Nov 19 2010

Opinion: Superman Is Superfluous in Piedmont

A Letter From Mary Ireland, President of the Associated Parents Clubs of Piedmont

Education is big news these days – whether you’re talking about the local, state or federal scene – school budgets, teachers, unions, along with education reform and change are big headlines. In Piedmont we’re digesting the news about our own budget shortfall and the difficult decisions the District faces in order to trim another 15% of our $29 million/year budget over two years. Local news has also reported that our own school employee unions are currently in negotiations to see what they can do to help resolve the problem, which if left unchecked gets bigger with each passing year necessitating more cuts to program. We appreciate their positive participation in working on solving the problem for the long term.

There has been much discussion about the recent documentary “Waiting for Superman,” which paints a very negative picture of teachers unions in public schools. Fortunately, the Piedmont Unified School District does not have these kinds of problems. Unlike the unions depicted in that documentary, our employee unions have a history of flexibility and cooperation with our district. They are not only dedicated to the students and to creating and sustaining an excellent educational program in our schools — they have also demonstrated their willingness to be team players in finding solutions as they as they did with last year’s furlough days. These were meaningful concessions and we recognize they made a difference in helping to preserve our program for this year.

The hard part for teachers and staff, however, still lies ahead. Last week’s news that the District will likely receive more in State and Federal revenues than previously projected, is a small consolation at best. Mid-year cuts are still a possibility, and limited one-time Federal dollars with strings attached could lead to a false sense of security. Based on the enormity of the shortfall it is clear that this drop in the bucket is just that – a mere drop. It will not change the need to manage the spiraling costs – meaning that significant changes to items that personally affect our teachers like salary commitments and health benefits still must be made.

Their dedication, flexibility and partnership with the District have helped to keep our schools among the best in California thus far. We believe Piedmont teachers and staff will demonstrate yet again the smarts, vision, and leadership to proactively help find pragmatic solutions, however difficult, to contain the escalating costs of K-12 public education.

With engaged and collaborative employee unions, we don’t need Superman – our heroes are in the classrooms and in the school offices – they don’t wear capes or require phone booths – no transformation is necessary for them to do what they already do well.

We are grateful and lucky to have them on the team.


Associated Parents Clubs of Piedmont

Mary Ireland, President

(This letter expresses the personal opinions of the author. All statements made are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.)

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