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We Need to Know what Teachers and Students Face in Cleveland

Gloria Ferris's Blog - Fri, 05/27/2016 - 11:58

 

Today, on Facebook friend MaryBeth Matthews shared something that not only shocked me but saddened me. My thoughts and concerns about the threat of a teacher’s strike and the recount of the school district’s handling of assaults on teachers.  Violence begets violence, and if consequences are not given if the “assault” does not meet an arbitrary definition what lesson are we teaching our children?

At first, it seems offering condolences to a grieving family for their son being coupled with a discussion of the definition of assault seems incongruous but on deeper refection had a deeper meaning for me.

I have been told by a young man who knew the family that apparently the altercation may have been caused by a difference over a girl.  How sad that a young man would turn to a gun to settle a difference, but then if he has witnessed assaults without consequences how far does a young person’s mind need to travel to using a gun which appear to readily available.

For a student to learn, he or she needs to know they are safe and secure. That usually means that they not only see the man or woman standing before them as a teacher but as a protector, a confidant, a trusted adult.  Read this, and see if you think our children can believe that when they are in their school  they are in a safe and secure place where they can learn.

I was a teacher in Cleveland for 5 years two of the years "threat of strike" was part of my summers and in a third year "all state money is spent we cannot pay you again until January" was a reality. (This statement was shared with us on November 1 so we could prepare for our holiday season.

Throughout that time, the relationship between management and staff was contentious to say the least, but every day we continued to do what teachers do-we taught.

In all negotiations, the highest and best for children should be the goal. And, the community needs to be engaged ALWAYS for that to happen.

"Our message is clear: The members of the Cleveland Teachers Union – teachers, paraprofessionals, psychologists, nurses, speech language pathologists, OTs, PTs, sign language interpreters, and substitute teachers are united in that fight for a contract that is good for kids and fair for educators."

Here are MaryBeth’s thoughts:

“Since 1988 I have worked hard for the students of Cleveland. Typically, I publicly stay out of the politics. There is a lot that is good happening in Cleveland schools and those things need to be shouted from the rooftops, but there are also some awful trends happening to public schools nationally and locally that most people don’t hear about either. This summer our contract is being negotiated, things are not looking good and we may be going on strike for the only time in my lifelong career. This week the CTU president spoke to the school board. I am posting his speech since it begins to explain, but is just the tip of the iceberg. Read to the end about teacher assault.”

and please take the time to read Cleveland Teacher’s Union Board President David Quokle’s speech to the Cleveland School Board:

