Bellevue School District: On Strike - My New Job

Last year while I was working on my masters from SPU I was sent into the classroom right away. Right off the bat I started observing and getting to know the students. As the year progressed, I started taking over more and more classes and responsibilities. Tillicum Middle School in Bellevue became my home. The staff was great, my mentor teachers were amazing, and the kids helped me grow a lot; a perfect first experience. To compliment that experience, I was able to fill in as a leave replacement at Tyee Middle School for the last quarter of the year. It was nice to be on my own and get a little taste of the “real” teaching experience.

Over the summer I worked on the 8th grade physics curriculum as a “content specialist.” We incorporated materials and ideas from what we had done during the year along with suggestions and helps from the special ed and ESL departments. The idea is that collaboration and resources will make the curriculum, the curriculum web and the lessons it contains that much stronger. While there, I was approached by one of my mentor teachers from last year. She let me know that she might be moving to the high school level to teach biology which would mean there was an open position back at Tillicum.

So last week I found myself at the newbie training for Bellevue School District! I have my own room! It is mostly ready to go. The walls look fairly bare for the most part… but it is functional and I will be working on it! It was pretty much the ideal situation for me. I know the school, I know the staff, I know the curriculum; that should help make my first year of teaching much more smooth and successful (hopefully for my students as well).

Today’s my first day… well it would have been had the Bellevue Education Association (our union) not decided to go on strike.

The Strike

The bargaining team on both sides have done a good job of working hard to get the contract hammered out, but there are still three major areas where agreement could not be reached. The three areas still being argued are compensation, health benefits, and the use of the curriculum web. I am all for higher pay and I think there is ground being made on the issue of compensation. Bellevue is paid well compared to other districts in the area, but the cost of living is higher and (some would argue) the quality of the teacher is higher as well. I believe that the district does need to be held accountable for where money has gone and why they think they cannot afford to pay us more. But I also understand that if that money truly is not there, they would have to fire personnel, which would not be a good situation either. Here is the comparison in pay proposals (from the district website… so there are other factors that may not be represented). I don’t have too much to say about the benefits issue. Personally I would rather have the money on the check than in benefits because all mine is covered already. But I also have to understand that most people are not single without kids and so have to pay more and should therefore have those benefits. At the same time, we have a pretty amazing benefits plan as it is.

The Curriculum
I have had problems with the language the union and many teachers use in talking about the curriculum web. Here is the memorandum of understanding regarding curriculum from the district (UPDATE: here is the current version). When I read that, I do not understand what the union could have problems with. Teachers are worried about autonomy in what kind of lessons they can teach. Fine, I get that. If they need to change or modify the lessons they teach, they can do that. Why wouldn’t they share that with their curriculum staff and their colleagues?

Some teachers are still under the impression that we have to teach scripted lessons. That we could just print a lesson off the web and read it. That is not the intent of the web, nor has it ever been the intent. I do not understand why this is still being propagated. I have never interacted with any administrator or curriculum coach who thinks the lessons on the web have only one way to be taught or that they should never be modified to fit the needs of our students. This is what “professional judgment” means. For my final, “official” observation to be entered into Bellevue’s job pool (in lieu of an interview), I was observed by one of the area directors. In that observation I did a lesson that was NOT part of the curriculum web and the observation went wonderfully because the lesson was student centered and was aligned with district objectives. It made sense. “I heard a teacher got in trouble for not using something from the curriculum web…” That is NOT sufficient to suggest that teachers actually are being written up for the reasons you think. Hearsay needs to be ignored and not propagated. If people have a problem with Bellevue’s educational philosophy or pedagogy, they probably shouldn’t be part of this district. Why would you join a company if you completely disagreed with what they did? And why does the union think they can control and dictate what the district deems important?

I understand this is a very complex issue, I just wish both sides would grow up a bit, stop using politically charged language, stop propagating inaccurate information, provide factual information that is relevant, make appropriate compromises, and just keep working to settle this strike so we can start teaching our kids.

To the teachers: stop thinking the district is trying to control and micromanage your classroom. They aren’t trying to do that. They don’t want to do that. They want you to be a professional.

To the union: don’t push an agenda that the entire union might not be in support of. The memorandum of understanding concerning curriculum makes sense and should be supported.

To the school district: you need to show specific numbers if you truly think you cannot afford the pay increase being asked for. You haven’t been completely honest in the past on this issue and teachers got burned. If you have mismanaged funds, you need to figure out how to deal with that, but not at the expense of quality teachers.

There is much more that could be said, but I will leave it at that. I will eventually have my first day of teaching. I just hope it will be soon!

