SCEA Actions Are Not Quite Mission-Driven
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.