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Author Topic: Teacher's Union  (Read 738 times)

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Offline JuliaInNJ2007Topic starter

Teacher's Union
« on: September 29, 2012, 05:43:37 PM »
Jennifer Adams had been an English teacher in Bridgetown for five years. It was her first teaching position, which she grabbed after a few years adrift followed by a stint in grad school. She was 29 years old and loved her job. The students, for the most part, were great. They allowed a lot of leeway in the development of lesson plans and the like. This matched Jennifer's personality quite well -- she had gone through a bit of a goth phase when she was younger, followed by a punk phase, followed by an indie phase which she was still in. She was very open minded and very liberal.

Her co-workers were very supportive. The administration, too, was largely very helpful.  In particular, she was very fond of Meredith Brown. Meredith was 50 and was the department head of English. She had taken Jennifer under her wing and they had become fast friends. Meredith was a recovering hippie of sorts and had started up the school's well-known creative arts program. She, too, was very liberal. And she was also president of the teacher's union.

Bridgetown was a pretty big school district -- two large high schools -- in what was a fast-growing suburb. However, the recession hit the area hard, just as it did everywhere. A lot of residents were feeling the pinch. Housing values tanked. And with it did tax revenues.

That set up a large change of events. The region had been a 50/50 region for an area -- seemingly, Democrats and Republicans flip-flopped with control of the community's political scene for some time. But the tanking economy gave the conservatives -- and they were indeed that -- a lot of say. Also with it, the former school board president, a climbing Democrat, was indicted for tax evasion from his business.

That led to the 7 person board being completely taken over by the local Republican party.

And that put Linda Morris in charge.

Linda was 55-years-old. She was an accountant at a very prestigious firm but retired once she and her husband decided to move further out in the suburbs. They had moved into a new development in the area geared for "active adult" senior citizens. She had always been interested in politics, and had volunteered for a few local campaigns, but but really became active once she moved into the area.

What motivated her were few things: 1) Her tax bill was way too high. 2) She couldn't believe the lack of traditional values taught in the community's schools. She had heard that the Pledge of Allegiance wasn't done first thing every morning, which really irked her. She started going to school board meetings, writing letters-to-the-editor, and going to the local Republican meetings. Being outspoken, but also sly enough to know how to work the levers, she soon became the most prominent member of the local Republican Party.

She was so prim and proper -- she wore dark-colored blouse/dress/skirt combinations, largely with a hint of country club plaid. She was a big fan of rigid posture. But despite her outward niceties, she wasn't afraid to make a quip at someone's expense, either.

She and her colleagues swept into power. It was the first time in decades that one political party had gained complete control of the school board. She wasn't intending to let this opportunity slip away. And, who knows, maybe a strong performance on the school board could lead to bigger things?

She knew they had been elected to lower taxes, and to put her social causes on the backburner -- for now. And she knew the teachers contract would be coming to an end in a few months. Negotiations were set to begin immediately after the Republicans were sworn in. She readied for battle. As did Meredith.

Offline JuliaInNJ2007Topic starter

Re: Teacher's Union
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2012, 06:38:50 PM »
Jennifer had been active in the teachers union, serving on a handful of committees. Meredith was her mentor in the department and also served as a mentor in this capacity, as well. Jennifer's father was a union carpenter. She went to teacher's unions meetings throughout the state and had seen and heard from colleagues about how difficult contract negotiations could be.

They had several meetings ahead of time. As these were almost all new board members, it was quite unpredictable as to what they would they suggest. The union had come up with their recommendations, which was essentially what was in the current budget -- a guaranteed pay scale that increases salaries for teachers every two years, extra income for teachers who had graduate degrees, graduate degrees paid for, their health care almost totally paid for, etc.

Meridith was smart. She knew those benefits wouldn't last forever. But she knew to hold a poker face. If the teachers waited things out, maybe went on strike, they could cause the board to fold.

Linda and the board had been tight-lipped as to what they would propose. In fact, they would make their meeting public at the first board meeting.

The teachers union, as well as a lot of parents, parents and residents, came out en masse, with union members wearing their T-Shirts. The first part of the meeting was the typical snooze fest -- substitute teacher hirings, bus route approvals, etc. Finally, after some impatience, Linda began to speak.

