Letter to the Board

update: edited for better formatting (curse you WordPress!!)

Good evening,

I know each of you has been extremely busy with many different topics related to Unit 4; I thank you for serving on the board and fulfilling a much needed role.

I would like to take a moment and remind the three board members that were voted in during the April elections what you said you were going to do as a board member. The full list I culled together can be found here:
https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/another-look-at-the-school-board-candidates/

From that list, I would highlight a few things, especially as tensions rise around the topic of the CFT contract negotiations. The questions I ask below I ask out of respect and sincerity – I ask because I truly wish to learn.

Mr. MacAdam: You said you were committed to fiscal responsibility, especially given your background and experience with Busey Bank. One of your goals was to develop strategies so the school district can be financially sound. You also spoke about being transparent and speaking in public. What strategies have you developed in the past 6 months? How do you intend to communicate those strategies out to the community? How have your plans and efforts contributed to teachers feeling appreciated and valued?

Ms. Bonnett: Your campaign spoke significantly of engaging the community, earning trust, being transparent and having quality communications, among other things. I thank you that you have retained your facebook page as an effort to remind us of your goals and also to have an extra open door of communication. As the Board President, you are the voice of the Board. How have you striven to build, earn and keep trust and engender accountability with the community and among your colleagues on the board? How have you encouraged communication and aided community members in gathering and checking facts?

Ms. Stuckey: You have a goal specifically tailor for the CFT negotiations – one of your goals was to attempt to support budget talks with the CFT early in the process and to ease cooperation between the Board and the CFT. How did that go? You also spoke frequently of working to make sure that any budget cuts would have the least negative impact to children (or impacting the least number of children). You also spoke of motivating community members to get involved and (along with the other board members) board transparency. What work have you done to make sure children are impacted as little as possible? How much success has your efforts to increase community participation met with?

I have been told that the laws surrounding CFT contract negotiations severely limit how much you as board members can actually say about said negotiations. I encourage you to publicly identify those laws and help the community understand exactly what those limits are, not in a defensive manner, but rather as a way for you to say as much as you possible can. I would also ask that you extend a greater effort in garnering community support by whatever means necessary. My observation is that parents are aligning themselves with teachers and the CFT against the Board, which pains me as someone who was tried to become a board member in the past.

Yes, the budget is tight. Yes, it makes wise financial sense to protect the rainy day fund that Gene Logas built up. Yes, the State is totally screwing us over, and the looming threat of pension funding isn’t helping. I realize this makes for one giant mess. But it is not an impossible mess; difficult, but not impossible. I implore each of you on the board, please try harder to build trust with the community, explore new ways and levels of transparency, and persist in being communicative. I do not ask this as a way of mischievously hinting that you are not doing these things – I acknowledge you have made some progress. I ask that you ramp it up. The people need to know and feel that.

Board Policy 105 THE PEOPLE AND THEIR SCHOOL DISTRICT

The public schools belong to the people. The people govern the schools under rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution and statutes of the state of Illinois. The people exercise their proprietorship through the elective process. They elect state and federal representatives, who establish through the Illinois General Assembly and the United States Congress the framework of law within which the schools operate. The people elect a board of education to represent them and to determine local educational plans and policies and to establish publicly endorsed educational goals and objectives. The board of education functions as an agent of the public within this framework.
The people are the ultimate governors of public education, and the Board of Education is directly accountable to the people. Accountability is a shared responsibility involving students, staff, the Superintendent of Schools, and the general public.

Again, I thank you for the many tireless hours you each put into serving our district.

with humble respect,

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16 Responses to “Letter to the Board”

  1. charlesdschultz Says:

    I was encouraged to turn this into a NG letter to the editor, so I did; the NG letter focuses mostly on the three board member promises and questions, since I only had 250 words to work with.

  2. Beth V. Says:

    Nicely done, Charles 🙂 And if anyone is wondering as to the tone of this letter or if he’s being sincere or not, having met and spoken with Charles on numerous occasions he is a very earnest, sincere guy and means everything said above in a tone of utmost respect and honest intention for open dialogue.

    I know that, especially on the internet, games of gotcha and ‘just asking questions’ can and often are used to score points in some kind of imaginary game of one-upsmanship, and antagonism and cheerleading are the order of the day. This blog is a very refreshing exception to that and one I as a member of the unit 4 community really appreciate.

  3. charlesdschultz Says:

    @Beth, thanks for the kind words. Hopefully this will generate some soul-searching and honest discussion.

