Sunday, May 6, 2007

Lessons Learned from Colton

Our school board members should read this!!!!

In Saturday's Sun, Colton school board member Marge Mendoza-Ware discussed the lessons she learned from the crisis in Colton. We are impressed. Her words should be required reading for all school board members, especially ours.

Here's her letter:

If we learn from our mistakes, then our mistakes may very well be worth the pain. If we share with others the lessons we learn and they take heed of those lessons, then we can see the fruit of our labor.

As a school board member for the Colton Joint Unified School District, I recently made some mistakes. It is my hope that school board members and administrators in other school districts will benefit from what I have learned..

• Lesson No. 1: Play fair. Do not insult your teachers by making a ridiculously low first offer.

• Lesson No. 2: Listen to your teachers. They are not trying to break the bank–they understand that if the bank is broken, they won't have a job.

• Lesson No. 3: Listen to your parents. Parents in the CJUSD wanted the district to dig deep and compensate the teachers with as much as we could.

• Lesson No. 4: Communicate openly, honestly and frequently with all stakeholders: teachers, parents, administrators and classified staff. Above all, be absolutely sure you are making your best possible offer.

• Lesson No. 5: Broken relationships are much harder to mend than those that remained honest and respectful. Do not let negotiations become a battle of us vs. them. If you do, your students will lose.

• Lesson No. 6: Your students are aware, and they are watching. They love their teachers and want the to be in the classroom, undistracted and ready to teach.

• Lesson No. 7: Visit your schools as frequently as possible.

• Lesson No 8: Remember your job is to facilitate the best possible education for your students. Having happy, well-compensated teachers and classified staff who feel you support their efforst is the quickest way to happy, well-educated students.

County Schools Superintendent Herb Fischer once told me about a time in his career when he thought he was absolutely correct in a position he had taken until one day he heard another side of the issue he had not considered. The argument was so compelling that he changed his position. I have always respected him for sharing that story.

I hope somewhere in my lesson you, too, will listen with an open mind, and if you have heard a compelling argument, you will change your position.

Jim, Patty, Sue, and Joyella - SHE'S SPEAKING TO YOU!!!!


Anonymous said...

Truer words have never been written. It's far, far past time to end the gamesmanship and make a fair, honest offer to the teachers. The future of our children is at stake. Yucaipa is on the verge of becoming the laughingstock of the Inland Empire. We need to stop treating teachers as political pawns, and treat them like the professionals they are. Stop the Madness!

Anonymous said...

There are some profound realizations in this letter. I applaud the writer for having the honesty and courage to publicly admit being wrong, but having the decency to search her own soul and learn something from the experience.

The question is, do our district leaders possess these same personality strengths? The next two weeks may be highly instructive.

Anonymous said...

There is an excellent article regarding our situation in the Press Enterprise. I am most interested in knowing what Patty meant by "Thinking outside of the box". If this means offering a pittance above their current offer, or tying their offer to a greatly reduced cost (loss of retro pay), this will be our signal that nothing has changed. It is time for the board to deal with us honestly, and not continue with their lies and patronizing. If we show weakness now, we will lose again next year! (and beyond)

Anonymous said...

Hey wow, this site is not blocked at the YHS computer lab; but it is blocked from my classroom computer. Oddly, I can still access all district propaganda from my workstation.

Anonymous said...

Teachers continue to be in heavy demand nationwide. This means that there are other districts that may be willing to pay more than Yucaipa. FOr more on the National Trend, see: