Confehr: My wife teaches school elsewhere

Friday, March 11, 2011

Next year, Susan and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We met in Decherd at a meeting I attended for a twice-weekly newspaper to report what became the origins of the first work contract for Franklin County teachers.

In the early 1980s, elected leaders told me that decades earlier money was paid to school board members by teachers, or their families, so they could work at a county school. The price was higher for a school on a paved road, less for one on a dirt road. The latter was usually for black children.

Back then, roads were repaired by residents who couldn't pay road maintenance taxes. Furthermore, county inmates didn't escape. Spoons provided with meals were stronger than jail walls. Andy Griffith wasn't sheriff. Nor was the road gang boss who had no failure to communicate.

Teacher contract talks were an on-going story. I told the editor and general manager when Susan and I started to date. They replied that if they saw favoritism in a story, it wouldn't run. We didn't have that problem. Here, now, the general manager of this newspaper knows my wife is a teacher who works in Nolensville. He knew I'd be at the Tennessee Education Association march in Nashville. I found both sides of the story and they were published here on Wednesday.

Last week, a point was made here about repealing a state law saying school boards ought to negotiate with teachers for a work contract. Advocates for that say TEA gets in the way of teachers' ability to talk to their senators and representatives. Teachers spoke last weekend. They protested the bill to end locally negotiated contracts.

That reveals a basic flaw in the logic used by proponents of the bill. It's not just that some 3,000-plus teachers spoke up at a rally in the rain six days ago.

The state association doesn't negotiate county teachers' work contracts with the locally elected school board. The association provides advice, and insights from contract talks in other counties. It's like the school boards' association helping county board negotiators.

County teacher associations select, from their members, several local teachers who go to the bargaining table to negotiate a contract for their fellow teachers. Contract talks are time-consuming hard work. They are public. Anyone can attend - even reporters who write stories that inform both sides about what they're doing.

Here, now, someone else has the school beat. Because our news staff is smaller than what's in Winchester, we fill in when events, or family business takes us from attending what would, otherwise, be our story.

My "disclosure headline" above should have been over my last column to precede Wednesday's story. I don't claim perfection. One might claim that in a small town "everybody knows" already.

It ain't necessarily so. This publication strives to report something you didn't already know.

Meanwhile, being married to a teacher for nearly 29 years has, to say the least, been educational.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views