Tuesday, January 11, 2005


The purpose of sick leave is to allow employees to tend to health issues, without experiencing a drop in income during necessary absences. It is expected that most employees will be returning to work at the end of their illness. Sadly, some employees cannot return; their health does not permit them to take up their duties again. In most of those cases, the only reason for their extended absence was a reluctance to accept that their teaching days were over. On rare occasions, a teacher might abuse sick leave. A few teachers, for example, were known to be planning to retire, but wanted to get the most out of their unused leave days. Hence, their classes were covered by subs, but, in fact, that teacher would not be returning. Most teachers tried to avoid that situation, since it places a hardship on the school, the students, and the system.

Sick leave, therefore, is not intended to provide a cushy income for employees in that period between working and retirement.

Now, what has former Cleveland Teachers Union president Richard Decolibus done?

The former science teacher and longtime union president said he doesn't plan to return to the classroom. He will probably stay on medical leave through the end of the school year, though.

Let me be clear. He has a doctor's note verifying a medical excuse.

However, I'm not impressed. By middle age, most people have 1 or more chronic medical conditions. A sympathetic doctor could interpret those as a legitimate reason to be off. The real question is: Would that condition keep a teacher from the classroom, if he or she wanted to teach?

Day after day, teachers walk into their classrooms, not feeling all that well. The reasons vary:
  • Perhaps they've caught the latest bug kids are passing around (a common occupational risk)
  • Short-term conditions, such as broken bones, back out of wack, or pregnancy
  • Chronic illness, such as diabetes, asthma, or arthritis
  • Life-threatening illness, such as heart attack, stroke, AIDS, or kidney failure

Some of the above conditions force a teacher to take medical leave, even retire after a time. But in these cases, returning was always the intent.

By his own admission,
The former science teacher and longtime union president said he doesn't plan to return to the classroom. He will probably stay on medical leave through the end of the school year, though.

A cynic might surmise that the only thing keeping Mr. D from retiring is the recent increase in health care costs that affects retirees, not "working" teachers. I, however, am not a cynic.

I do, however, wonder what's keeping him on the payroll, at a significant cost (about $73,000 a year, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer). For that money, two teachers could be called back from their layoffs.

Would you care to explain that to two teachers on layoff, Mr. D?

There is a huge difference between what's legal, and what's right. That's probably the most important thing teachers teach, right after subject matter. We try to get students to understand about doing the right thing, even when it costs you. That's what builds character.

Do the right thing, Mr. D. Put in your retirement papers, today.

Monday, November 29, 2004


It's been some time since I posted here. I kept hoping that the situation with employment would improve.

No such luck. There are no job postings on the Cleveland Schools website, and I haven't heard any rumors that the student-teacher ratios will grow smaller.

Some of the teachers have been in the news in a favorable way. This story was cited by Joanne Jacobs, a nationally known writer on education issues.

I do think that the levy campaign was doomed. Queen Jane never made it to the West Side of Cleveland; guess she was uncertain about her welcome after laying off so many cops and fireman.

I have to admit that neither my husband nor myself voted pro this time. We've always supported the schools in the past, but I am unwilling to throw good money after bad.

The schools are thick with waste and mismanagement. Many of the schools that are troubled are headed by weak and ineffective principals. The only consistent in those schools is the opinion that the problem is the teachers. According to many, teachers:

  • are underpaid (not true - their pay is comparable to many mid-level management types)
  • don't understand "our" kids (wrong in most cases; most of the white teachers have emerged from less-than-optimal circumstances in their past. It's the black teachers that grew up in solidly middle to upper-middle class families)
  • need "professionals" to tell them what to do and how to do it. Uh, sorry, after a few years, we're really pretty competent. What we COULD use is some administrative back-up - perhaps accompanied by some administrative BACKBONE

Thursday, June 17, 2004


I read something that made my blood start to boil today. It seems that the Cleveland Teachers Union is blocking a last-chance effort for students who would otherwise be expelled. They are sent to the Phoenix program, run by the YMCA; 90 % of the students later return to Cleveland schools.

What's the problem? Since the teachers aren't part of the union, the CTU is fighting it. And the CMSD administration will probably give in.

Folks, use your heads. These kids are otherwise out of school, dropping the student population even further. Without the program, pressure would be on the administration to keep these kids in YOUR classroom, sending you even closer to the looney bin in frustration. There's no reason to believe that those kids would be kicked out without the program. So, unless you want the disruptive students in YOUR room, consider bending.

Friday, May 14, 2004


In the wake of the notification of massive lay-offs in the Cleveland schools, it's interesting to note what you don't see on the evening news.

