Duluth Federation of Teachers Local 692

Newsletter February 25, 2000              Volume XXXX1, NO. 10

(Harry's analysis) This newsletter is a joint communication from the Superintendent and Frank to the DFT. Its a breath of fresh air and I can find little in it to quibble about. The Superintendent pitched the idea of a joint communiqué right after the contract was settled but the idea was rejected at that time. If I were suspicious, and I am, I might guess that Frank's willingness to join with Julio now has something to do with the union elections which are coming up this spring. This column, and the other newsletters published so far this year, have set a positive tone not heard from the Goldenrod for at least ten years. I suspect they are a reflection of our teacher's desire to bury the hatchet somewhere other than in each other's heads. If so, this augurs well for the Duluth Schools despite the $4.6 million budget cuts we must make this Spring.



When the mediator's proposal for a new contract between the Duluth Federation of Teachers and ISD #709 was announced it came as a surprise to many people including the news media. Noticeably gone from this round of negotiations was the public bantering of the items being discussed. Neither side was willing to use the media to gain public support for their positions. This was by intent. For far too long we have been willing to publicly expound upon our various differences while failing to report the many strengths of our system. The result has been that the public has been given reason to doubt us.

Although it is probably safe to say that the mediator's proposal which was ratified does not completely meet all the expectations or concerns of either the teachers or the school board, it may well form the basis for anew beginning in this school district. This beginning must have as its conclusion an improvement in the education of children. If such is not the result, then despite our best efforts we will lose both credibility and students. We cannot allow this to be the case. We must all move forward together to demonstrate to the public that we will continue to improve that high level of education which we have provided to students and which the public has the right to expect.

To be able to continue to improve our system we must continue to be able to attract the staff at all levels from pre-K through high school. We must include all who work within the system. We must offer the encouragement and opportunity to excel.

We will work together to address the many concerns caused by the increases in the cost of health insurance while recognizing that this is also a state and national issue. We are willing to address concerns at these levels as well as locally. We will work together to contain cost increases while providing security for our employees and members. We must not lose sight of the impact of health insurance costs.

We must continue to attract and maintain the quality of staff. This will require salaries which are competitive with other districts and other enterprises. This must be done, however, within the confines of available resources. All of us must remember that the basis of school district funding is the state legislature. It is important that teachers, administrators, parents, and the school board work together to lobby the legislature for an adequate level of funding.

Teachers, administrators and other staff must have the opportunity to grow professionally. All must have the technology and other resources necessary to help them to be successful. The goal must be to help students reach their potential. This opportunity will not be obtained unless all see themselves as being an important part of the system. This will require a common vision, a common purpose and a common commitment.

We have seen the results of such vision, purpose and commitment in our schools by focusing on our site improvement plans. We know from our experience with the Birchwood Core Knowledge School and the Chester Park Lab School and our efforts in improving our reading programs that we can utilize best practice and research to help our students learn. At schools across the district students are being provided every opportunity to succeed. Each building has programs in place of which they are justifiably proud. Only the confines of space prevents a full listing of these. The public must be made aware of our progress and our success. Our purpose must be to enrich the educational experience for all students in this school district Our efforts will be focused on helping make students successful and improving our schools.

By working together we can show the public what we are doing and what we can do.

Julio Almanza, Superintendent

Frank Wanner, D.F.T. President