The teachers union and the school district are attempting to win the hearts and minds of district citizens with a variety of posts explaining their positions in the stalled contract.
The school district kicked off things with a letter posted on the district site early last month. The letter talked salary structure, but little else. But then on Sept. 23 they posted a detailed letter about the issues at hand. That really got things rolling.
The teachers union fired back a few days later on their site.
The district has now rebutted with a new letter (warning – PDF file).
I have to say that the teacher’s are doing themselves no favors with what they have done on their site. Their response is really all over the place. Example – click on the section titled “What Could Happen If Teachers Leave Monona Grove?” – the first line you get is ‘Will Your Property Tax Values Drop’. They then make no mention to property taxes in the rest of the page. You would think a teacher would understand the value of making an argument – of presenting your idea, adding supporting facts, etc. But this is typical of the teacher’s website. They present things, yet aren’t following through on ramifications of their arguments. Their presentation of ACT score information does nothing to help them – it’s just a chart and one statement – ‘Monona Grove Students score higher than the State Average on ACT.’ Yet looking at the chart you can see that in the last three years we have been worse than state average once, and barely above average the other two. Is the reason we are close that we test juniors as well? If so, then no one is explaining that. And no one is making strong statement such as ‘Lower pay will result in lower achievement by our students because quality teachers will leave the district.’
I would also like to see ACT score information for the county – comparing Monona Grove to a sparsely populated district in northern Wisconsin is probably not the best way to show our successes.
The district is doing a better job of stating their case with the public. They get wordy at times, but they are, for the most part, stating things clearly – such as ‘MGEA Teacher Benefits are Generous’. And then list the specifics in nice bullet points. And then follow with their changes. It’s works well.
I hope the teachers union can get their act together. They seem to think that by working to contract enough people will get frustrated with their actions and call and complain to the board that they should settle. But I don’t know if that is working. Not writing letters of recommendation for students is, many feel, crossing the line.
The teachers need to come out with a simple, easy to understand statement about why the benefits need to stay. Not some chopped up, incoherent mess that fails to articulate some of the simple basics of their argument.
If that doesn’t happen, the court of public opinion is not going to be in their favor. Up to this point, they have not only seemed unclear on their message, but they have come across as more whiney and complaining. Show some humility. Stand up and say that you understand that times are difficult, say you understand this is not something you take lightly, but then talk about how essential benefits are for the district to compete, and how the investment is good for the district. Don’t whine that you won’t be able to retire when you planned to – sorry, but lots of people are in that boat. Instead come back with a coherent plan, be positive, show your value – and do it with grace and humility – which will take you a long way.