Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Putting Negotiations ahead of Kids

A bit of breaking news this morning.

Chetly Zarko, an investigative columnist and consultant, has been looking into various education-related projects.

Last month he began making FOIA requests to take a look at email written by the President of the Howell teacher's union, and some of his lieutenants. The union is a unit of the MEA -- the Michigan Education Association -- the state's largest teacher's union.

Zarko did not try to look at any of their private email, or any email in their MEA accounts; he was only looking at email exchanged on the email system owned by the taxpayers -- the school district's email.

The district would be required by law to redact (black-out) any information about students or parents, and any privelaged communications between district attorneys.

You'd think there wouldn't be much left, other than perhaps coordinating professional development days, or exchanges on curriculum and new learning techniques.

It turns out the first copies he began receiving last week included some shocking and disappointing behavior by some of these teachers.

These emails encourage teachers to use the district's private address lists of student/parents in order to do mailings to lobby for their position in the ongoing negotiations. It also appears that there was a coordinated effort to distribute flyers and discuss negotiation issues with parents at parent/teacher conferences.

The Livingston Argus covered the story (found by clicking here) and quotes Zarko:

... this is "an extreme misuse of private information" teachers have through their employment.

"Using parents in an ongoing bargaining strategy, and using their time in parent-teacher conferences, is a long way from putting kids 'first,'" Zarko said. "Some might say it is putting them last."

I don't think this situation is unique to Howell, and it's not unique to negotiations. I believe this happens in school board elections as well, and it's a sad abuse of position and trust.

Now the MEA is suing the Howell School district -- and wasting precious education dollars -- to stop further releases. Read more here on Chet's blog,
found by clicking here.

I'm sure this will be a continuing story.

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