Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Is it really insomnia if I'm not tired?

Since school began, I've been having trouble staying asleep. Oh, sure, I go to bed at 10-ish, maybe do a little light reading, then go to sleep. But my body has been waking itself up at extremely early times, often around 3:30 or 4:00. My alarm is set for 5:00, but I don't think I've had the chance to let it ring all year so far (with the exception of last Saturday, when I had to be up to get to Sylvan). This sort of thing usually only happens if I've had too much caffeine late and/or I take a nap during the day. But I haven't been doing that. Nevertheless, I've been doing just fine, getting all my work done, actually being productive during my prep time, and not hitting the couch as soon as I get home. I'm expecting to hit the wall any moment now and get a sound night's sleep, but it doesn't seem to have happened yet.

On a plus note, I think I finally got Grade Machine up and running to the point where I can just update it when I have new scores I have to enter, and not worry about updating or tweeking it as well. For those who don't know about it, Grade Machine is a terrific computer program — locally made — that can do all the functions of a grade book, withot all that tedious mucking around with actually doing the math. I learned how to use it a few years ago when I was teaching part-time at Lake Washington High School, and I'm glad Marysville uses it as well. Tonight, I use it to make some badly-needed seating charts!

Monday, October 27, 2003

Planning ahead

Based on my own experiences in getting a job, I decided to try a little exercise today. I asked my classes to put down some career they'd like to have, then what they thought they had to do to accomplish their goals — and I told them that just saying "Go to college" wasn't enough, they needed to figure out what they were going to study there. I realize this is all pretty far-out stuff for eighth graders, but I figured I'd better get them thinking about their goals and how to accomplish them now, rather than wait around for over a decade like I ended up doing. To make it more immediate, I also asked them to give a goal for the class and what they needed to do for that. I've asked them to share what they've written with their parents or other adults in their lives, have them signed, and turn them in tomorrow. It should be interesting to see what's there.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

What a long, strange week it's been

I'm sorry that I haven't posted for a while. But it's been a busy weekend — I still have a lot to do, so I'll keep this short — and unlike my wife, I don't have "Blog every day" as a goal. Now that I'm at work at last, I'll be blogging when I can get to it and there's something to say. Since this is a blog about teaching, I'm also now going to limit my comments to teaching, not labor problems. Of course if there are any developments, such as school board election results or a contract settlement, I'll post them here.

Friday afternoon, looking back on the week, it seemed so surreal. Monday we voted to go back to work, which had been only four days earlier, but it seemed like four weeks. And yet the week flew by. I guess there was just so much going on that, while it felt like time was passing normally at the time, so much happened that looking back it seemed longer.

One other delightful phenomenon I've noticed this week: My evenings are so much more relaxed! When I was substituting, I had to wait by the phone and/or keep checking the web to get a job the next day — or risk not getting a job, or at least being woken up at 5:00 the next morning for a job. Now, I can do whatever I want in the evening! I can go out (if I'm not exhausted)! I can do work on my computer without worrying about interruption! I can update this blog! I can get used to this!

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Getting settled in

Well, it's only the second day of school, but I already feel like I'm getting settled in. It's feeling pretty good, and going more smoothly than I'd expect. The classes are still pretty good — and yes, I know that this is still the honeymoon, things will be different within two weeks. I think my other big class (not the real chatty one) could turn out to be a great mix, they worked really well together today on a short in-class project. Of course, I'm enjoying working with all of them so far. I'm not sure how other teachers can remember the names of 120 students every year, though! The last time I was in this sort of situation, I only had two classes, so that was only about sixty to keep straight.

One other exciting thing happening this week is that I've started my first class. I still need to get in over 130 clock hours by the end of June to keep my certification going, so I figured I'd better get started. The first class I'm doing is about web-based resources for math students — and it's all online. This could be fascinating, just seeing how the students and instructor interact with each other without ever actually meeting face to face. The ESD is also offering a class on the TI-83 calculator, which is probably a must-take for me.

And finally, I'm getting to try out my new wardrobe at last! It's been lying around for almost eight weeks! These shoes are very comfortable!

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Day 1 — AT LAST!

