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High school clique (04/13/2008)
By John Edstrom

Those who have read through the text of the supposed vote of no confidence in Superintendent Paul Durand by the Winona Education Association - the local teachers' union - will probably find themselves confused. They should refer to Board member Ted Hazelton's response to it. Teacher discontent, he says, is being fomented by a "small clique of high school teachers." "For years and years there's been a group that has gotten their way and for the first time are being told no." "They've been acting like a bunch of little kids." I didn't know that Ted was capable of such incisive eloquence. Winonans should be grateful that he has elevated the level of discourse within the school district.

The statement of no confidence by the WEA begins by blaming Durand for a "record number of grievances," and while it is true that the WEA has been grieving left and right lately, why this is Durand's fault rather than the union's is unclear. Certainly, the WEA has had no great string of victories with its litany of malcontent, although the district has worked with it to resolve some complaints.

In another of the statement's long list of whereases, Durand is taxed for having "rejected constructive criticism, disregarding the results of the WEA Superintendent Evaluation and misrepresenting and demeaning Dr. Tim Hatfield and Dr. Susan Hatfield for analyzing and summarizing the results..." However, most will remember the union's "evaluation" as a hatchet job put forward as a publicity stunt meant to influence coming school board elections. And it was not Durand, but former board chair Larry Laber and the main originator of the document, Superintendent Dan White of Pekin, Illinois, who raised questions of "plagiarism" and "a violation of professional ethics" in connection with the Hatfields and the survey. It is ironic that Laber was defeated by Ted Hazelton in the ensuing election, who now puts the finger on the same clique within the union that so disliked his predecessor.

In fact, one wonders what this vote of no confidence is other than another publicity stunt. The WEA is a powerful and well-protected union. It has ample recourse within the law and its contract to pursue its grievances, rather than air a squalid batch of dirty laundry to the public in what is becoming a repetitious and one-sided squabble, tedious to the parents and taxpayers of the district. These grievance procedures are an effective, legitimate tool with which to resolve contractual conflicts. A no-confidence vote in the superintendent by the WEA has no more legitimacy or relevance than a resolution to get out of Baghdad.

The public has a right to expect teachers within the WAPS system to work and behave like professionals, which most of them do, as Hazelton was careful to make clear. It is also clear that the "clique" to which he referred at the high school simply hates Durand and wants to be rid of him, and is increasingly focusing all its energy on that end rather than teaching anything of value to the kids of the district.

It would appear that they have way too much time on their hands, a problem which could be solved by abolishing the four-period day and returning to five or six, which should put some of these idle hands back to useful work.



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