Bellevue Education Association (the BEA, our union)
Bellevue School District

News Articles about the Strike:
Seattle P-I: Bellevue teachers set for strike
Seattle Times: School’s out in Bellevue as teachers hit picket lines
King 5 TV: Bellevue teachers walk picket line
KOMO News 4: Bellevue teachers on strike
KIRO TV 7: Bellevue Teachers Hit Picket Lines

If you would like to email the BEA bargaining team about your thoughts on the matter, they can be emailed here: BEAbargain [at]

Check out this Seattle Times editorial: Bellevue teachers strike is wrong. While the editorial can be a bit harsh in places, they have a lot of good things to say that should be paid attention to.

Teachers are taking standardized curriculum as a personal affront when it is not. Districts have always been empowered to set curriculum.

Bellevue has spent the past five years creating the curriculum with a $2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — an organization known for vetting academic initiatives. Meanwhile, the district continues to be recognized nationally for its quality schools and its emphasis on getting all students into high-level classes.

Here is a critical point the teachers union appears to want to ignore: Bellevue’s common curriculum is an evolving effort, far from completion. It was expected that best practices and teaching strategies from teachers would build upon the work already started. The curriculum would change as students change, creating a living rather than static effort. Teachers should know this.

You should read it.

Categories: Daily Life, Education
  1. September 2nd, 2008 at 18:39 | #1

    Looks like you chose the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

    Your balanced and well-reasoned position will cause both sides to shun you. :)

  2. September 2nd, 2008 at 21:48 | #2

    Haha, thanks for the encouragement. I have no doubt the shunning will kick in soon. But being the noob, no one cares what I think anyway. ;)

  3. a colleague
    September 3rd, 2008 at 07:53 | #3

    Thank you for your well written piece about the BSD strike. What you say about the curriculum, the curriculum web, and how teachers ARE allowed to teach is my experience as well. I am saddened by our colleagues who do not dig for clarification on the issues, but rather run with what the Union is telling them and go on “I hear this happens somewhere in the district.”

    What an unfortunate propaganda war on both sides.

  4. September 3rd, 2008 at 14:27 | #4

    Even talking to picketers yesterday and today (and maybe my school is different?), most people have been saying “yeah I like my curriculum web, but I have heard of people getting reprimanded…” But it is really difficult to find specific cases. And I have no doubt that there are some of those, but it doesn’t seem like the majority. But then I STILL have heard people explaining to cars passing by “they want us to teach the same less on the same day in the same way…” But I have NEVER experienced and I still find it hard to believe that anyone has ever actually felt that way… but it is still being propagated.

    Thanks for your assurance as well. It is nice to know that other teachers are feeling the same way, I had a number of conversations of a similar nature today on the line. I want to support what we are fighting for (I was on the line yesterday and today), but will not be there to show full support (I probably will not go in tomorrow or Friday). It is a difficult situation to be in!

    In the BEA’s strike newsletter that we were given today they said this: “Our bargaining team continued its search Tuesday for a solution to the district’s ongoing demand for one-size-fits-all lesson plans.” Where does the district EVER say anything like that? The is directly from the memorandum of understanding concerning curriculum:

    Teachers will exercise professional judgment in determining when and how to modify or supplement lessons to meet the needs of students and achieve unit and lesson objectives. If an individual teacher deems a lesson in the curriculum could be enhanced to better meet the needs of his/her students, the teacher will use professional judgment to modify and/or supplement the lesson, while still meeting lesson objectives. Modifications and supplementation are encouraged as a way to improve lessons and/or extend learning. While teachers are encouraged to submit modifications as a benefit to other teachers and in an effort to improve the curriculum, there is no obligation to do so.

    Eh? How is that different from what teachers want? And how is that suggesting a “one-size-fits-all” lesson plan? Something is not matching up.

  5. AMEN from a colleague!
    September 3rd, 2008 at 18:43 | #5

    WOW Matt! I commend you for a well said, well balanced statement about the strike we are in!

    I too teach in Bellevue in two various locations and have learned from walking/talking with others that once I start trying to dig into finding the facts to back up the statements being said to the media, parents passing by or colleagues…there is in fact no evidence other than hearsay.

    I don’t feel supported by our union at this time and DO appreciate their hard work, but don’t feel as though they are representing those of us who aren’t in agreement regarding curriculum. I think it’s time to begin voicing a reality check and working together to build our reputation in Bellevue rather than shred it publicly! We ARE top notch educators and I agree…if one doesn’t believe in the philosophy then maybe there’s a better fit out there?

    When WILL we be heard?

    I DO know that from working with Michele Miller over the past few years, there’s no hope in resolution, as she’s one to be fed from the power that stirs within. THIS is what scares me the most! I sure hope our team knows/recognizes better!