Wow, what a trip! It really hit me this morning, driving to work, that my dreams were finally coming true. I made it, I was teaching a subject that I enjoy, to students at a level I like teaching, in a great school with a terrific staff. The previous seven weeks were a pain in the neck (and no, it's not over yet, just off to the side a bit), but it's all been worth the wait!

Too bad I got off to a bad start! Today was my day to travel from room to room, so of course I left several things in my desk! Fortunately I was able to get them before class began, but it was close. It's a little odd, in that my first two classes were pretty small (fifteen and twenty students), then the next two were huge (thirty-five and almost forty). I'm not the only one in that pickle, however, and I warned all of my classes (ooh, let me say that again — my classes!) that there would likely be some shuffling around over the next few days. Further complicating matters, the English lab class which comes to me halfway through one period wasn't dismissed for a long time (there were some opening day teething problems with the bells), so I ended up getting them for only twenty minutes instead of the forty I should have had them. Nevertheless, I did accomplish the one big thing I needed to do with them — going through the course outline, of course.

Being the first day, we didn't actually get to do a lof of math, but that all changes tomorrow. Two of the classes, however (my non-labs), got some poster-sized paper with math topics written at the top and brainstormed ideas to go with those topics. First period was a bit rusty, as it was a small class, my students were tired (ooh, let me say that again — my students!), and I think they were just a bit still in shock at finally being back in school. Fourth period, however, went to town (larger class right after lunch), and came up with some good stuff, even for "Exponential Growth," which as I suspected was the real head-scratcher.

The real highlight of my day, however, came during the drive up to work. Yesterday I e-mailed Kent and Alan, a local DJ team, to play Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping" as a dedication to everyone in the Marysville School District, especially my colleagues at MJHS. They read my letter on the air (abridged, of course — in case you haven't already noticed, I can write up a storm once I get going), played the song (I cranked it up all the way), and made some really nice comments. Another teacher called in and thanked them and me for the song, as it made her feel good. Laura was able to capture the whole thing on her computer, and I gather that they kept talking about it. Laura even talked to Alan later (off air) and thanked them, and he told her that they were getting lots of positive calls from supporting teachers, and wishing my colleagues and me luck. Many of my colleagues also heard it, and congratulated me when I came in. Even the principal heard it, and she admitted that when she first figured out it was me, she was worried about what the song might be, but she heartily approved of the final result.

Okay, I'd better stop now, or I won't have anything to say tomorrow!

I am nervous and excited

Oh, man, I forgot to do an entry for yesterday! Well, not much to tell, I just puttered around the house, got back-to-school haircut #2, made sure I know what I'm doing today, and that's about it.

Today, on the other hand, ought to be exciting. I'm not sure what kind of attitude to expect from students and parents — a little of everything, I expect. I'm just going to put on my best game face and be happy that I'm finally there. Of course, I'll post a full report this evening.

Monday, October 20, 2003

It's over

After more than three hours of talk, explanation, debate, and questions, tonight the Marysville Education Association voted, 69% to 31%, to go back to work. Frankly, I thought it would be a lot closer, nor was I really sure which way it would go. (And no, I'm not going to tell you how I voted, because I'm still not sure if I voted the right way. So if I'm second guessing myself, I don't want others to do the same.)

The district, of course, will crow about this tomorrow, but they haven't really won. We still need a contract, and we're still not going to settle for what they're offering. But many teachers seemed to realize that continuing to strike wouldn't accomplish much, and would likely hurt the already delicate relations with the community.

Tomorrow, I sleep in, then start getting ready for my first day of teaching on Wednesday. And this blog can stop being about a strike and start being about what it was originally intended, a teacher.

Day 49

The judge has ruled that we need to go back to work, with classes beginning Wednesday. She has yet to say anything about what will happen if we don't.

The union president expects us to vote to stay on strike, but she may be surprised if the e-mails I'm getting are any indication. I think most teachers would be happy to go back if both sides were willing to accept binding arbitration. It's becoming clear that this strike is doing no good at all. The district just isn't paying any attention, and there really needs to be an outside force taking charge.

