library with another member of the board. There were two men wearing neckties and cheap suits waiting for us. They had a look... “These dudes,” I thought to myself, “are the muscle.” Not real muscle, mind you... I could have taken either of them – and maybe both – out on the school playground. They were bureaucratic muscle . The kind that will wear you down by citing regulation such and such, chapter two, paragraph one... and threaten to appeal to the oversight board... and, if that doesn’t work, the Supreme Court. They have nothing but time. And a deep understanding of the rules. I introduced myself. They nodded. We didn’t shake hands. I’d been through speeding busts that were more cordial. We took our seats, across the room from each other. One of the union reps announced, in tones that made it sound as though he were bored, the basic salary increases we were proposing were not enough, but this was “negotiable.” (Big of him.) However, this business of “bonuses” (his word for what we thought of as “merit pay”) was out of the question. When I asked why, he answered, like he was talking to a third grader, that judgements of that sort were “subjective.” And they would demoralize the teachers who did not qualify. Which, I thought, was precisely the point... Maybe those teachers would try harder... or find another line of work. But that was how the discussions proceeded.
by members of the board, and student performance on standardized tests. It was not ruthlessly empirical... But it was something. And it would reward teachers for something more than just staying above ground another year and killing two weeks at a summer seminar where the spoken language was bureaucratese. My supporters on the board were pleased and cautiously optimistic. A couple of the old hands thought we were fools... well-meaning fools, but fools just the same. Write that down to the wisdom of age. They were Bureaucratic muscle. The kind that will wear you down by citing regulation such and such, chapter two, paragraph one... and threaten to appeal to the oversight board... and, if that doesn’t work, the Supreme Court. They have nothing but time. And a deep understanding of the rules. UNION MUSCLE I typed up an outline of our plan and submitted it to the teacher who served as union rep for our faculty. She sniffed and said she would get back to me. Which she did, a couple of days later, and said that we needed to open negotiations and, oh, by the way, there would be someone from union headquarters attending. The day arrived, and I went to the school
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