If you are not a teacher in Dade county, you may want to scroll down to the part about Bushmasters. If, however, for some bizarre reason you have developed a morbid fascination with district-union relations in Miami after reading the kafkateach blog, keep reading. Most of you know by now that 8,000 teachers in Dade county received a lump of coal in their stockings in the form of a $300 step increase on behalf of the Dade county school district and UTD.  This amounts to approximately the same amount mini-wage workers just received in the form of a 12 cents an hour cost of living increase in the state of Florida. Apparently, both the superintendent and the union president are afraid of being perceived as Scrooge and have started a district email war blaming each other. This is a rather shocking development after years of an openly lovey-dovey relationship between the superintendent and the union president. I am speaking figuratively as I do not want to slander either the superintendent or union president with adulterous accusations (the superintendent was already accused of that with a Miami Herald reporter at the beginning of his reign).  They just seemed to get along too well in broadcasted faculty meeting videos and articles in the press. Now that our union president is “choosing” not to seek another term, she has apparently decided to end her endless acquiescence.  She has been quoted as saying she is not seeking another term as UTD president because she wishes “to return to the classroom.” Last time I checked, I have yet to see anyone who left the classroom to make six figures willingly return to the classroom. There is speculation that she has been asked to step down due to teacher anger over the last contract and to pending litigation over election fraud. In a rather ironic development, kafkateach received a personal email from the UTD president asking her to join the union because after my name appeared in a Miami Herald article about the new teacher evaluation system in Florida in which I basically slammed it as being a cumbersome, inefficient waste of funds that will be thrown out in the courts,  she wanted “my voice” in the union. I wanted to respond to her, “Why don’t you try using your own voice for a change? That’s what you get paid $170,000 to do.” But I politely thanked her for the personal invitation and explained that I could not afford $800 a year union dues when I was only making $40,000 and receiving a $300 step increase every 3 years or so.

Back to what is turning into a nasty breakup being broadcast over district email. There were rumors flying around that the superintendent felt that teachers got a bum deal in the last contract. This was confirmed in an email yesterday, “The salary increase bargained during this last round of negotiations was the schedule presented by UTD. It maintains the traditional salary schedule and “step” structure which is inherently inequitable and unfair.

It is my intent to return to the bargaining table immediately following the winter recess to negotiate a new salary schedule for teachers which is more equitable.”

This is one New Year’s resolution I hope the superintendent follows through on. Moments later, the union president sent out another email explaining her side,

“We find it curious why he does not mention that his bargaining proposal kept the exact same schedule that he claims is so inequitable but just increased it by 1%.

Let’s be clear, M-DCPS management brought NO other proposal to the table that changed the salary schedule.  In fact, mathematically their proposal did the exact opposite.  By nature, a flat percentage proposal gives greater increases to employees who already have higher salaries.  Their proposal also moved no employee to a higher step, further exacerbating this problem.

We have a very simple response to the superintendent’s statement.  Show us.  Show us this proposal you think is more equitable, and show us how you intend to pay for it.”

This is the strongest condemnation of the superintendent I have heard coming from our union president since she took office eight years ago. Some speculate that this round of “throw each other under the bus” is being publically displayed because they are both facing charges of election fraud in an upcoming court case in February. Others speculate the superintendent wants to make certain union leaders from the old guard out to be heroes with a better deal for teachers in January so they win favor with teachers in the February election instead of more militant candidates running for UTD president.  January appears like it will be a busy month for kafkateach as UTD and the district are also meeting on January 10th to negotiate cut scores for our VAMs. How I would love to be a fly on that wall! The very idea of negotiating cut off points for “unsatisfactory” or “needs improvement” teachers is bizarre and totally unscientific (which remember VAM is supposedly based on sound science). The idea that you could be a teacher in Broward county ranked in the 9th percentile and be considered “effective” while in Dade county a 9th percentile teacher might be considered “unsatisfactory” makes zero sense.