We meet at 6:30 tonight to get the full story, debate, and finally vote. Of course I'll let you know what happens as soon as I can.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Day 48

The folks the governor sent in to investigate things have come out with a preliminary report, and apparently they take both sides to task for not doing a lot of budging (which, I gather, is how today's negotiations went, as well, what a shock). But I also gather that the district got the worst of it. Anyway, tomorrow morning the judge rules on whether or not there will be an injunction to get us back to work, and then we'll see what happens. Right now, I think this could go in one of many, many directions, but it wouldn't surprise me if some sort of binding arbitration eventually gets involved. And I'll be honest, that may be exactly what this needs.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Day 47

Nope, no word yet, but I gather that the district is still trying their usual dig-your-heels-in-and-stall technique.

This whole mess has gotten Laura and me interested in what our own local school board is up to, so we will very likely attend the next board meeting. (Good point on their side: They actually meet!) We don't want to see our property taxes go towards the same sorts of shenanigans that are going on in Marysville. We're also thinking about making some proposals to our state legislators, although I have the suspicion that we will be far from the only ones.

Taught at Sylvan again this morning. Then went down to my in-laws to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday ("Hi, Lisa!") but fell asleep on the waterbed as soon as I walked in the door. I am having this tendancy to a good stiff nap on Saturday afternoons.

Blogroll Update

Hi, Laura here. I just updated Eric's blogroll to include a number of other educational blogs that I just discovered because of links to his page. Thank you Downes' referrer and Sitemeter! Please check out the new blogs listed: assigned seat, AssortedStuff, Hedgetoad, so you want to be a science teacher..., Ms. Frizzle, From Behind The Teacher's Desk, and EdBlogger Praxis.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Day 46

Not much to tell. They met yesterday, they're supposed to be meeting today, and there's been no word from anybody yet. Lots of people are saying the district will just stonewall in the hopes that the judge will order the teachers back to work Monday morning anyway, but I suspect she'd see right through that.

What bugs me is that a lot of people are complaining and/or assuming that the district will stonewall because they've already announced that school has been cancelled through Monday. I'm sorry, I don't see the connection. I may not get most of what the district has been doing lately, but this, at least, I understand. Let's say that an agreement is reached this weekend. Well, before everyone can go back to work, three things have to happen:

  1. The judge has to deal with any final issues.
  2. The union has to vote on and approve the contract.
  3. The district has to notify the students and families, get the buses rolling, get ready to make all those hot lunches, and probably about a thousand other things I haven't even thought of.

All of those will probably get taken care of quickly, but not instantly. (I've heard reports that the bus drivers have stated they need forty-eight hours to get going.) And with negotiations going on through the weekend, I find it very unlikely that all of the above can be taken care of before Monday. Even if we were able to ratify the contract, say, tomorrow, it's been going on long enough that Monday could be used as an extra prep day. (Hey, it's been seven weeks now, one more day won't make much of a difference.) So the naysayers complaining that no possibility of school on Monday means the district won't bargain in good faith are not thinking this through, it seems to me. The district has done a pretty good job of not bargaining anyway without giving out these sorts of clues…

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Day 45

The Dave Ross stuff was interesting. I never went to the park to see the crowd, but we could hear them quite a few times! Unlike many radio talk show hosts, Ross tried to give everyone equal time — and grilled them all equally, as well! The school board member who was there (wow, they do make public appearances after all!) did not do terribly well. He was uninformed about a lot of stuff that was happening in the district, often was caught without much of an answer, tried to evade many topics (Ross usually asked again, at least), and in general dropped the ball more often than he caught it, I thought. The union president did much better, but she wasn't batting a thousand (to mangle my sports metaphors a bit), either. One of the challengers running for school board got off to a poor start, but did much better after that, and came across as having a good grasp of the issues and what they meant for the district. Overall, I thought the whole exercise did a good job of presenting the issues, and the concerns the teachers had. While I doubt it changed a lot of minds — by now I'm sure everyone is either pro-district, pro-teacher, or just sick and tired of the whole thing and can we just get the kids to school, please? — at least I hope more people understand why this strike started and is still going on after so long.

For me, the big story was actually the weather. We have a big storm system moving through right now. Fortunately it didn't rain much in Marysville, but there sure was a lot of wind! It was hard to manage the sign a few times, especially at the one corner we turn. I had an extra hard time of it, as I was also handling my radio. I accidentally clonked a few of my colleagues with my sign, it was blowing around so much — and even managed to hit myself a couple of times!

