Leader Blues

Friday, December 18, 2009

TOP STORY >> Clark’s letter faults the teachers’ union

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

The board president of the Pulaski County Special School District sent out a two-page letter Friday to teachers, parents and patrons to “clarify what has been in the news.”

Additionally, lawyers for the district and the teachers’ union, the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers, met with Circuit Judge Tim Fox on Friday morning over the union’s breach of contract lawsuit.

In the long letter, Tim Clark blames PACT for the current problems and the Dec. 10 one-day walkout. “The teachers’ union may have called the strike to send a message to the school board (nearly 700 teachers walked out on their students), but the overwhelming message received by the board and the public was that the union’s focus was not on our students,” he wrote.

“I have been asked how teachers can consider a walkout when so many Americans are unemployed. This is hard to understand in a tough economy where jobs are scarce for many people.”

Clark continued, “We don’t believe the way the union is negotiating is best for our district and students. To approve an 80-page contract without reading it would have been irresponsible.”

He said the board members had only a short time to review the new contract with an expert. “I think the union overstepped its bounds by insisting that something be ratified when we had only 90 minutes apiece to review it with our professional negotiator.”

Clark further blames the union for costing the district money that would have been spent on the students. “Attorney’s fees over the lawsuit initiated by the PACT against the district will certainly be an additional expense; these additional expenses for the district and for PACT itself represent money that would be better spent on our children,” he said.

He added that the hiring of 20 permanent substitutes doesn’t constitute an added expense for the district. “We will spend that money one way or the other due to teacher absences.”

Clark said in an emergency meeting last week the board did agree to pay substitutes $100 a day if the teachers have another walkout or go on strike. “This will help recruit quality individuals and more of them.”

The board president said the district does value its teachers. “Not recognizing a union as a collective bargaining agent does not take away whatsoever from recognizing how hard teachers work each and every day and how much they are valued. That is why — even after we voted to decertify the union — we wanted to give teachers the two percent raise and additional insurance benefits.”

Clark’s letter never addresses that the board decertified the union because of remarks that a bus driver made at the Dec. 8 meeting that were perceived by the board as threats.