There's a great article in the Sun by Amanda Yeager about what's going on in the HCPSS teacher negotiation process right now. In short, it focuses on a letter sent to teachers by Superintendent Foose, which HCEA feels is misleading and also a violation of the negotiation process. It's definitely worth the read.
New local blogger HoCoRudkus has written twice this week about this issue. First, some commentary on the questionable math contained in Dr. Foose's letter about teacher salaries. Next, some musings on what it would take for teachers to be able to negotiate from a position of strength.
In the process of brainstorming, the blogger suggests that perhaps a wholesale refusal to administer high stakes testing would be useful as a bargaining chip. It's an interesting concept. I'm no fan of high stakes testing. If the kids didn't get tested, they certainly wouldn't be missing out on anything of value. But I don't see this as a useful position in terms of contract negotiation.
A commenter suggests that true change must come from parents, and by this she means that parents must hold the elected Board of Education responsible for decisions they make which are detrimental both to students and teachers. I think she is right. But we keep electing Board of Education members who show no sense of personal responsibility towards parents or teachers. (With the exception of Bess Altwerger and Cynthia Vaillancourt.)
So, if I were going to change something, I would change the Board of Education: so that members are elected from specific geographic areas, like the County Council. They would be charged to serve the County overall, like the County Council. But it would be their job to make the educational system transparent and responsive to their constituents.
No more of this hazy notion that the BoE is a part of some lofty "Executive Branch". If our schools are a part of the Howard County Government, funded by our tax dollars, and if we elect members of the Board of Education to fulfill a role of public service in the community, then let's be clear on that. Parents vote, and teachers (who can afford to live in Howard County) vote. Right now their votes have no meaningful connection to true representation when decisions are being made.
Time after time members of the current board have publicly and privately maligned parents who don't agree with them, and teachers who ask for better treatment. Can you imagine if Howard County Government operated like this? Heads would roll. In fact, an investigation into whether the operation of the Board and Central Office constitutes best practices according to Howard County Government standards would be a really good idea. I am looking to the County Council for some leadership on this issue.
If, as a result of that investigation, it were decided that Board members should be elected from specific areas or districts, I think that teachers, parents, students, and the greater community would be better served. Having a good bargaining chip is not enough if the other folks have no intention of bargaining at all.
We as a community have to demand better representation. Our children (and teachers) deserve it.