SCEA Actions Are Not Quite Mission-Driven

May 4, 2010 at 2:45 am 11 comments

It is really such a shame that this blog article has to be written. There are so many critical issues and challenges currently facing Sumner County Schools—budget shortfalls, under-achieving schools, severely entrenched bureaucracy—that I hate taking the time to address the misconduct of the Sumner County Education Association (SCEA). However, I feel compelled to bring to light the deplorable actions recently taken by the SCEA.

This past Thursday evening correspondence went out from SCEA President Mary Pappas to all SCEA members. Click here to read the memo.

The mission of the SCEA states that they are “to work for the welfare of school children, the advancement of education, and the improvement of instructional opportunities for all.” It is nonsensical to believe the SCEA, under the current leadership of Mary Pappas, has any conviction to work on behalf of the children in Sumner County Schools. It may be plausible that her “rallying of the troops” is to express the best interest of our teachers…except that her memo is immersed in misinformation and blatant lies. Teachers, you must ask yourselves, “If SCEA truly has my best interest at heart, then why do they use polarizing propaganda to provoke me into carrying out their agenda?” (Say that 3 times fast.) You are being manipulated. What would happen if a teacher were to publicly disagree with Ms. Pappas? He/she would be demeaned and ostracized. I can think of a certain Minister of Propaganda who wrote polemic speeches (had there been email, I’m confident he would have used many exclamation points), created and preyed upon the unfounded fears of the people, and censored opposition. His name was Joseph Goebbels. I’m not comparing the moral fiber of the two, nor am I comparing the severity of their transgressions. I’m merely bringing to light that Ms. Pappas is attempting to “raise an army” using the same tactics of propaganda and manipulation that were used by Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda. Why would you allow her to succeed?

Let’s wade through the theatrical exclamation points, question marks and illogical use of the Caps Lock button to address the content of the memo. First, make note that this is a study session of the school board. No voting can take place. The study session is meant to be a time when board members can give consideration to all sides of a problem and come to the best solution. I have my doubts that board members will feel free to explore all options of the issues at hand with Ms. Pappas and her minions there to brow-beat them. Moving focus to the 3 Reasons WHY! YOU!!!??! should make the EFFORT! to Attend! this MEETING!?!

The teachers’ contract was deferred to a study session (Reason 1) not because of insurance or because of the economy. No one is in danger of losing anything that is owed to them because of this study session. Voting on the contract was delayed because of Race to the Top reforms that directly impact subject matter in the contracts. From the Race to the Top Application (page 12): “We now allow local school systems to create local salary schedules for teachers and principals that permit us to compensate, promote, and terminate teachers as a result of rigorous annual evaluations that are based on student learning.” Our Superintendent, Board Chairman, and Teachers’ Union President all signed agreements to fully participate in these reforms. However, it looks like our teachers’ union would like to buy themselves another year to figure out how to side-step the reforms to which they committed. To do that, the current contract needs to be ratified without taking those reforms into account.

Reason 2—the harassment of Mr. Bills—refers to members of the school board who are less than pleased about the retirement incentive Mr. Bills offered to Jim Butler, then principal of Portland Middle School. After Mr. Butler publicly embarrassed the school system with an affair with a teacher, a harassment arrest, and two pending lawsuits, Mr. Bills offered him 100% health insurance coverage in his retirement while everyone else retiring at the end of the 09-10 school year will be offered 70% coverage (that’ll show those teachers not to leave our system in good standing!). Mr. Bills gives a lengthy explanation of his actions in this memo to school board members (click here to read). He really went above and beyond to defend himself, especially since the board hasn’t yet had much discussion on the matter. I’m sure it’s not because he knows he did something wrong.

My favorite part of the entire memo comes at the end of reason 2, when Ms. Pappas really scares us all with the specious tale of Mike Fussell being made acting director of schools if we don’t all show up at this meeting to make sure Benny Bills isn’t wrongly persecuted and stripped of his directorship by the villainous Mr. Fussell. Are there not policies and procedures that have to be followed if the superintendent is removed from his position? Will Mr. Fussell simply stand up and declare himself sole dictator of the school system as soon as Mr. Bills is ousted? It is ludicrous. And it is a lie the SCEA has propagated for nearly 4 years. Three years ago then-president Sharon Walker told me at a community organization meeting (and the first time I met her) that Mike Fussell was after Mr. Bills’ job and that was his big, secret agenda. A few days later I witnessed Ms. Walker vehemently deny that she ever circulated that rumor—and laughed at how preposterous the rumor was—when Mr. Fussell asked her about it after a school board meeting. I only tell this story to show you how malicious they are in spreading their lies.

For Reason 3 we once again see the emergence of our villain, Mr. Fussell, and this time he is trying to pass a policy that he knows is illegal. I’m sure what Ms. Pappas meant to say is that the board is to discuss a policy drafted by board attorney Jim Fuqua that states SCEA must show the board that they have 50%+1 membership in order to retain status as the teachers’ bargaining unit. Seems like if the board attorney drafted the policy (which he did, in fact, do) that maybe it’s not illegal. It also seems like the policy wouldn’t cause such a commotion if SCEA did, in fact, have 50%+1 membership. Furthermore, it seems that it would be unethical for SCEA to continue as the teachers’ bargaining unit if they knew they were not, in fact, representing the majority of Sumner County teachers. But then again, from reading this memo, I gather the SCEA isn’t too worried about acting ethically. It’s ironic that the second sentence of their mission statement begins with “to develop and promote the adoption of such ethical practices…” There was an article in a local paper that discussed whether the policy was an invasion of privacy. I thought that to be quite absurd until Ms. Pappas’ memo surfaced. Now I see that those affiliated with SCEA are ashamed, thus making the issue of privacy relevant after all.