Tomorrow is a rest day. We've been through a lot this week, and now it's time to refresh ourselves for whatever comes next week. When we were told this on the line, I added, "Yeah, we might actually be in our classrooms next week." Then again, I've been this optimistic more than once in the last few weeks…

Things ought to be interesting today!

Dave Ross, who hosts a radio talk show on KIRO, has been trying to get ahold of the superintendent or some school board members for some time now, with no results. So he's bringing his show to Marysville today to let anyone talk about the strike. And he's setting up shop in the gazebo in the park just a couple of blocks from my school. And his show is on from 9:00 a.m. to noon — which also happen to be the hours we're walking the picket line today. This ought to be interesting, especially if anyone from the district does eventually take part.

Then this afternoon, I'm working at our local comic shop, as the owner is feeling really sick, and I've worked there before. The timing works out perfectly, as it opens at 1:00.

Also, court-mandated marathon bargaining begins today. Let's see if we can finally see some progress.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Day 44, and there does indeed seem to be justice in the world!

I haven't heard anything official yet, but it sounds like a defeat for the school district in court today. I gather that the judge basically ripped into both sides, but especially the district, for not negotiating very much since this whole @#$%ing mess began. So she's ordered both sides to meet for the next four days (through Sunday), eight hours every day, until either there's a settlement or she makes another decision Monday morning. I'll keep adding updates as often as there's something to add or clarify, of course, but I really feel that someone gets it at last!

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Day 43

I am on a real emotional roller coaster right now. My colleagues are either more fired up about this than ever before, or getting even more down, or both. I know just what they're going through, as I'm feeling the same way. Not much else to say, I guess, I'm just emotionally spent. Tomorrow there will be no picketing, but the teachers will be at the Snohomish County court house to hear what the judge has to say — and if we're ordered back to work, we'll meet on Thursday to decide if we will go back or not. (Personally, I've decided not to go to the court house, as there will very likely be enough teachers there without me. The room only holds about one hundred, and there are, what, almost seven hundred of us? Plus the parents, students, lawyers, media… I wonder if the judge will actually be able to find a place to sit?)

An interesting development: My wife reported the guy who is harassing her at work to the forums at the Everett Herald website. As a result, the Herald has shut down talk about the strike. I think things are getting just a little bit too heated now…

Tonight, the League of Women Voters is holding a candidate forum for all the Marysville races. It will be interesting to hear which school board candidates are actually there, and how they answer some of the hard questions I know they're going to get.

Last night's rally

Oh, man, what a rush! We really needed that. Last night, much of the MEA, plus some of our colleagues from around the state, gathered in Everett to talk about our experiences so far, our goals, and to reaffirm that we're doing the right thing. Many Marysville teachers talked about why they were out and would remain out, how the strike has reaffirmed their love of teaching and the relations with their colleagues, how they've seen the district plummet downhill over the last couple of years, and so forth. The real affirming talks, however, came from teachers in other districts. They came from nearby — Everett, Arlington, Granite Falls, Sultan, Edmonds, Northshore — and from far away — Seattle, Bellingham, Lake Washington, Hoquiam, Central Kitsap, Sequim, Port Angeles, even Spokane. All came to tell us to hang in there, as we're not fighting just for Marysville, but teachers all over the state. They don't want to see other districts fall into the same mess Marysville is in.

What's truly impressive, however, is that now we're having an impact outside the state. A group of teachers in Colorado sent the union money yesterday, and we've gotten noticed in that other Washington, as the state delegation to Congress is keeping track of things and seeing what they can do to help. The biggest news, however, came from representatives of the British Columbia Teacher's Federation, who came down from Canada on their Thanksgiving to show their support, and annouce a pledge of $10,000. (Okay, that's Canadian, so with the screwy exchange rate, it's a lot less, but it's still an impressive gesture.) The WEA also promised that there would be money to keep us going, so we won't have to be forced back to work for economic reasons.

