At a gathering of educators, community members, and supporters of the Reynoldsburg Education Association members, a parent was one of the first speakers.  Not a teacher, not a union leader, not a government official, but a parent and community member.  Parent Debbie Dunlap has been actively involved in the effort to bring an end to the contract impasse and has made it clear where her heart is – with the teachers who are striving to improve the teaching and learning conditions.  Dunlap has spent countless hours over the last few weeks trying to educate and inform her fellow parents and community members about the situation while seemingly hitting a wall when trying to communicate with her elected school board members (4 out of 5, at least) and her community’s superintendent.

Here were Debbie’s words to the thousands who gathered in the park on the day after the strike began:

Fellow parents, teachers, Reynoldsburg community members, and all supporters of public education.  My name is Debbie Dunlap and I, like you, am fighting for education today – standing up for my children, my neighbor’s children, and children all across Reynoldsburg.  I am fighting for schools that our students deserve!

And where does that start?

With our educators!

I attended a student candlelight vigil last night with my daughters, two of their friends, and dozens of other young people in Reynoldsburg who were there to make THEIR young voices heard. We stood outside the board offices with signs and chants, cheers and some tears – then the students lit their candles, sat in a circle, and shared.  They called it a vigil mourning the death of education as we know it!  How insightful!!!!

Because yesterday, I witnessed MY schools dying!  I saw children scared to go to school without the educators they know and trust; I saw emotional children acting out because those youthful emotions got the best of them; I saw classrooms and schools that were understaffed – which would have been UNACCEPTABLE at any other day of the year.

I heard of children calling parents, asking to come get them because they did not feel safe.

I saw pictures of subs sleeping; heard of packets of busy work being handed out; students not being allowed to use the restroom.

I heard my son’s friends relay inappropriate statements and conversations from the substitutes who were supposed to provide our children with “just another day” – a promise by our administration!  Well, they lied!

Yesterday, I too mourned a death just as those students did last night.

It has been a slow death that has been eating away at our schools here in Reynoldsburg for some time now.  An administration, slowly piling more and more weight on our teachers’ shoulders — mounting disrespect through broken promise after broken promise…and failing to provide caps on class sizes that many of the parents have also been demanding for years – class size guarantees in writing that would provide that one-on-one time our children need to succeed!

I’ve witnessed the whittling away at planning time that is essential to our educators in order to develop well thought-out lessons for our children.

Our district leaders have asked these professionals to take pay freeze after pay freeze – along with other concessions – then slap them with a high-stakes merit pay system that ranks them using unfair measurements that are often out of teacher control.  The attempt to use money as a tool to improve situations out of our educator’s control is like trying to draw blood from a stone.  The proposal is irrational, irresponsible, and ineffective!

While supporters argue that merit pay is commonplace in many industries and serves to optimize performance and results, the reality is that merit pay will foster an environment of competition among teachers in a profession that requires creativity and collaboration. Motivating students is a team effort – teachers, parents AND community!!!!!

We have lost an incredible amount of teachers – a mass exodus if you will.  And while I applaud those WONDERFULLY DEDICATED teachers who chose to remain and fight the fight – I ask – WHY, why have so many of our educators chosen to leave?  And I think the answer is actually quite simple — A lack of respect!  Our educators have been asked to take on SO much – and they have done so because they love OUR children.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH Tina Thomas-Manning!  They cannot do it anymore – and I support them as they stand up for what is right!

Our district leaders—with the exception of Joe Begeny — need to step up and BE leaders.  Last week, the Palm Beach County School Board AND superintendent had the guts to take a stand on education, passing a resolution on accountability stating: “the over-reliance on Florida’s high-stakes standardized testing is undermining Article NINE, Section 1 of the Constitution of Florida which declares that it is “a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision . . . for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education” particularly with regard to adequate provision, uniformity, efficiency, and high quality;

Tina Thomas-Manning – our teachers and our community want your respect.

I and other parents have also been feeling this disrespect over the years mounting as OUR voices have not been heard.  Over the past several months, that lack of respect for PARENTS and COMMUNITY MEMBERS has grown, and grown, and grown.  As a community, we now feel we are facing a wall as our district leaders continue to ignore OUR voices as well.

