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Medford Strike Letters

In the last school board election only 18.84 percent of the registered voters voted in the "at-large election."

We did not have a democratic election. We should have had the election based on seven districts.

Too many of the school district problems have been swept under the rug or not dealt with for years.

The fact is we are not educating students, we are warehousing them.

When I went to Hedrick, in the science classroom, where they assigned two of us to a desk, now there are five students. Students having barely enough elbow room to take notes or written tests. And lab work does not exist.

One problem with the Medford School District is they are top-heavy with administrators. The second problem is at the state and national level the corporations and rich of this country no longer pay their fair share of taxes (400 Americans' income is as much as 50 percent of the work force in this country).

I encourage all parents not to send their students to school and to join the picket lines.

We must fight for living wages for each other and a quality education for our children. — Mike E. Miles, Medford

As a teacher in Medford, I am not insulted when members of our community speak out against us, as they do not fully comprehend what our jobs entail anymore than I understand the intricacies of their chosen careers. But the district? You know better.

Your ad campaigns and press conferences held by a board-defeated mouthpiece all speak pieces of truth embedded in slanted and distorted statements. So I state: If you are finding it necessary to couch the truth and "sell" a story to the public, then it is obvious that you know you have wrong on your side. Instead of validating your position with honest facts, you choose to portray teachers as inconsolable greedy leeches.

The district has been capitalizing on the character of the people who choose to teach for years now. You are exploiting our compassion. The past years of contract negotiations are proof of our willingness to make the best with what we have. This negotiation is no different. Put aside your transparent and pathetic personal agendas and stop selling lies to the people of the community you pretend to value so much. Trust them with truth! — Cori Valois, mathematics teacher, South Medford High School

Medford 549c teachers true "union" colors are showing through!

If teachers were striking against top-heavy administration costs, striking against misplaced spending priorities, waste and fraud, poorly performing curriculum, senseless mandates from big government, both state and federal, If teachers were striking against their classrooms being used to promote political correctness, moral and cultural relativism, secular humanism and postmodernism, then I might find their fight worth joining.

But instead of focusing on the kids' needs, teachers strike to fatten their own wallets at a time of great hardship for many of us taxpayers who ultimately pay the bill.

America's public school students aren't even in the top 20 globally for academic performance in many key areas, yet, we spend the most money per/student.

It's because the teachers and the system have failed us so, that I must decline to support them. Get your priorities straight, teachers of 549c.

Early retirement and PERS expenditures are killing the public system. It's time for teachers to retire in their late 60s with everyone else. No more easy street. — Ann Fredinburg, Medford

The Feb. 4 editorial began by warning "make no mistake" — the district, the teachers, and the community's reputation would be damaged. And again it warned, "make no mistake" — this strike is about money. The editors went on to explain that teachers are already adequately compensated and it was selfish for them to want a cost of living increase when it could be used to hire more teachers.

Now, I believe it is all about money. On Sunday, Feb. 2, the School Board purchased a full-page ad to convince the public that they are right and the teachers are selfish. Coincidentally, two days later, the editors of the paper whole-heartedly adopted the board's position. The board continues to buy thousands of dollars of ads. The best part is, the board can argue that they don't have money for teachers because they needed to spend it on the strike. Board members have nothing to lose because they have no skin in the game, and the paper has profits to gain.

"Make no mistake," this strike is about money, and reputations will be called into question. — Bill McDonald, Jacksonville

How much do the teachers have to give before the legal team and the right allow the strike to be settled?

Last week the teachers offered to get the students back in the classroom with a one-year stopgap and to continue to negotiate. That was denied. By whom? They offered a two-year contract and they are told the district won't settle for anything but three years. Who is pulling the puppet strings? The puppet being Phil Long.

The board wanted him out and now he will be leaving. Who is calling the shots? Is it Jeff Thomas to further his future political plans? Is it Sally Killen, a former teacher who is now fighting early retirement benefits after she fought to keep them and is collecting them? Is it Kim Wallan, who, if you can find her campaign literature, has gone against every statement she made just to get elected? If voters think this just about 549C you are wrong. This is a sad, pitiful,and shameful trend. The teachers can not be bullied — from the administration, from the legal team or from the right. Recall! Recall! Recall! — Penny Fitzsimmons, Medford

It frightens me to think our Medford school teachers would be considered a physical threat to the substitute teachers who have come in to help with our children while the contract negotiations are being worked out. The fact we need security guards to protect them is alarming and shameful.

These are qualified educators who need the work. Who are we to look down on someone (in this case a substitute teacher) for being so desperate they would cross an uncomfortable border (picket line) to earn a living and feed their families? I suppose if they were illegal migrant workers we would applaud their fortitude.