Today probably will feel a bit anticlimactic, although I gather someone is coming from the NEA. Tomorrow will be the big test, as a judge is expected to make a ruling in the lawsuits seeking injunctions against us. Should the ruling go against the teachers, I do have an idea that would end up being a pretty impressive show of unity, if it can be pulled off…

Monday, October 13, 2003

Day 42

We got the gist of the current proposals from both the district and union today. They're still far apart, and the district is still trying to sell the snake oil they've been offering since this whole mess began. On the off, off, off chance any member of the Marysville School Board is reading this: Hey! Lay off the whole switch to the state salary schedule idea! There is no way you are going to convince the teachers to ratify a new contract if this is in it! And I still haven't heard a satisfactory answer as to why you want us all to switch to that one anyway… And while I'm ranting, lay off the extra time being directed from an outside source, the district or the principals or something like that. We do enough on our own time already, thank you. We don't need to add that much extra time to the school year, and certainly not this year, which will probably go into July as it is.

The district joined one of the parents' groups today in filing a cross claim on the injunction filed last week, even though the district is named as a plaintiff in that suit. Huh? What it all boils down to is, they were unable to browbeat us into accepting their offer at the table, so they're going to make a judge make us accept it, or something like that. It won't work.

Finally, some jerk found out where my wife worked, and e-mailed them making claims about her sanity and fitness to do her job. Of course, my wife has been pretty active on the AIMS message board. Hey, buddy, if I ever find out who you are, I will do whatever I can, within the limits of the law, to make your life miserable. If you've got a beef with the teachers, fine, that I can understand. But leave my family out of it. She is expressing her right to voice her opinion, just as you should be expressing yours in a more mature and grown-up way.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Day 41

The two sides met for only two hours yesterday, which probably isn't a good sign — but they're actually meeting again today, which probably is. Now that the logjam seems to have finally been broken, the most frustrating part is the waiting, to see if there will be any progress made or not. Meanwhile, the district is using their fancy automated phone-dialing system to tell everyone that school will start tomorrow, when there's absolutely no chance of that actually happening, as the teachers won't even see any sort of agreement, let alone get to vote on one, until tomorrow.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

This is getting ridiculous

The district's spokesperson (who has been caught in a number of lies and is generally loathed by every teacher in the district) has been telling the press all the details about the district's latest offer, despite the fact that nothing has been decided or agreed upon yet.

The union reps have stated that they will not say anything until they can share the offer with the teachers.

The union is being blasted by the district for actually playing fair and keeping the whole negotiation process behind closed doors, as it should be.

What's wrong with this picture???

My other job

Still no word on how negotiations are going today, but just the fact that the district has finally blinked is encouraging…

Anyway, I worked at Sylvan today, for the first time in two weeks. It was actually good to be there today, maybe because I haven't taught anything for two weeks. They put us off into another room, usually used for small group instruction during the week, and I think that helped, as we didn't have to worry so much about keeping things quiet for those who were testing. It was just me and my students, but I did have to pop over to the main room once in a while to get some supplies or materials. I gather this was only the second time that room was used for regular classes, so there are obviously a few kinks to iron out. I'm still not 100% convinced that I want to keep teaching at Sylvan on Saturdays, but with our finances the way they are right now, I can't complain too loudly.

Day 40

It looks like the district is still insisting on going to the state salary schedule — next year. They're also easing off a bit, but are still insisting on more district-directed time without more pay. However, there are more talks scheduled for today, and nothing has been finalized yet. I suspect we'll get the chance to vote on something on Monday.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Update

Details are still sketchy at this point, but it appears that the district finally has moved — sort of. The current deal seems to be to extend the old contract for one year, and set up a join teacher/administration committee to look into going to the state schedule and other issues. Whether or not this issue will decide if or how to make changes will likely be the big sticking point. If it's just exploratory, the union will likely go for it. But if it's just to figure out how to do it, then that becomes a bigger problem.

Day 39

As I type this right now, last I heard the two sides were still negotiating, which is at least a tiny bit encouraging as talks didn't end twenty minutes after they began. The big news, howerver, is that State Attorney General Christine Gregoire has stepped in, and is threatening legal action to get school started again. With Governor Locke going to trade meetings in China this weekend, it's now looking like she'll be the focus of things over the next few days. (As a side note, Locke is not running for reelection — and Gregoire is running to take his place. If she forces teachers back to work, I can tell her right now that she won't get a lot of support from teachers around this state.)

