Email letters, October 31,  2013

Union members just want to make decent wage

I have been reading in The Daily Sentinel the last couple of weeks about the teachers’ union and the curriculum being taught. I don’t believe the union picks what is to be taught or how it’s taught, although I might be wrong,

It’s the state standards that are required or it was when I was in school, so the state standards must be what needs to change.

As far as pay, I am a union plumber, and if you want to pay me more, feel free. I don’t think the union will stop you. We have negotiation for pay every three years, and we’re not out to break the bank. We are, however, trying to make a decent living and make our contractors money to keep them in business. So, with all the anti-union going on out there, please be aware of who’s teaching what.

CURT CLAUSSEN
Grand Junction

Education is still defined by trust and respect, not numbers and percentiles

If only there could be a recall without the cost and aggravation for a preponderance of ignorance!  Seems at least one board member doesn’t understand Senate Bill 191 and its tenure language?  I’m sure there are dozens of pay scales that are worth investigating since history will show that professional educators in District 51 have been below average or at the bottom for salary scales with similar districts when surveys have been conducted over the years.

Now the “idea” is to take certain subject matter teachers and pay them more than others?  Professional educators provide general education to students with much more at stake than their subject matter, test scores, and percentiles. Experience tells us many kids credit a music, band, tech ed, or even a physical ed. teacher for a foundation of success they enjoy today. Public education is for the masses and every teacher, counselor, support staff member and administrator plays an important role in the well-rounded educational experience of a student. Not every kid is a physics, math, or science student; nor are they all college bound.

Selling the “pay scale must go” based on a layman’s “idea” for school reform is ludicrous. And in response to Ann Tisue’s question, “How do you attract teachers when you’ve got a single salary schedule?”  You develop a salary schedule that is competitive with other similar districts and you recruit them to District 51!  That is how you get the best teachers whether they teach physics or physical education. It isn’t rocket science!

Leany is dead wrong if he believes teachers are “terrified” of tenure. Teachers have always embraced professional development and in most cases have pursued those courses on their own time and dime. That in itself does not ensure that all teachers are going to be good ones, but I don’t know of any teacher that wants to be a bad one!

The bottom line is education is still defined by the development of relationships, trust, and respect not numbers and percentiles. This obsession with the comparison of test scores and grade level achievement is detrimental to the success stories over decades when kids and/or parents didn’t have a clue as to what they scored on a standardized test nor did they care.

As Hillary Clinton stated, “it takes a village to raise a child.”  We can only hope it is not a village idiot.

STEVE PHILLIPS
Grand Junction

Why do well-paid legislators get subsidized plans?

IF it’s so “affordable,” why do the people that make between $174,000 and $223,500 need to have their plans subsidized?

Senate Leadership
Majority Party Leader - $193,400
Minority Party Leader - $193,400

House Leadership

Speaker of the House - $223,500
Majority Leader - $193,400
Minority Leader - $193,400

The current salary (2013) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year.

DREW DICKEY
Clifton

Support Amendment 66 and Parrish, Williams and Mikolai
 
I write regarding your article concerning the desire of school board members Jeff Leany and Ann Tisue to bash and smash the Mesa Valley Education Association, as well as those over-paid, under-performing, non-right-thinking teachers, with the aid of our Mesa Republican Party’s triad of designees, who shall substitute them instead with only those teachers whom this reconstituted politicized board may approve.

Just a few years ago, teaching was lauded as a noble profession requiring greater remuneration and respect, one to which our children should aspire. Most recently, our Supreme Court ruled in the Lobato school finance appeal that Colorado had no obligation to alter its funding system.
Despite the current hype that “not one more cent” need go to education because “they” already receive too much, Google “Colorado school funding rank” to obtain actual data and the national consensus: Colorado has been in the bottom of the barrel for years. That is what Amendment 66 is about.

Now, regarding Leany & Company’s promise to unleash the same divisiveness recently demonstrated nationwide by ideological excesses, if unfettered in our community, they may cause the shuttering of our schools and sufficient acrimony to last us all for years.

And where are our children in all of this?  When you attack the teachers’ union, you are [ITAL] de facto {ITAL] attacking those very children. The teachers just want representation at the table in a collaborative effort with the board to better our schools.

Please independently reconsider and change your support to Tom Parrish, John Williams and Greg Mikolai for our school board, as well as for Amendment 66. This may require you to do some research on your own, instead of being told. And when you do, thank your teachers for yet having this ability. They are anything but your enemy.

ROY K. FARBER
Grand Junction

Leany’s attitude toward union unwise for directing public entity

To compare District 51 to cash-rich Douglas County is like comparing GJHS football to the Denver Broncos. Jeff Leany, a Grand Junction businessman, is the same “businessman” who a few months ago I heard at an ACA information meeting hosted by Mesa County Patriots at City Hall. He was boasting how he was dissecting his business operations each to be small enough so he never has to supply health insurance for them. A real “American Patriot Employer” he is, for sure.

