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From the President: School Board Meeting

March 10, 2016 From the President: School Board Meeting

Last night the Board met from about 7pm until well after 9:00.  I spoke on behalf of UFEA during the public comments.  After I spoke, I was also able to listen to the personal opinions of many members of our organization.  Some spoke in favor of adjusting the current schedule, some asking the district to carefully consider their decision.  Regardless of the members’ positions, I was proud to listen to them speak.  I was proud to be with them as they took action and attended the board meeting.  I was proud that they raised their voices for what they believed was right.

Individually it’s hard to affect change. Individually we don’t hold very much power, but that’s the thing about UNION.  It’s U and I and that, my brothers and sisters, is how we affect change.

As we begin to bargain on Monday, March 14th and in the days that follow, our collective action will be important.   Our organization, our voice, our actions will demonstrate that while on some issues we may not all think exactly the same thing, in our core principles and our core values, we share common values and we speak with a common voice.  We stand together.

So that’s why this Monday, 3.14.16, the day we begin to bargain, I am asking you to stand together, to stand with the seven members that will sit down with the board and begin to bargain the document that guides our working conditions.

Please #REPtheBLUE this Monday and every Monday until our contract is settled.  Please post a picture of our members in unity on the UFEA Facebook page and use #UFEAcares or #REPtheBLUE so that all of the members of UFEA can see that we are organized for change.

Speaking of last night’s school board meeting, if you are curious about how the start time proposal for next year shakes out, or if you want your voice to be heard, you might attend next week’s board meeting. It’s scheduled for 7pm at Parkside Junior High.  I believe the the board will make a decision at that meeting and take action.  In case you were not able to make the school board meeting last night and happen to be curious about what I said on behalf of UFEA, I posted it below.

Thanks always members for all you do, Every Damn Day.

karl-signature

Comments to the Board of Education | March 9, 2016

Good evening.

My name is Karl Goeke and I am speaking tonight on behalf of the more than 900 members of the Unit Five Education Association.

Last week at the board meeting we heard testimony from a number of parents who shared their perspectives regarding the proposed start times. Several spoke about their concerns related to the impact those changes could have on their personal family situations.

We recognize it is your obligation to listen to the perspectives of parents and community members; to consider their interests, opinions and priorities; and to make decisions that consider those interests and the interests of the entire school District.

Sometimes those decisions are hard. And the choices you are faced with are not always easy or ideal.

The issue of the Transportation Budget’s structural deficit is not new. And the impact of the decision you make in an effort to deal with the deficit will be felt by parents, the community, staff and students.

The options you are faced with aren’t ideal. The decision is hard. But the crisis creating the need for this decision is not yours to own.

It has been created by the consistent underfunding of public education by the state of Illinois, a result of a number of factors, the most significant of which is insufficient revenue and an unwillingness on the part of our decision makers – from both parties – in Springfield to make hard decisions.

Their unwillingness to make hard and unpopular decisions means you are left with making hard and potentially unpopular decisions instead. This crisis they’ve created is now our reality.

The reality is that the state does not have enough money to pay for the services that it offers and now neither does our district.

The reality is that because of the political struggle currently playing out in Springfield between entrenched politicians and rich billionaires more interested in pushing an agenda than in governing, people are suffering and will continue to suffer until our elected officials can sit down and compromise and come up with solutions — people like you and me.

And by the way, my children, your children, and the children in Unit 5.

The underfunding reality is not limited to the transportation budget.  It extends across the entire budget.  General State Aid has been prorated for years and as teachers we have been asked to continue to do more with less. More students per class, more work, more assessment. Less compensation, less time, less resources, less support.

For years as a District we have for the most part successfully masked the challenges that this underfunding has caused.  We have provided the same level of excellent service.  Our students have scored as well or better on the standardized tests so valued by the politicians who created this crisis.  

We have done this despite reduced resources and increased class sizes.  The general UNDERfunding of public education has not caused significant pain for the community, yet. Educators and administrators have gotten creative.  We’ve compromised.  And that is what needs to happen now.  We need compromise in Springfield.

