Tom Curtis to all: Selecting Board Members
Hello STRS Members,
I have read a few emails in regards to comments I made in one of my emails this month. I expected and wanted this to occur. In that email, I merely stated my opinion of who I believe should and who should not be considered for election to the active teacher seats on the STRS board. I have attached that email of 12/03/05 for your review, if you choose to do so. [Also posted in this blog on December 3, 2005. KB]
I made these comments based upon my experiences after attending the majority of the STRS board meetings for nearly the past 3 years. As most of you would know, I have also been actively involved with CORE since it’s inception in October of 2003.
During this time period, I have found a very small percentage of the STRS membership attends these meetings. Consequently, most truly have no idea the amount of work and knowledge it takes to be an adequate STRS board member. Most STRS members simply expect others to do the work, as I was guilty of prior to March 2003.
Recently elected members have stated that they had no idea of the amount of work that was involved. Had they attended board meetings prior to their election, they most assuredly would have been more aware of the inherent responsibility that would be placed on them. This should be a mandate for those who obtain petitions and a high consideration by those voting for board members. It is my opinion that an internship should be part of the election process. One candidate this past spring played this point down and indicated this made no difference. This was probably because that person never attended any STRS board meetings, as other candidates had done. Had each candidate done so, some might have declined to run, knowing just how demanding of their time a board position would be. Some may assume this is just a glorified position when asked to run. My experience is that it is a lot of hard work and a continual need for time to read and understand the multifaceted operation of a $60 billion dollar enterprise. Further, most board members are asked to spend 3-6 days per month at the STRS in meetings or away on training. This is not a job for those that cannot devote a huge amount of time to such for 4 years. It is my experience that classroom teachers do not have that kind of free time. Further, the learning curve without any experience in the business or financial world is huge.
In my email, I indicated that I realized my comments would be controversial. One responded in a manner that I found very uncharacteristic of that person, but that was because of his/her strong disagreement with my statements. That person in turn offered an aspect that I had not considered, but felt strongly in agreement with as soon as I read their response. He/she indicated active teachers should be the only ones making decisions about requested disability retirements, not people far removed, or never having been in the classroom. I strongly support that thought and thus see the need for classroom teachers to be on the board. In my opinion, for a classroom teacher to be on the STRS board, he/she will need a large portion of time to devote to that position, if they take that position seriously.
Again, my comments were mine alone and do not represent another person(s) or group of people, such as CORE. I usually state in my emails that my comments are my opinion, which I believe allows for my freedom of speech.
What I have to say is put forth for other STRS members to read, consider and respond to. Lord knows we need some open discussion about the reform of the STRS. The feeling of uncompromising authority by past and some present STRS board members and Staff does not really foster such. They tend to rule by administrative fiat. It would seem that they believe they know what is best for us.
Some board members state that they make their decisions based upon 3307.15, yet I find no general agreement amongst the board as to what 3307.15 truly means to them. There has obviously been much latitude in the interpretation of such, or some of our past board members would be facing far more then a few ethics charges. I feel it is imperative that a legal interpretation is in order, one that is agreed upon by all board members. It should then be much clearer to board members when considering, making and voting for various motions, just who the motion truly benefits. This should be a high priority topic for discussion during the Board’s February retreat.
I personally find that many on the board and the executive staff have little to no concern for input from those of us that regularly attend the board meetings. I am sure they would disagree with this statement, but my own experience would prove otherwise. It would seem that because the former board chairman labeled us as "malcontents", we should be given little regard. Some board members seem to be arrogant, highly influenced by the staff and feel we have little knowledge worthy of consideration. Otherwise they would respond to our emails and requests for more correspondence during our 3-minute presentations.
The STRS management has told this malcontent that we do not represent the majority, according to STRS surveys. I have been present during the presentation of and have read many great ideas and proposals made to the STRS executive staff by members. To date, none have been seriously considered in my opinion and we are only told that they are good ideas, but just would not work at the STRS. This type of attitude by the STRS staff and board is unacceptable. Until we get board members that have enough background experience and knowledge to step up and say something different, such as John Lazares, Dennis Leone and Steve Buser have done, it will continue to operate as usual and the membership’s input will continue to be ignored. That is truly sad.
It is my experience that when tough questions are asked, quite often most board members will not respond at all (Brown, Fisher, Flannagan, Meyers and Puckett), or respond in a manner that rarely communicates any information that they can be held accountable for (Billirakis & Ramser). Nobody wants to be wrong or have to be held accountable.
Yes, I have been labeled a malcontent and because of such, I guess I do not deserve a response from these people who are supposed to represent me on the board and I really have no recourse, do I?
Whether the readers of my emails agree, or disagree with my comments, it is my intention to generate some healthy and constructive discussion about many very important issues and topics concerning the STRS. I believe discussion is healthy, whereas many of the leaders of the various educational organizations that claim to support us do not desire such. They work in a vacuum of their own making and desire no outside interference from malcontents.
I am a technologist. I learned, practiced and taught principals of technology my entire life. This method will generally provide results that will continue to be current and up-to-date, as each time the process is completed it is reviewed and determined if it can be improved. This is a concept that many leaders in this country fail to place in practice. You don’t think it works, then ask yourself why Honda and Toyota can make it work? I believe they now produce more cars in this country then do any one of the other car manufacturers. They employ the same people the other manufacturers employ, they simply listen to the people that work for them. They make the technological process work, as it will nearly every time it is properly applied.
You might ask yourself, just what do our board members, staff and leaders of the organizations that supposedly represent us fear? I wish I could answer that. We have tried various ways of presenting new ideas, but most have been ignored. I am especially concerned, when the educated leaders of these various organizations tell me that I should forget the past and move forward, without any concern for any restitution of the funds wasted. That is a load of crap!
In closing, I am sure you all can agree on my last statement for today. If the funds wasted and misspent by the leadership of all of these organizations were their money, they would never say anything so utterly ridiculous, as forget about it and let’s move on.
Merry Christmas and goodnight,