Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Flaw in the System

Yesterday was a busy day at Panera. So busy in fact, that when I got to the front of the line the young cashier was leaning wearily on the register with both arms. I smiled, encouragingly, I hoped, and placed my order. The first thing I told her was that it was "to go." At the end of the transaction she asked, "Is this for here or to go?" I said again, "it's 'to go'."

A while later, as we walked to the car, I got a bad feeling. I stopped and looked in the bag. My husband's toasted everything bagel with cream cheese was not there. We trudged back inside to see the clerk. There, sitting on a plate, was my husband's order.

You didn't give us the bagel," I explained, holding up our brown paper bag. She smiled and pointed to the plate. "Here it is." "But the whole order was to go!" "Oh, sorry." She moved away to get the now cold bagel wrapped to go. The young man next to her explained that anything you order from the bakery always comes out up at the front.

"But I ordered it to go..." It seemed hopeless. I took the belated bagel and left.

"Dare I say that we just experienced a flaw in the system?" I asked Margo as we walked to the car.

"Not really," she replied. "It's not actually a flaw to the system, it's just a flaw to the customer."

"Margo, when you have a business, a flaw to the customer IS a flaw to the system."

"But it really wouldn't make sense for the person to have to take your bagel all the way down to the other end. It would be a waste of time for them."


Bagels to Board Meetings. Just like that.

Thursday's Board of Education meeting to discuss next year's budget jumped into my mind. The turnout of close to five hundred teachers seemed to surprise and possibly annoy the board. It's pretty clear they didn't see that coming.

The fact that they didn't see it coming reveals a flaw in the system. Oh, but it's not really a flaw in the system. It's just a flaw to the teachers.

I'll pause for a minute to let that sink in.

Earlier in the year the Board wanted to hold open negotiations with the teachers' union. The union agreed, asking that the Board follow the legal requirements of their contract to officially make that change. The Board refused, and unilaterally cancelled negotiations.

The teachers showed up anyway. They turned out for every allotted session of negotiation and made it quite clear they were looking for open dialogue. No one from the Board showed up.

Earlier in the year the Board made it known that they would be asking for a fifty per cent pay increase for members of the Board of Education. The amount of increase that was being discussed at the time for teachers? .5 percent. When the actual budget was submitted, the increase listed for teachers was zero.

Reporter Sara Toth, live tweeting Thursday's meeting for the Sun, wrote:

But in regards to teacher raises, again, it's common for there to be no placeholder at the beginning. Also that's what negotiations are for.

My response:

I can't help but feel there's something bigger at stake here for the teachers. Turnout was impressive. Something is clearly deeply troubling the teachers who turned up tonight. Not business as usual to them.

I can tell you what is troubling to me, as a parent. Our Superintendent, our Board of Education and the folks who work at Central Office are happy to brag about our world-class education system in Howard County, yet the treatment the teachers are receiving is far from world-class.

It is the teachers who are in the classrooms, making in happen. They are directly in contact with students and parents. They are the ones who have to implement ever-changing requirements, complete ever-increasing paper work, all the while struggling to fulfill their real mission: dealing with the needs of the precious human beings they want to serve. Our kids.

Please, please read Sara Toth's article about the meeting, and LisaB.Mrs.S. writing about the meeting here. If you can, please come to the PTA Meeting at Central Office tomorrow night to learn more and ask your own questions.(Location: Board of Education Board Rooms A & B, 10910 Route 108. Time: 7:30pm and ends by 9:30 pm.)

Thought to ponder: if it's a flaw to the teachers, it IS a flaw in the system.


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