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GEA, School Board Both Have Failed Strategically

These negotiations may be a chess game, but one bad move can haunt you for years.

All right! Now that we’ve dispensed with the District 304 contract negotiation basics, it’s time to talk about a teachers strike. And we’ll be discussing the long-term ramifications here because everybody knows what the immediate consequences are.

But before we depart, we need to apply an appropriate framework so that we’re all on the same page. Taking a cue from military history, we’ll break this conflict down into three separate, but eminently interrelated parts.

The first is the “tactical,” or what’s happening right here, right now. It’s a small slice of the big picture. You can win a tactical engagement, but lose the battle and vice versa.

Then there’s the “operational,” which means the battle as a whole. It’s the sum of the tactical efforts. Again, an operational victory can be so ill-conceived or so costly, that you lose the war.

I’m sure General Lee could've offered some cogent operational thoughts on, say, Gettysburg.

Lastly, we have the most important consideration: the strategic. This is the entire front or the war. It’s the big picture. Using our Civil War analogy, despite an early two-year battlefield domination, the South failed strategically and lost the war.

And I believe both sides have failed strategically in this Geneva teachers contract conflict. We’ll start with the teachers union, aka the Geneva Education Association.

In order to prevail in any public confrontation, you have to win the hearts and minds of—you guessed it—the public. The Chicago teachers union did a masterful job of doing just that. They gave up some tactical ground early, but then turned Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s snarling four-letter rants into an operational advantage.

The GEA should’ve been taking notes.

Instead of fighting TaxFACTS’ boardroom fire with fire, they could’ve exposed Bob McQuillan's group as the bullies they are and generated a reasonable amount of citizen sympathy. There’s a reason TaxFACTS can’t get its candidates elected and McQuillan can’t win an election.

Moving on. I understand the GEA can neither compel nor prevent a teacher from speaking publicly, but the educators who took to that boardroom podium made me cringe. They horrifically undermined their own cause.

Whenever a six-figure-salaried employee gets up and whines about the need for raises—even if it’s for other folks—it’s like a gay Democrat attending a Tea Party gathering and hoping it turns out well.

One can only wonder where that union might be if the teachers had stayed out of the boardroom, forsaken the green shirts, and simply given McQuillan & Co. the rope with which they've always been willing to hang themselves.

Comparing District 304 salaries to neighboring districts didn’t help matters, either. Were I on that board, my response to that union contention would’ve been to encourage their subjects to submit an application to those districts—along with the 600 other applicants.

So instead of generating public support, emails to the district/board are running 10 to 1 against the teachers and my email ratio is even worse. In an era in which you can’t get 9-of-10 people to agree the sky is blue, that’s really something.

Considering this vast strategic failure, should the teachers strike—even for one short day—that ill-conceived tactical maneuver will put TaxFACTS in the driver’s seat for years to come. And if that doesn’t scare you, then you’d probably be OK with a Sarah Palin presidency.

Not only are some folks in the TaxFACTS group salivating over the possibility of a strike, they're counting on it!

A strike means TaxFACTS gets their School Board slate elected. If you think these negotiations are contentious, just wait. It also means that group will finally enjoy the popular support that has eluded them for so long.

Please understand, I’m not backing anyone here, least of all a self-aggrandizing mob. I’m simply stating what I believe will happen if there is a strike.

The GEA is looking over the thin edge of a very dark and deep abyss and, trust me, there ain’t nothing good down there. Sometimes a strategic retreat means you get to fight another day.

But on to the School Board. Because a previous iteration of that body also made a strategic mistake.

Though I loved former board President Tim Moran’s high-road refusal to renegotiate contracts during the depths of a recession, that’s exactly when they had the political capital to get concession.

When every other school district was firing teachers and rehiring them at a lower rate, our board should’ve gone carpe diem because people have very short memories and gratitude is a thing of the past.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it when public officials stick to their guns, but it can be a self-defeating endeavor. Communism as described by Karl Marx is beautifully religious, but it doesn’t work in the real world.

The board’s failure to take advantage of that opportunity will continue to haunt us.

