There has never been a teacher strike in the Medford School District. For years the Medford School Board and teachers have worked through contract differences even during the most difficult economic times.
So what is different now? What has changed that could cause nearly 600 highly educated professionals to leave the students they care about and sacrifice family income? What has changed is the leadership style of the Medford School Board.
In the past, the majority of the board believed in problem-solving through collaboration. They believed that rational-minded professionals could find common ground together. Compromise between differing views was respected and valued. Neither side was completely happy, but each could live with and support the final outcome.
Today the majority of board members demonstrate a "combative" style of leadership. Those who have seen the Medford School Board interact in recent years have observed that members of the board struggle to collaborate together, much less with the teachers.
For example, last June at a monthly School Board meeting, several board members proposed terminating the superintendent "without cause," while others were completely blindsided and opposed the procedure. Last year the board focused on removing Phil Long as superintendent and was successful. He chose to retire rather than be fired, and now this dysfunctional board has focused its attention on the teachers.
The board and district administration are providing the public with highly inflammatory information designed to mislead in an effort to "win" at all costs. In a guest editorial last week, School Board Chairman Jeff Thomas stated teachers declined a 22 percent raise over three years. Is he serious? No sane person would leave their job after being offered a 22 percent raise. Actually, in their one-year settlement offer the teachers accepted the district's 1.9 percent cost-of-living increase. In their implemented offer, the district has a 1 percent increase in the second year of the contract and 1 percent in the third.
With a combative leadership mentality there has to be a "winner" and a "loser," and compromise is viewed as losing. The School Board and district administration tell the public they are willing to compromise, yet if one looks at their proposals, there have been no meaningful changes for the past six months, while teachers have conceded in several areas in an effort find a collaborative solution.
This current style of leadership, from local to national levels, is tearing our community and country apart. The public continues to ask, "Why can't our elected leaders work together to solve issues like they did in the past?"
School Board members are publicly elected officials and accountable to you. Call your school and district administrators. Tell them you respect, support and expect collaborative leadership, where both sides work together through compromise. Settle the contract and get our teachers and students back in the classroom. Our kids are worth it.
Josh Wallace teaches Spanish at South Medford High School.