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A Different Perspective on Sumner County’s “Great” Schools Bills Breaks the Law, Board Says “Way to Go”

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. GLENDA  |  May 4, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Seems like there are always two sides to every story. Thanks for sharing the side the Sumner County media doesn’t want to.

    Reply
  • 2. David S.  |  May 5, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I would like to see a response from the union and Mr. Bills in regards to this. This information isnt available in the local media and I feel like we (the public) are owed an explanation.

    Reply
  • 3. nashvillejefferson  |  May 12, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Do you happen to know what happened at the study session on the 4th as regards the proposal to require teachers to disclose whether they are union members? I’m writing a post about this for Pith in the Wind, and it would be interesting to hear where everything stands on that issue. Did it get discussed? Will it come up again at the Board meeting on the 18th?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • 4. sumnerpubliceducation  |  May 14, 2010 at 2:10 pm

      nashvillejefferson,
      The topic of having union members disclose their status was on the agenda at the last study session on the 4th; however, board attorney Jim Fuqua was not present so that discussion was postponed. I’m told there will be a reading of the policy at the next board meeting, and it is my opinion that something will be passed. The policy drafted by Fuqua may not be what is ultimately passed, but I believe some form of the policy will pass at the next board meeting. Thanks for checking out our blog. And if you feel compelled to mention us in your piece for Pith in the Wind, it would be greatly appreciated since we are still just getting the word out.

      Reply
  • 5. nashvillejefferson  |  May 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Thanks — I’ve mentioned you in the post — if you happen to catch the meeting tonight, please let me know what happened, especially if you can get a hold of the policy itself. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • 6. sumnerpubliceducation  |  May 20, 2010 at 6:41 pm

      Nashville Jefferson,
      I wanted to let you know that the policy on declaring union status was not discussed at the most recent school board meeting. It was overshadowed, to say the least, by other matters, namely the topic of my most recent post. I will keep you updated. I don’t think it will be a problem getting a copy of the policy once it is passed. If you like, I can probably attain a copy of what has been drafted thus far.

      Reply
  • 7. Peaches  |  May 21, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    I don’t know if you knew about the terrible graduation at HHS last year. Then, after that, the same principal who oversaw graduation stirred up more problems by transferring a popular teacher to Portland. Well the principal is causing more problems today. I was told about it by a friend who has a son graduating tonight and I got more info on the catered commentary blog. It just proves the kind of people who are in charge of things in our county. I enjoy your blog. Please keep on keeping us informed.

    Reply
  • 8. Andy Gregory  |  May 30, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Having been in a position where I am closely exposed to the environment of HHS, I can tell you that Principal Worsham is a BIG problem! The woman has terrible people skills, cannot run staff meetings, and does NOT have the respect of the students and even much of the faculty. The faculty and staff are constantly intimidated and there is much fear and loathing. The only reason Joni Worsham holds the position is due to the fact that she is the daughter of old John Steinhauer, a former DemocRAT state representative who is still a party boss in Hendersonville and Sumner County. Whoever succeeds Benny Bills in 2011: Replacing this principal should be at the top of his/her agenda! HHS is deserving of much better!

    Reply
  • 9. Colleen  |  August 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    More propaganda, perhaps this is why the real news doesn’t cover this. People need to stop believing the spin on everything they read. The school board is a member of TSBA, it serves them as SCEA does the teachers–even has a NSBA affiliate. The taxpayers foot the bill for the Board membership while the teachers pay for their individual professional association. We are in a “Right to Work” state, so there is no full “union”, but even if you consider working together to be informed and astute professionals in a politically public sector as a crime; we are just people of the community, raising our families and trying to focus on doing a rewarding job well.
    We are not a secretive bunch of scary people misinforming everyone (because we have nothing better to do???).
    It is really a sad state of affairs that we have to worry so much about those who would take the professionalism out of the profession and paint every teacher as the worst ones, degrade our efforts anonymously and try to intimidate us while calling us the bullies. I would rather never even think of my working conditions, my benefits, my pay (it is only money), but there is always someone trying to make me pay, take more and more away.

    I pay taxes to a public service worthy of the price–education, as a part of this community, which should be supportive of one another. I don’t mind giving up my raise, as we offered in this economic downturn. I don’t mind that other employees have had raises while teachers did not, nor that it took me so many years to make in TN what I made leaving teaching in NC. I so mind being put on the defensive by people taking honest efforts and words and “twisting them to make a trap for fools.” I do mind the deficit being the burden of teachers alone, instead of a shared burden. I do mind being the brunt of such cruel and malicious efforts as these.

    Reply
  • […] to sue of the Board pursues the policy. Indeed, in a memo that went out to union members (h/t Sumner County Public Education blog), SCEA President Mary Pappas, calling for members to rally at the May 4 study session, […]

    Reply
  • […] to sue of the Board pursues the policy. Indeed, in a memo that went out to union members (h/t Sumner County Public Education blog), SCEA President Mary Pappas, calling for members to rally at the May 4 study session, […]

    Reply

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