There are days when I feel like I am facing an insurmountable mountain!

So today, I come before our educators with words of support: We WILL stand firmly behind you!

Because while you may be fighting for the schools our STUDENTS deserve, I am fighting for the schools OUR CHILDREN deserve.

RAIDER STRONG!

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  • Wonderful! We all need to stand up for traditional public schools. Thank you, Debbie Dunlap, for your courage to speak the facts!

  • Reynny

    So, this is a justifiable action in order to get caps on class size. Wouldn’t it then follow that the teachers in all the other central Ohio districts that don’t have caps are not doing what’s best for the children of their districts by continuing to work?

  • Mike Evans

    Reynny – first, Reynoldsburg teachers don’t want caps for the sake of having caps – they want (need) caps because Ms. Thomas-Manning and the Board have allowed class sizes in Reynoldsburg to grow beyond reason, effectively creating an environment in which real teaching/learning cannot regularly occur; second, teachers in other central Ohio districts can’t just discontinue working (even if their class sizes were as bad as those in Reynoldsburg, which they’re not) because they are under a contract to perform their duties – Reynoldsburg teachers are under no such contract (at this time); third, your comment merely serves to illustrate how uninformed – either by choice of which (right-wing) media they listen to or simply out of ignorance – the anti-teacher/anti-public worker really is.

  • goofproof

    That is like saying if a doctor treats a patient with extra care one day, all other doctors are not doing what’s best for their patients every other day. Try another anti-teacher argument.

  • MKTG

    Brava, Debbie, how eloquently you have stated the concerns and frustrations of this community. I am a retired teacher (from a district with caps and with planning periods) who has lived in Reynoldsburg for 23 years. I have seen this community change from middle class with good schools, to a realtor stating, “No one wants to live in Reynoldsburg.” to one with schools that are nationally acclaimed for innovation and leadership in education and middle class homes selling again. I don’t think it’s a coincidence: the schools offer K-12 STEM with MIT trained teachers and an Innovation Lab; an option to graduate from RHS with a two-year degree from Columbus State and is the leader in a coalition of schools– a quality education provided by teachers with the challenge of a diversity of students–now many of these teachers have left what has become a school district toxic to teachers. I am sickened that essentially three people can take down an entire community: a non-resident Superintendent fresh from the ranks of a Governor defeated by Senate Bill 5 (note the similarities) who states, “I don’t know.” (why the teachers are on strike) and, “I’m not easily swayed.” in a Dispatch video interview; a Board member negotiator who I am told home schools her children and is a conservative political volunteer (Google Elaine Tornero, look at the quotes and video, then decide for yourself), and a Board member negotiator, who I think, based on raising two children and teaching 37 years, is on a power trip. These teachers are taking a stand at great personal loss. Beware Ohio communities, this could happen to you.

  • MKTG

    Now I’m not just sickened, I’m just so angry–this strategy was used in the Chicago and Strongsville teacher strikes to divide the community against the teachers….Shame on you, Fox 28 to put this out there, especially in light of the media gag order of the Judge–way to disrespect the system: From FOX 28:

    Fliers Call out Reynoldsburg Substitutes, Show Names and Addresses

    Updated: Friday, October 3 2014, 10:25 PM EDT

    REYNOLDSBURG (Ben Garbarek) – Tensions in the Reynoldsburg schools strike is starting to get ugly.

    Many people found yellow fliers in their mailboxes Friday calling out the substitute teachers hired to replace the striking teachers. The letters give the name and home address of the substitute, and calls them out for crossing the picket line to work.

    “It’s wrong to put people’s information out there to the public like that,” said Reynoldsburg resident Tommy Lee. “That’s somebody’s home and where they live and I think that it’s wrong no matter what side you’re on.”

    The letters were also found in New Albany.

    Teacher’s union leaders said they were not aware of the fliers, but said they have many union friends who may have done this on their own.

    The striking teachers have been told to be ready to vote on any proposed deal this weekend. Negotiating teams are still trying to come up with a deal and end the strike as it enters its second full week.

