently in his op ed on teacher unions. Mr. Woolpert invites my response when he includes me as one of the two trustees he criticizes as "union supported." This being in spite of the fact that at least three other current PVUSD trustees were supported by the union in recent elections.

Let's start with the understanding that Mr. Woolpert is a businessman with a history of opposing unions. Is it not common that CEOs and company owners are generally anti-union? Name one who has ever considered union representation to be a good thing.

Lest anyone think I write exclusively as a union-supported trustee, I will point out that when I originally was elected to the PVUSD school board, I ran without union support. I defeated the trustee who was supported by the teachers union. I write as a teacher with 31 years in the public schools and as a parent who had children in public schools for 28 years.

During my first term, the teachers saw that my work supported their interests: well-run schools, well-served students, good fiscal decisions, and respect for teachers as professionals. Since then, I have welcomed their support in two re-election campaigns and continue to hold and value that support.

You know, it seems that the above is an open, honest way to earn endorsements. If individuals and groups everywhere supported candidates that share their values—instead of attempting to buy future favors—we would have a better democracy.

Mr. Woolpert paints PVFT as "digging in its heels while the district wrestles with how best to sustain student achievement. . ." This is contrary to the perception of many that the district is attempting to bring teachers to their knees, while the teachers union is digging in its heels in an effort to remain standing.

Public perceptions of how negotiations are going are frequently inaccurate. Surely a businessman such as Mr. Woolpert cannot be privy to what is said in negotiation sessions. Yet, he describes the union's desire for binding arbitration as "simply an attempt by the union to gain management control."

This is not what the community has heard during the lengthy, well-attended board meetings during recent months. Time and again we've heard that teachers want binding arbitration to make sure their contract with the district is honored. The binding arbitration they seek, as stated publicly, applies only to resolution of grievances. Even-handedness in the resolution of grievances is hardly the same thing as "managerial control."

Mr. Woolpert then makes the preposterous claim that for PVFT "a choice between furloughs and no jobs at all seems like an easy one to make."

Hold everything here! There is no possibility of "no jobs at all." That is simply not the choice that confronts teachers. Were that the choice, the decision would indeed be simple. But then, who would teach our children?

I must offer serious objection to words Mr. Woolpert wrote about me and Trustee Osmundson. While not referring to us by name, every school board watcher knows exactly of whom he writes. He states as fact that we "made a pledge to support union efforts." Mr. Woolpert is making an insinuation that is not true.

As a trustee, I have consistently promised to make every decision on behalf of the students. I have been making good on that promise for more than eight years now. While I support worker rights, and believe teachers play the most important role in educating students, I have never supported, nor will I ever support, the needs of workers over the needs of students. I am about good schools for students, and teachers know this about me.

On top of all this, I believe—and Mr. Woolpert should recognize this—that teachers are in it for the good of society. We certainly aren't in it for the money. The bit about summer vacation is a joke!

As someone who is proud to be a teacher, a union member, and a trustee, I will soon retire from active duty. But I will never retire from advocating for students, teachers and the public schools.

Sandra is a Teacher/Administrator for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and a trustee for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, California. Her opinions are her own.

See Also:
Education Cuts: What will upper management give?

© Sandra Nichols 2001 - 2009


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