Lost in all the shuffle, there is one person that I believe the governor and AG need to talk to to get the real picture of what is going on — the mediator! He has been in on this for weeks now, he is familiar with what's happening on both sides and their actual positions, and he is (or at least should be) a neutral party. Gregoire should really ask him what the real story is, because then she's likely actually get it!

I suspect there will be a few of these quick little updates throughout this weekend. Fingers crossed, everybody!

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Day 38

Today we broke the record for longest teachers' strike in Washington state history. You'll forgive me if I don't do any celebrating…

The governor was no help. After meeting with some teachers today, he basically said, "Go back to work on Monday or I'm going to do something unpleasant." I can tell him that, unless something changes in tomorrow's negotiations, that's not going to work. The teachers are too angry and too determined to go back to work without a contract. The central administration has made it very clear that they don't care about teachers or students, and that going back to work will not be the end of this.

I feel sick to my guts. This is going to get extremely ugly in the next few days.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Late breaking news

This just in: Governor Locke met with the Marysville School Board (and, for some reason I can't quite fathom, the district spokesperson) today in Olympia, in an effort to get things moving, and he's meeting with union representatives tomorrow morning. Gads, I hope he can make everyone see some sense...

Day 37: We've tied the record

Today is day 37 of our strike. We tied the state record set a few years ago in Fife, and with no new talks scheduled for two more days (not that anyone expects anything to actually happen then anyway), we will break it. Thanks a lot, Marysville school board!

A few items:

  • My colleague who got a ticket a few weeks ago for honking his horn in support of us as we picketed the district office? All chargers were dropped. But he has started a new group called Honk-Anon.

  • The union is cautiously optimistic that they can beat the rap in next week's hearings on an injunction. This is the first time something like this has been tried by a parent group instead of the district, so we may be setting some precedents. The fact that is is a parent group, and therefore not directly involved in the situation, and that the district has not been negotiating in good faith appear to make this a difficult one to decide against us. Apparently the fact that penalties are specified only for the teachers and not the board members and superintendent, despite the fact that the district is named as a defendant, may also be a factor.

  • I gather that radio talk show host John Carlson came out last week and told the school board that this strike is their fault, as they knew how the teachers felt but still didn't do anything about it. What makes this so surprising, however, is that Carlson is a conservative, who usually is not a fan of unions, teachers, or public education. So if a guy on the same radio station that plays Rush Limbaugh can see what's actually going on, why can't the board itself? It would only take three members of the board to tell the negotiators to back off and actually do their job to get us back to work.

  • Teachers and parents are starting to picket in front of board members' homes and businesses. One of my colleagues picketed at dawn at one of the board member's homes, and found lots of yard signs at the neighbors supporting his opponent in next month's election. One of the neighbors also brought them donuts. At a clinic co-owned by another board member, picketers were threatened with police action if they impeded any of the patients, but since the gripe wasn't with the patients, the police never had to get involved.

  • Next Monday, educators from around the state are gathering in Everett to cheer us on in a Day of Commitment — essentially, a big pep rally. Should be something to see.

And I guess that's about it. More tomorrow, and I hope there's some good news coming some time before long.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

A well-needed Day 36 off

At the last minute, I decided not to go up today. This was mostly to support my wife, who has been suffering some severe depression lately (the stress of the strike seems to have just made it worse), but I sure felt a lot better myself once I made the decision. I'm becoming less and less convinced that our actually marching in front of our building is really doing anyone any good, especially since the people who can actually do anything to end this don't seem to be taking any sort of responsibility.

I'm hearing that some teachers marched in front of the district HQ again today — and they were being videotaped. But the truly alarming story is that some of them were deliberately run over! I hope it's not true, or at least greatly exaggerated, but I've got to wonder, what is everyone thinking? Yeah, we're all getting stressed out, but even with tying the state record for longest teachers' strike tomorrow, things have at least been pretty civil so far. If it's gotten to the point of violence, I'm not sure I can support this strike or this district any more.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Day 35, and this is looking REALLY bad

The two sides met yet again today in the hopes of finally breaking the impasse. One guess as to the result.Yup, after a little over three hours they broke off talks again. They'll meet again on FRIDAY!!!

