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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Seattle Times editors are dead wrong again

The Seattle Times ran an editorial today on the kerfuffle over the letter to the teachers. The Times editors made their first mistake in the lead sentence.

They wrote:
"Seattle school district officials followed Washington state law by notifying teachers of a proposed one-day reduction in the length of next year's contract."


But the District officials did NOT follow the law (RCW 28A.405.210). The law requires that:
"Such notice shall be served upon the employee personally, or by certified or registered mail, or by leaving a copy of the notice at the house of his or her usual abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then resident therein."


As we know, these notifications were sent through the regular first class mail. Every single one of these nonrenewals could be easily and successfully appealed on the basis of faulty notification alone.

The Times editors are not lawyers, but they should be journalists enough to check their facts. Before they claim that the District followed the law, they should at least read the law.

Second, the offer to re-hire the teachers to a contract with terms that were not negotiated with the teachers' collective bargaining representatives is another violation of state law - not to mention federal labor law.

Why can't the Times ever admit any flaw in their Golden Child, Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson? She is generally pretty good, she often says the right thing, but she is not infallible. Their insistance that she be perfect is too high a standard for credibility or for her to maintain. They are setting her up for a fall, but that is the media's bread and butter. They create heroes so they can tear them down.

17 comments:

SolvayGirl said...

That's why I refuse to subscribe to The Times now that the PI is gone (that and the fact that they endorsed GWB in 2000).

WV: surities — what The Times needs to have more of?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I read the editorial with some disbelief. Is this the same group that rationally stated last week why the Board should go slow on the math adoption? I'm with Charlie; what is it that the Times has with Dr. Goodloe-Johnson? Or is it just unions?

There was also an article in the Times today where a union offical summed it up:

"The issue is bigger than should we or should we not give up a day," Bafia said. "The issue is that there's a process of negotiation that we're supposed to follow."

The union isn't even arguing about the day. They can't because they know they have even taken the issue to a vote of their membership (as they should). It's about a LEGAL process. One is how teachers are notified of issues by the district and the other is how the district can communicate with union members.

Now, the question is - if the district said they had to notify teachers by May 15th, then what should have been the process? There's an RCW for that as Charlie points out.

What is really distressing is how the editorial makes it sound like Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is being personally attacked. She oversees the people who work for her and, I assume, the buck stops with her. She signed the letter.

The editorial claims that the union is being "purposely obtuse" about the letter's intent. Okay, let's examine that. Either the letter was sent out in knowing violation of the law (which would be an intent to possibly intimidate teachers) or it was a gross error (both in sending it AND in the language used in the letter) which means there are some people working at the district who might not be very good at their jobs.

It's hilarious because the Times points out fault after fault and then calls them "missteps" even going so far as to blame the lawyers in protecting Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. Are you kidding? If the district's own lawyers can't be trusted to write a simple letter, then we're all in trouble.

Lastly, I'm with Charlie - if the Times can't at least try to fact check and realize that the district did not do what is legally obligated by them (both by simple law and by a collective bargaining agreement that they signed), then the Times can't be taken very seriously.

Unknown said...

From some of the media coverage, it appears that not everyone is aware of the layoffs in Seattle. I am not sure how many there have been, but I know that several months ago SSD informed new teachers from out of district, that they would not be "renewed" no matter how positive the principal evaluation was. In a normal year, new teachers who had had a satisfactory first year would be offered another contract. Two staff in my (small) building got these letters. Obviously, both are looking for jobs elsewhere.

In addition, I believe that another round of RIF's is due out today. I think they go in the mail before the end of the day. Presumably the district will not screw up this notification by sending it normal delivery...

I believe principals are being told today who those staff are. I have no idea how many staff are going to be affected, but I assume not a catastrophic number.

Anyone know somebody they can ask about how many will be RIF'ed?

Charlie Mas said...

The Seattle Times editorial staff has replied to an effort to correct their lead sentence by saying that the District sent the letter first by regular mail and that they will follow up with the same letters by certified mail later to satisfy the requirements of the law. The editorial writer said this is how the District does it - sending one letter by regular post to meet the deadline requirement of the law and a second letter by certified mail to meet the delivery requirements of the law.

I contend first that the District's track record on statements about what they are going to do doesn't encourage confidence. Second, the sentence is still wrong in that it should have been written in future tense rather than past tense.

Teachermom said...

Funny, I just received my letter as I was reading the blog. If this is a mistake, then it is an $18,282+ mistake, because if you calculate the postage alone on my letter ($5.54) times 3300 staff, that's what you get. Plus the staff time to create the mailing, and the stationery it was printed on.......

Unknown said...

My letter was 39 cents. Did you get a registered mail one?

Mr. Edelman said...

