Greenburg: it’s time for the Scottsdale Education Association to have a seat at the table

It is certainly no secret that Scottsdale Unified School District has been in turmoil for the past 2.5 years (if not longer).

Jann-Michael Greenburg

Despite extremely depressed public education funding, stagnant wages, rampant corruption, declining student enrollment, and so many other problems, our Governing Board members determined that such chaos and poor judgment was simply not enough: they had to actively alienate and undermine our district’s workforce as well.

Doing so was easy: they simply put a complete end to the district’s decades-long tradition of collective bargaining with the Scottsdale Education Association, our teachers’ choice for representation, and no longer worked with it on any projects or took its views into account when making decisions. It does not take long to realize the consequences of this direction have been dire.

For SUSD, recognizing the SEA once again and giving them a seat at the table would not only be a big first step to rebuilding the community’s trust, it would be a big first step in showing our hard-working educators that our community does respect them and recognizes their expertise and their needs. Recognizing the SEA does not make the district pro-union, but summarily dismissing it from the table when there is no viable mechanism to work with our teachers does make the district stupid.

The mechanism — if there is a legitimate argument to saying there even is one — that was put in place to work around the SEA is not effective, and we must be able to work with our teachers as partners. The teachers are not the problem. The board is the problem. And, that problem will hopefully be fixed in this election cycle.

Recognizing and working with the SEA, or any organization that the teachers want to be their collective voice, opens up an important resource for the Governing Board in making decisions — the teachers who work with our children every single day and know them in an academic and social context just as well if not better than their parents – and does so in an efficient way: a one-stop shop for gathering important decision-making information and educator input.

What else is our district supposed to do? Hold meetings with every single teacher to hear his or her thoughts? Allow the superintendent to create small committees of teachers to obtain their input and thereby alienating the rest of the teaching workforce?

Given the challenges SUSD faces, it will need an invested workforce that is pro-active in setting goals and implementing the strategies necessary to achieving them. That does mean giving teachers more responsibilities for which they can and will be held accountable — but the SEA is clearly willing to step up and satisfy this role.

Now is not the time to sow more discord, but to find innovative and tested solutions to reversing our District’s current self-destructive path. And, to do so, we will need the help of the people who actually perform our District’s main function: the education of our children.

Editor’s note: Mr. Greenburg is a candidate for the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board this November

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