Letter to the Editor: Enough, AUSD & AEA!

Sarah Olaes, volunteer chair for the Measure E and Measure A parcel tax campaigns and an Otis Elementary School parent, asks the Alameda Unified School District and the Alameda Education Association to take labor negotiations back behind closed doors.

On Thursday, May 17, the Otis PTA hosted an information session between Ms. Kirsten Vital, AUSD Superintendent, and Ms. Gray Harris, Alameda Education Association President. Each party was advocating their positions, which is course is why they were there. However, what struck me during this process is that all this arguing and advocating needs to stop going on in public. During the meeting, and subsequently in writing, I asked both parties to consider stopping everything that is going on in public; basically take the negotiations back behind closed doors.

I am horrified with how these negotiations are being played out in public — Facebook pages, websites, rallies, parent forums, petitions, leafleting outside schools, at the Park Street fair, and at a recent community-based event at the Alameda Theatre, plus private emails from teachers to the parents in their classrooms. This behavior is extremely destructive to the good faith we developed with the parents and community during the parcel tax elections.

There are two reasons I asked both parties to stop airing all this dirty laundry in public:

1. Galvanizing parents to take sides in negotiations is unhealthy for everyone. Parents should be advocates for their children, not for the teachers or the district in their contract negotiations. On Thursday night and then again on Friday, many parents thanked me for speaking up. They, too, want the public arguing to come to a close and the pressure from teachers to stop. They would like the union and the district to negotiate on their own — professionally and maturely — and keep the community out of it. But many parents are uncomfortable speaking up about it.

2. The community is losing faith in both sides. How will we come back from this fighting? Will the community trust these parties in the future? I don't think so, do you? Measure A's seven years will go by very quickly and before you know it, we will be back before the same voters asking for another parcel tax or for a bond measure for our aging facilities. I have already had people tell me they will never vote for another parcel tax again. That won't be good for teachers, for students or for the district as a whole. The pieces of the pie are getting smaller; the budget is going to get worse, not better. Our schools need the support of our community.

So I am pleading with both sides: take down the Facebook page, take down the part of the district website about negotiations, stop the rallies, stop the parent forums to agitate the parents, stop the leaflets, stop the petitions. Go back behind closed doors like it used to be. The parents are sick and tired of all of this and our students are confused. I know the parties can come to an agreement, but they must do it behind closed doors, not in public.

Ms Vital has agreed to do this if the AEA will do it too. I hope that by Monday, May 21, this all goes quiet. Please, Ms. Harris and Ms. Vital, make it stop.

I know we have our children's best interests at heart. It's the economy that is killing our schools. Let's not make it worse with more bad publicity of our own making.

And before you get ready to attack me in public, please remember this, I want the best for everyone.

Thank you,
Sarah Olaes
Otis Parent/Volunteer
Volunteer Chair Measures E & A

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Sarah Olaes May 21, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Good morning I want to confirm Ms Vital did agree during the meeting to stop all the public dissemination of information. She also came up to me after the meeting in person to state it. I checked in with her this morning as people were emailing me saying they had been told she not agreed. Ms Vital confirmed her agreement again this morning
Alameda Resident May 22, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Amen, Sarah! When I was a kid (different district, long ago) we had a similar situation where the teachers used influence with their students to try to get the community on their side Didn't work; it just ticked off the parents. And it's not working now. From my discussions with fellow parents over the past few months, the actual effect has been to turn parents AGAINST the teachers, who are perceived as being childish in this whole embarrassing situation. It would be in AEF's best interest to agree to take this out of the public eye.
An Alameda teacher May 22, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Sarah, while I thank you for your concern and sharing your thoughts on AUSD and AEA keeping the dialogue private, I must point out the irony of your last post stating you talked with the Superintendent and have been told by her a number of times she would stop going public with comments. If the sup wants the dialogue to be private, why is she sharing it with you? Did she give you permission to share her thoughts when you talked to her this morning? Jack, please search "AEA" on this site. You will see a very specific letter from AEA president Gray Harris that explains why the TA was rejected. Alameda Resident, I am amazed at your younger self's political savvy. It is rare for someone young to be able to see a group's machinations. I must ask you where you have seen AEA target students? You don't mean AEA's website or the petition at the street fair? I'm having trouble connecting those community events and formats to targeting children.
Mark Irons May 22, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Anne, that is a reasonable suggestion, but rather than "inquire" I wish the school board would be a little more proactive. The superintendent does supposedly work at the pleasure of BOE. Their charge is not to micro manage once a hire has been made, but they have gone the opposite direction and some of us are as frustrated with them as others are with the two sides in this negotiation.
Ryan Ward May 24, 2012 at 08:04 AM
couldn't agree more.


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