When it comes to education in Seattle, the Seattle Times is usually wrong. For example, this appeared in a recent article:

"The Seattle district, the state's largest, will avoid teacher layoffs by drawing on cash reserves and other cuts, and it has frozen new hires. The district's teaching force will shrink, however, because as teachers retire, their jobs won't be filled." [my emphasis]

Actually, teachers are receiving RIF notices today. Four in our building received them today, including me. So, it's not true that Seattle "will avoid teacher layoffs."

I've known this could happen since November. So my family is as prepared as it can be. I'm ready to move on, if need be.

suep. said...

More on this from Goldy at HorsesAss (http://horsesass.org/):

Times to teachers: drop dead
by Goldy, 05/12/2009, 9:37 AM

So, let’s say, a few years back, Joni Balter refinanced her house. She got a good, 30-year fixed rate, not one of those adjustable, sub-prime, pieces of crap, but today she gets a letter from the bank telling her that, you know, times are tough, profits are down, and they didn’t do so well on that stress test thing, so, sorry… that 6-percent mortgage we agreed on? We’re canceling that, and your new 7-percent mortgage starts next month. Have a nice a day.

Or imagine you’re Kate Riley, and you just leased yourself a fancy new Cadillac Escalade, but GM, well, they’re struggling just to make it through the end of the month, so they deliver a Chevy Malibu instead. But the $800/month lease payment? That stays the same. Oops… sorry.

Or let’s say you’re Frank Blethen, and you’ve got $70 million in loans coming due the end of the year… only the bank now says, on second thought, we need that money today. (You know, tough times, stress test, and all that.) And if you can’t afford to pay up right now, that’s okay, we’ll just take your family newspaper and your real estate holdings and we’ll liquidate them at auction. C’est la vie.

Yeah, just imagine the howls of righteous outrage we’d hear from the Seattle Times editorial board should anybody unilaterally rewrite a legally binding contract on them. A contract is a contract is a contract, after all. Unless, of course, it’s signed between an employer and a labor union.

The letter from Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson states the district cannot renew the 182-day contract, but can offer a 181-day contract. Information on how to appeal the proposal is included.

Response by the teachers union, the Seattle Education Association, has been unhelpful and destructive. Union leaders are being purposely obtuse about the letter’s intent, even threatening legal action.

This strategy of killing the message by maligning the messenger shouldn’t work. This issue is less about the superintendent and more about tough state budget cuts.

Indeed, the letter could have been more artfully written…

(see HA for rest of post and comments)

suep. said...

Oops-- this part is from the Times, not Goldy:

"The letter from Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson states the district cannot renew the 182-day contract, but can offer a 181-day contract. Information on how to appeal the proposal is included.

Response by the teachers union, the Seattle Education Association, has been unhelpful and destructive. Union leaders are being purposely obtuse about the letter’s intent, even threatening legal action.

This strategy of killing the message by maligning the messenger shouldn’t work. This issue is less about the superintendent and more about tough state budget cuts.

Indeed, the letter could have been more artfully written…"

ParentofThree said...

LA Teacher, I am very sorry that you lost your job today.

Mr. Edelman said...

Thanks, SPSMom. We'll see what happens next.

Rose M said...

LA Warehouse, I am sorry that you got a RIF notice today. I know a 1st year teacher who got one. Do you know how far back they are reaching?

Mr. Edelman said...

Rose M, I don't know how deep this goes. I'm in my second year of teaching in public schools. (My private school and college teaching experiences don't count.)

seattle citizen said...

LA Teacher's Warehouse,
I'm sooo saddened by your news.
You are most eloquent here; your evident intelligence will be sorely missed in SPS, I'm sure, if there is no rehire come fall...

Mr. Edelman said...

Thank you, Seattle Citizen.

Rose M, the P-I is reporting that an LA teacher at McClure with 5 years of experience was RIF'd. That doesn't mean, of course, that all teachers with that much experience are getting RIF'd.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's an interesting little tidbit of information:

The District has a web site for their labor negotiations. On it they show all of the proposals that they have made to the SEA in the negotiations and all of the proposals that the SEA has made.

The reduction in workdays from 182 to 181 is not among the District's proposals. They are not even trying to negotiate this.

Rose M said...

SEA has a RIF page up on their site. Including the relevant part of their current contract. Evidently RIFs are contained with in grade level & subject area categories. So a 2nd year Kindergarten teacher could keep their job while a 2nd year 3rd grade teacher or a 5th year English teacher could loose theirs.

There is also information about contesting, applying for unemployment, upcoming informational meetings, etc, that could be helpful to our friends who are receiving notices.

Contract link http://www.seattlewea.org/static_content/contracts/contracts/Cert%20CBA/CertCBAArt12.htm#117