As Nancy Cooper approached the podium for the first time at a , she said she felt very self-conscious. She said that it made her “nervous” to discuss leaving the one commonality that she shared with a room packed full of her peers at the media center Monday night.
“My individual classrooms are well-supported. It’s the bigger community I see suffering,” she said, referring to negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement which have reached impasse since they began in August 2010. “I never thought I’d say that. I want to get that pride back.”
When the meeting adjourned, Cooper said that she felt like she “had a lot of support in the room” after speaking for the first time as an organizer of (WBFSU), who saw several other members speak for the first time, all wearing signature blue T-shirts to serve as a comparison with the ’s red T-shirts.
Different speakers offer different solutions
Some proposed different ways to get the contract ratified, such as Jeffery Kovacs, who said that he had a daughter working as a member of the West Bloomfield Education Association. “I’ve been negotiating union contracts since 1973, and I can tell everyone here from the (teacher’s union) to (WBFSU) that you don’t have the perspective you need if you haven’t been at the table. This board has been dealt an impossible hand,” he said.
Christy Forhan, a mother of three in the district, said that imposition of a contract offer may prove to be the best option for everyone involved. “Everyone deserves a sense of stability. Imposition gives us a starting point,” she said.
Others presented independent research on proposals made public made by the school district and the Michigan Education Association (MEA) during the negotiation process, research which Laura Mesner said that she had done for the first time after becoming involved with WBFSU. “The MEA is doing a disservice to its members and our kids with this contract … this health care package is, what I would call, a ‘Cadillac,’” said the mother.
The MEA, represented at a local level by the West Bloomfield Education Association (WBEA), was reported by Assistant Superintendent Rick Arnett to have not accepted the district’s contract proposal at the last mediation session March 8. WBEA member and Green Elementary School teacher Angelene Welton spoke at the meeting on behalf of the union: “We try not to bring this to the workplace, but we’re human. The unsettling part is to the point where (imposition) would happen and would be retroactive. To go from receiving a check and to have that cut down … it would throw a lot of people for a loop.”
Board president David Einstandig did not reply to individual queries, as per custom, but did compliment everyone who spoke at the meeting, including parents and teachers.
“It’s about the courage to speak. It’s not just about T-shirts. Anyone who took the microphone to speak, you can tell it took a lot within to get up to that microphone and state how they feel. Whatever the issue is, I applaud that,” he said afterward.