Letter: Deconstructing FlaggWritten by Dale Pertcheck | | firstname.lastname@example.org
TO THE EDITOR,
I was wondering how long it would take before Steven Flagg would declare the TPS-TFT agreement to be a disaster, no matter what the settlement contained (“TPS Fact Finder report short on solutions,” July 17). I can only guess that it took a while to find some tactic to try to discredit the agreement. But Steve came through!
First of all, he attacks a fact-finder who has a long history of mediating and resolving these types of disputes. When did Mr. Flagg ever do something like that?
Secondly, what, precisely, are his credentials to comment about the negotiations process? Steve is dead wrong when he claims that, “Initial negotiating positions always seem to be established at polar extremes … ” This statement alone makes it crystal clear that Mr. Flagg lacks first-hand knowledge in these matters.
He also states, “TFT leadership was equally unrealistic in its efforts to maintain the status quo.” Where did that come from? TFT knew that concessions were necessary! Let him quote his source on that one! It was the TPS Board that voted 4-1 to hire an out-of-town attorney who had no long-term interest in Toledo or Toledo’s children, and who trumpeted his expertise in negotiating in “union-free environments.” The extreme positions were very one-sided in this bargaining session.
Mr. Flagg is obviously commenting in an area where he has little or no direct knowledge! What are his union-management negotiating experiences? There exists a collective bargaining method known as Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB for short), also called “Win-Win” bargaining. A few years ago, then TFT President Francine Lawrence proposed this to then-Superintendent John Foley. Mr. Foley seemed interested, but never committed his team to the time needed to train properly to employ IBB in the TPS-TFT process.
The Berea School District and the Berea Federation of Teachers have used IBB for about 20 years, for example. I have negotiated both on the union side and the management side, and I have negotiated in the more traditional, confrontational style, as well as in IBB. Where is Mr. Flagg’s experience in these matters?
Mr. Flagg always emphasizes the negative. It’s almost as if he prefers that TPS remain in conflict! He ignores the fact that TPS has made great strides in “student outcomes.” Mr. Flagg never mentions TFT-sponsored successes like the elementary reading and math academies, which led to big jumps in test scores. He never mentions a successful, high poverty school like Birmingham, which jumped over categories all the way to the “Excellent” category in state ratings last year.
Mr. Flagg implies that TFT gave up too little. He never mentions that the amount TFT gave back is estimated at $44 million in savings! How much did he want? $60 million? $80 million? $100 million? And if one goal is to attract and keep the best and brightest teachers to TPS, how much can we shrink the remuneration?
Mr. Flagg also tacitly endorses SB5. I guess he believes the way to attract the best college graduates into teaching in Ohio (and, more specifically, Toledo) is to remove all collective bargaining rights from all public employees. No matter what its supporters may say, that is precisely what SB5 would do. I know that SB5 allows negotiations in limited areas. But how can there be true negotiations when one side can state that because there is an impasse, they can vote to write the contract language any way they want it to read?
Mr. Flagg is entitled to his opinions. You are entitled to publish anyone you want to publish. When fine periodicals, or even fine web-sites, publish from outside sources, they most often list the credentials of the author. Besides being a self-proclaimed “educational activist,” precisely what are Mr. Flagg’s credentials to be considered a plausible source of expertise in areas of union-management negotiations? And are his experiences specific to the public sector? You don’t get such expertise by watching school board meetings and talking to members with whom one is friendly. You’ve got to be there! Was he ever “there?”
Dale Pertcheck and his wife retired as teachers from Toledo Public Schools on June 1. He will continue in his position as treasurer with TFT’s statewide affiliate, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, at least through the summer. He and his wife are members of the retiree unit from Toledo, TFT250R, which is affiliated with the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers. He has been an officer with the Ohio Federation of Teachers since 1990 and was recording secretary from 1990-2006. He has served as treasurer since first being elected to that position in 2006.