  4. Craig Walker Says:

    I’m somewhat confused as to what your analysis of campaign promises has to do with the contract negotiations. The Board has offered an average 3% increase over three years. The five year CPI average has been 2%. The facts are if that average holds the teachers will make up their lost buying power in that period. Those are facts . Check the CFT FB page I had this discussion with CFT spokesperson and he could not dispute these facts.
    Your assertion that parents are lining up against the Board with the teachers is also factually incorrect. There are parents supporting the teachers but it is a small vocal minority and in fact most parents are not expressing their opinions at all publicly. I will also note that this is a majority minority school district and we have not seen any large groups of AA parents supporting the teachers .
    The reality is most families are trying to make up their lost wages since the Great Recession and cannot identify with a group guaranteed 3% increases for 3 years as insufficient and worthy of striking and completely disrupting the community .
    The tactics of the CFT are not even mentioned by you or your blog. You seem to want to focus on the Board which makes sense since you are a self confessed wanna be Board member. Kinda hard to do unless you actually run.
    From What I have observed the Board has strong community support evidenced by the quiet you hear from the community on the issue if $$. There are no mass rallies with people screaming for the Board to give more money to the teachers . Just CFT organized agitation by a small vocal group of people being used as tools by the CFT. The CFT is trying to convince people that step increases in pay are not raises. That is alternative universe Tea Party talk designed to try and confuse the public to justify their outrageous demands of pay in a one year deal. The CFT proposal of 1 year deal is also a tactical maneuver so they can come back and squeeze for more. It’s a proposal of bad faith and bad math. The majority of people see that for what it is.
    It is my hope that a group if teachers within the ranks will rise up demonstrate leadership and force the Union to allow the Board’s proposal to be voted on by secret vote by the teachers .
    The CFT won’t allow a vote because they know it will pass. The CFT is saying either our one year deal at almost 6% or we shut down the school system , and they want no accountability process for teachers on the issues of misconduct . Sounds a lot like John Boehner and the Tea Party crew on the news.
    As for your board challenge , maybe you should challenge yourself to factually demonstrate how the Board members have broken Campaign promises. Details. Facts. Because all I’m seeing on this blog lately is a lot of hot air.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      @Craig, I thank you for presenting a different opinion; I hope with this response to encourage you and others to call me out if something is not adding up. I appreciate the service you have done for me, and I am not saying that sarcastically nor tongue-in-cheek. I mean it.

      I had an excellent talk with Scott MacAdam this morning (which I will cover more in a different reply). In terms of facts, I agree, we need to look more at the actual numbers. In a previous blog post, I have a graph that shows teacher salaries vs CPI. As you have implied, the graph only shows half the picture – it does not account for Step raises at all. The addition of Step/Lane raises with COLA actually exceeds the CPI, at least for the past three years. I am accepting your challenge and will go hunting for the facts as to how teachers have fared in total salary.

      I do dispute your claim that I have told board members that they have broken campaign promises. I very explicitly said:

      I do not ask this as a way of mischievously hinting that you are not doing these things – I acknowledge you have made some progress.

      I am not claiming that board members have recanted in any way. Rather, I am asking, in an effort to learn, what their progress has been (since I realize nothing happens “overnight” and may take a little while) and to ask that they do more.

      You raise a very good point about the majority minority. I do agree with you that I have not observed a vocal collection of minority parents (ie, AA, Latino, etc). And yes, there is a very vocal minority. But that does not imply their message is worthless and/or inaccurate for that reason alone. I am curious why there are not more folks speaking out in favor of the Board. I grant that perhaps I am simply not in the circles where support is being voiced. If that is the case, please invite me to such circles.

      For the record, I have submitted several questions on more than one occasion to the CFT in regards to how their relatively large COLA affects the future of the fund balance, why in the world they want a one-year contract, and about rewarding longevity via Step increases. I have shared a glimpse of those questions on this blog and on the “Champaign Parents 4 Teachers” facebook page. I will soon be posting a blog entry that conveys those questions in full and the responses I have received so far.

      As to hot air… come on now, is that just your frustration speaking? 🙂

      • Craig Walker Says:

