School board, teachers, staff must forge new relationships

Unionized teachers’ rejection of a two-year pay freeze in the Keystone Central School District simply affirms something we already know: Teachers don’t trust the administration-school board, and the relationship between the two has been sour for quite some time.

In its two-part response to the school board about why teachers won’t accept a pay freeze to help alleviate the district’s multi-million dollar budget crisis — we don’t know what dollar deficit figure to use because it’s been a moving target — the union refers back to a pay freeze they accepted a few years back and notes the board at that time simply put the saved money into its reserve fund, “further strengthening an already strong financial position.”

“Decisions made by past administrators and board members are negatively affecting us all and have placed current employees in a position none of us asked to be put in,” the union said this week through President Tom Temple, as reported in The Express yesterday.

This distrust — and the dysfunction that arises out of it — has been symptomatic in Keystone for some time.

Both sides are to blame; after all, fingerpointing doesn’t lend itself to any solutions.

Just look at where we’re at.

The board has given unionized teachers, support staff and secretaries (the instructional and non-instructional administrators would have to follow suit on any decision) an ultimate: Give us a two-year pay freeze or we’ll have to close Dickey Elementary School.

The school board has outlined the elimination of approximately 40 teaching positions and several programs for fiscal 2018-2019.

Sure, the utilitarian option for the Association of Clinton County Educators (ACCE) would be to take the pay freeze because it would save the most jobs.

But then there are those who say Dickey Elementary School is going to close at some point in the near future anyway.

We implore the new school board to embrace the teachers’ union’s offer to “work with the district to look at other options to help reduce costs. We look forward to the opportunity to continue communications with the district in the near future.”

By the way, there’s no evidence of any missing money.

That allegation is going all through social media and — so far as we can surmise — it simply isn’t true.

But just as there is misinformation on social media, there also are voices of reason.

Here’s one in reaction to The Express’ story on the teachers’ union’s response: “If you had attended the recent meeting, you would know an audit was done and there wasn’t a question of missing money. The old administration made some bad calls, programs were funded that we couldn’t afford in the long run, etc. It’s time for people to look at the present issues and how all can help to ensure the children receive the best possible education we have give them. They are the ones being punished.”

Then there’s this: “It sounds like the ACCE is trying to punish or hold something over current board members and administration for past board and admin(istrative) actions. Most of that article is focused on the past. It’s history. Why can’t people put the past behind them, focus on the present situation, and look to the future?”

Folks, all stakeholders must take a close look at the past so we do not make the same mistakes moving forward. Our communities are defined by our schools.

The relationship between teachers and the administration-school board over time has been more “contractual” than “working.”

We demand change.

The greater community of students, parents, families, businesses and institutions within the school district must no longer stand for divided, adversarial management and operation of our public schools … by all involved.