  6. Erin
    September 3rd, 2008 at 19:34 | #6

    Mmmm careful about the quality of teacher brother… low income school districts need high quality teachers just as much… if not more.

  7. September 3rd, 2008 at 23:00 | #7

    Colleague #2: I completely agree. I feel that there needs to be another vote. We need to hear what exactly the offer is right now and let us vote on that. While I appreciate what the bargaining team has done, but I also know that some of them are really against the curriculum web and want to push that agenda. They want the ability to “do anything they want” but that is not appropriate at all.

    The loaded language and hearsay needs to stop. REAL information needs to get out there. I fear that the more and more people that hear the nonsense that is being passed around, the more entrenched we become.

    If they want to hold the line on the compensation issue until the district shows them real numbers, fine, that is understandable. But the issue of the curriculum web needs to stop. The language the district uses sounds pretty good to me.

    We need to be heard soon! I am going to look for email addresses of the bargaining team so that people can send them a note about this, I hope it would be worth while.

    Erin: I completely agree. What I intended with that statement (“Bellevue is paid well compared to other districts in the area, but the cost of living is higher and (some would argue) the quality of the teacher is higher as well.”) is that Bellevue believes that the teachers they have hired are top quality and should therefore be paid more. This says nothing about the fact that many low income districts often need more incentive to get higher quality teachers. I think both support one of my contentions: the state cannot just say that all teachers in every district should be paid the same. It just doesn’t work that way. How can we get more money to districts that NEED it (for whatever reason: whether it be a low income district OR a high cost of living district… or both.)

  8. September 4th, 2008 at 12:22 | #8

    Here is the BEA bargaining team’s email address if you want to tell them about your thoughts on the matter: BEAbargain [at]

  9. Erin
    September 4th, 2008 at 18:09 | #9

    At the moment I am thinking a desk job sounds really good… I almost want to look into accounting? Financing? Something to get funding to the schools that need it. Because it is RIDICULOUS.

  10. September 4th, 2008 at 19:12 | #10

    Seriously. There are some states where their teachers earn $80-100k a year. And it makes it very difficult when the low income areas are funded so poorly because the taxes raised are not extensive because the areas are so poor… Bellevue is funded well because we pass levies and tax funds are fairly substantial. It is great for us, but sucks for areas that have no money and cannot support their students in ways that they need. We need to do something at the state level!

  11. Paul
    September 5th, 2008 at 08:37 | #11

    I have to disagree about the Curriculum Web piece. The current MOU on the district website is unsatisfactory.

    I work in a high school building where teachers I know have been sanctioned for failing to follow the curriculum web. I myself have been reprimanded for curriculum web related issues (it was related to pacing). In talking with several folks on the issue, what I’m finding is that these issues are largely in place within certain buildings and certain departments. It doesn’t surprise me that there are buildings and/or departments that have no idea what the fuss is all about.

    I believe that stronger contract language needs to be in place to ensure that such abuses do not continue to happen in the future. If curriculum web issues are not issues for evaluation, put it in the contract! If overall “big picture” objectives are the only important piece of the curriculum puzzle in the eyes of the district, then why not say so in clear language? What does that hurt the district if that is really what they are willing to do?

    The language about ongoing conversations with curriculum folks and the requirement to submit replacement lessons is not just a curriculum issue, but also partly a workload issue. It’s additional work that they want overloaded teachers to complete, and that they are offering no compensation for. It is completely appropriate for the union to push for removal or modification of these clauses.

    One last note. I’m disappointed to have so easily found this blog from a teacher. I understand that striking is difficult and not where the vast majority of us wanted to be. I certainly don’t want to be on the lines. I understand that there are many teachers on the picket line who do not have issues with all three of the components that do not have a tentative agreement at the moment.

    But the Internet is a public forum, and the opinions and perceptions here are available for all to see. Posting your doubts regarding the strike not only weakens the efforts of all of your colleagues on the picket line (many of whom strongly believe in what they are doing), but it also undermines the public message that needs to be sent out.

    What you say to your family, your friends, and even to your colleagues is certainly your business. But I believe that all BEA members have a responsibility to avoid the public undermining of both the efforts of the bargaining team and those who feel well represented by the bargaining team.

  12. September 5th, 2008 at 09:26 | #12

    I am glad you added your thoughts here Paul. I need to hear from people who actually have had conflict, because I hadn’t seen any of it. Both the 7th and 8th grade science curriculum got together over the summers and pacing was one of the issues we talked about. In both cases we said, “well this is roughly how long we should spend on X unit… but if you do it faster or slower, that’s ok.” So the issue of pacing has never been an issue or pressure point.