        Fair enough on the hot air issue. But when you present graphs that leave out pay increases then you are obviously towing the Union line. The step increases are Pay increases. It’s more money in their check. The CFT says its for longevity and service well that’s what most pay raises are for. They create the alternative universe to justify their tactics ad positions . The facts are not up for negotiation. Step increases are pay raises period.
        As for campaign promises again you overlook the townhall just recently held to provide more access and community input. Whether you thought it worked or not the intent was there. As a blog writer it’s your responsibility to outline where you feel they broke campaign promises. The new Board members (of 5 months) doesn’t have a responsibility I answer to you in a vaccuum . They are busy people I’m sure doing the best they can. If you feel they have stepped out I line if their promises then document it an write about it. That’s what blogging is.
        The CFT has been trying to demonize this Board since day 1 in an attempt to gain sympathy . They say no respect, bad faith, yet they cannot point to one factual event to back up that claim other than a generous 9% raise over 3 years all benefits paid, highest paid among your peers for hundreds of miles. You know how many parents of Unit 4 would like that kind if no respect/ bad faith ? No, bad faith is asking for 6% more money in the middle of the school year, threatening strike , and characterizing raises they get as not raises, and wrapping that all around a 1 year deal so they can come back and hijack the system next year. Bad faith is not allowing the membership to bite on the current Unit 4 proposal. Bad faith is trying to provide unreasonable accommodations for teachers guilty if misconduct. That’s what bad faith is. And you are out pushing the CFT garbage showing charts of pay versus CPI without including step increases or even disclosing that fact. That’s bad faith. The support for the Board doesn’t have to be vocalized out loud. I can see it by the lack of support on social media of the CFT is obvious. They try and demonize me as against unions and for the board which is not true. The board proposal is a winner in terms of $$ and benefits for the teachers. Any objective mathematical analysis will tell you that. But when you leave $$ out and express innuendo about board members based on the narrow circle you associate with then it is important that those tactics are met with truth and substance .
        Numbers don’t lie people do. I for one think you should take your distorted graph down because it is a complete manipulation of the facts using CFT lies to tell a story. That’s my frustration . Tell the real story , out all of the $$ on te table, then make an objective analysis. You may be surprised where you come out.

      • charlesdschultz Says:

        As I mentioned, I like numbers and facts. I have asked Unit 4 several times for salary and step/lane information only to be denied. I asked again this afternoon at least for an aggregate of historical salaries with COLA and Step/Lane information – I am hoping to receive that information and generate a new graph. And since I have learned within the past day that the information I had previously only assumed a COLA raise, I would no longer be surprised to find out that COLA + Step exceeds the CPI.

        Here is one of the problems I have. When I ask Unit 4 for information, it tends to be difficult to get what I want. Maybe I am asking the wrong person. Maybe I am framing my question poorly. But why should I have to ask for it at all? Why it isn’t this information posted on the website? (I do note that old teacher salary information is posted in hard-to-find locations on boarddocs, since by law the district has to submit salaries to ISBE) Why aren’t the board members and/or district administration publishing the charts and tables on their own behalf? It is exceptionally difficult to blog on facts when facts are not readily available.

        And believe you me, I have the same frustration with the CFT. 🙂 I am an equal-opportunity complainer.

      • charlesdschultz Says:

        For the record, I have asked several different people, and I have also asked the BOE and Cathy Mannen twice for the real facts concerning historical salary figures, and so far nothing has been delivered. While I am torn about leaving a distorted graph on display, I think it is significant that the real facts are not readily available to the public at all. That is a problem.

  5. Craig Walker Says:

    Btw, Check the CFT FB page. I had a spirited but respectful exchange with Comerford on the issues. Most of my argument was based on the numbers and the CFT tactics. Well they blocked me from their page . They don’t want any fact checking of their ” fact checking”. I have never seen a more unprofessional group then the CFT representatives in Champaign. And the fact that they are blocking anything other than what is their “kool aid” is a clear example of the type if people they are.

  6. Scott MacAdam Says:

    Great comments

  7. Keri Says:

    This is a good dialogue. Charles, thank you, as always, for your effort to find facts and generate honest debate. My biggest frustration is with the email the board (or the Board President anyway) sent to parents and guardians via the CUSD #4 list, outlining select salaries and benefits for Champaign teachers and others in the area. The attached fact sheet was missing quite a few facts, and was completely inappropriate. The CFT does not have access to that database, so parents and guardians are left to make assumptions based on limited information. As a career counselor who works with college students, I am keenly aware that salary alone is not an accurate representation of total compensation. What do Unit 4 teachers pay to cover dependents, relative to the other districts? What do they pay for continuing education and professional development relative to other districts? How much $$ do they get to furnish their classrooms relative to other districts? What is the cost of living, relative to other districts? Now the CFT is trying to get their side out, and that handout does not include all the facts either, but at least it’s generating a dialogue. At least people are trying to dig deeper and understand both sides, though without all the facts, it’s very difficult. I’d like to know more about the other issues on the table– there’s very little details about those as well, and a lot of assumptions being made.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      @Keri, thanks. You ask some great questions, and you make an excellent point about knowing more, not just the numbers, but all the other issues as well. Here is what really confuses me; the community was not originally part of the conversation at all, but we are getting involved now because the BOE and the CFT are having fisticuffs. Why not have one or two sessions, sponsored by both the BOE and the CFT, several months in advance of the possibility of negotiations, so we can learn the facts, issues and positions? Why does it seem all hush-hush with partial truths and perspectives leaking out in a spasm of poker-like finesse?

      I love that you focus on the fact that dialogue is being generated and debate occurring. Yes, those are very good things. Again, this is why I invite and encourage those who disagree with me to speak up. 🙂 I need to hear those things. Ultimately, I have this gut feeling that the more we talk as a community, the more we can learn about each other and learn to respect each other better.


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