As adults we are to teach and lead our children by example. Verbal humiliation and threats requiring private security guards are both key ingredients that smack of school ground bullying. This is embarrassing and shameful. — Terry Baker, Medford

I am a substitute teacher for SOESD, Three Rivers, Brookings Harbor, Grants Pass, and Del Norte in California. I have been contacted three times by phone and once by email by the Medford School District.

They have offered me $341.52 for two five-hour shifts per day with breakfast and lunch provided on site. They also include $30 per day to cover dinner and incidentials plus a free hotel room while in town and mileage to and from home once a week.

I told them there is no amount of money they could offer that could allow my soul to carry the shame of being a scab and crossing your picket line. I wish you a quick and successful conclusion to your negotiations so you can return to normalcy and care for your students. — Tim Lenhart, SEIU local 1000 (BU No. 3 state teachers) retired, Cave Junction

This city has been plagued with a teacher strike resulting in horrible classroom conditions for students.

I am a sophomore at South Medford High School, and on Tuesday we had to attend class. That didn't go quite as the district had expected. My smallest class had 40 people in a room that was meant for maybe 30 students and was sweltering because there were so many people crammed together along with desks and chairs. One of my subs had little to no comprehension of what we were learning about in social studies, saying she was an art teacher and didn't know very much about the subject.

I support Medford teachers for their courage and compassion toward the students in this grave hour, but I believe both sides need to resolve this or I fear students will be paying the price longer than either party thinks.

Both sides say that they are "in it for the kids," but all we are is cannon fodder for what seems like an endless war of words that hangs over our community like a dark cloud. Please get our teachers back in the classrooms! — Mickey Harvey, Medford

The school re-opening Tuesday demonstrates that the School Board and Superintendent Long do not know how to operate the district. Medford needs a new superintendent and new school board.

I don¹t believe in recalls. As one of 15 elected officials, all recalled in 1979, it's an undemocratic way to get new members for school boards, city councils and boards of commissioners. I was repeatedly threatened and ultimately traumatized, once when someone called our offices at noon and threatened to shoot a colleague and myself. Those of us recalled disappeared from political involvement for many years, a loss for the communities of Talent, Rogue River, Grants Pass and Medford.

Let's do what we can to support our teachers and students, get them back into school with their qualified teachers as soon as possible, and find competent persons to run and be elected to the school board. Let's also get involved in the selection of the next 549C superintendent. We deserve a good one next time.

While Oregon and many other states statutorily permit recall, democracy happens best when we vote and vote out incompetents at regular elections. — Carol N. Doty, Medford

Regarding the teachers strike, without going head first into the myriad details, I can only say I am glad District 6 has provided my children an education that supports certain things they are taught at home as well. When the economy is in its current situation, any paycheck is better than no paycheck at all.

The only reasons they could have chosen to strike at this particular time are:

1) They believe Obama is actually capable, or already has (his words) repaired the economy, and all is well.

2) They still believe that the union has the teacher's best interests at heart (The union has the union's best interest at heart).

3) When they lose a tooth, they still look under their pillows, and they do not light fires in their fireplaces during cold weather lest they burn the guy in red.

Absolutely incomprehensible to me. — Mark Bowen, Trail

I am truly sorry for the situation in Medford and elswhere. However, as a public school teacher who has taught in both public and private education, I have faith in the public school system, especially for the kids. Private schools will take everything you have worked for in a second and there is no recourse except to walk out the door, which is what I did. Thankfully, I could.

I support Medford teachers and students. — Mark Barnard, Ashland

I am very troubled by middle school teacher Cherise Black's letter (Feb. 8). In it she states that the School Board has misrepresented what teachers earn because her take home pay is less than $3,000 per month. Nothing is said about health insurance benefits, pension benefits and paid time off. But what is very troubling is that she says the district "misrepresents" teacher salaries, then divides her annual salary by 12, when we all know that teachers do not work 12 months. And here is the kicker — she teaches math. She should acknowledge that the current impasse is about a lot of complex variables (true hours worked being one of them) and that the district was referring to an average, not her specific salary.

I want for our school children to learn better critical thinking and math skills than are being demonstrated by this writer, and I would really like for Ms. Black to look at what I consider serious misrepresentation of fact. I have not "chosen sides" in this very painful community crisis, but I do not like it when I see one of the involved parties presenting half truths that fan the flames. — H. Jacobson, Medford

I am a junior at North Medford High School. Tuesday was my first day back in class since the teacher strike commenced.

The powers that be would like for you to believe that I (and other students in the district) got the same quality education Tuesday that I have been receiving from my teachers for the past 111/2 years. This is, in a word, false. Tuesday was the single most unproductive day that I can remember in all of my years as a student in the 549c school district. The classrooms were over-packed, the lessons were poor in planning and administering and the supervision was nil.