    I understand and even agree that there needs to be language about this in the contract, but I don’t know if everyone will ever come to agreement if it becomes that specific. The district says this:

    Teachers will exercise professional judgment in determining when and how to modify, supplement, or replace a lesson to meet the needs of students and to achieve unit and lesson objectives. Teachers are encouraged to share modifications, supplementations and replacement lessons with their curriculum teams as a benefit to other teachers and in an ongoing effort to improve the curriculum.

    Teachers being “encouraged to share” doesn’t seem like a large toll on us at all. It just makes sense that we would share our new stuff because it could help out other classrooms. But it is NOT a requirement.

    As far as your last concern with finding this and not approving of my not standing strong with the union, I can only say that I apologize. I cannot say that I will stop or keep looking for what the issues actually are. My job is directly at stake because of this bargaining process so it is of paramount concern to me. I also feel that the BEA is called to represent all voices in the process and they don’t seem to actually be doing that. If the union actually feels strong in their position, they wouldn’t need to worry about my voice. Public dialogue and discourse are necessary in these kinds of matters.

  13. September 5th, 2008 at 19:56 | #13

    Matt: Even the Seattle Times is big enough to print retractions. Does your experience as a new teacher really give you the authority and experience to know and understand the positions of your fellow teachers—I think not. I feel sorry for you at this point. No one likes a know-it-all, especially, the new guy. You are free to have your opinion, but the wise man knows when to hold his tongue. This is not about being a martyr, it is just common sense. Good Luck!

  14. September 5th, 2008 at 20:17 | #14

    So I am supposed to take anything you say seriously? No offense, but I would be more likely to respect what you had to say if you have just put “anonymous.” Where do you feel I need to print a retraction? Voicing an opinion about the way things are being done is bad? What exactly is common sense here?

  15. Paul
    September 5th, 2008 at 20:38 | #15

    The “encouraged to share” on the replacement of lessons is actually encouraging. When I had previously looked (it was probably an older version), it had said “expected to share”. There’s a big difference there for me.

    As far as representing “all voices” in the membership goes, I think what you’re asking is an impossible task. Taking an example with respect to pay: There are almost certainly members who are satisfied with the offer that the district made for three percent over three years. There are also almost certainly members who are irate that the union didn’t get every penny of that nine percent over three years. Where would the majority of the membership really be satisfied? At five percent? Five and a half? Six? It’s really hard to tell where that line is, and so I think it’s the duty of the union to push for the highest number that they think that they can get. That means that the union will continue to argue past the point where some members needed them to go, but I think it’s a necessary evil in collective bargaining.

    I certainly don’t mean to portray the union as perfect; I know a number of individuals who have had concerns, and I think it would be naive to take everything put out by any one source as gospel. That being said, to make an analogy, if I disapprove of what John Smith is doing in his class down the hall, I don’t announce that to my class and nor would I do it with his class. I might talk to John, or I might talk to my and/or his supervisor about it, though.

    The discussions I’ve had with members in my building on the line have been amazing, and I know that one concern voiced by one of our members actually got some response (it had to do with the quality of the BEA website).

  16. September 5th, 2008 at 20:58 | #16

    From what I have seen the “encouraged” language was present in the August 31st MOU when it came to modifying lessons and had “expected” for sharing lessons after teaching replacement lessons. As of the September 4th MOU, the expected language has been removed except for replacing large sections of units.

    I would have to agree with what you say about representing all voices. But shouldn’t the union allow us to vote? It seems like with the progress that has been made in the negotiations, it would be appropriate to have us vote. With the vote they would actually be able to see where the population stands. I would personally LOVE to know where people stand on this. I definitely think the union does need to push for as much as they can, but at some point we have to see how for the body of people the bargaining team represents actually wants to go.

    I appreciate your analogy and understand what you are saying, but I don’t feel that me offering my thoughts on the issue completely fit. As you said, it would be naive to use any one source as primary, and that especially goes for mine.

  17. Paul
    September 5th, 2008 at 22:36 | #17

    Here’s the concern about the re-vote. The June strike vote had 94% of the members supporting it. It’s almost certain that this number would be less than 94% now. My suspicion is that this lower number would provide less of a “bargaining chip” for the union to hold in their corner.

    For instance, if only 52% of the union were still in favor of staying out, the district really doesn’t have to offer much that’s substantially different to sway enough voters.

    Sure, if 85% of the union were still in favor of staying out, the district might feel additional pressure.

    But in the former case, we likely have a very divided membership at the end of it all. That doesn’t strike me as the kind of vote that the union can afford to take.

  18. September 5th, 2008 at 22:56 | #18

    My thoughts exactly. So how does the bargaining team know when to say, “This offer is good enough for our teachers”? If they can’t take a vote (even though I still think they should), how are they actually representing our population?