This is the kind of attitude he will bring to the District 51 school board if his endorsed candidate(s) is/are elected. The thinking of Leany, and possibly of other District 51 board members, is, “Bust the union (association).”  This kind of thinking has, in the past, resulted in the need for unions in the first place. Remember this: The end is served by the means.

Some of us with the proverbial “born with the silver spoon in your mouth” lifestyle need to be careful and not fall victim to another proverbial saying, “Don’t get too caught in believing your own PR.” This especially applies when directing a public entity.

ROBERT WEIFFENBACH
Grand Junction

More spending doesn’t fix all of our educational problems

Have you ever noticed that the first to support higher taxes and government spending are the people who spend the money, our elected officials?  I don’t believe an increase-tax-and-spend mentality and representing the voters (working American families) are compatible.

Why is it that our representatives believe the answer of any issue is to spend our way through it? The truth is that money does not fix all problems. If it did, we should have the smartest kids on earth since we spend more on education than any other country. However, our educational ranking has gone down over time.

Maybe there is another approach other than throwing good money after bad. I don’t believe our representatives have any solutions other than to throw more money at problems. I wonder if our representatives had to spend their own money, instead of ours, just how quickly the spending would cease.

We have taken the approach that money is the icing to cover a stale cake. We should get back to the basics. If the cake is good, who needs icing?

RANDY LITWILLER
Crawford

Board candidates need reality check on what occurs in classrooms

In all of the literature about the current and potential school board candidates, there is never a mention of how much, if any, time each has spent in a classroom as a volunteer, aide or observer. If they did spend a prolonged period in a classroom, they might be more aware of what actually occurs.

Maybe they would get an opportunity to find out some of the problems a student brings to school which create a distraction to concentration on the lessons. Examples: no food in the home, parental loss of employment, homeless, poor home environment, and many more.

They might find that some parents do not send their children to school with specific instructions to pay attention, listen to the teacher, follow directions and have respect for everyone. By volunteering in the classroom, one can learn that some parents do not provide their child with help to improve in subjects the child is finding difficult. Some individuals can’t handle one child but expect a teacher to handle 20-30 in a classroom.

Thus, my recommendation: All candidates for the school board should be required to spend at least a year volunteering in classrooms across the district. Maybe then they would be better able to decide what is best for the students and if they would do the teacher’s job for the same amount of money the teacher is being paid.

NANCY H. MILLER
Grand Junction
 
Leany, Tisue need to gain reliable information about schools

I read with interest the article in the Wednesday paper concerning Leany’s comments about getting rid of the union. I read at the end of the article about how he wants to change curricula, especially the Common Core Standards. My guess is he has no idea of how those came about or the expertise that was involved in writing them. The people that contributed to those have far more experience and education than Leany could hope to possess.

He also commented on how he wants to get rid of the new district-wide math program that was implemented in District 51. I am a math teacher and have used Investigations since its conception over 20 years ago, so it is not something that is just new. It is a program that teaches students to think about math concepts and to have a deeper understanding of what they are doing.

No, it is not the way Leany was taught or the way I learned math; all I can say is thank goodness it is not the way it used to be. It is about understanding there are multiple ways to solve an equation, not the standard algorithm he and I were taught.

When I teach lessons, we talk about how they arrived at the answer and that there are multiple ways to arrive at the answer. If builders came to build you a new house and all they brought were hammers, that would be a problem. They need to have multiple tools in their toolboxes to complete the house.

The same things holds true for math. If you have multiple “tools” in your “math tool box,” then you can use a different strategy when one is not working for you. Or, to put it into simpler terms, I would not want to go to a doctor that was practicing the same skills or tools that were used 50 years ago.

I am confused as to why that would be a bad thing for children to learn and understand what they are doing, rather than just doing a process you are told but never really deeply understand.

Perhaps is would be a wise thing for Leany and Tisue to gain some reliable information about what is going on in schools. Or better yet maybe, just maybe, they should leave some things up to people who do know what they are doing and have far more expertise than they do.

CHRISTINA HOBBS

Grand Junction
 
Leany seems to have personal agenda for public schools

Are you kidding me? Egocentric, megalomaniac, pretentious and pompous are a few words that came to mind after reading the front-page article about Jeff Leany’s personal agenda for our school system.

Our school district serves thousands of individual students, countless families and it employees hundreds of educated professionals on many levels. Naivity and ignorance are the only reasons I can think of for why an individual might truly feel he or she has personally discovered all the answers to the ever-evolving, complex problems of public education, complicated further by the numerous interacting parties involved, and simply need the right followers to make his or her plan a success.

Public schools are not a place for personal agendas. They are not a place for inflated egos, and they are not a place for narrow visions or limited insightfulness. They are a place for collaboration, thoughtfulness and critical
thinking surrounding the aggregate of a variety of experiences, and the school board should be no different. It should be a place for synergy, not singularity.

Additionally, I feel very put off by Leany’s many contradictory statements. On one hand, he’s for innovation and on the other he claims the “...new junk isn’t cutting it” and “we need to take it back to the basics.” He wants to empower teachers but destroy the teachers’ union,
composed of 900 teachers.

