Park City teachers support counterparts in Ogden
July 20, 2011
Ten Park City school teachers joined more than 800 people across Utah at the Ogden teachers rally on July 14. Heidi Matthews, Park City Education Association president, said the event had a lot of energy. "I felt like I was in this revival and I wanted to yell out Amen, because they captured this movement with such poignancy," she said. After bypassing teacher negotiations for the 2011 – 2012 school year, the Ogden School Board is requiring its teachers to either sign its proposed contract by July 20, or consider their positions open for hire. Matthews said the Ogden teachers’ want the school board to come back to the table and work out their differences. According to Matthews, former Salt Lake City Superintendent Donald Thomas spoke at the rally on July 14 saying that extremist groups are attempting to do by dismantling teachers unions. Matthews explained that teacher associations are just teachers joining together as a part of a professional association, to improve their profession and make sure their people are treated fairly. "When you have teachers who are treated fairly and joined together, all you’re going to get is better teachers and ones that feel like they can make this their career. They are going to have a better impact on kids. That’s what we want," Matthews said. She said the Ogden teachers originally planned on marching to the Ogden district office to turn in their contracts, but instead they filed a list of about 100 questions with the district secretary. She said several questions were about merit pay and who will evaluate the teachers based on what criteria. "These are all questions that should have been asked and studied and looked at long before you decide you’re going to do that," Matthews said. Dawna Goodwin, a Parley’s Park teacher, who also attend the rally on July 14 said it was a little bit of a shock that the Ogden School Board just ended all negotiations. "The focus of the rally was the fact that the school board abruptly ended all contact negotiations without any notice and just said here we go, this is what we’re doing," Goodwin said. She said, even after she heard the news about Ogden, she wasn’t worried that the Park City teachers haven’t signed a contract. "We didn’t come to an agreement, but that has happened before. We all have the same goal, to give students the best education we can," Goodwin added, "I’m not nervous at this point at all. We know in Park City that it’s in everyone’s best interest to work together." Goodwin said she hopes the Ogden School Board realizes that the point of the rally was to re-open negotiations and to collaborate again. Park City School Board member Michael Boyle said he empathizes with the school district’s dilemma. "I want to acknowledge that it must be difficult for their board and teachers to go over a year without a contract," Boyle said. According to Boyle, the Ogden school district had failed to come to an agreement in 2010, and therefore the contract from the previous year was automatically applied. "It’s my understanding that the board took the action that they did out of frustration," he said. Boyle said that while the Park City School Board and teachers don’t always agree, there is mutual respect among the parties. "People have to compromise, and you have to stay at the table. If I were to offer advice it would always be to try to come to an agreement. Exhaust all options," Boyle said. According to Boyle, he was happy the Ogden teachers made the request for the school board to re-open negotiations. "As a board member I can relate to being concerned about the finances of a district and at the same time I’m concerned about employee morale and compensation. In the forefront of everyone’s thinking has to be what’s best for the students," he said. Boyle said his concern for Ogden teachers is signing a contract without knowing its details. He said that Ogden has been looking at merit-based systems for a while, but that there are many variables that determine the growth of a student. "It’s a combination of what the student brings to the table, with desire to learn and family support and then the various classrooms and the support that the district gives to the teachers. It’s a daunting challenge to figure that out," he said.