Union head: Let the healing begin'


June 27, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

When Bruce Roberts, president of the El Centro Elementary Teachers' Association, addressed the El Centro Elementary School District Board of Trustees just prior to the board's ratification June 15 of a contract agreement with the teachers, he asked the board to "let the healing begin."

It appears for some his request has started to become a reality.

Roberts said in a recent interview, "When I said, ‘Let the healing begin,' I really meant that."

He called the contract settlement a good start for the healing process and indicated teachers have already started to "forgive and forget."

"I believe for the most part the teachers and administration will put this behind us," Roberts said.

"This is a healing time. The best part about this is finishing the year with a contract. That was the biggest plus," he added.

Ron Hull, president of the school board, agreed.

"At the start of next year I don't picture any acrimony on either side," Hull said.


Calling it just the "trials and tribulations of bargaining," Hull said. "Things that get said in the heat of the moment … need to be taken in the context and move on."

District Superintendent Michael Klentschy, who was attacked by the teachers' association for not providing leadership to the board during the contract dispute, said he is doing just that.

"I didn't take any of the rhetoric personally," Klentschy said. "Our hope is now that we've come to an agreement with the association is that we renew our efforts in collaboration."

Not all teachers think they can forget the dispute quickly.

Maggie Knox, a kindergarten teacher at Hedrick Elementary and crisis chairwoman for the ECETA, maintains it will take teachers a long time to "forgive and forget" the bitter dispute.

"I don't believe the teachers are going to believe anything the board members say because we've been treated so badly," said Knox, who will be ECETA vice president next school year.

Although she has been involved in previous contract disputes, Knox said, "Nothing has been as bitter as this."

She said, "It is going to take new board members" to restore her faith in the board.

"We are looking for new board members that will be understanding," Knox said of the board election in November.

Of those teachers who are able to move on, Knox said, "I thank God there are people who can do that, forgive and go on. … I'm not to that point yet.

"We need to have people do that. I just wish I could be one of them," she said, adding, "This is just my personal feeling. I cannot speak for the other teachers."

Roberts denied any loss of trust on his behalf or among the teachers with whom he's spoken.

He said he anticipates an attitude of "starting afresh" next year.

"There will be a new administration, new officers for the ECETA and that will be a good beginning," Roberts said.

Klentschy anticipated a fresh start next year as well.

He said, "In the last week of school, I saw a new sense of morale among the teachers."

Calling next year a "pivotal year," Klentschy said, "We need to regain our focus. The major object for all of us is to provide quality education for our children."

Klentschy mentioned programs the district will be implementing next year such as the Open Court reading program, a new math program and a 21st Century Learning Center as reasons for next year being a pivotal one.

When asked if any trust was lost on either side because of the contract dispute, Klentschy responded, "No. There was no trust lost."

Said Hull: "I haven't lost any trust in the teachers.

"Teachers, while distracted at times, their business is working with the kids, and they did just that," Hull said. "The teachers did a good job despite the discussions.

"They worked through a difficult situation," he added.

Klentschy agreed, "I do not believe teaching stopped in our classrooms."

He said, "The teachers didn't stop doing their job. Most are doing a very fine job and will continue to do so next year."

Said Trustee Dianna Newton: "Hopefully, this will never happen again."

"What has to happen is to move on," Newton said. "I'm prayerful that we will go on."

Klentschy said, "There are some very valuable lessons that can be learned. Neither side can say there was a winner or a loser."

He continued, "We need to use it as a learning experience to prevent a thing like this from happening in the future."

Roberts agreed, "Most (teachers) will look at next year and try to forget this happened."

He warned teachers need to remain "vigilant so this doesn't happen again."

Roberts suggested the administration and teachers could "sit down and ask ourselves, ‘What went wrong?' and ‘What can we do differently?'

"It could be something we need to do," he said.

Concluded Roberts: "The attitude of the teachers is very happy … people are leaving … feeling relaxed and looking forward to coming back next year."

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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