  19. Bellevue Teacher
    September 5th, 2008 at 23:33 | #19

    How does the bargaining team know they are representing the members? Through the year (years?) of surveys, focus groups and discussions that preceeded the June strike vote. I realize that you are not aware of those because you had not been hired as a teacher yet. You should consider being a part of the process before you criticize it.

  20. September 5th, 2008 at 23:50 | #20

    While I am a new teacher I don’t feel I am coming into this blind (but feel free to disagree). The initial vote to strike last year was definitely well founded and clearly showed that the union and teachers meant business. The district should have paid closer attention to that. The vote was a clear indicator of what those surveys etc. suggested: the teachers needed a new contract that was more fair, balanced, and would truly support kids and education in Bellevue.

    Now we are at the point where both sides have conceded on issues, movement has been made on all three of the major areas of negotiations. Wouldn’t it be an appropriate time to get a feeling for what the union members feel about the current offer? Again, this brings up the issue the Paul mentioned. That notwithstanding, it still seems like an appropriate time for union members to vote once again.

  21. Bellevue Teacher Two
    September 6th, 2008 at 10:11 | #21


    I echo what the first teacher said in that you must be a part of the process in order to fully understand. On the lines you have plenty of ways to get your voice heard, in an appropriate manner. First, every school has strike captains who are asking and checking in with every member to bring back information to the union leaders. Next, executive board members are also traveling from site to site to gather information from each individual member and then to take it back to the meetings that they have daily in order to ensure that the members are in fact being represented. Finally, all union leaders’ contact information is public for union members and instead of smearing your uninformed opinions on the web you could have tactfully called up one of the union leaders and had a conversation with them. Although you state that you are not coming in blindly, your verbiage clearly shows that you are because of your lack of knowledge about the process. Instead of smearing and making enemies of colleague you should seek out and befriend them because they have a lot of wisdom and understanding to depart on you.

  22. September 6th, 2008 at 10:21 | #22

    At least you didn’t call yourself Karen Clark like you did last time. No offense, but I have been quite civil in my conversation here, if you think I am just “smearing” uninformed opinions, please feel free to point out what is uninformed. Just saying I have lack of knowledge doesn’t actually point out what you think is missing. Discussion, while interesting and helpful, on the lines if often a very difficult place to discuss contrary views. There is a lot of pressure there to be supportive and just trust in what they are doing. I found it quite hard to actually express my opinions there.

    If expressing a different opinion “smears” (who exactly have I smeared?) and makes enemies, that is quite unfortunate and saddens me. But if people cannot be tolerant of different views, how will anything get discussed?

  23. September 6th, 2008 at 10:22 | #23

    I am away until Sunday, I appreciate any other discussion and additions here, I just won’t be able to respond until then.

  24. Freedmon of Speach
    September 6th, 2008 at 10:31 | #24

    Matt, Why do you keep deleting my posts! Are my insights to advanced for you to understand?

    You created this form for free and very public speach. Make it a two way stree! You might learn something!

  25. September 6th, 2008 at 10:34 | #25

    Your posts will be deleted as long as they are not helpful to the discussion. If you have something directly related to this, feel free to add it. Posting as someone else will not help. If you feel the need to write an essay, go post your own blog.

  26. Concerned fellow teacher
    September 6th, 2008 at 11:57 | #26

    Matt, I am concerned for you. I think you need to understand that even though you have the right to voice your own opion, there are consequences for when and how you do this. If you choose to “smear” or write unfavavorable comments/thoughts about your fellow teachers that are harmful to the actions of BEA that 94% of members voted to approve, then you need to realize thats not going to leave you too many friendly working relationships at your building sight or within your curriculum area. I have visited several building sights during the strike, and spent much time with Tillicum’s staff. MANY members at your sight have expressed anger and outrage with your actions and postings. When this strike is over, you will need to go back to work with these dedicated, hardworking teachers, that are out there fighting to improve Bellevue’s educational system. If 94% of BEA membership voted to strike, then there must be some hard evidence of curriculum being unbending and forced down teachers throats, don’t you think? Of course, being a teacher that has only student teaching experience to speak from, I don’t think you’ve truly experienced the whole process on either the BEA’s side or the districts iron handed ideas on curriculum. You were very lucky to work with teachers who were developing the curriculum, yet you didn’t see the veteran teachers who had this curriculum shoved down their throats and who thought was inappropriate for the make-up of their classroom at the time. Considering, if the teachers get what they’re asking for, you’re the one thats going to benefit from this, and you’ve done nothing to support them and help them with the cause. Maybe you should sign a contract with only a 1/2 percents raise, no flexability within your curricular area, and with $1400 for health care out of pocket. I’m not trying to change your mind, but I want you to be aware that your good working relationship with the people at your building based on trust and collaboration is in jeopardy and I don’t want you to experience a bad first year in a profession that desperatly needs good teachers to stick around.

