Mark Welch's Perspective . . . Read my ideas, then think for yourself!

Hayward School Board Trustee Insults Teachers, Community

(April 14, 2007)
The following "letter to the editor" from HUSD Board President Grant F. Peterson appeared in the Daily Review newspaper today (April 14, 2007); see http://www.insidebayarea.com/argus/oped/ci_5667795:

Let the Hayward Unified School District teachers work

The strike by the Hayward Education Association has caused a considerable amount of emotion and angst among students, parents, teachers and others in the community.

It is important that all interested parties realize that the elected Board of Education, my colleagues and I, are very much aware of the feelings it is generating.

Last week we met in closed session nightly to be briefed and to give direction to our negotiating team.

You might well ask, "What kind of direction are you giving your team?"

First, let me say that my board colleagues and I are committed to providing our teachers with the best possible financial package our budget will allow.

You may recall that when Dr. Sarah Gonzales, Jeff Cook and I were elected to the HUSD Board of Education in November 2003, district finances were in shambles and the district was on the verge of being taken over by the state.

It was after Superintendent Dr. Dale Vigil and our current senior district office staff were hired and given the responsibility of eliminating deficit spending and righting the financial chaos that had been left us by previously elected boards that the district began operating in the black and had a positively certified budget. I have no intention of casting any vote that will jeopardize the progress that has been made.

How does this relate to the HEA demands promulgated by its president, Kathleen Crummey? First, keep in mind that HUSD and HEA have gone through the negotiating steps that bring us to where we are today:

  • Impasse was declared after four negotiating sessions not a good sign and a mediator was brought in to assist in finding a solution, but after only two sessions, sent it off to the fact finder.
  • Fact finding occurred with a neutral person hearing arguments from both HUSD and HEA, and said neutral person agreed that HUSD did not have the funds to meet HEA's demands. However, she recommended a 5 percent increase beginning Jan. 1, 2007.
  • An HEA negotiator rejected out-of-hand the neutral party's carefully thought-out recommendations, and that rejection paved the way for the current work stoppage.

We have spent many hours seeking an equitable solution within budget constraints. We are committed to a fair and just settlement. I am a strong advocate for that commitment.

Unfortunately, the $15 million to $18 million that would be required to fund the HEA demand is not there, and even if the County Office of Education were to allow us to offer that, we would bankrupt the district.

This we will not do.

Does that mean we disrespect our teachers or feel they are not worth the 16.84 percent increase in salary that they demand? It most certainly does not. Nothing would give us more pleasure than to vote for that kind of a raise, but it's not going to happen, given the current financial restraints.

So where does that leave us? The HUSD and HEA bargaining teams met again on Thursday, at which time HEA presented another sugarcoated proposal. Upon closer scrutiny, however, that package still contained the elements of the poisoned apple that would lead to bankruptcy. The HEA leadership tells you that is not the case. I would like to believe them, but HUSD has been led down that primrose path before and this board is determined that it will not happen again.

Once again, the HEA leadership is cooking with HEA-math, and this time your HUSD Board of Education is not buying it. The time has come for the HEA leadership to stop peddling their smoke, mirrors and snake oil. It is not the Board of Education that is the problem here.

Mrs. Crummey, let the Hayward teachers go back to work.

Grant F. Peterson is the president of the Hayward Unified School District Board of Education.

Grant Peterson Insults Community, Disrespects Teachers

Mr. Peterson: In your letter to the newspaper (see right), you wrote:

"Once again, the HEA leadership is cooking with HEA-math, and this time your HUSD Board of Education is not buying it. The time has come for the HEA leadership to stop peddling their smoke, mirrors and snake oil. It is not the Board of Education that is the problem here."

I am astonished at your blatant effort to dump all blame on the union leadership (and specifically Ms. Crummey) for the impasse. You insult the intelligence of the community with your absurd claim that HEA, and not HUSD, is engaged in financial "smoke and mirrors."

I sat through the bizarre "financial update" during the March 14 board meeting, which the district (in its more recent offers) now concedes was nothing but smoke and mirrors a "sham" presentation intended solely to mislead the community. That "show" added fuel to the teachers' growing distrust of HUSD's financial claims. (Even the county superintendent acknowledged in a recent interview that she could not understand the district's smoke-and-mirrors bookkeeping.)

For you to turn around and blame the union, for the distrust that arose from Dr. Vigil's and Mr. Schimmel's lies and disrespect, is an insult to the entire community. You are paying a premium to administrators whose disrespect and dishonesty are costing HUSD millions of dollars; employees will only work for a dishonest, disrespectful employer if a premium salary is paid.

The Hayward Unified School district has consistently taken direct and deliberate steps to encourage a strike, and to build and maintain a relationship of distrust and disrespect between HUSD and its community partners (teachers, parents, students, and taxpayers/voters). Since you acknowledge that the Board has met nightly to advise the administration, I must now place the blame for this distrust and disrespect on your shoulders, since you have sat by and allowed Dr. Vigil and Mr. Schimmel to continue to insult teachers with their lies and disrespect.

While I remain hopeful that a financial settlement will be reached between HUSD and HEA this year, it seems clear to me that the district's latest offers, even if accepted, are designed deliberately to encourage further financial manipulation over the next 18 months, which nearly guarantees that the next contract negotiation with HEA will be even less pleasant.

And even if the district somehow pulled a rabbit out of its hat and granted teachers every penny they've requested, the distrust and disrespect will remain long after Dr. Vigil and Mr. Schimmel have followed their predecessors away from Hayward, and probably long after all five current board members are replaced. More good teachers will leave Hayward; more parents (like my wife and I) will accept the board's message and move their children away from Hayward's schools; and taxpayers will continue to laugh (with justifiable contempt) at the suggestion that they authorize HUSD to issue bonds to repair and upgrade its decaying schools.

I do not question the district's need to remain financially responsible and solvent, even though I can't trust the district's claims about its financial condition. But the district's leadership is not moving toward financial solvency if it continues its persistent strategy of insulting, deceiving, and disrespecting teachers.

Your letter, Mr. Peterson, is an insult that further demonstrates HUSD's disrespect toward its community. You should apologize, and you should work diligently to improve, not worsen, the relationships within the Hayward educational community.

-- Mark J. Welch

Last Updated on 04/14/2007
By Mark Welch
Email:
MarkWelch@MarkWelch.com


Mark Welch's Perspective . . . Read my ideas, then think for yourself!



  MarkWelch.com