Sunday, May 27, 2012

From the Association perspective . . .

I asked Scott to share his thoughts on the collaboration conference.  It is timely considering a comment to my recent post that suggests our system is not as collaborative as I want to think. 

I am a teacher in your buildings who believes you need to take a better look at the so called "collaboration" that happens here in Tahoma. From what I have seen from the collaboration in your department is a joke. They gather people together under the facade of collaboration. To hear opinions, when decisions have already been made and then when you do question or give your opinion your are told you are not a team player! How is that fair? The collaboration you speak of is a House of Cards.

I am both concerned and saddened by the comment, but pleased that the writer was willing to share.  Without more context I would only be assuming the experience(s) that have led to this mental model, but I believe that they have been outside our work with the bargaining units.  Below are Scott's comments based on his work in our system over time and his experiences with leaders from Associations in our region and state.  I'll look at the possibility of pursuing the previous comment at a later time.

The 2012 Labor Management Collaboration Conference was a unique experience for our team (Mike, Mark, Didem, and myself). The biggest take away for me was the validation that the culture that we have created in Tahoma around collaboration is ahead of the times and is a model that I believe many of the districts in attendance are working to achieve. In my conversations with other districts at this conference and in our own state, I am proud to be able to share the uniqueness of our relationships between TEA, TSD, and the school board. It is an honor to work in a district that respects each other, the differences we bring to the table, and places the success of students in the middle of the table.

The conference itself had numerous highlights for me and I would like to share two that will have me reflecting over the next several weeks.

1) Sullivan County Department of Education in Tennessee-I spent a good deal of time talking to this district, since they were right next to our booth. It was interesting learning the hardships of not having collective bargaining and how this affects their rights as workers. In addition to this, they are struggling with new evaluation model in which principals are being criticized for their lack of visibility in the school and a huge impact of the written portion that is taking an extraordinary amount of time outside of the school day. It concerns me because I see these being two major hurdles that we will face in Tahoma. How will our professional learning communities be affected by the amount of time our principals will be doing several observations on all of their staff members? The last point from Tennessee that I took away was how tests scores are used in the overall rating of a teacher. Test scores count for 50% of their evaluation. In Washington state, student data has to be used in 3 of the 8 categories in our new model. Fortunately, local districts have autonomy over which data to use and how. TEA and TSD will be having these conversations over the next few months as work collaboratively to make the model work for Tahoma.

2) Effective Techniques That Support Collaborative Bargaining- in this breakout session put on by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, I was left with some new thinking regarding bargaining and also felt validated once again about our work in Tahoma. The speakers of this session spoke about the importance of interest based bargaining and that it takes a lot of work for it to work effectively. They talked about how there can be no non-negotiables in interest based bargaining and that you have to go into bargaining willing to discuss anything. They shared the importance of having the president of the association and the superintendent at the bargaining table for negotiations (which is not common practice in most districts). I feel very validated in our work in Tahoma based of these thoughts. My new thinking comes with my desire to improve our interest based model. We call what we do inTahoma interest based but it is a hybrid that includes some positional moves during the negotiation process. We have worked several times in the past to start in this fashion but as we get deeper into the process, the interest based principles can get lost to give way to getting to the point and reaching a final tentative agreement.

There were many other highlights I could write about and maybe in a future TEA newsletter I will share those thoughts. The conference overall was a wonderful experience for our team to gain knowledge from others and build on our collaborative efforts through our conversations with each other.


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