  27. September 6th, 2008 at 14:30 | #27

    Hi Matt.

    Welcome to the district. I hope you’re learning a lot so far.

    It seems to me that you are happy with the current memorandum of understanding on curriculum issues. I would like to hypothesize about some of the outcomes of that memorandum if I may.

    Let’s say you teach decide to add a lesson about Intelligent Design in your 8th grade biology class. Is that a “substantial” change to the unit? What are the consequences if you do? (Personally, I would hope you would be fired and banned from science, but that’s just me.)

    Let’s say you design a fabulous series of lessons and have concrete evidence that those lessons were effective for your students in another district. Is that a “substantial” change to the unit? If you get it approved by the team, does everyone have to teach that series of lessons? What happens if the series of lessons fails our students after it’s been approved? What happens if the team does not approve your lessons and you teach them anyways and they are successful?

    The memorandum of understanding is unclear and necessarily so, since the district wants freedom to change their mind in the future. I personally feel that the district is just making things up as they go along, but that’s just because I have no evidence that they have any idea how any of this curriculum web stuff is supposed to work. To require us to use this untested and unproven curriculum tool is ridiculous. If they had just installed wikipedia and let us go in and voluntarily add alternative lesson ideas, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    At any rate, good luck on your first day.

  28. Nancy
    September 6th, 2008 at 19:41 | #28

    Matt, I’m sorry - but this is not the best way for you to start your first year. You need to have some experience before you can really say who is right or wrong. During strikes emotions run very high not matter what side you are on. Take it from your old aunt, I went through 5 strikes in my teaching career - most I was not in favor of but I was wise enough to keep quiet. Sometimes it’s better to observe than speak out. I love you and just want you to have a good year - I don’t know that you being so vocal is the right way to go about it. That’s my 2 cents!

  29. Paul
    September 6th, 2008 at 19:44 | #29

    As far as the pay issue goes, one of the things we have to be careful about is to make sure that we are supporting teachers who have maxed out the salary scale. Their only chance for raises are through these kinds of negotiations, and it would be a shame if they were denied their opportunity and voice because the majority of us who still get step increases are more likely to be satisfied.

  30. Bellevue Psych
    September 6th, 2008 at 19:48 | #30

    As a School Psychologist in the district I have a few things to say:
    1) Compensation: Many people do not need more money, or care if they live in Bellevue. However, each year my workload, and the workload of everyone in the district, has increased-DRASTICALLY. With all the new technology the district buys comes time, training, new procedures, etc. All of which we are not compensated for and usually trained for over email. I think we all know that technology brings problems of its own! What about the $4 million plus budget cuts in special ed last year?? We felt the tip of the iceberg last year, this year expect your workload to increase and to really feel the effects! The cuts were at the student level. Have you heard of RTI yet?? Another general education unfunded workload is headed our way!
    2)Benefits: Most single, without children teachers have said: “it doesn’t effect me”! My stance on this is that you may not be single and childless forever. Just be thankful your also healthy, which also may not always be the case.
    3) Curriculum Web-doesn’t really apply to me-or my job. BUT, I’ve heard enough from other people to understand that it is not the best idea for children. At the middle school level you have Honors and Special Ed; we’re missing a HUGE GRAY AREA. Do you know how many students have been referred to special ed because our curriculum does not address the fact they need things slowed down a little, or to spend more time/practice on the concept?

    If I have to strike 50 more days for a contract that does not have satisfactory language only related to the Curruculum Web I will!! Although it does not impact me directly (although I suspect it is correlated to unneccessary special ed referrals), I honor the voice and concern of a HUGE majority of teachers. I also have worked for the district long enough to know that administration down at ESC has no idea what goes on in the buildings on a daily basis or how hard Bellevue staff fight for students and to do what is right ethically-not what makes the district look good on paper!

  31. Tillicum
    September 7th, 2008 at 09:45 | #31

    Matt, didn’t see you on the corner with your fellow teachers Thursday or Friday? Will you be there Monday?

  32. Andy Rubesch
    September 7th, 2008 at 22:06 | #32


    I want to be brief, but here are a couple quick points. You lay out a very articulate argument, but due to your inexperience (I am “Bellevue Teacher” in post 19), you are missing some things. Just because you have not experienced something in your 3 months of teaching in the BSD (April - June), does not mean that it is not going on.

