Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Public Meeting with Senator Osmond

Below are notes from Jay Blain, UEA, and Cindy Carroll, Jordan UniServ from the meeting with Senator Osmond last night.  It was inspiring to see the support of UEA members from Davis to Provo and from Tooele to Park City. 

I spoke with Senator Osmond after the meeting.  I thanked him for being willing to listen, told him teachers felt heard, and that if wanted to win over the teachers, he would need to make changes to these proposals so that they will not hurt teachers.  He said he understands that his actions are going to be the proof teachers need to stand behind him. 

Please see the previous post and go to his blog post to make comments publicly.  He is also open to e-mails at


5:30 – 6:30 by invitation only

Senator Osmond stated that the purpose is to get input about the impact before we get into the session.  Clearly there is a feeling of antagonism, we need a partnership, and we need to collaborate.  Superintendent Shumway cited the State of the Union address, “We need to quit making excuses for ineffective teachers.”  He repeated the 3 principles behind the bill.  He also used a landlord tenant analogy mostly to explain the requirement for notice when not renewing a contract. 

Question: Why do we have 3 year for administrators and 5 year limits for teachers if we are asking administrators to make the tough decisions to terminate people?  This will make it difficult to attract and retain administrators.  Also, wouldn’t people just wait for the next principal?  Shouldn’t local boards set the lengths?
Who works harder than someone else?  Teachers are about doing what is best for kids.  Larry Shumway, maybe it is possible to go beyond student achievement.  When we evaluate achievement, whose achievement do we evaluate, student’s or teacher’s?  Many technical issues to overcome.  Senator Osmond, there is a complexness to the collaborative issue that needs to be understood.  We need to address the personal resources that are spent above and beyond time.

Star Orullian described the great relationship and partnership GEA has with Granite School District in remediating and even dismissing struggling teachers.  She is concerned about funding for performance pay especially with other items that are being discussed by Education Interim committee, like tuition tax credits. 
How is this legislation sending a message that we care about kids?  It is sending the wrong message to students that we are trying to recruit to the state as teachers.  I don’t want to work with an ineffective teacher. 

Mike Fraser, Assistant Superintendent from Granite District, backs up what Star Orullian said about partnership with Association.  Granite terminates between 33-60 teachers each year.  Why would we pass legislation to devalue teachers who work so hard to recruit?  Not so long ago we were scratching to recruit any teacher we could.  We try to save them but if we can’t, we cut them loose! 
Account was given of collaboration summit with Superintendent, School Board President, and Association President and it was very positive.  It will be very hard to follow through with it if their hands are tied and it would be a tragedy to backwards because of this legislation.  It is important to trust the experts.

Tom Nedreberg from Tintic reported that his small district let go of 1 or 2 educators over the past couple of years.  In a small district it is very disruptive to have an ineffective teacher so they deal with it.  He recounted an incident of an administrator that ‘went after’ a bus driver inappropriately and a $220,000 suit ensued.
Why would the state stipulate so much?  Let the locals work it out.  This teacher is concerned about situations when choosing between coaching situations.  Will performance pay push people way beyond contract limits when some may have family obligations and other such things that prohibit them from doing such things?  Is teaching going to be a career anymore?

Senator Osmond repeated that his goal is to seek local control and to decentralize.
Vice-President of Murray board, complimented Senator on being here, she is a nurse and she said that it is easier to get rid of a bad teacher than a bad nurse.

McKell Withers, Superintendent of SLCSD, said there no direct line in this legislation to what is good for kids or nothing helpful to get rid of bad teachers.  Could be limiting in obtaining federal grants.  Would there be a tendency to just let a marginal teacher ride to the end of a contract term with no intervention to help the teacher improve?
Concern about the state board creating models for salary schedules.  This is not local control.

Annette Brinkman, GSD, asked, “Are the tools and knowledge there to help teachers and train administrators?  YES, it can be done.”
7:00 open public meeting (about 500 in attendance)

Educators, parents and support professionals filled the Granite District Office board room over capacity with overflow into the hallway.  Attendees were here to listen to Senator Aaron Osmond and Superintendent Larry Shumway answer questions about their proposed Public Education Reform legislation. 

Senator Osmond opened the meeting to say that he and Superintendent Shumway were actually here to listen to the public. Osmond assured teachers that he knows they have not felt heard and that, overtime, they have been frustrated and have felt attacked by the Legislature as a profession and collective body.  He also understands that today’s teachers no longer recommend this profession to future teachers.

Osmond expressed genuine interest in understanding "your [educators’] world".  He said that the “time has passed for antagonism, rhetoric and contention.  It is now time to work together: educators, union leaders, state board and legislature to help our kids.”  

Osmond took ownership that the legislation he is sponsoring is “other than what he is saying about support”, however, he will listen to concerns and act prior to taking this legislation to his colleagues for consideration.  He is not here tonight to tell us what he is "going to do" but, rather to hear and take our concerns to the legislature.  That is his goal. 

 Format:  comments to 1.5 minutes.  Ask a question or express feelings.

