From Wisconsin to the Boston Public Schools: An Open Letter to Boston Public Schools Leaders

It has really been incredible to learn about and follow the political situation in Wisconsin over the past few days–and encouraging to have a number of friends, both local and even some Wisconsin-based, who are acting collectively and swiftly in response.  One posted a picture on Facebook, a view of the Wisconsin state house chambers filled with protesting people, with the simple tagline of ‘Democracy in Action.’  And no matter what your particular position is regarding unions and the purposes and outcomes (intended or otherwise) of collective bargaining rights for public employees?  You have to be encouraged and cheered by a situation that has stirred so many to action.

Having just returned from a conference on collaborative approaches to Labor-Management relations, with a particular focus on student achievement, the situation is almost prescient.  And so my own small local contribution: an email I wrote this morning to my district’s school leaders– our superintendent, school committee chair and teacher’s union president.  Eagerly waiting a response:

Dear Mr. Stutman, Dr. Johnson and Reverend Groover:

I was glad to be able to participate and to see our school district represented at the recent Labor Management Conference in Denver a few days ago.  I very much want to support this kind of work in the Boston Public Schools.  I’m motivated to either join existing efforts to move forward with this collaborative approach or to help create structures to do so.

As you know, national news is being made with the current fiscal crises being faced by a number of states and districts and in particular, the specific approach that Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin is taking to summarily attack some of the state unions’ collective bargaining rights.  It’s causing quite a stir on both sides nationally and most critically, it’s very much counter to the collaborative models of the presenting school districts we recently learned more about.

I feel this is quite an incredible and important context for the Boston school district, Boston school committee and Boston teacher’s union to respond with some kind of jointly written and released statement.  With a strong stand that stakes a rhetorical, principled and practical claim to professional collaboration that focuses on student achievement outcomes?  I can’t think of a stronger way to get the word out about this kind of meaningful sea change in our work together.

I’m really eager to hear your thoughts and how this might be done.  Timing tied with strategic action, as always, is important.


James Liou, NBCT
Peer Assistant
Boston Public Schools

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