Factions and Subdivisions.
As we near the end of the year, the Teachers’ Union (UTLA) has “stepped up its game” in negotiations. One of the well publicized actions thus far has been the boycott of Faculty Meetings. This SEEMS hugely powerful and rough if you aren’t a teacher. The way it sounds is that teachers simply never show up to meetings called by the administration. A number of smart non-teachers have asked me about exactly that.
“Faculty Meetings” as per the most recent contract, are meetings that principal can call after a “Professional Development Meeting.” The “PD” meetings are pretty much what everyone thinks of as staff meetings. In fact, prior to last year, it was infrequent, if at all, that I had even encountered the idea of a “Faculty meeting” in terms of the actual contract definition. Usually, the meetings are called to discuss things that simply didn’t have time to be covered during the normal hours.
So…in short…the boycott is pretty much about additional, ancillary hours that are agreed to in the contract. Interestingly, Superintendent Cortines has basically said in black and white that he will be docking pay for the boycott time. That’s an impressively hard line stance, basically calling UTLA’s bluff where it counts…in the paycheck. If Union members are upset about being docked for an hour or so…they certainly aren’t going to like the dock of pay that a strike would involve.
That would be a whole lot more than an hour, and UTLA is not prepared with a strike fund that would really provide significant support. In fact, with the money put into that fund most recently, some 3 million dollars, the Union can basically pay me for two hours of a strike…if the fund is divided evenly, by teacher population on strike. There are, after all 35,000 teachers in the District…3 million just doesn’t go that far.
Teachers are getting scared, because there is plenty of water cooler talk about such a strike. A teacher strike hasn’t happened in decades, so in truth, it is pretty unlikely. Still, the tactics are polarizing, and the rumor mill strong. The addition of Reduction in Force notices, as well as the expiration of grants dissolving positions, adds to the feeling of instability. Sadly, the average teacher seems to be pretty poor at semantics, and unable to distinguish between contract elements of RIFs, or school site downsizing. Its all a vague, threatening mass of Job Threats which create a fear and paranoia. All of that seems to serve the ineffective Union pretty well.
The first instance where a boycott would have mattered at my school came up on Tuesday. I had given my word to do a presentation on student discipline statistics, so I was pretty much stuck in the Faculty meeting. The Union Rep did a good job of presenting UTLA’s views, and a very, very large contingent of teachers walked in boycott. This meant that I gave my presentation to very few people at all which is sad in itself…it was a good presentation which had no audience. These things happen.
It also clearly set in motion something that has been happening for a while…the formation of factions within the staff. Groups with different views, different needs, polarizing on different sides of a problem. I find myself doing it as well…there are some people I resent, as if they haven’t been doing the job well, or at all. There are some people that I question their commitment, or worse, worry that they have completely bought in to skewed Union propaganda. Rarely are things as simple in the real world as they are in a personal newspaper.
That’s what the art is about. I watched the staff divide into factions, really over nothing. Two sides, a pro–Union and a pro-Administration at school site side. Not unlike Marvel’s Civil War event, or more recently the plot of Marvel’s “Agents of SHIELD” television show…the characters must pretty much pick a side. The left side of the art is the Union side…a leader who claims to be about the “real values” of teachers (or SHIELD), and a bunch of mercenaries, sell outs and clowns. I wasn’t feeling too happy with the Union when I drew it, so that happened.
The right side is full of Rascals. Darth didn’t realize it when he coined the term, but those Rascals…they just oppose things that seem like they aren’t right. In this case, I’m not sure I can side with the UTLA faction, either as a whole or on campus. They certainly didn’t raise a finger to help us out during the Dark Reign, and now they desperately need teacher support for a political agenda. The Rascals side of the art is more like Coulson’s SHIELD in the show…the authorities don’t like Coulson very much, nor does the rest of SHIELD, the so called “Real SHIELD.” Those factions are falling in on themselves, creating serious conflict.
As I was preparing to post this depressing art, and unusual insight into the inner lives of teacher meetings, the mail came. In that mail was a package from an old friend, who crocheted, BY HAND, an entire Pony.
A whole pony. I was bewildered. It is incredible. Also…it pointed out that even in the darkest hours of depressing meetings and their fallout, the combination of Ponies and friendship is pretty @#$% useful.
I need to figure out what to call this pony. It’s a pretty awesome Po-nay.
Next Issue: The Most Dangerous Game!