What in the @#$%!! is going on? Besides this garbage, a group of parents filed a lawsuit to get school going again. All well and good, and they claim that they're not taking sides and suing both the district and the union — except that all I've heard is that this is to force the teachers back to work, and that it's the teachers who will have to pay $250 each a day in fines if they don't go back to work. What about the school board and superintendent? They haven't been doing their job, either, during this time. The board refuses to meet again until the strike is settled, and nobody's seen hide nor hair of the superintendent for the last month. But nothing in the suit, so far as I know, forces them back to work or fines them if they don't. At least there won't be anything happening with that until next Wednesday, so maybe someone will come to their senses in that time (but based on how things have gone until now, I wouldn't bet on it).

If the economy weren't so crappy right now and I were qualified to do something else, I would seriously consider getting out of teaching right now. This is just getting disgusting, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

A wekend away from it all

This past weekend, I went to Anglicon, a local sci-fi/British media convention that Laura and I have attended for the last twelve years or so now. In fact, that's where Laura and I first met in person. (Laura wasn't able to make it for most of the weekend, however, as she had to work — at a LEGO convention, no less!) It was great to get away from the stress of my normal life for a few days, but of course I got lots of congratulations on my new job, and sympathy for being on strike. Sci-fi fans are a generally thoughtful and well-read lot, however, and were overwhelmingly supportive of my situation. (I just have to remember that this week, as we're expecting tensions to get even higher, and lots of abuse hurled our way.)

Back to the picket line tomorrow morning…

Friday, October 03, 2003

Day 32, and there will be many more now...

Right before we finished on the picket line today, we were told that the district cancelled school for all of next week. If we do indeed go that long, it will be the longest education work stoppage in Washington state history. (The old record was thirty-seven days, some time in the early '90s in Fife if I recall correctly.) While discouraging, I may take advantage of the time off to take some classes so I don't have to scramble so bad for my clock hours next spring.

Someone finally figured out why the district is so gung-ho to get the district onto the state schedule: There would no longer be any collective bargaining! Under the state schedule, it's the legislature that calls the shots, not the local district, so there's not a lot a union can do to influence how teachers get paid. Man, I am NOT happy about this!

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Day 31

Not much to tell at all! We marched, we found out there's not much that can be done that we're not already doing, we went home. I did suggest that maybe the union needs to appear to take the first step and come down a bit, just to show everyone that our side is willing to negotiate; but it was pointed out that that's already been done, but never got out because of the gag order. It's my understanding that the official offer is currently still 11% over three years.

It was mentioned that of the three items still on the table, two of the union's proposal would not cause the district to lose money! (I don't think anyone thought of this until after yesterday's negotiations ended, so it didn't come out in the talks yet.) The salary schedule,as I think I've pointed out, would not alter how much money the district gets from the state. And if the district didn't make us work for an extra eight days, then they wouldn't have to open buildings and hire instructors to run the workshops they want us to attend. Hmm...

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Day 30, and there will be more

The two sides met again today, only to be dismissed an hour later and told to come back Monday. It seems the district was supposed to come in with a new proposal, but didn't. Um, guys? This is the same proposal you've been bringing to the table since APRIL, and the union still isn't accepting it. The union has already said they'll negotiate if you give them something to negotiate with, but digging your heels in at this late date is just getting ridiculous!

In other developments, the union is finally going on the offensive, getting the word out as to why this strike is still going on. Not only are they mailing out a flyer to the community, they also bought a full page ad in the Everett Herald, and are passing the flyers out in person as well starting today or tomorrow. But the big development seems to be Ken Shram's commentary on KOMO last night (you can read the text of it here). He's been doing this sort of commentary for a long time, and can often be a bit brusque, but he generally knows what he's talking about. He basically told the district off for "negotiating" through manipulating public opinion, and that that is not how schools are supposed to work. Well, I gather it had a bit of a domino effect, because not only KOMO, but also KING and KCPQ, at least from what I hear, are covering the strike again, with a more pro-teacher slant. I did see KING up at the high school today interviewing the union president, so we'll see if the general tide might be turning.

One more item to add: Monday, the next day that negotiations are supposed to start, will be day 35 of this strike. The longest teacher strike in Washington state history was 37 days. Unless the district sees the handwriting on the wall over the weekend, I suspect we'll break that record. What a way to start my new teaching career...