By Christoph Neumann
Recent labor negotiations with the Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Association and the Manhattan Beach Unified School District’s Board of Trustees led to teacher non-participation in the 2012 Scholar Quiz, which started on May 29.
The Mira Costa teachers’ protest against the Scholar Quiz is an unhelpful action that diminishes a valiant cause. Teachers deserve a raise and respect during negotiations, but their demonstration has done little to further their goals.
A week before the start of the 2012 Scholar Quiz, it was announced that, in a collective effort, many members of the teaching staff would be boycotting participation in the Scholar Quiz. Many teachers, who usually read the questions, opted out in order to be able to fully take advantage of their contractually-given 30-minute lunch period.
The protest has been described by negotiation team chair and Mira Costa social science teacher Adam Geczi as a reaction to the attitude of the Board during the negotiations process. It was planned by Costa teachers and was not an official MBUTA action.
Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement began over a month ago between the Board of Trustees and a team of MBUTA negotiators. MBUTA was pushing for a wage increase that teachers have not gotten in over five years.
Teachers say that this was necessary to open the eyes of the community to the teachers’ side of the contract dispute, and that the community will realize the dedication teachers put in.
However, this is simply not the case. This action flew over the heads of some students who did not even notice, or students noticed but did not feel any effects or understand the reasons for the action.
According to Superintendant Dr. Michael Matthews, parent organizers were able to quickly find more volunteers to fill the spots left by the protesting teachers, which further lessened the impact felt by the students.
The boycott also didn’t get the teachers any leverage in the contract negotiations.
According to Geczi, MBUSD is still not as responsive as the teachers want it to be. Gezci believes the negotiations are still just a mere exchange of proposals, not the back and forth dialogue needed to make real progress.
While this was not an official MBUTA action, many parents in the community, may see it as such because of the circumstances and the parties involved.
Any negative opinion parents have because of the boycott will most likely influence their opinions on the negotiations as a whole. Poor view of the situation as a whole is not something MBUTA wants or needs.
The steps that the teachers have made are ineffective at accomplishing their goals. Teachers should try to gain the support of the community.
Even though the teachers’ hands are tied when it comes to what they are allowed to do, they can still try to make a difference. Instead of tightening tensions, teachers need to move in the other direction and actually act in support of school events.
This support would show the community that while teachers are fighting for change, they are unwilling to jeopardize students’ educational experiences.
While the Board has made proposals, negotiations are still going on, showing MBUTA’s dissatisfaction with proposals thus far. Having a more positive portrayal of the union among community members would be beneficial for them in the negotiating process.
The teachers deserve better treatment and proper payment, and their daily actions and accomplishments are what have made Costa a great school. However, their current actions have had the opposite effect than what was intended and are ineffective in changing the situation. The teachers’ boycott of this year’s Scholar Quiz has muted the voice of their reasonable cause and possibly slowed future progress.