  • MKTG

    And yes, Plunderbund published a personal plea from Debbie to demonstrate the plight of this community; but Fox 28 is clearly adding credence to some group trying to undermine the process.

  • Reynny

    No, it’s like saying if certain conditions in a hospital are unacceptable and worth striking against then those working in hospitals with those conditions aren’t standing up for acceptable conditions.

  • Reynny

    1) Instead of calling me “uninformed”, do your own reasearch; the caps they are asking for in Reynoldsburg aren’t really any smaller than what class sizes currently are there. Meaning they are creating chaos in the lives and education of their students in order to get caps that are basically the same as what they already have? If the current class sizes are “beyond reason”, then the caps the union want still allow them to be “beyond reason”. Why would they strike for that?

    2) How many labor contracts have been negotiated in districts throughout the state in the last 5 years haven’t included hard caps on class sizes? The answer is most of them. These caps are only worth striking over to this particular union at this particular time?

    The obvious answer is that this ISN’T really about caps on class size. It’s a convenient issue to put at the forefront to gain support for the “it’s for the children” mantra. “We want pay increases to be completely automatic rather than partially merit-based” isn’t a very good rallying cry.

    And it’s no secret why unions are against that idea. The more teachers are compensated based on individual merit, the less import something like “collective” bargaining becomes. Fortunately for teachers everywhere and contrary to what their union leaders are convincing them, the majority of them will be better off.

  • MKTG

    I’m sorry, but you are misinformed and I fear you drank the Kool-aid. It is about caps, just ask the parents; the teachers gave up a pay raise in the early negotiations, it’s not about the money; compare the RCS contract to neighboring districts and you’ll see a vast difference in planning periods, etc.–these teachers have given up paychecks and in some cases, insurance, to fight for our community’s students–would you do that?

  • MKTG

    I went to the grocery today and purchased non-perishables and toiletries to donate to the Reynoldsburg striking teachers–churches are also donating. If you enjoy an 8 hour day and 40 hour work week and if you’ve been compensated for overtime, thank a union; if you remember this from your high school government class, thank a teacher.

  • JON

    Thoughts from the statement:

    1. There is no legitimate way to cap class sizes in a contract. – say you cap at 30, a teacher has 31 on a roster, you hire a teacher for a year for 1 extra child? These people haven’t even brought up transience in the district. Transferring in and out happens all the time, there would be zero way to handle a cap in a contract. Anyway, here is a link to all the class sizes. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/09/15/class-size-at-heart-of-contract-dispute.html

    2. She generalizes all teachers leaving due to “lack of respect?” Facts please… she has no idea why all of the teachers left, maybe a couple, but isnt the idea of a career to climb a ladder, and move to better and better positions? Teaching is a hard job, there are statistics all over describing the mass exodus of teachers within 5 years of the profession – start here – http://www.nea.org/tools/17054.htm to claim that everyone is leaving Reynoldsburg because of lack of respect is not true because there are people retiring, people leaving for promotion, and many leaving the teaching profession.

    3. From what I have seen in the news… The Board offered raises each year, with the bonus of merit pay. Merit pay is not base pay. No one loses any money if they do not get a bonus. http://www.reyn.org/strikeinfo/index.html
    The commentary above makes it seem like the only increase in pay is merit. Why wouldnt teachers take that? If it doesnt work then renegotiate in 3 years. The funny thing is that teachers are getting evaluated by these same assessment scores by ODE, so why not make a buck off of it if you have to use these scores as part of your formal evaluation anyway?

    4. Planning – This needs to be addressed if what she says is true, that the teacher planning time is being “whittled away.” Teachers need planning periods. With what I have read from both parties, this would/should be the main concern.

    I think this is more gossip and bias than truth. I have seen the Reynoldsburg teachers striking, their facebook pages and posts of striking. They strike with kids, and are joking around making a mockery of real tragedies of people with extremely harsh working conditions;Blair Mountain comes to mind. It seems like more of a game to me, and it seems like the major supporters, have limited, if any facts to back up why these teachers are really striking. Talking to people, as well as reading their online stances, I have yet to find anyone with concrete answers.

