I want to comment on all the activity around the changes in Iowa’s collective bargaining laws, better known as Chapter 20. I had the opportunity to speak with many of our staff last Friday at our focus group meetings and I know that there is a lot of concern amongst the educational community regarding what these changes will mean. I want to provide a few words of encouragement to our great staff as we enter into this new chapter.
First of all, I want to assure you that our board and administration understand that we are in a relationship business and that the success of the teachers and students in our area depends in no small measure on the quality of the culture that we are able to create together. That is the reason that we engage in practices like interest-based bargaining labor/management meetings and focus groups. Our success as an agency depends on our being able to build and sustain quality relationships. I recently sent out a tweet that said something to the effect of, “our successes are a direct result of the relationships of those involved and so are our failures.” We will continue to meet regularly with representatives of our staff in an effort to identify and solve problems together. Healthy organizations are built on trust, communication, clarity, and empathy. High expectations are critical, but meeting high expectations takes collective commitment and that takes quality relationships.
The other thing I want to emphasize is that we are in a profession that requires us to attract, develop, and retain talent. How some circles are currently demeaning our profession and the quality of our schools and educators is unfortunate. However, there is one silver lining for those already in or about to enter the profession and that is we are increasingly experiencing shortages in most, if not all, areas of professional education. The reasons for this are largely self-evident and a topic for another time, but please keep in mind that in this age of unprecedented accountability no educational organization wants to win the race to the bottom on salary and benefits. Everyone wants to attract and retain the best people they can find and that doesn’t happen without competitive compensation (which is why state supplemental aid needs to always be our first rallying cry).
Finally, I want to emphasize that at no time in our history of education in Iowa has it been more critical that every educator support one another and say good things about one another. Heaven knows that we have enough adversaries outside our tent and this is the time for everyone to get under the same tent. It is too easy for us to allow ourselves to become divided. We are always going to be invited to be critical of someone else in our profession. Our adversaries love it and they win when management criticizes labor or labor criticizes management or when rural interests criticize urban ones or vice versa. Never has it been more important to not only share good news about the fine people you work with, but more importantly, we need to be saying good things about the people in education we don’t work with, like the ones who work down the road. We are all educators and all committed to a quality education for all kids. We only have a chance to meet those commitments when we stand as one community.
So, please know that even though the changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining laws are going to become law (and very soon, likely this week), those changes do not need to result in the diminishing of our desire to work together for the betterment of all kids and families. Also, please know that you are valued as not just employees but as critical members of our team. Being an employee just means you have a place to go to work. Our calling is much higher and much more critical to the future of our society. Have a good week and be proud of your profession.