On to Bushmasters.  In an effort to improve our students’ vocabulary in hopes of improving their standardized test scores, our school has a root of the week initiative where students learn word roots and words which contain that root. It is rare that kafkateach learns a new vocabulary word, but last Friday’s word of the day for teachers became “Bushmaster.” I had never heard that word until last Friday. This week, I have seen far too many sentences including the word “teacher” and “Bushmaster.” If we break this word down into its roots, we get “Bush” (most often referred to as a plant, some type of political ruler from the Bush dynasty, or…well, I’m not going there) and “master” (one that dominates another).  Hence, Bushmaster equals some sort of political ruler from the Bush dynasty dominating an individual (in this case and, most appropriately, teachers).  Using context clues, let’s figure out the meaning of Bushmaster in this sentence which came from CNN’s website last Monday as a headline, “California Teachers Own 6% of Bushmasters.” http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2012/12/17/the-money-behind-the-massacre/?hpt=hp_t2. If you just read the headline, and never clicked on the link to read the article, you might be left with the impression that 6% of all Bushmaster rifles were owned by California teachers.  I’m sure that was the intent of the headline. The mainstream media apparently thought one weekend was enough of this “teacher hero” image running rampant in the press and decided it was time to get back to bashing teachers by any means necessary.  In a very feeble attempt, the article tried to blame teachers and teachers’ unions for the shootings at Sandy Brook by linking an investment in the California retirement system to the company that makes Bushmaster rifles.  I don’t know about you fellow teachers, but I have no clue or control over how my state invests my pension fund. I also don’t have a Bushmaster rifle in my closet and I’m sure you would be hard pressed to find any California teachers with Bushmaster rifles in their closets.

Believe it or not, there are many people out there now advocating that teachers have Bushmasters in their classroom closets. The same people that believe that teachers who are armed with tenure and belong to the NEA or AFT pose a national security threat, are recommending that teachers belong to the NRA and carry around assault weapons in the classroom. I don’t know how many articles I had to read this week bemoaning, “if only teachers could have guns, this disaster could have been prevented.” Let’s get real for a moment. The only way this would be effective is if teachers walked around the classroom with Bushmaster rifles slung over their shoulders at all times, were equipped with eyes on the backs of their heads, and spent hundreds of hours of Rambo style professional development becoming expert marksmen capable of shooting a nutcase wearing body armor dead in a nano second. I joked in the commenting section of an Edweek article about armed teachers, that this may help to improve classroom management but wouldn’t prevent another Sandy Brook. Apparently another commenter took this to mean that kafkateach was seriously proposing arming teachers with Bushmasters solely for the purpose of improving classroom behavior. Though I no doubt believe that teachers walking around the room with visible guns would create compliant students, I am in no way recommending this. Sure, somewhere in my teacher fantasy Napolean complex brain, I might want to walk around with a gun. I’m 5ft 2in and 120 lbs (OK, I’m lying. I’m seven months pregnant so I’m not 120 lbs but that’s the post pregnancy plan) and I have a squeaky little voice. Classroom management of teenagers has always been difficult for me.  I am green with envy when the 6ft 3in former linebacker next door with the booming voice enters my room and that same fifteen year old boy who spends the entire class trying to do cartwheels across the classroom and throwing paper planes, sits there quivering when a threatening male physical presence enters the room. I’m sure if I had a Bushmaster on my shoulder, the PMS-ing mean girl would not call me “a stupid f—-ing b—ch” because I asked her to put her cellphone away. The image of a teacher in a pencil skirt with a pistol in her garter belt might conjure up sexy Charlie’s Angels fantasies, but that is not who I want to be. I got into teaching, like most other teachers, to love and educate children not assassinate people.  Assassination types end up in the military, law enforcement, perhaps the CIA, but most do not end up in kindergarten classrooms. A more natural teacher reaction to an armed adolescent would be “Come here baby, you having a bad day? You need a hug.”