May 17, 2002
Duluth School Board
ISD No. 709, Duluth Public Schools
215 North First Avenue East
Duluth, MN 55802
Dear School Board Members:
Question and answer regarding the D.F.T. proposal for use of staff development funds.
1.Q. Is this a negotiations ploy?
A. No more so than last year when we voted to use staff development funds for other purposes. We were entering negotiations at that time.
The only way that what we are proposing this year could work to our advantage was if the public felt that what we propose was worthwhile and the school board/administration response sounded like a lot of weak
excuses. For example say we were to propose something good for kids and the administration were to respond that "it's too late", "its just for one year", or "it's just a ploy", or worse yet "this is money for administrative training". In that case even though we did not want to relate this to negotiations, should things progress to a work action we would have gained some good PR. The fact is that teachers asked to do this because they felt that doing something for kids was more important next year than staff development.
2. Q. Isn't this a much larger proposal than what the D.F.T. first proposed?
A. It certainly is. Both teachers and school board members expressed an interest in both class size reduction and all-day K. We included both.
3. Q. Can the teacher proposal be modified?
A. Not without going back to the Executive Board, the Building Stewards and the membership. This is what the teachers propose. Last year the vote was on what the administration proposed.
4. Q. Aren't both parties to agree at the same time?
A. We aren't sure who came up with that argument. Are we to synchronize watches? The law requires that a majority of teachers and school board vote to use the funds. The teachers have overwhelmingly voted yes. Once the school board votes yes we will be in agreement
5. Q. How can we vote to maintain programs when the funding is only for one year?
A. How can you not? Is there someone who believes that should things improve that a senior can go back and pick up what the administration wants to take away? The budget is for one year. Things may well improve. We could work to pass a levy. It is worth remembering that the 6 period day "savings" represent less that 4 tenths of 1 % of a budget which has been off by several million the past few years. You might want to consider the principle of opportunity cost.
6. Q. Shouldn't everyone be working together to develop a proposal for something like this?
A. We took into consideration what was proposed to us by the superintendent. We considered what we were told school board members wanted. We took input from members of the public. We tried. The fact of the matter is that it is not very often when anyone in this district works with anyone else.
At one time this district had a nationally recognized labor-management process. It is dead. The administration is not interested in working with us unless they want something from us or are forced to do so as a result of negotiations. Teachers are on one side and the administration is on the other. That is the way things stand.
Summary: School Board members have a choice. You can vote to work with the teachers and maintain programs for kids. You can work with teachers to try reducing class size in targeted areas, something worthy of a try. You can vote to use money intended to benefit teachers for the good of kids. Or you can agree with the administration and the long list of excuses and rationalizations and vote no. Either way you will send a clear message to teachers, parents and kids. You can now choose which message you care to send.
DULUTH FEDERATION OF TEACHERS