    First, I need to correct you about the district’s intent behind the curriculum web. In May, Jan Zuber, Assistant Superintendent of Currciulum, met with the BSD music teachers at our curriculum meeting. At that meeting she was very clear about the direction of the BSD. She said that the intent of the BSD was for “every teacher at every level to teach the same lesson on every day.” We asked many questions and she was insistent and clear. Her intent for the curriculum web was for every teacher in every curricular area to be teaching the same lesson at the same time, regardless of student learning styles or teachers’ abilities and strengths. The goal of the BSD was mandated, scripted lessons for every curricular area. This is not my opinion or hearsay. This is what was clearly explained to the entire music staff by Jan Zuber in May. Based on that meeting, I have no doubt in my mind that this strike has saved the quality of education in the BSD.

    Second, as I read your blog, I am not sure you realize how inappropriate the timing of your blog is. This is not a matter of agree/disagree. I value dissenting opinions and absolutely respect your right to disagree with the stike, but this is not the time or place. Because you are a brand new first year teacher, you don’t seem to understand the history behind some of the actions of the BEA or the deep frustrations of many teachers. Please spend some time interacting with the staff and you might learn something. It is not a matter of agreeing/disagreeing with the current situation, but understanding the importance of working together as a staff. You are entitled to any opinion, but the way you express things in public forum is disrespectful to the those who have been teaching 15, 20, 30+ years. At 9 years I still consider myself a newbie. For you, as a first year teacher, to publicly post your dissenting optinions DURING THE STRIKE is simply not appropriate. Waiting until after the strike would have been far more appropriate.

    Tillicum is an exceptionally welcoming, friendly, unified staff. I don’t think you realize how you could be alientating yourself from the staff with this blog. No one at Tillicum wants a big division between staff members. Again, this is not about agreeing/disagreeing with the strike. It is about standing by people and supporting them even if it is not your issue. If you do that, we will stand by and support you when you have an issue.

    Please, please, please reconsider your current stance and come stand with us Monday morning. You don’t have to agree with the strike, but you really should stand unified with the rest of the staff. I am hoping you will join us on Monday. If anyone gives you any grief for being off the picket line, send them to me. Speaking for myself, you have an open door on Monday (9/8) to come back. An appology for the inappropriate timing of this blog would mend a lot of bridges with the rest of the staff.

    See you tomorrow,


  33. September 7th, 2008 at 22:44 | #33

    Well I am back from the weekend in Canada, thanks for your additional thoughts here folks, I will try to address each one:

    @ Concerned fellow teacher: “If you choose to “smear” or write unfavavorable comments/thoughts about your fellow teachers.” Could you please tell me who I have done this to? Disagreeing with people isn’t smearing them. I have huge amounts of respect for teachers in Bellevue and I don’t think I have said anything to disparage that. You also noted that 94% of the BEA voted to strike if there wasn’t an agreed contract, I am not doubting that the teachers meant business when they made that vote, why I am suggesting now is that the contract is good enough to sign and I doubt that 94% of the population would still support the strike with the current offer. “MANY members at your sight have expressed anger and outrage with your actions and postings.” Well then they should talk to me about that. You have a number of other points, but I am going to let them be because I don’t feel arguing them would further the discussion. I appreciate your opinion, I really do and if you want to get together sometime to discuss those issues I would appreciate that immensely.

    @don: Thanks for your analogies there Don, I agree that the language is not very specific, it just seems like it is extremely difficult to nail down specific language because the grades and departments are so diverse and different. But I suppose that is why I’m not on the bargaining team.

    @Nancy: “You need to have some experience before you can really say who is right or wrong.” That is a big part of why I wrote this post, to figure some of this stuff out. The things I have said are based on my experiences and based on conversations I have had with other teachers and staff. But I am still trying to figure both sides out, trying to see where they are coming from and what they are willing to sacrifice. “most I was not in favor of but I was wise enough to keep quiet.” I just don’t think that is always very wise. Sometimes, yes, but if we cannot express our feelings, how do we learn anything or change our minds?

    @Paul: Indeed, I think that is definitely an issue that should be addressed and dealt with in a meaningful way.

    @Bellevue Psych: Thanks for your additional thoughts from that perspective. Are you worried at all that SpEd services will be cut more if the full raise is granted? One of the things that I have definitely noticed that Bellevue is extremely rigorous in its desire to push kids forward and that because of that there are many kids that feel like things are being pushed too much. How do we deal with that? It seems that that kind of intensity is part of Bellevue’s fundamental philosophy on education (essentially that they feel it is the best way to prepare students for college). Is that something that should change or needs to change?

