Superintendent says Salinas teachers' protest was pure politics.
Thursday, November 8, 2001
''If you print this on Wednesday, nobody will read it," said Salinas school Superintendent Robert Slaby.
I told him the story will run Thursday.
"Nobody will be interested anymore," he said.
He was talking about the 120 or so teachers marching outside the Salinas City Elementary School District office on Main Street. They carried signs reading "Slaby Must Go" and "Honk If You Support Teachers." Marchers cheered as kid-filled SUVs drove by beeping support, their passengers yelling out the windows.
The teachers told me that Slaby doesn''t respect them and won''t listen to their classroom needs or consult with them on curricular issues.
It''s all politics, Slaby said of the rally, which was held Nov. 5, a day before School Board elections.
The teachers'' union had endorsed candidates John Aaron, a bilingual elementary school teacher, and Robert Foster Hoffman, a retired educator. Both were critical of Slaby''s job performance. Incumbents Michael Semeniuk and Harry Gamotan ran on a pro-Slaby ticket.
The following day, Aaron and Hoffman won the race.
"It''s free advertisement for their candidates," Slaby said. "First, with the vote of no-confidence, now with the protest. They call you, and all the newspapers and TV stations come down and give them what they want."
Two weeks ago, the 500-member teachers'' union announced an overwhelming vote of no confidence in Superintendent Slaby. It passed by a 400-15 margin.
"It''s all right here in a CTA [California Teacher''s Association] manual on how to discredit a school district," Slaby continued, waving a thick stack of stapled papers. He said he''d rather not give me the document.
After election day, none of this will matter, he said.
Teachers are unhappy with Slaby''s hands-off management style. They say they never see him on campus, nor does he consult teachers prior to implementing programs or hiring trainers and consultants. And they''re angry about what they call "misuse and misallocation of public funds by the district."
There are no allegations of illegal or even procedural misdeeds behind the charge.
But Bush pointed to the District''s $200,000 contract with New York-based education consultant Lorraine Monroe. Monroe''s program requires teachers to spell out homework and classroom objectives in a lesson plan, on the chalk board and in lengthy daily reports. Teachers say they now spend three to four extra hours a night on paperwork--time they would rather spend tutoring students, developing lessons or correcting assignments and tests.
Bush said the teachers also question the $3,000-per-person cost for Slaby and other administrators to attend a 10-day Spanish course in Ecuador.
"If you want to learn Spanish, you can learn Spanish in East Salinas," said Tom Goevelinger, a sixth-grade teacher at University Park. "Our classrooms run out of paper, we run out of pencils. How is a 10-day trip to Ecuador going to help the students?"
Slaby says he heard no criticisms of Lorraine Monroe or the Ecuador trip until the weeks prior to the School Board election. Teachers say they complained loudly about both decisions prior to election day. They say they will continue to do so post Nov. 6--hopefully to the ears of a CTA-sympathetic board.
"Right now, decisions are made at the top and we are supposed to implement these new programs and rules without training and materials," said teacher Jennifer Zanzot. "The Board gives us time to talk, but then they rubberstamp whatever Slaby says."
Come Thursday, Zanzot said, the issue will remain.