LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
We entrust our school board with the primary duty to keep the public education system functioning. That is their only role.
It is not their duty to micromanage to the exclusion of the professionals. It is their duty to make sure these professionals are adequately supported to do their jobs.
When the school board decides that they know better than the professional educators how to provide education, we end up with disputes and potential strikes, like we now have in our district.
The school board has made it clear that they have adequate resources to provide teachers what they want and need, but they want to do something else with the funds. They are so insistent on promoting their own agenda that they are willing to put the teachers, and us, through a strike to prove who is boss.
Nobody really thinks that partial-day schooling with substitute teachers in foreign environments is equivalent to genuine schooling. Shame on them for assuming a political posture that violates the basic premise you are in office to uphold. Evidently a 9-year-old girl can understand the essential need to compromise in order to keep the schools running. Why can't you? — Rick Mould, Medford
As the parent of a child at Madrone Trail Public Charter School, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the charter school system for allowing me to avoid the drama playing out in our school district over the past several months.
I have read and observed the goings on of the district and the union but have not had to be stressed. From what I understand the teachers and staff of charter schools are not covered by the district contract but contract with their school directly. Regardless of what happens in the district negotiations I know my child's school will continue uninterrupted.
Being a parent is stressful enough. We care enough that we sought out what we felt was the best educational option for our child's personality and needs. I continue to be thankful that our choice was a charter school. — Linda Ford, Medford
Our teachers are standing united amidst an imposing and increasingly corporate structure that directly impacts the quality of education in the public sector.
This strike is not just about a minor pay raise, or hiring more teachers, or combating low graduation rates. This is a broken-down dialogue between the ones who aim to teach and the ones who shuffle around resources granted from the government to stabilize the box.
This crisis is about less learning and more standardized tests, more classrooms and less connection, more teachers boxed into an existing dysfunctional learning environment and less of the individual creative passion that drives a class of children to learn to love learning!
Supporting our teachers as the most significant force of well-being for our children outside the home is essential for dynamic and innovative learning to take place. What I qualify as a truly positive outcome from this crisis is both sides finding common ground and envisioning solutions outside of the governmental box. I envision a deeper solution regarding a much larger challenge clawing its way forward and redefining our approach to education. There is a reason parents are flocking to charter schools. — Rebecca Williams, Jacksonville
Jeers to the Medford School Board and, in particular, Phil Long, who has suddenly learned how to communicate effectively in a carefully crafted spin campaign of lies, half-truths and innuendo designed to portray the teachers as ingrates to an "oh so reasonable" school board.
And Jeers to the Mail Tribune editorial board for being the cooperative patsy, rather than doing some real investigative journalism. — Pat Burch, Ashland
Maybe it is time for someone to ask Superintendent Phil Long why his own children did not attend public schools. If our public school system didn't meet the criteria for his own children, he should be working for the good of our local public schools — not against them. Please stop the strike now, Dr. Long. — Phyllis Ross, Central Point
While I'm frustrated by the strike, my bigger concern is the animosity occurring in our community.
Are we succeeding by vilifying our school board and superintendent, a good man doing his best in a no-win situation? Do we exemplify respect if we label teachers when really we're hearing the union's voice?
Are the unions demonstrating an entitlement message to students by seeking more while budgets and class time are set aside? Are our discerning young ones learning fiscal responsibility?
Remember, the drivers of this standoff are the unions, which don't represent taxpayers or students. Sure everyone wants to pay less for benefits and get a higher salary, but to what end?
I support education, but I'm saddened by negative, unproductive tactics that demean people. No good comes from criticism or crucifixion of the school board and superintendent.
I'm not convinced all teachers are greedy, nor do I believe the school board is corrupt and obstructing progress. I do not seek to take sides.
I do believe in civility and objectivity in the public square in the spirit of teamwork and problem resolution. My intent is to plead for kindness from the grassroots. Let's treat both sides with respect before any more damage is done. — L. Burt, Medford
When Thomas Paine wrote, "These are the times that try men's souls," he was not thinking of you. Nevertheless, his declaration probably describes your present mood of discouragement because many have no idea how much you impact students' lives.
Once I taught in a district that took a strike vote — a painful experience. This discord will eventually pass. What transpires after that is up to you.
I encourage you to take heart; continue to do what led you to become a teacher, give a child a "thumbs up," read to your students from a book they will want to finish, tell a joke (preferably one on yourself), comfort one who is lonely or sad.
You may never scale a mountain, pitch a shutout baseball game, write a book or become Teacher of the Year. Your students, however, may do these things and more. You will be a part of all their achievements.
What makes your job so great is that you help many children reach their dreams and some to survive childhood. So whenever you walk into your classroom, "Go to it!" — Vera Mahanay, Medford
Your boss states you are receiving a 10 percent raise this year but then asks you to take a 6 percent pay cut to pay for a benefit you are presently receiving and then states you will be required to work two-plus additional weeks this year and not be paid for it (representing a 1.7 percent pay cut).
I believe most of you would come up with 10 percent minus 6 percent minus 1.7 percent equals 2.3 percent, which is your actual pay raise. Yet we regularly hear Phil Long and the school board state that "Teachers are being offered a 10 percent salary increase." Regardless which side you are on, you should know the whole truth. — George and Sue Duran, Medford
My mother is a Medford teacher preparing to close her classroom door, turn in her keys and take a spot on a picket line. I am saddened by the lack of awareness the issues driving her to do this are receiving.