    I think it would be more helpful for everyone if the bias and name calling could cease, and facts could be brought to the table, rather than I heard this or I heard that.

  • Reynny

    The teachers did not “give up a pay raise.” They rejected the increase schedule offered by the board and countered with one of their own; that’s a matter of public record at this point. Their counter offer includes more in guaranteed increases whereas the board’s offer includes more in “merit” based incentives.

    Caps on class size is ONE of the issues on the table and, like I said, it’s being portrayed as the main issue because the union knows there won’t be much support for their other demands. Like I said, the proposed caps wouldn’t make classes any smaller than they are now, so much Kool-Aid must be swallowed to think they’re interrupting the education of the students they claim to love so much over that.

  • 333SAL

    There’s a lot of fervency on both sides here. And there’s personal preference: I prefer not to take my information from the Dispatch, which is quite biased in service of select interests, not the majority. (At least PB’s bias is in defense of general social betterment–feel free to disagree.)

    Point is this: I’m guessing that Reynoldsburg parents know more about it than outsiders. We should concede to their majority decision on this. The same individuals who are so quick to criticize unions in general are usually the first to want to decide how their kids should be reared and educated — everyone else butt out! So who are they to argue with what other communities want for their children?

    If you can prove that it’s a minority of parents who are with the union, it’s a different story. Until then, leave it to Reynoldsburg parents to handle their own situation. Do what you want in your own communities.

  • MKTG

    Your opinion is noted, however, unless you live in the district and have been actively involved, you really don’t know all the issues and I’m not willing to share. Best wishes.

  • MKTG

    There is a way to cap classes—I taught in a district with caps. If the high school class cap is 32 and the class size is 33, the teacher is paid for the overage. The number of students makes a significant difference to a teacher. Why? Take an English class with lengthy papers, a history class with a project, an art class with work to be evaluated and quality feedback given, a math class that now involves written responses as well as objective test items, a science class with labs and lengthy lab written lab reports…this work is done on teacher’s after-school time…as are the college recommendations, lesson planning, grade reporting, notes to parents, calls to parents. Why? Because planning time, if available, is insufficient and is often used to handle in-school issues such as behavior problems, questions from and conferences with administrators, teacher collaboration and planning, and, yes, going to the restroom. If, as in the case of Reynoldsburg, the teacher’s planning time is usurped with meetings, and teacher time is used to monitor the halls, the restrooms, the lunchroom, then, yes, there is a level of disrespect. And, yes, I have read the testimonials from the teachers who left Reynoldsburg en masse and it was NOT due to attrition–these teachers knew what would happen with negotiations looming and left for a district that respects them. If you do not live in the district or are actively involved, you really do not understand.

  • Reynny

    I do live in the district, and I’m “actively involved” in that I pay taxes in Reynoldsburg.

  • JON

    MKTG – I just viewed on the reyn.org website the “new” teacher contract and compared/contrasted to what was offered before the strike… From my perspective the teachers agreed to less than what was originally offered, and did nothing for class size or planning time. How can you justify the strike if there was no benefit to the teachers?

    It seems as you and I agree on one thing = planning time is an important issue. However, what you fail to do is bring up EXACT times laid out for any teachers. If such a serious implication to student growth as you claim above, at least get the public aware of how much time teachers have and need, otherwise, you are doing what Ms. Dunlap has done: spread rumors with no factual data.

    Also, reading “testimonial is fine” I have also talked to a teacher at the district as well as a few who have left. One loves the district, and has been teaching for a while in several different Ohio districts, others left for better positions (to them) at wealthier districts citing open enrollment and student/parent behavior as major deterrents to remaining employed.

    You cited English in your previous response, and so will I. You need to make sure that your sources are credible and reliable before you post them as absolute fact. Using only information from teachers with axes to grind, or REA propaganda, or district propaganda is foolish. It is only ignorant to say that one side is completely right or wrong, and that is the problem in this case. You have so many people who spread rumors without knowing the facts (parents/other union members/etc). Look at the new agreement, look at what was offered. See where they differ and then start asking both the district and the REA what was gained.

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