In essence, Tuesday was a perfect example of what would happen every day of the school year if the board's proposed contract were accepted (the difference being that the teachers whose abilities were being hindered have the potential to be among the greatest in the region). It sickens me to think that the School Board is playing politics with my education instead of doing what is best for my teachers and, in turn, for me and the students. The latter is their job; politics isn't in the job description. — Nathan Soltz, Medford

1991-1992 Lone Pine — a student resource teacher, a child development specialist, a media specialist, a music teacher for each school (two 30-minute sessions a week), an administrative assistant — all these positions eliminated with the exception of music, now reduced to 40 minutes a week.

1991-1992 average class sizes were:

Primary (K-3) 22

Intermediate (4-6) 26

Protected prep time — 120 minutes a week, not including before/after school prep.

2013-2014 average class sizes are:

Primary — 27

Intermediate — 33

Protected prep time — 40 minutes, not including before and after times.

Unprotected prep time means an administrator can call a meeting during prep times. Since implementation, teachers have experienced this. With class sizes exploding, and more detailed planning, assessing and data gathering required, teachers are stretched to the breaking point. And the board wants to take what little time we have and compromise it.

Teaching is my love, my art. What saddens me is the devaluing of this profession. The school board needs to do what is best for students and what is needed for teachers to be the best we can be. Treat us like the dedicated professionals we are. Give us a fair settlement! — Cheryl Peterson, Lone Pine Elementary School teacher, Ashland

Oregon overall reports a 68 percent graduation, second lowest in the nation. Oregon funds public education at a level of approximately $9,700 per student. Are Oregonians getting the best bang for their buck, or is there a problem in the educational practice and philosophy resulting in the low graduation rates?

Speaking from personal experience, even those graduating are at times functionally illiterate, and completely unprepared for life. Lets look at another example: Utah. Utah has an 85 percent graduation rate, and funds approximately $6,000 per student for public education.

Looking at these numbers on their face, Oregonians are getting a bad deal. Poor results are being produced for our education dollars. So all heartfelt anecdotes aside, perhaps the school board has a point in Medford. Certainly other factors figure in, but teacher salaries are the biggest line item in district budgets. Are we really to continue to increase the compensation of teachers who produce the second worst result in the nation?

Being a dedicated teacher (which I believe Medford teachers are) appears not to correlate with being an effective teacher. What does seem to correlate is the strength of unions to the compensation of teachers, but it does not correlate to educational results. — Raymond Smith, Central Point

Perhaps the entire school board should resign or better yet admit their ineffectiveness as leaders overseeing professionals who know more about the classroom experience than all of them put together. It is public record that Phil Long was asked to vacate his position by this school board and yet he continues to be in charge during this chaotic time. His poor communication skills were an issue then and continue to be as he miscommunicates to the public, parents and teachers. His six-figure salary suggests he is "management," yet his ability to lead the district out of this crisis with demonstrated leadership skills is absent. The proven leaders of Medford schools are the teachers. All of our 600 highly qualified professionals provide leadership with compassion and commitment. The leadership of the "management" has yet to be shown. Perhaps it just doesn't exist.

Teachers deserve the pay they were promised. They are professionals held to a higher standard than most in the "private sector". We've depended on our highly effective professionals to educate our children and they haven't let us down. Let's not let them down. — Doug McDonald, Medford

Question: Why did the Medford School Board and administration abandon collaborative bargaining? When the Medford School District cooperated in collaborative bargaining there were no strikes and no talk about striking. Both sides had a voice and both sides cooperated and compromised.

Yes, with collaborative bargaining there is crucial compromise and movement to write a fair contract. If you talk with the teachers on the line picketing, it is about having a voice so that they can do their job, be advocates helping their students. It is about working conditions, about having preparation time and having a fair contract. — Elizabeth Hayes Slessler, Medford

Medford taxpayers: The attorneys and/or Oregon School Board Association (OSBA) representatives paid by Medford administrators to bargain are being very well paid with Medford schools taxpayers' money. The longer negotiations and a strike continue, the more money they make. Where's the incentive to settle?

Similar OSBA and attorney groups are working all over Oregon making hundreds of thousands off of negotiating and striking schools. Tactics such as taking large numbers of contract language articles away from employees and making employees bargain to get them back causes negotiations to last forever.

Also, check the Oregon Department Education website:


The Medford School District started 2012-13 with $103,833,967 and $11,665,965 carried over from the 2011-12 school year. Medford started 2013-14 with $113,123,397 and $10,338,014 carried over from 2012-13. An increase of almost $10 million and a carryover of more than $10 million demonstrates availability of the $2.5 million to $2.9 million needed to settle the contract.

The damage to the community and the negative impact on the students is not worth it. I watched the Eagle Point community/schools get destroyed by a needless strike that could have easily been avoided. Voice your concerns. — Jim Mannenbach, Eagle Point