Your union representatives

Amazing, isn't it - how they will take credit for everything that happens when the news is good, but can't be found when the news is bad.

Here's what the new president, Joanne Demarco, has to say about the situation:

What is the CTU doing in this situation? The union and district are talking, communicating, cooperating and collaborating. In addition, the current leadership at the district has never dealt with lay-offs of the current magnitude. The CTU is taking the lead to make sure they are done fairly, correctly and within the parameters of the agreement.

As annoying as the oversized blue missives from (former) El Presidente were, particularly when they ranged into political and social commentary, at least they attempted to keep the membership informed.

"Within the parameters of the agreement" - unfortunately, that agreement favors the most senior members of the CTU over the newer members. Every contract over the last 20 years has settled for a set percentage of salary. That leads to a greater and greater gap between the newbies and the vets. A measly 3 % of starting pay is a WHOLE lot less than 3% of the top pay. How about going for a straight dollar amount raise for ALL teachers, regardless of step on the scale?

And don't let me get started on the constant jockeying for a buy-out.

If you want to retire, go.

Don't ask the district to finance your last few years at the expense of the younger crowd.

Furthermore, straight seniority in lay-offs may not be the best option for future contracts. The most junior members of the teaching staff are often VERY qualified, most having a master's degree or near equivalent, and having passed rigorous tests of their knowledge via the Praxis. They are also right up to speed on technology. It would be a shame to lose them to other systems, while some of the more senior staff are content to coast their way to retirement.

Friday, February 27, 2004


A boondoggle is defined as "An unnecessary or wasteful project or activity", according the the dictionary. I think that's an accurate description of the suggested party and bulldozer Jan Brundage wants to give Richard Decolibus, retiring president of the Cleveland Teachers Union (also known as Sir Comb-Over).

According to his own newsletter:

Ron Marec, retiring OFT President, was given a two-year old Buick as a retirement present and since I was President of the largest teacher union in the state for sixteen years, I ought to get at least what he got. I could care less what Ron Marec got, so we negotiated down and I said, “Look, if you really want to get me something useful, get me a small bulldozer for the farm so I can clear some of my fields off”

So glad that he was willing to "negotiate down". But, I guess that's what leading the CTU to record layoffs and the worst working conditions in many years has taught him - don't take the first offer, but keep negotiating.

But there is a sunny side to the soon-to-be exit of Sir C-O. At least we'll no longer be the recipients of the Blue Letters of Fluff - periodic PR that fairly shout


Sir C-O's most recent 3 missives are cultured pearls of wisdom - and recycled jokes. Just don't look for any serious discussion about the state of the union, or the financial picture that will affect the rest of the membership after he leaves. He airily alludes to the contract extension

B3 did agree to extend the contract another year. This makes life easier on everyone. A year of stability is a year of stability; one year at a time. The focus now is on the November levy because there will be across-the-board, full-blown contract negotiations next year, and without that levy passing, they have nothing to give except a “Thanks for the wonderful job.” Money would be better, but they can’t give you what they don’t have. Even worse, health care is going to be a monster issue. Choose your next President very, very carefully.

As opposed to the way YOU were chosen, I presume? Frankly, I don't see how this contract benefits anyone except the current president, who can slide out of town with his goodie bag intact., before the house of cards tumbles down.

For example, I've heard no serious discussion of the effect a 4-day week will have on paid holidays. Only an incompetent administration would fail to notice that making Monday the day that is eliminated would save money on paying for Monday holidays. And I don't think teachers can hope for that level of incompetency. So, in actual fact, teachers may lose under that proposal.

One major problem in the current teachers' contract, is that there is STILL no penalty for the district employing subs in positions for extended lengths of time. Open positions have been known to exist for YEARS, with no attempt to hire a certified/licensed teacher.

Friday, January 30, 2004


When BBB failed to close the Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) this last week, she incurred the wrath of the majority of the teachers in the system. The rumor was, she gets a bonus for NOT closing the schools due to weather. BBB didn't appear on camera to explain her decision, sending instead her chief of staff, Lisa Ruda, to do the dirty work.

In TOTALLY UNRELATED matters, CMSD announced this week that it has agreed to give all staff 3 % raises. That wouldn't be a bribe to not make a stink about the ICE DAY School Day, would it, Mr. Comb-Over?

Monday, November 24, 2003


While browsing around the Web, I found an interesting publication called Education Next. In the archives was an article about the Cleveland schools. It goes into detail about the period of state takeover, concluding that:

By 2000, Cleveland’s central administrators had recovered from the state takeover of 1995, dismantled decentralization, and silenced the political calls for democratic participation. The Cleveland story illustrates why school-based management has failed in district after district.