Friday, October 13, 2006

Merritt to BOE 10/9/06

The MNEA has posted to their web site President Jamye Merrit's comments to the BOE Tuesday, October 9, 2006. I'm replicating them here:

MNEA President’s Statement to Metropolitan Board of Education
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Dr. Jamye Merritt, President
Metropolitan Nashville Education Association

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am here tonight in light of Mrs. Warden’s inquiry to us insinuating that somehow MNEA mismanaged the vote on the teacher bonus pay and the inaccurate media coverage it generated.

I want all of us to be clear that the vote was conducted in the same way all official votes of the MNEA membership are conducted. It was a fair and secret ballot vote.

And with today’s technology, more information was sent and available to our members than ever before. I don’t believe the real is here was lack of information.

I regret that not every member exercised his or her right to vote, but that’s a decision MNEA has no control over.

Nor was the problem reluctance to participate in an experimental bonus plan. You, and we, are currently working with Peabody College on a similar idea involving a 10 million dollar federal grant.

So what was it? Two things stand out in my conversations with teachers.

One, teachers don’t trust this administration to do what it says it will do. There’s a great deal of skepticism out there about the motives and direction of this administration at every step. Couple that with the secrecy about where this money is coming from, who’s involved, and what they’re after, and you have a “no” vote.

My refusal to release the actual vote count and the schools voting is based on our constitution and bylaws which require a secret ballot vote. I believe that making that information public would compromise our integrity. I also have no doubt that it would result in reprisals against individuals and schools by the administration.

The second, and perhaps more serious concern is, why is our elected school board being ordered around by someone who showed up with a sack full of money? Shouldn’t the board and teachers be the ones developing plans to increase student learning and THEN seeking funding for them? Is the school board running the schools, or is the Nashville Alliance now in charge?

With respect, I suggest this board establish a policy on how it will accept and handle private or secret donations.

MNEA hopes that this is not the end of our negotiations around the matter of legitimate diversified pay plans. As we negotiate in the future, MNEA will bring proposals on diversified pay that built on our members’ input and our research. Our goal will always be to give every Metro student a great public school.

To that end, I’d like to propose an idea for the use of the $400,000 donation. Since the donor’s interest was supposedly in raising student test scores, and since it’s the students who must do the learning and test taking, and since the teachers at Alex Green and Inglewood can hardly work any harder than they already are:

MNEA suggests that you and the Alliance develop a Student Awards plan and give the money to them.

Thank you for your attention, and on behalf of Metro’s teachers, thank you for the service you give to our community.

My suggestion to the MNEA members that don't trust the administration is to follow the advice of Ronald Reagan that worked so well in taking down communism: "Trust but verify". Do all of this out in the open so that everyone knows what's going and and everyone is accountable.

Regarding the vote: we're not asking for names or a breakdown by schools or any other identifiers, we're asking for totals. How many of those members voted which way? The parents, taxpayers and voters of Nashville are paying for this system. I believe they're less concerned about a donor with a sack full of money running the schools than a union and administration that isn't completely open with them about how things are run.

Further the board and the teachers have been running this sytems for quite some time now--and look where we are. Perhaps someone with some ideas and a sack full of money ought to at least be given a fair hearing.

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