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Panthers, Geese, and Golden Eggs

Are you familiar with the story of the goose and the golden eggs? In the story, a farmer had a goose that laid a golden egg every morning. Day after day, there was an egg. All the farmer had to do was take care of the goose. If he fed the goose, provided it shelter, ensured it was safe, the goose would continue to lay eggs. But then the farmer got greedy. He decided that he wanted all the eggs in the goose all at once. So he killed the goose, cut it open, and discovered that there were no golden eggs and now there was no goose. Thus there would be no more golden eggs in the future. The moral is you have to keep things in their proper balance. If you focus too much on outcomes and not enough on the means for producing those outcomes, you will “kill the goose” in the process. The result will be failure. It’s about common sense and balance.

This goose in the fable is reminiscent of the teachers of Springboro, Ohio who have been producing golden eggs in the form of incredible, statistically proven results in our schools year after year. In recent years they have made sacrifices in compensation, taught larger classes, been given additional responsibilities, and for all their efforts been shown little appreciation by most of our school board… and they still delivered for our kids.

Need proof of the golden eggs of which I speak? Check out our district report card from the state of Ohio. Check the information from the Ohio Department of Education that was published in the Dayton Business Journal’s 2012 Book of Lists, which had Springboro tied for third in academic performance in the entire region and also documented that our cost per pupil is the lowest in the region by a very wide margin. Pick a metric and the story it will tell you is one of a school system with world class teachers.

To those who say “we’re failing 20% of our kids” based on college readiness, I say “nonsense.” We have incredibly high graduation rates. Our students who go on to college take fewer remedial courses than do those from average or comparable districts, and according to organizations like SOCHE, whom I asked personally, it is impossible to conclude that our averages for students needing remedial college courses indicate a systemic failure of our district to prepare our students for college.

To those who say “everyone knows that proficient on a standardized test equals failure” I say “garbage.” Anyone who has taken a basic statistics course knows that standardized tests like those used for proficiency are designed to produce results on a bell curve, so that most students who take the test score in the middle of the curve. This type of testing enables you to compare schools to one another and to show how many students are one or two standard deviations out from the mean of the bell curve. This lets you know how well the system is performing comparatively and as a whole. The critics of our schools rely on intellectually bankrupt reasoning that begins with a political answer and then uses propaganda and bullying to distort truth. Saying “back in my day a 57 was an F” shows a total lack of understanding for the method or purpose of this testing. Now the good news is that thanks to our teachers in Springboro, our students are at least smart enough to see through the flawed logic and empty rhetoric of these politically motivated critics. Perhaps if these folks actually spent some time in our schools they would have a better grasp of such things.

It’s as simple as this. When you compare Springboro to districts in the region and districts across the state, we are exceptional. We get an incredibly high level of performance at a very low cost. If the definition of value is defined by the relationship between the cost and quality of a given product, we are unmatched in educational value. Our teachers have sacrificed for years and they have repeatedly and consistently delivered for our community. Oh and for those who love to throw the private sector out there for comparative value, these people would be entitled to huge bonuses or would have left long ago if they were in the private sector, even in this economy. Thankfully they are not financially motivated and clearly they are in it for our kids because they have stayed and excelled in their jobs.

This brings me back to the goose. Our teachers are in the process of negotiating a new contract. They have been operating on an expired agreement for years, and in doing so have made some pretty significant sacrifices. Our teachers are once again being bullied by our board, who does not value them and desperately wants to break them. Now more than ever our teachers need the support of our community.

When it comes to schools, the people of Springboro get far more and pay far less. We say our schools matter. We say we put children first. We say we need to be prepared to compete globally, and be ready for the third grade guarantee, and the common core. We say we want the best schools in the state and the world. We say we want more and more from our teachers and that we want results now. We say we want more and more golden eggs, but all the while we are doing less and less to take care of the goose. If you don’t care for the goose, it will die and the golden eggs will go with it.

It’s pretty simple really. If you want cheaper, underperforming public schools that will rapidly diminish in quality, support our our current board and their plans for our teachers. If you want to kill the goose to capitalize on the hypothetical windfall of golden eggs, our schools board plan is a great choice. In fact they actually believe they have a mandate to kill the goose, and while their campaign signs don’t say it, their actions, emails, conversations, and public presentations clearly show just how little they value our teachers.

On the contrary, if you believe that it is foolish to kill the goose, that it would be crazy not to help our educators, you need to support the efforts of our teachers to negotiate a new contract in good faith. If you believe that we need a responsible, fair, non-political, common sense approach to ensuring the future of our schools, please speak up for our teachers. If you want to keep great teachers in our district and ensure the future viability of our district the time is now to show your support.

Fortunately, the Springboro Board of Education was kind enough to potentially break the law and definitely break the trust of the teachers yet again by posting both sides’ preliminary proposals on the district website. The board once again violated the spirit of the private negotiations with the teachers by publishing information that was meant to be discussed and negotiated in private conversations. Like most of the “duh, we’re too dumb to be devious” board member explanations, they had the audacity to say this is being published to keep the public informed. Hey board members. If you care so much about transparency, how about stopping your borderline illegal private executive sessions? How about informing the public about your pending plans to arm our teachers with guns even though the police chief and community vehemently opposes the idea? How about actually presenting one of those magical levy alternatives you ran on last year or at least giving us something better than “let’s have a pizza party to buy books for our kids.” We are not stupid, and we see you working. You don’t respect our teachers and you don’t want to honor the responsibility of educating our kids. You say you want a world class school system, but you don’t show it and you’re sure not willing to demonstrate the leadership or courage of saying we should actually pay for such a thing.

We need common sense action and it is clear that we will not get it unless we demand it. The fact is that our teachers are making reasonable requests which would put them at average or slightly under average compensation and benefit levels based on comparative districts. The goose is simply asking to be fed in exchange for continuing to deliver golden eggs.

Will you speak up and defend our teachers or do you trust our board to properly care for them? If you choose the latter, rest assured that as a community our goose is pretty much cooked. (I’m told that goose tastes like chicken, but a little more gamey, and perhaps we can sell a few feather pillows to pay for books.)

Thank you to the teachers of Springboro, Ohio for all you do for our community and our children.