    @Tillicum: Yes, I will be there tomorrow. I will probably be alone in the corner if these comments are any indication. ;)

    @Andy: Thanks for your additional comments, I really do appreciate hearing your thoughts and look forward to talking to you more about this. “Just because you have not experienced something in your 3 months of teaching in the BSD (April - June), does not mean that it is not going on.” Oh I completely agree. I really want to hear some of these actual stories/issues about the problems because all I have been hearing is hearsay. I think that is extremely interesting that Zuber said that! Do the curriculum coaches know that? The three that I have worked with (well and the administrators as well I guess) have never indicated that. Believe me, I understand that there is a definite need to get certain language down in the contract about this because it definitely cannot just be left open. I have just never heard of anyone saying anything like what Zuber said! Were you able to talk to Dion or Tom about how/if that would play out in your classrooms?

    “I am not sure you realize how inappropriate the timing of your blog is.” This is obviously the big issues that people are having with my blog. I am not entirely sure how to respond to that though. I understand the issue of being a united force of people working toward the same goal. I understand how strikes work and the need to have people stand together. That being said I feel there are two issues that I would use in my defense: 1) Anyone, either from the district side or the union side would be on extremely weak ground to use my article as ANY sort of indicator of the overall beliefs of teachers in general. Even if there were 20 comments for and none against, it would not be an indicator. Statistically speaking, me and these comments are insignificant so it would be extremely unprofessional to base any decisions on ANYTHING said here. I suppose that is obvious though. 2) I think open discourse is quite important regardless of the timing (obviously you and others, my aunt included, disagree). I think it is important we work through these issues. Is it possible to do it on the line? Yes, it is to a degree. I had some great conversations with people last week. BUT it is not very easy to voice any dissension there. I know that Tillicum has a great staff who are VERY welcoming, but that doesn’t make it any easier to disagree.

    It would sadden me deeply if this would fracture relationships. Really though, a blog post from a first year teacher trying to figure out both sides and what to think shouldn’t be a threat to anyone.

  34. Cousin Sean
    September 8th, 2008 at 09:09 | #34

    You’re a punk! A troublemaker! A ne’er-do-well! Stop using your blog to state your opinions!

    I sure don’t envy your position. There’s something about strikes and union issues that makes everyone go friggin’ insane. Rarely do you ever see a more rancorous argument than one between a pro-striker and an anti-striker.

  35. September 8th, 2008 at 20:45 | #35

    I echo both Andy’s and Paul’s sentiments. While I respect our differences, I am very concerned that you are misinformed and passing along faulty information to others via your blog. Hopefully most people will take the time to also look at and not just the Seattle Times’ and District’s posts. It is false to state that the majority of teachers at Tillicum- and I do not teach there but am very close to many- are content with the Curriculum Web; I have had several conversation with my people I collaborate on occasion with, and I have been told they do not, in fact, concur with you.
    I am surprised that you would take such a stance; however, it is true that Bellevue could appeal to you for the very reason that curriculum is dictated to teachers. As a first year, I can see how that might be “nice.” But it negates our right to exercise professionalism and creativity in the classroom, which I believe I have plenty of. And, as a novice, and with all due respect, it might behoove you to do some more research and talk with veteran teachers. 95% is a lot. And as you witnessed this evening, there is solidarity amongst us. We all have to go back into our buildings when the strike ends, unified as a teaching force. I hope that your blog does not make others feel estranged from you. To be quite frank, I am not sure that if I were working with you, I would have a lot of trust in you, both on a level of collaboration and on a personal level. Because while your voice is heard and, hopefully, respected, your timing is, as Andy stated, rather inappropriate. Is there an agenda in all of this? Just curious.

  36. September 8th, 2008 at 21:27 | #36

    @ Sean: Oh you know me, I like to make things difficult on myself. ;)

    @ Hmm: I have looked plenty at the BEA’s website. Both the district and the BEA do not seem to tell the full story, which is a huge frustration for me. Did I state that the majority of Tillicum teachers are content? I am glancing through and cannot see (or remember) what I said. I know I at least mentioned that there are many that are ok with it (if I said majority, I apologize). “And, as a novice, and with all due respect, it might behoove you to do some more research and talk with veteran teachers.” I have done that, quite a bit. Having different opinions do not mean that they are misinformed or inaccurate. “To be quite frank, I am not sure that if I were working with you, I would have a lot of trust in you, both on a level of collaboration and on a personal level.” I am sorry you feel that way, you might want to also do some research and talk with teachers I have worked with and see what they think about me. “Is there an agenda in all of this?” My agenda is to find the best solution and go back to work.

  37. Gen
    October 15th, 2008 at 15:52 | #37

    Ahh…don’t ya love being a teacher?! ;-) Yesterday on MSNBC I was reading that teaching is ranked the #3 most stressful job in America (ahead of doctors even!). Don’t we know it.

    I hope that your first year is going well. I’m in my 3rd year—and boy I have never seen drama like the drama and politics in a huge public school district (Chicago). It’s almost enough to make me re-evaluate my choice of profession!

  1. February 24th, 2011 at 00:05 | #1

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