Emails and direct messages from teachers wanting to vent about the proposed contract between their union and the state have been flowing into my inbox.

Every single one came with a request not to publish the name of the writer. “I just want you to know,” they say, of the reason they’re writing. The problem with knowing, though, is that you can never un-know. These teachers were sharing thoughts that give deep insight into educators’ concerns as they head to the polls Thursday to vote on the new contract.

You might be shocked to learn that some of them said they would prefer abiding with the “last, best and final” offer Gov. Neil Abercrombie imposed on them last July, than take the deal struck earlier this month. They all have their reasons for thinking the way they do about the current agreement. Reasons that deserve to be aired.

So we made a deal of our own. I asked the ones who had contacted me if it would be OK to share their words with our readers — with the understanding that I will not publish or share names, positions or any information that could betray their identities. We granted them anonymity because they said they feared retaliation and wouldn’t share their thoughts otherwise.

Many agreed. Some wouldn’t permit us to print their thoughts even anonymously. (Read Civil Beat’s anonymous sources policy.)

The following comments — in teachers’ own words — are extracted from emails and direct messages, and organized by major topic area:

  • Performance evaluations
  • Salaries and health costs
  • Time off/leave
  • Hawaii State Teachers Association leadership
  • Vote predictions

We alternated comments between plain type and a gray screen background to make it easier to distinguish the separate points of view.

Performance Evaluations

I believe the recent HSTA tentative agreement is actually worse than the state’s LastBestFinalOffer (LBFO) we had implemented on us unilaterally. Here is why:

First, it locks every single teacher in the state into ANNUAL teacher evaluations based (at least in part) on student test scores all the way through 2017. It was unconscionable of our board members to do…There is no way NEA approves of using tests designed to measure student achievement to also measure teacher performance. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Members have to get the word that NEA would not recommend this contract solely based on that one very troubling aspect.

“No trust for evaluations not even created yet. For-profit iPad evals are ridiculous. Principal has dumb CHECKLIST. Even worse than subjective judgement, in my opinion. Just STUPID. Evals on test scores not settled yet, so people don’t know what they’re voting for.”

About evaluations, I got the part about feedback but I still feel that admin can take it too far when rating teachers…Agreeing to discuss evaluations later is a cop out to get teachers to say yes now and get screwed later. Yes we can be involved in the process…as much as we are involved in other processes? Everything I see in the contract says, consult with teachers and the principal or CAS or superintendent [but the superintendent] has the final say. It doesn’t mean much..but thanks for the offer. Nothing about evaluations was cleared up in my mind.

Leave/Time Off

It gets rid of our furlough days but not our paycuts for this year and next, securing only four days of Supplemental Time Off (STO) in exchange–I do not understand how that would be considered a win for teachers in any way shape or form, considering we get 6 and 1/2 days per year of furlough under the LBFO. I get the cool part of taking them whenever a teacher wants but why only 4 days for a 5% paycut over a year-and-a-half?

Salaries and Health Costs

“Furthermore, it makes our 50/50 medical arrangement permanent, so we are never getting 60/40 back. Ever. This is a real shame and puts Hawaii in the unenviable position of being one of the three stingiest states in America when it comes to picking up the cost of state employees’ health care premiums. Sad for a governor who claims to be so supportive of the middle class.”

Lots of anger at loss of money in REAL terms. Pittance raise but MORE lost in 50/50 health so year 2013-14 is back below ’09. Many on fence still. Very complex to figure out REAL salary & MANY unknowns.”

HSTA Leadership

“Wil is desperately hoping this contract will be ratified so he can focus on positioning himself for re-election.”

I am disappointed that the board voted to accept a package with so many holes still, so many contractual provisions still to be written, and with so many empty promises from the State about doing things collaboratively when there is no language to compel any of it.

“We felt like the Board wanted us to vote yes and were not going to take no for an answer. Our contract is very weak and is not as strong as HGEA.”

You heard the lies about HSTA Abercrombie was spreading on NPR literally as recent as last Wednesday evening, right…so what makes [HSTA leaders] think the state is going to act with integrity going forward? Unreal.

“[HSTA leaders] represent us and should allow us to think about what is good for us and not make us feel stupid or small if we want to vote no. I am not familiar with the 1994 resolution, but Wil said that the policy minimum was 48 hours to review settlement. Is the highlights and what we are given considered the whole contract and settlement?”

However, I have to give it to them: they know how to spin things and I am sure HSTA staff will be given marching orders to play up the whole multiple step movements aspects in years 3-6 so teachers can salivate at all the “progress” they will be making. Never mind the fact that if you do the math, over the life of this 6-year contract (and the previous two years of furlough-reduced pay) teachers will not have even caught up with inflation AND there are no across-the-board increases for any of us, which is especially devastating for entry-level teachers or those at the highest step, who do not move one iota. I am no economist, but I bet if you also deduct the amount teachers have lost due to the increased health care cost, I imagine the vast majority of teachers’ actual purchasing power will be less in 2017 than it was in 2009.

Vote Predictions

“For all these reasons, I will be voting NO on this contract.”

No yes votes 4 any I’ve talked 2.

“Tomorrow’s vote is so important. I suspect HSTA will rally the troops to vote YES, as I know they were full-on yesterday with their spin machine at the ratification info session on Oahu and I understand they are doing it again on neighbor islands today.”

I am not hopeful teachers will reject it, since I know the HSTA machine will be out in full force and teachers, in the end, are good soldiers who are not inclined to make waves.

“Shame on HSTA to let the State do this to us when we had the upper hand with the [Race to the Top] leverage.”

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