Is there an elephant in the room? Are the teachers in Denair victims of poor District leadership or victims of poor representation by union leadership (Denair Unified Teachers Association (DUTA), under the direction of Barry Cole and CTA Regional Representative Steve Miller? I believe that DUTA leadership, in their October 30, 2013 flier distributed to parents in school parking lots, present ample evidence of their failure of leadership, “Over the past many years, while its student population dropped, the District failed to reduce staff and other expenses in line with that student loss.” Where were Mr. Cole and Mr. Miller in working with the Board to solve the issues protecting their members or demanding competitive salaries?”
Having now experienced the intimidation efforts and scorched earth approach implemented by the DUTA leadership, I can understand why the past administration did not move quickly. A vivid example of DUTA leadership’s approach was when we laid off teachers. Cole and Miller celebrated that we made a clerical error on the second May layoff notice and asserted a legal position of invalidating the layoffs, which necessitated developing a legal case in our defense. In August, we chose to do what they assert we should have done and layoff the necessary teachers and, again, they filed a legal brief against this action. When the bills for legal services related to negotiations and the court cases came due, they condemned the Board for spending the money to pay the fees. The results of the actions to reduce both certificated and classified staff have saved millions of dollars over the long run. The results of their strategy can best be seen in the decline of enrollment at Denair Unified School District, and the rise of enrollment in neighboring districts. The trend still continues!
Another clear depiction of DUTA’s blame, shame and destroy approach is that they have refused to agree to co-implement, with the Board, the recommendations of a State Appointed Fact Finding Panel of experts. No matter what anyone proposes, they are like Sherman in the Civil War…we will march on!
In the flier, the District is condemned for the lack of competitive salaries, “In fact, Denair teachers are already among the lowest paid in the County.” It is the District’s fault, of course! Where were Cole and Miller when the negotiations resulted in such salaries? Their only ethical defense is that they did not want to lay off their members, which is the same defense that the Board and past administration has expressed.
Misinformation provided by union leadership is always an issue in the collective bargaining process. In the flier, the Union asserts, “If our proposal were accepted, the District's debt would be paid off in a few years. This is the right solution, as it recognizes we should not attempt to fix a problem that took years to create in just one year.” Cole and Miller both recognize that this is not possible and have been told such by the Stanislaus County Office of Education. The County is not a loan agency and the State will not allow them to continue this approach. The money has to be paid back within the next three years.
Even though the Board has insisted on greater accountability to all and for the leadership and staff to change their attitude of “doing what we have always done,” we still are not where we need to be. When reviewing the academic performance results of similar schools, over the last four years, one can quickly conclude that the District has not made the significant progress needed. In this case, the students are the victims.
In conclusion, Denair is truly a demonstration of the old adage, “Pay me now or pay me later.” Paying later always involves more of a sacrifice because the problem always gets worse. Cole and Miller are complicit in what has happened in the District. Since they refused to agree to follow the recommendation of the experts on the Fact Finding Panel, logically, one can only conclude that their strategy will be to say to their members, “We fought the good fight for you.” For their own egos, I am fearful that they will encourage their members to strike. I would appeal to Mr. Cole and Mr. Miller to, minimally, take up the offer from Board President Robert Hodges and agree to support the recommendations of the Panel of Experts and, additionally, come together with the Board to rebuild Denair Unified School District.