Left In Lowell

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December 2, 2012

Mary Jo Has Got To Go! - Morass in Morale

by at 8:28 pm.

We have ‘rumor,” and we have data:

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But, not all data is created equal.

Since I started to point out the findings of the 2012 TELL Mass Survey for GLTHS, I have repeatedly heard that the results were intentionally skewed by the 200+ GLTHS teachers that participated in the survey. (Gerry Nutter offers some evidence here.) Apparently, the survey was conducted smack dab in the middle of some rather tumltuous contract negotions. Thus, the union leadership “thugs,” as Mary Jo’s BFF Mike Hayden likes to call them, opted to convince the rank and file to lie, as they responded to the survey.

If we accept the paranoid delusion that 200 something teachers, marched like lemmings to the drumbeat of “thugs,” then we have to ask a simple question. Did any of the other 41,681 ‘lemmings’ (MA teachers) surveyed do the same? The arguement rests on the assertion that GLTHS techers were the statistical outlier, based on meddling by the in-school union leadership. No other teachers were bargaining their contracts in 2012? Hardly! Yet, the GLTHS teachers are two times MORE ticked off. Why?

You can accept the Mike Hayden logic that union workers care only about pay and benefits. I tend to reject all things Hayden-esque, but he is partially correct. If we work for a living, we do it because we are compensated for our time and energy. Pay is a big part of the equation. One word I hear in most labor related rhetoric is “respect.” That “respect” manifests itself in a variety of ways. Pay, is certainly one of them.

On occassion, events look like they are only about dollars and cents, but that is only because these bobbles are the tangible bits that we trade in currency. It’s harder to see the “intangibles” of things like esteem which many hold dear.

If you look closely, you’ll see the Supt.’s disdain:

Greater Lowell Tech raises cause anger
Sarah Favot (7/2/12)

In the memorandums of understanding that were ratified by the School Committee on June 14, the teachers union, the paraprofessionals/secretaries union, the maintenance and security union, the two administrative units and the custodians union agreed to a cost-of-living increase of a 1 percent split for three years — a 1 percent increase on July 1 and another 1 percent half-way through the school year.

The two administrative units, consisting of cluster chairs and administrators, received an additional step on their pay scale, a benefit that no other union received.

The teachers union had asked for an extra step, but the School Committee did not agree to it.

Superintendent-Director Mary Jo Santoro , who negotiated the contracts with the two administrative units, said the administrative units received the extra step because they agreed to eliminate sick-leave buyback and longevity for new hires.

Every other union that had sick-leave buyback and longevity in its contract also agreed to eliminate the benefits for new hires — except the teachers union — but did not receive an additional step.
-snip

Santoro said she has spoken to some teacher representatives who have said they didn’t feel as though they were being treated fairly.

Teachers union President Cheryl Ann Bomal said the difference in the agreements is disappointing.

“It’s just very disappointing to hear that all the groups are getting different packages,” she said, adding that it was her understanding that with former Superintendents William Collins and Sheila Herbert, “all the groups always received the same type of packages, and that’s why we called ourselves the ‘Greater Lowell family.’”

Bomal said that started to changed during the tenure of former Superintendent James Cassin, “and this seems to be continuing.”

Bomal said that although the teachers union didn’t agree to eliminate sick-leave buyback and longevity for new hires, it made other concessions, such as adding on extra time that teachers are required to stay after-school — the only union that lengthened the work day.

She also noted that the administrators’ salary scale is significantly higher than that of teachers.
(bold mine)

I took a look around the GLTHS website to see what I could find about the contract negotiations and how they played out. There wasn’t much, as these sorts of things are done in ‘Executive Session.’

This was in the minutes for June 14th:

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The contracts were ratified on June 14th and things festered until Sarah Favot’s story came out in July. The story I’ve heard is that School Committee members were fit to be tied because they had such a tough negotiation period with the teachers, only to have Supt. Santoro give her admin team a sweet deal. It was sweet for the highly paid Admin crew, but was bitter for the other staff. Santoro was said to be defiant towards repeated requests by the School Committee to bring the Admin’s deal back in line, but she was not hearing their concerns that such imbalance would exacerbate the rift.

Giving raises away to the Admins not only agitates the other staff, but further complicates the efforts of the School Committee members to explain how taxpayers dollars should go to paying fine wages … and the proposed building improvements.

We shrug that sort of thing off in Lowell. Short sighted victories, based on ego fueled defiance, can create problems down the road. If Santoro did bulldoze raises through for ‘her people,’ it will be much harder to convince our frugal neighbors in Dracut that money is well managed ‘in the woods.’

The MJHGTG Series:
11/18/12) Mary Jo Has Got To Go! - Cassin’s Kingdom
11/20/12) Mary Jo Has Got To Go! - Payback’s a Snit

4 Responses to “Mary Jo Has Got To Go! - Morass in Morale”

  1. gerry nutter Says:

    Your data showsa strong MAJORITY of 66% Agree or strongly agree that the Tech is a good place to work and learn.

    It is less than the state average of 82% but it could lend credence to those who say it is a vocal minority of 34% being negative towards the Administration and School Committee.

    Don’t let the Teacherx Union BS fool you, the agrred upon ‘extra time that teachers are required to stay after-school’ is less than 1 hour per week compared to the other Unions who gave bck the buybacks when teachers retire which saves the district hundreds of thousands of dollars..teachers gave up very little.

  2. Jack Says:

    Gerry,
    There is plenty more negative results in that survey, but I’ll detail that later.

    Can we count you among those that want to blame the teachers? Their “thug” leadership has managed to twist them up in a knot, to the point they are unhappy at a rate TWICE the state average?

    I thought Paul Georges was the tough nut, in these parts. I never even heard of Cheryl Ann Bomal until recently. Not only is she a master at Jedi mind tricks, she is stealthy like a ninja.

    Let’s not get caught up in what the teachers ‘didn’t give up.” Not that this isn’t a proper topic. But, it is complicated by other matters like the development of teacher evaluations and moving health care fringe benefits to the GIC. Of course, you know that. So does Mary Jo.

    So do the poor slobs on the School Committee that have to explain why Santoro was playing Santa Claus in June.

  3. Lynne Says:

    Wow, a 66% positive as a place to work compared to an 82% average and you’re touting this as a GOOD thing??

    Um…last I checked, 66 is significantly less than 82 and indicative of something really wrong.

  4. C R Krieger Says:

    I have actually met and talked with Ms Cheryl Ann Bomal, the head of the teachers union and she does not come off as “thuggish”.  Thoughtful, yes.  Thuggish, no.

    As I have discussed with Jack, I don’t like the four option scale.  My preference is the Likert Scale, which has five options, providing for thempossibilitynof picking a neutral position.  But, as Jack points out, the TELL fdoes orce people to choose sides.  That on this question a third went to the negative side should at least cause questions to be asked.  It especially bothers me when I see presumptive Democrats talk about “thuggish” unions.

    The GLTHS sends mixed signals.  The students seem to be thriving, but there is dissent in the ranks of the teachers.  This is a job for the School Comittee, but also for the media, and eventually, the voters.

    Regards  —  Cliff

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