Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I’m writing in response to Ken Johnson’s letter where he suggests, “Teachers are ready to strike in Manteca”. His letter refers to certain negotiated terms (not yet finalized) between Manteca Unified School District administrators and Manteca Educators Association representatives which clearly concern him.
Everyone is entitled to express his/her opinion on any subject, but it is certainly helpful if writers adhere to standards of truth and don’t sink to misleading statements and manipulation. Mr. Johnson’s letter, although filled with statistics, does contain some, to put it in the kindest terms, “inaccuracies”. He claims “teachers proposed smaller class sizes, more nurses, counselors at our elementary schools, and pay that will keep our teachers here. And the district rejected all of it”. “All of it”? Seriously? I am honestly amazed that he chooses to so boldly assert this as if it were indeed true. Yet, it is not. The school board, over the last several months, has tentatively approved funding a pilot program for counselors at several elementary campuses (the budget is not yet finalized) and has agreed to continue to accelerate the rate of class size reduction in kindergarten, while simultaneously approving funds for part-time instructional aides in those classrooms. I’m not sure about the nurses’ issue, but two of the four assertions he made about the district’s stances are incorrect. Additionally, the last, teacher pay, is a subjective matter. It is debatable what one interprets as an acceptable salary or raise.
I respect teachers and the many challenges they face in their profession. I want them to have a decent, fair wage. But I can’t condone tactics that manipulate and use the negative “us” against “them” mentality or the more extreme “good versus evil”. That damages the morale of the district, encourages negativity and mistrust among teachers, and can filter down to affect students, especially with a threatened strike. A strike obviously hurts both the district and the teachers, but the unfortunate collateral damage is to the students. Temporary or rotating substitutes and upheavals in the classroom do not provide an effective, productive learning environment for our students. I hope that teachers, who I believe chose their career because of their love of learning and teaching students, remember what a strike can actually do. It is not always easy to blithely pick up the pieces and recover from the impact.
It is disturbing to read how Johnson derisively labels administrators as “district big wigs” in order to stoke the “bad bosses” and “victimized employees” narrative. Johnson has presented arguments that bolster his perspective, but district representatives can’t counter with a rebuttal because salary negotiations are not allowed to be discussed publicly. So his representations are decidedly one-sided and don’t give us the full picture. To callously spew that district administrators “sit in a district office and plot how to take advantage of teachers” is highly irresponsible. District administrators, like teachers and other district employees, have names, lives, and families. To defame them as a convenient tactic for more money and to drum up public support not only damages their reputations and that of the district in the short-term, but can also cause long-term harm by undermining public confidence in MUSD. The corrosive acid of a poisoned pen not only burns, it scars.
We all have our challenges and disagreements, but I hope the teacher salary issue can be settled in a calm and clear manner, without resorting to the “pitchforks and torches” “let’s rouse the angry mob” approach.