"Good Evening, I am David Quolke President of the Cleveland Teachers Union. On behalf of myself and the entire Cleveland Teachers Union, I want to extend our condolences to the family and friends of Diamond Russell. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his family, Diamond’s classmates at Ginn Academy, his teammates at Glenville, his coaches, teachers, and the entire Glenville community as another young life was taken far too soon. We have a saying in the education community that “to teach is to touch a life forever.’” Our thoughts, our prayers and our support are with everyone whose lives were touched by Diamond Russell as they begin this healing process.
My comments tonight are directed more to our board members and our community members.
Tomorrow is the last day of school for students. This means that the clock is ticking for this school district to ensure a smooth start to the next school year. The sooner that the school district comes back to the table to negotiate a contract that is good for kids and fair for educators, the sooner that we can all focus on the new school year and the impending school levy.
This contract is not just about money….this contract is about treating these members with respect and dignity. This contract is about fixing what is broken in the Cleveland Plan so we can move forward with Educating Cleveland’s kids. This contract is about reducing the excessive amount of testing our kids must go through and it is about providing valuable electives and career tech options for our kids. This contract is about ensuring that evaluations will be fair for all our members. This contract is about recognizing the incredible work our paraprofessionals do and elevating them to a livable wage. Our message is clear: The members of the Cleveland Teachers Union – teachers, paraprofessionals, psychologists, nurses, speech language pathologists, OTs, PTs, sign language interpreters, and substitute teachers are united in that fight for a contract that is good for kids and fair for educators.
I was disappointed that you went to such great lengths attempting to discredit the fact finder in your annotated version of her report. I have told everyone that I have talked to, to read the report and to heed the fact finders words. She was accurate in saying… “Trust and collaboration between the parties so essential for a healthy labor management relationship, has been on a downward spiral and has reached a new low.” She was accurate in saying…”As a result of administrative actions, bargaining unit members feel among other things, disrespected as professionals, tyrannized by an unfair and inequitable evaluation system, and subjected to administrative decisions which sometimes have little, if anything, to do with improving their practice, much less the learning, growth and welfare of students. “ Those are pretty powerful statements, by a neutral third party, who was mutually selected by both the CMSD and the CTU, not just this year but three years ago as well. She gets it and sees how educators in Cleveland are being treated.
But she wasn’t the only neutral third party arbitrator to be critical of this district’s administration.
Last year, after Carl Monday questioned how grant funds were used for a school’s trip to Puerto Rico, you allowed your leadership team to engage in a witch hunt on one of our teachers… you allowed them to recommend discipline for something she was never charged with…. you went into your “Executive Session” and came out not only agreeing with that recommendation but allowed your Chief Legal Counsel to write a damning letter about our member to her staff, and you stood by as he tried to get her license suspended by the state. We knew it was a sham and earlier this year not only did a neutral third party arbitrator overturn the suspension and order CMSD to contact ODE rescinding that letter….he also made it a point to state in his award that quote…“The letter from the Districts Chief Legal Counsel (Wayne Belock), to clarify what the Greivant had written, on the other hand, was not only a disrespectful attempt to get the last word but a clear violation of the Districts Code of Ethics.” This is the kind of behavior our members are up against every day and this is the kind of behavior you…our board members ….are allowing and encouraging.
But it doesn’t end there. On the same day the fact finders report came out, another, neutral third party arbitrator issued a ruling on assaults…staff assaults…when your employees are getting assaulted doing their job….I can’t even begin to express my disgust with the position you allowed Eric and his team to take….
THE CMSD STATEMENT SAID THAT IN ORDER FOR A SERIOUS ASSAULT OR BATTERY TO OCCUR, THE CTU MEMBER MUST SUFFER
* PHYSICAL HARM THAT CARRIES A SUBSTANTIAL RISK OF DEATH,
* PERMANENT INCAPACITY OR PERMANANT DISFIGUREMENT; OR
* PSYCHOLOGICAL ILLNESS THAT WOULD NORMALLY REQUIRE
HOSPITALIZATION, TO NAME A FEW
In fact, under oath, Chief Legal Counsel, Wayne Belock acknowledged that if a student punched a teacher in the face and left a bruise on the teacher’s face, it would not necessarily be a serious assault.
Really!!!!!! Our educators are there for our kids day in and day out and this is what was posted on your website for principals to use when a CTU member gets assaulted. That is how your principals were directed to view an assault…and worse yet this is how they have been acting. I hope you are all embarrassed with the position you let your team take. Thankfully, a third party neutral rejected the districts outrageous position, ordered the district to rescind its statement on serious assault and notify principals and chapter chairs that is has been rescinded, but unfortunately, we had to go to court this morning because Wayne Belock wouldn’t comply with the order. It was only after we filed in court that the district took action and rescinded the posting.
You may want to discredit CTU, ….and the fact finder, ….and these arbitrators, the list goes on. But the issues we brought to the table are real. These rulings paint an accurate picture of the type of problems we need to fix. We need to get back to the table, fix the broken promises and begin treat our members with the dignity and respect they deserve… and to repair the strained labor relations so we can move forward together in passing a levy.
If you think that the slogan on our shirts are an idle threat…you’re wrong. Our members are united and believe me….we don’t want to strike….but we will….Thank you."

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