I have watched her devote herself for 26 years and seen her work well over the average 40-hour week. Twenty-six years of weekends spent at the table grading papers and mornings where she gets up before 5 a.m. to work on lesson plans, because she doesn't have time to offer extra help to students and get ready to teach.
The Medford teachers are not asking for much — they want to be paid fairly. They want understanding that increasing the number of students and days they teach exponentially increases their workload.
After they have devoted their lives to others, they want to be given a comfortable retirement. They are asking for help to teach effectively.
It's time to help them — on paper in their contracts and in recognition of the desperate need that is driving nearly 600 teachers to close their doors rather than do what they love and teach. — Eleanor Hilton, Medford
I can't believe the letters to the editor praising Medford teachers as if they were gods. Why don't we instead talk about the 68 percent graduation rate at North Medford High School or the fact that Oregon math SAT scores are at a 12-year low?
You cry out broken promises. I don't recall the NEA having anything to say when the latest U.S. budget contained cuts in COLA for future and some current military retirees. These cuts are certainly broken promises.
Teachers should be ashamed to so boldly to pick the pockets of the taxpayers in such depressed economic times. If they're the most intelligent people out there, certainly they realize that most of their fellow citizens don't have guaranteed jobs, significant guaranteed pensions (PERS) or top-of-the-line benefits (the 549C school district website describes them as "liberal benefits").
What kind of example are they setting for the children of financially struggling parents? They profess to care so much about these children yet don't appear to care how their own actions look to them.
They should stop pretending that they're the only people who work extra hours for no additional pay and/or take work home. — Elaine Wheeler, Central Point
I read with interest the article in Saturday's paper confirming that varsity sports would not be impacted by the looming teachers' strike.
"Numerous parents and community members and even a student body president" personally contacted school officials to ensure these athletic opportunities would still be available.
I hope similar outrage and concern is being expressed to school officials about the impending loss of instructional time. That, after all, is the purpose of public schools.
I hope parents, community members and especially students realize that great teachers who deliver quality instruction are one of the most important components in developing one's curiosity, problem-solving abilities, knowledge base, self-confidence and ultimately one's professional if not personal success. If we want great things for our children, we must demand great teachers. If we want great teachers, we must demand that 549C be a district that respects and compensates teachers satisfactorily.
Please, let a fair settlement and continued instruction by quality teachers be the true "bright point" amidst all this tension. — Adrienne Hillman, Medford
I was angry and frustrated to open the Medford Tribune on Super Bowl Sunday and find a full-page advertisement from the Medford School Board arguing their position against the teachers union. It is hard to believe that a publicly elected body would spend taxpayer money to argue one side of an internal dispute. It struck three chords that underlie many of the problems in education.
1. This advertisement wastes public education funds. It does not enhance or advance education. It demonstrates an important problem in school financing, namely bureaucratic waste.
2. It is a poor representation of the situation. The ad appeals to families for support while combining figures and portraying partial truths in order to win an argument. This is exactly opposite of what all of those hard-working educators in Medford are trying to teach the next generation; sort out the facts, use actual comparisons and make informed decisions.
3. It is political grandstanding. It seeks to create sides and pit the community against the teachers. It divides. It is no wonder that negotiations fail when the school board demonstrates greater antagonism than collaboration.
Get back to work, school board members, and run the district the way you were elected to! — Tim Brandy, Ashland
After reading weeks of newspaper articles regarding the Medford school teachers, I need to stop biting my tongue.
I understand that teaching in these days and times is not an easy job. Full classrooms, not enough supplies or books, disciplinary problems, etc.
But can the teachers look at themselves in the mirror and say they don't get paid enough? An average of $64,400 for 192 days of work sounds pretty good to me. How many of the students and parents for whom they work barely have a home? How many parents are working minimum-wage jobs, five to six days a week to hopefully make ends meet, with no health insurance and no pensions?
How many parents get summers off, a two-week break at Christmas, a week-long spring break and every holiday off? They are asking their employer to give them more money when their students have been deprived of so many activities. The community even has the YES program to buy supplies the district can't afford to buy. What is wrong with this picture? — C. Hazelwood, Medford
The most infuriating part of this is that it was completely preventable on the district's part. And now, not only the teachers, but the students are paying for it.
I don't think people really understand how much this hurts the students. Not just in our education, but we're watching the people who have guided us through most of our life forced to resign.
Seeing how much it pains them to pack up their belongings makes our hearts hurt. Our teachers are our friends.
Students who have a bad home life have found solace in a favorite teacher; fallen in love with a subject because a teacher has helped them understand; graduated because a teacher didn't give up on them. They have donated so much off-the-clock time to their students because they actually care more about us succeeding. How many teachers have gone without lunch because they were helping students? The least we can do is support them.
I urge a strong stance for the teachers, the people who have always supported us — the students. — Taylor Cavalli, Medford
Medford community, does it bother you that your school board has been hijacked into spending absurd amounts of money to discredit and demoralize the people who teach your children?
Who is investigating the misappropriation of public funds used for a paid advertisement in this paper? Why is the board listening to a law firm instead of their community? Why are they willing to spend money on replacement teachers, security guards, paperwork, et cetera?
If they intended to honestly negotiate, why were they acting as if teachers were already on strike? Who is really behind this board's actions? — Andra Hollenbeck, Ashland