It was bad enough last spring when the president of the local teachers’ union said his organization wouldn’t take a position on the proposed desegregation plan.
Without addressing the meritsor demeritsof the largest schools issue to come down the pike in years, Erick Huth, president of the Metro Nashville Education Association (MNEA), said his union members were upset at what he characterized as inadequate teachers’ raises and stalled talks on other bargaining points.
“In that sort of a bargaining climate,” Huth said at the time, the union would not “advance” a costly, $206 million desegregation plan that could mean smaller raises for school employees. Metro Council ultimately passed the plan without them. The teachers, meanwhile, continued complaining about personnel matters.
In avoiding the issue, MNEA reinforced its image as an organization less interested in students than in labor negotiations, not the sort of public-relations problem MNEAor other teachers’ unionsneeds to perpetuate.
As if to aggravate its problem, MNEA is pitching another fit over a labor matter. This Tuesday, it kicked off a work “slowdown.” The slowdown began on the same day that Metro schools Director Bill Wise was scheduled to undergo surgery.
The MNEA is upset that school officials won’t accept its demanded 5.75 percent pay raise, retroactive to July 1. In the process, the union is vowing to “work to the rule” (read that: take it out on the students), or only for the time stipulated in teacher contracts.
The latest episode brings to mind what the Scene found at the union’s offices near the Tennessee State Fairgrounds several months ago. It bears repeating.
Displayed in the union’s conference room, and written in magic marker, was a handwritten description of “the perfect school year.” While surely a joke, the message didn’t help improve public-school teachers’ collective reputation as professional complainers.
The message went something like this:
“The perfect school year:
1. Start after Labor Day;
2. Take off all holidays recognized
by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and
3. Have a spring break week
before and after Easter;
4. End before Memorial Day;
5. Allow for 10 built-in snow days
(the remainder of which are
knocked off of May);
6. Get birthdays off
(or the Friday/Monday closest to
it if it falls on the weekend);
7. Only 4-week months allowed.”
Hooker hits the web
Democratic gubernatorial nominee John Jay Hooker has taken his campaign-finance-reform message to the Internet, posting a Web page this week to plug voters into his campaign and political-reform efforts.
“You’ll now know everything about John Jay Hooker that you’ll really want to know,” Hooker says of the Web site: http://www.johnjayhooker.org, which was posted for him by friend Rusty Michael, a music booking agent who’s known Hooker for about eight years.
Michael says he and his brother built the site for the politico, but that Hooker provided all the copy for it. He says he wanted to post it for the Democratic nominee free of charge, but that Hooker paid him. “I’m doing this because I’m a yellow-dog Democrat and a Hooker supporter,” Michael says. “But he won’t take any in-kind services. He insisted on paying for it.”
Hooker’s site shares cyberspace with the political Web page of his Republican opponent, Gov. Don Sundquist (www.don.org). Both sites provide background information on the candidates, and both peddle their respective campaign messages. Sundquist’s page, however, has a link telling voters how to make political contributionseven with their credit cards. On the other hand, Hooker’s site, which lists himself as the treasurer, declares that “the John Jay Hooker for governor campaign does not accept campaign contributions.”
Tower of power
If Tennessee voters don’t think the proposed $40 million building to provide new offices for a part-time state Legislature is obscene, they might change their minds once they realize it includes a health spa.
The news surfaced this week that the Legislature quietly approved spending $1 million in the last state budget to begin planning the 10-story, 180,000-square-foot office towerto be located at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Union Street.
The speakers of both houses, Jimmy Naifeh and John Wilder, apparently are supporting the “monument to big government,” as House Republican Caucus Chairman Randy Stamps of Hendersonville calls it. Legislators’ opinions about the proposed project, which could be funded during the next legislative session, obviously vary. But privately, lawmakers can pretty much agree on one thing: that the proposed “wellness center” inside the structure will be bad PR. That’s not to say they’ll oppose it.
Perhaps the real question, aptly posed by one Capitol Hill reporter, is this: will the Legislaturewhose halls, offices, and meeting rooms are perhaps the capital city’s last bastion of shameless cigar and cigarette smokingallow smoking inside the health center?
To reach Liz, call her at 244-7989, ext. 406, or e-mail her at email@example.com.
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