Undoubtedly throughout the week you’ve heard from some of the members I proudly represent.  I applaud their commitment to serving the students and representing their best interests.  I also applaud them for engaging and sharing their opinions and personal perspectives.

Tonight, I believe you may hear from more members as they share their personal stories and feelings.

And I’ve also been asked: What is UFEA’s position?

UFEA believes this is a decision the Board was elected to make, has the authority to make and needs to make as quickly as possible because of the potential impact on UFEA members, other staff, students, parents and the community. Further, we believe it would be difficult for the Association to take a position on one proposal or another because we recognize members hold a variety of opinions and preferences on the issue for a variety of legitimate reasons.

We believe as you consider the question and make a decisions, you:

  • should do so in a timely manner so individuals may deal with the impact of the decision.
  • should consider not only the interests of parents and the community, but also of staff and the students we educate every day.
  • should make one decision. In other words, you should not make one change next year and then a different change the following year.

I want to thank you for you time and the commitment you have to public education.

And, I want to publicly thank the members of UFEA for their time and for the excellent work that they do.  Every.  Day.

3 Comments
  • Peggy Parmley
    Posted at 08:37h, 11 March Reply

    Thank you for speaking honestly and directly. These are not new issues and they will continue to be issues. We need to work together for solutions. Unit 5 teachers can be among the Unit’s greatest assets or the Unit’s stumbling block. It really is up to the Unit’s negotiating forces.

  • Ed Cimoch
    Posted at 15:14h, 11 March Reply

    I was in attendance on Wednesday’s mtg but not allowed the opportunity to speak (I arrived a few min late). While I agree that we should put aside our “personal stories and feelings”, I still have two questions based on the faculty and staff responses that were voiced:

    1. If behavior/attention span is such a problem for elementary school age children, shouldn’t this have been addressed previously as a separate problem?
    2. Since there is such confidence from those who spoke on Wednesday that early starts would positively impact elementary student behavior/education, why was no data presented from other districts who have adopted the same (or a similar) strategy? I guess I would have thought such a change in my child’s education could be easily verified from successful case studies.

    I’m not speaking as a parent concerned about before or after school care (although there are still a TON of questions), but as someone debating on whether or not to keep my child in public school. After doing a quick ‘Google’ search on the key words “early start elementary school”, I found the majority of the scholarly data indicated that elementary school students also suffer from early start.

    I appreciate the critical discourse and am grateful for the faculty involvement in this issue. Look forward to hear more Wednesday. Thanks.

    • UFEA
      Posted at 15:47h, 11 March Reply

      Thanks for the comments, Ed.

      There is great value is personal stories and feelings. And those perspectives are legitimate. In fact, there were a number of educators that spoke at the meeting last Wednesday *as individuals* who were sharing their own views, perspectives and experiences. The comments shared here, that were shared with the Board, were simply an effort to articulate the position of our Union that represents and advocates for those members and hundreds like them.

      There have certainly been discussions previously about school start times and their impact on student learning. Several UFEA members shared their perspectives at that time as well. Ultimately, then as now, those decisions are left for the School Board to make. And we certainly understand they make those decisions while considering several factors, including financial constraints (often caused by the decisions of governing bodies outside of Unit 5).

      As mentioned earlier, the individual educators who spoke Wednesday were speaking as individuals and speaking from their own experience and perspectives. As an organization, we did not and have not taken a position on one proposal or another. We simply believe it was important that the Board make a decision, avoid making multiple changes over multiple years, and that they consider the interests of all those impacted, including parents, the community, staff and students, when making their decision.

      We certainly do not view this as parents vs. educators, or parents/educators vs. the Board. Quite the opposite, in fact. We believe all of us are in this together. Parents, the community, staff, students, the Board and Administration are facing this situation because of a lack of revenue at the State level that becomes a lack of revenue at the local level. We all need to work together to find a solution that is the best possible given the situation we are in, considering the impact it will have on various groups and individuals and the interests of those various groups and individuals.

      There are many voices and many views. They each have value. And, once a decision is made by the Board, we will all have to work together to continue to provide the excellent public education we do now and to encourage the decision makers in Springfield to do the right thing so we can continue to have strong public schools, strong communities and a strong economy!

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