Jennifer had never seen her before but had heard all about here. She sat so rigidly on the dais, her glasses at the bridge of her nose, her hair so meticulously coiffed. She and Meredith were contemporaries but could not be of a more different era.

"It is sad that we have to get to this point. However, this town cannot continue to exist with the teacher's union exerting the power it currently has," Linda said, firing her first missive. "We are in tough, tough economic times here. We all face hardships. We all must cut back. As we go forth planning this school district's future, we have to decide what we want best. Do we want to cut programs for the students? Or do we all agree that sacrifices must be made for our district to continue to be the best?"

Meredith knew this line would be coming -- it's the teachers versus the students, as told by a wealthy woman who lived in a retirement community.

"As such, here is what the board is proposing as we begin negotiations."

The union was astonished:

1) The teachers full health coverage would be gone. Instead, they would have to pay for 50% of their coverage.

2) Education benefits would not be paid for past master's degrees. And these would no longer fully be paid for. The school would only pay for 50% of these.

3) A lot of the experience pay scale would be cut in half. People with 15 years of experience would make the same as people with 30 years of experience.

4) Teacher raises were not guaranteed. In order to get a $500 raise (paltry), one had to have a favorable annual performance review. If not, then the teacher would get bumped down a level on the pay scale unless they took training courses -- out of pocket -- to remediate their behavior.

There were many, many more. The teachers' blood was boiling. They hissed collectively and shouted comments.

Linda sat stone-faced.

"You are all adults and are supposed to set an example for the children. Behave yourselves," Linda sneered so condescendingly. "I know these cutbacks seem harsh. But it's time you faced reality and endured what we citizens all have to face on a daily basis. This meeting is adjourned."

The teachers were outraged as Linda walked off. Linda brushed off the local reporter. People were filing to their cars. Jennifer saw Linda open up her Mercedes and drive away.

Offline JuliaInNJ2007Topic starter

Re: Teacher's Union
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2012, 07:08:20 PM »
Jennifer had driven home from that meeting, the screams of her colleagues in her ears. For some reason, she found herself unable to sleep that night. She had to wake up a 6 AM to make it on time. But she was having a hard time of things because, anytime she closed her eyes, all she could see was Linda's stone-face.

She replayed what she said -- her stern tone, condescending nature, and how everyone on the dais with her nodded completely at what she said. Jennifer looker her up on Google and read her campaign website -- her very right-wing nature, etc. It was so against everything she had stood for. But the pit in her stomach was overwhelming. A chill went up her spine as she realized... she wanted -- needed -- to support Linda.

Jennifer has slept about three hours. She woke up and called into the sick line, arranging for a substitute. Her heart was pacing. She tried to distract herself by watching TV, reading a book, going online. But she couldn't.

It was about noon. She had looked up Linda's phone number. She stared at the phone in her hand and couldn't resist dialing.

The phone rang. She was hoping she wouldn't pick up. But after the second ring, she heard that curt voice.


"Uhm, hello. I'm trying to reach Mrs. Morris?"

"This is she."

"Hi, Mrs. Morris. I... I'm a teacher in the district--"

"Well, aren't you at work? Shouldn't you be teaching?"

"Oh, yes, normally I would. But I... I took a sick day today. I was at the meeting last night and wanted to talk to you about it."

"What about it? I know you and the other members of the union are upset. But you'll just have to live with that."

"Oh, I know," Jennifer said, gulping. "I called to tell you just that. I called to tell you that you have my full support going forward and I'll do whatever I can to help you get what you want with this."

Linda chuckled and smirked. She couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"You didn't tell me your name."

"Well... I... I don't want to get in any trouble--"

"Then you shouldn't have called, missy," Linda barked. "I appreciate the call but I know how tense things are right now. I don't want to talk to someone unless they tell me who they are. In fact, I don't think it's fair that I talk to people unless I know who they are. If you mean what you say, then you should have the decency to tell it to me in person."

"I... I know I should. I just don't want my colleagues to find out--"

"Well, dear, no one will find out about your feelings... especially if you provide yourself useful to me. Now, if you want to go forward with this, I'm available for a cup of coffee at the shop in my development. I suggest you meet me there in an hour if you want to go forward with this. If not, don't bother calling again."

With that, she abruptly hung up.

Jennifer hopped in the shower. She then got into her car.