If Leany is truly interested in innovation, I suggest he study the concept of worldview literacy. People tend to achieve their highest potential when they are willing and able to understand other perspectives and new perspectives.

Many groups and community members have spoken out against Leany’s ideas, which align with Douglas RE1, a giant mess. Regardless, he wants to recklessly “charge forward with his ideas for local education…” (The Daily Sentinel, Oct. 30).

JESSICA MULVEY
Grand Junction
Leany’s tactics are a turn-off

Although at times Jeff Leany touches on topics that are interesting, such as redesigning teacher pay, his bullying tactics turn me off. As a teacher, I’m not terrified of any new idea. Many of my colleagues and I entered our profession because we love exploring new ideas.

Leany makes it clear he wants to nullify a contract signed in good faith. This disturbs me as a citizen. As a teacher, I’m concerned about his attitude toward education.

Leany said he would move our district away from the nationwide Common Core Standards. I’m sure as a school board member he has done the research and knows the many complications this might cause, so I would just ask him
one ideological question. If the Common Core Standards raise the bar of what students need to know and do, why wouldn’t he support it?

He’s stated that our graduates are not ready for the workforce, let alone college. If we as a community expected more of our children and they indeed rise to meet
those expectations, is that really a bad proposal?

Leany again puts himself above educators and curriculum specialists that study the findings of experts and how children learn. His selection of social studies books he wanted adopted by our board should have forewarned us. Now it’s the math program.

Leany would have us get rid of the “junk” curriculum and take us “back to the basics.” In my day, I know the basics weren’t what many students needed, myself included. Our district’s curriculum teaches students to be mathematicians who find the answers, not robots that simply spit them out.

As a member of our school board, I would think Leany would understand his attitude influences not only his friends, but also students. What should teachers say to the child who comes to us saying, “Why do I have to do this anyway? Its just junk!”

As I’ve listened to Leany speak about our district, I’ve come to think of him as Dr. Suess’ character, The Grinch. For two years, I thought perhaps his heart would grow towards the education of the students in our valley, but I’m still waiting.

KEVIN HARDY
Grand Junction

Leave name of Washington Redskins as it is

Eighty-one years ago the Washington Redskins football team was formed. Not once was their name used in a malicious manner to degrade the Indian culture.

A short while back an east coast sports reporter decided that their name was racist or offensive. Our media and a small minority jumped on the bandwagon and it has gotten out of hand.

Is not the Bronco logo offensive to all of the domestic horses, implying that all equines are wild, steam blowing animals? I am sure that if properly polled, our horse owners would agree. Does not the Raider logo imply that everyone in Oakland is a marauding outlaw? Kansas City Chiefs don’t recognize the not non-ruling class of the Indian Culture. Somehow the Cleveland Browns name should be offensive to our Hispanic friends.

To please all of our vocal minorities who are looking so hard to find something wrong and are going to force the rest of us to be politically correct, do we need to rename to “The Denver Football Team, The Oakland Football Team, The Kansas City Football Team”? By using the city name, we might offend someone else, so maybe it should be the “Colorado Football Team, etc”.

Our vocal minorities are sure searching hard to find something to complain about. Did our Constitution guarantee that no one will ever be offended, no matter how badly they want to be?

JAMES ELSBERRY
Grand Junction

Sentinel writer seems biased in favor of teachers’ unions

The Sentinel’s education writer has me upset by a lack of reporting balance regarding the current school board elections.

This became obvious when the front-page article on the teachers’ “association” with the school district never used the words “union” or “union contract’.” (You will find this contract online through both the district’s and union’s website, a fact that should have been included in the article).

The contract includes pay, benefits and breaks (planning time is breaks from the classroom). Absent are professional education goals and the means to measure progress to these goals. This is a labor union Contract, not a professional agreement. When the local teachers union walked off in October 1973, it was about pay, as reiterated by members in a 2112 historical society presentation.

In other articles board candidates open to reform and their supporters are headlined as conspiratorial outsiders. So, why is the most liberal Colorado newspaper (The Denver Post) endorsing all the reform candidates, including three Republicans for Metro area school boards? The status quo throughout our country is unacceptable to many, and the power of teachers unions is seen as a major obstacle to reform.

My first transfer from overseas took me to New York City just as the teachers’ strike was ending in 1969. The mayor had tried to intervene on behalf of a poor district in Brooklyn with the school board and union to improve teacher assignments there. He failed, he lost the next election and the teachers’ union got stronger. When the media pointed out to the union head that union actions harmed some children’s education, he responded that when the children start paying union dues he will start worrying about their education. Four decades later, reforms are finally arriving after the current mayor wrested control from the union and the “selected” school board.

I wish the Sentinel education writer would have delved into the relationship with the state, national and local teachers’ union. The state headquarters is known to have hosted Democratic party multimillionaire fundraisers for state and national candidates. The national party head said at their July meeting that their immediate goal is to organize against all education reforms.

So, I would like to see the paper dig out more information on these labor organizations, and it will be found that the “elephant in the room” in education is not the Republicans but the teachers’ union itself.

ROLAND REYNOLDS

Grand Junction



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