 If people are not comfortable in a public setting, please email:


  • Getting rid of professionalism causes teachers to be a “1099 employee.”  No ability to contest wrongful termination or have due process.  If teachers are put "under tow" the rest of the state employees will follow.
  • Alpine teacher: How will performance pay be equitable for elective classes? How is this plan different from other plans that have been tried and failed?   
  • Class size is an issue.  100% of this teacher’s students passed CRTs in a low-income school. “I am successful but this legislation makes me question why I am working in Utah.”  Worry about low-level kids. 
  • Dan Rozanas, Alta High:  Appreciates the openness of the Senator in welcoming teachers. Why does the Legislature, who say they believe in the importance of science in education, not look at research?  In his research, he has found no evidence that proves that collective bargaining is bad for education. If you are saying you are here to help, I don't understand why this legislation is being considered?
  • Baffled by the fact that we can't have collective bargaining.  We have the right to assemble and unionize common ideas.  I’m asking; Senator, why can't "we" have representation? Do not take away my basic rights. I am angry.  Lower class sizes will help get test scores up. I remember who passes legislation that helps and hurts education.
  • Brenda- 37 year teacher - breaks her heart to see what's happening.  My daughter is a teacher and I have told her not to come to Utah to teach. 
  • 30 year educator: This proposed legislation is egregious on many levels and volunteers his voice. Has a son in his junior year at U of U to become a teacher. He is looking at this legislation and is changing his mind about becoming an educator.  Bright teachers will be lost.  Trying to impose a business model on education won’t work.  If it did, children would then become nothing more than commodities at a manufacturing plant.
  • Jordan High - 15 year teacher – as a career educator, this legislation will force him to choosing 5% of salary or to have collective bargaining rights. Loss of orderly termination will cause subjective firing and this will hurt qualification of educators in the URS.  The bill also mandates to local school boards - taking away local control.
  • Shawn Evanson – Canyons School District – told his story as a first year teacher who told a student to "quit acting silly.” The parent heard later from the student "that teacher called me stupid" he fought potential termination as a provisional teachers.  Now, 96% of his science class is testing proficient. I could have lost my job as a first year teacher.  This bill puts teachers in the face of politics.
  • When did teachers become the enemy of society?  (mass applause) Why are we being blamed? Education starts in the home with solid family support.    
  • I am not going to be blamed anymore for failure in the home, Senator!  (Shawn)
  • Every year we have more hits.  
  • This room is full of resources to advise the senator on his bill. This proposal is a distraction to positive education reform. We know better than any legislature what education needs.
  • Sue Dickey, retired teacher: this is the first time a legislator has come in to listen to us, thank you. 
  • The Orderly Termination Act and the due process that allows teachers to be removed from the profession with due process.  Our association advocates support teachers in this process and allow them to to leave the profession with dignity. If administrators are given time and tools to be strong leaders they would be able to evaluate and observe regularly.
  • Salary should be under local control.
  • Parent: first time speaking before a crowd. She “thanks teachers and administration who serve our schools.”  She is a teacher advocate and is so tired of watching school teachers, principals and staff be bullied by the legislature.
  • Teachers can't choose who they teach.
  • A teacher shared the diversity in her classroom, including special needs students, students with difficult home lives, suffering from death, parent imprisonment, students with behavior disorders, etc.  Her question; “Who wants my job?”

Osmond shared the pervasive nature that we are not meeting the needs of a global economy. How can we reinforce local control? Should we create an environment of no expectation of continued employment?  He stated, “After listening, I get why our bill will not get us where we want to go.  We need to work in partnership to resolve our problems.”  Superintendent Shumway spoke about performance pay.  He said the creation of a merit pay plan should be allowed on a local level and not on a legislative level.

·         Vice principal said he was “let go” from a former district because he had not reached tenure. Is now very successful in another district.

·         Disabled teacher thanks the Granite Education Association for the support she has received in her work and classroom.  She teaches World History.  She said, comparing the United States to other nations is not equitable.  It is false that the US is falling behind other nations educationally.  In other countries, schools choose who they teach.  The only choose the cream of the crop – here in the U.S. we teach all children.

·         Without collective bargaining then voice of teachers is not heard. I am proud to be a teacher among so many who “talk and walk” what they believe.
  • Heidi Matthews, Park City educator:  looking at your legislation from an education model and what is missing is the objective of your bill, the end game. She challenged the legislature to draft reform from an education model and not a business model.
  • Sandra Darrington: a 1st grade teacher, advocates for children every day.  This legislation has the potential of asking a teacher to choose between family and student. She shed tears for the art and love of teaching.
  • Bring back the honor in teaching. 
  • Connie Anderson, West High teacher and member of the SLC school board. Put the focus on what a good teacher looks like and not on the bad.
  • Legislating something just to see if it works is backward. Use early retirement incentives to move senior teachers out of the schools if career status is the issue.
  • Patrick, bus driver in Canyons School District:  How will you create performance pay for a bus driver?
·         Rebecca Bracken, Canyons District: The more legislation that downgrades education,the less freedom teachers have and the less beneficial I am as a teacher. NCLB, hurts special need children.  I adopted four special needs children.  Her daughter at 14 years old made the statement that, under NCLB, “No one will want us.”  The gifts that special needs children bring are lost in the search for success and rigor.

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