So, while it may be too late for the board, I would hope the teachers union understands the strategic ramifications of their tactical and operational maneuvers. Because if they strike now, they may win the battle, but I guarantee you, they will lose the war.

kendall October 31, 2012 at 08:09 PM
The parent/teacher/student dynamic in Geneva has always been great. Too bad that asking the GEA to share in the economic sacrifice by foregoing a raise has fractured that.
Bob McQuillan October 31, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Wrong again Jeffy. Are you getting your information from the same person that told you we cost the district $20,000 on FOIA requests? Oh, that's right when we proved the amount was no where near $20,000, all of the sudden you heard the number wrong. Where were you in supporting the board while the teachers attacked them? GenevaTaxFACTS was there defending the BOE and the taxpayers. I hold firm in my opinion that if it were not for GenevaTaxFACTS members speaking out, this board would not have taken the stance that they have. Our group isn't looking for credit but we aren't willing to be blamed either by someone who has not contributed anything over the last 4 years. The community has pulled back the curtain and you have been exposed, there is no where for you to hide.
Julie October 31, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Seriously? C'mon! If anything, you've thrown this teacher under the bus for talking about emails from parents w/others. The only person she should have discussed the email with would be the PARENT and the Principal. No way, no how was that to stir any pot...but I see the need for reaching at this point, which is certainly all you have left.
Bob McQuillan October 31, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Comments were blocked well before Sandy affected this site. And not all comments were blocked. I asked for an explanation from Rick Nagel twice via e-mail and still no response.
Bob McQuillan October 31, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Sorry Jen but i'm not going to allow Jeff Ward to write lies about me personally. People like him are the reason why we are in the mess we are in. No one ever stood up to them in the past and they just did what they wanted. I'm willing to debate Jeff Ward any time, any place but he won't show up because he only has his opinions, no facts. I have been dealing with Jeff Ward for years, he will never change but expects everyone else to.
Bob McQuillan October 31, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Rick Typical Jeff Ward response. the old "I don't have to defend what I say because I'm an opinion writer." Well that didn't work too well for Bill Page and the Chronicle a few years ago. Ward can't defend his statement because he has no proof. Just watch the school board videos from June. Dr. Mutchler doesn't burn the teachers. Not wanting to open old wounds. Then why was anything said to begin with.
Jeff Ward October 31, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Rick, If you go over all the D304 press releases on their website going back to June, you may be able to discern for yourself exactly what I was talking about. Jeff
Bob McQuillan October 31, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Come on Jeff - you can't stand bullies??? Why then did you threaten to call the Chief of the St. Charles Police Department (your personal friend) and say that I yelled at you at the Republican after-primary party in April 2012. I still have the e-mail. Of course it didn't go any where because the 40 people standing near us heard absolutely nothing. You are the biggest bully in Geneva, sitting behind your computer and attacking anyone that doesn't agree with your opinion. Your words are crazy but your actions are even crazier.
Jeff Ward October 31, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Bobby, Since when have I ever hidden. And I am who I've always been. And you did cost the board close to $20,000 in FOIA requests. My error, which I admitted was that I said it was over the course of one year when it was actually two. My mistake. But even if it was just $10,000 over 2 years, it's still absurd and proves you're nothing but a bully. Most of your FOIA requests were opening available on the D304 website. As far as FACTS goes, you can't get elected, you can't get school board candidates elected, and the only thing that's gotten you any support whatsoever is an utterly clueless GEA. Don't confuse a tailwind with talent. The school board does not, has not and will not ever listen to you. In fact, they typically do just the opposite. Keep proving my point Bob.
Angela Kane October 31, 2012 at 08:49 PM
We all know this BOE/GEA issue is a difficult one. Emotions are running hot on this. Unfortunately it seems that Jeff Ward has decided to use character assassination as a technique to persuade the Patch readers that you should agree with his position. It's obvious that Bob McQuillan is his favorite target and he frequently publishes proven lies (see examples above) about him. Unfortunately now Jeff has published a lie about me and when I called him on it he admitted that 'maybe (he) was wrong.' Well it's not maybe--he lied about me. This has to end. While Jeff certainly presents his opinion in a controversial manner (and he has a right we all support to have an opinion and present it) he does not have the right to lie to create controversy or whatever he's trying to do. As was once said, "Where do I go to get back my reputation?" Please ask the Patch to put an end to this method that Jeff Ward uses.
Jeff Ward October 31, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Bob, Two county board members completely backed my story. The only reason the St. Charles police didn't do anything about your and Rich Hayhurt's over the top in public behavior is because I chose not to prosecute. But the next time one of you grabs me and other starts making threats it will be different story. And please note I didn't make that public - you did.
Rick Nagel (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Obviously, the comments appear to be working again. Let me know if there are any other issues. Bob is right that I moderated comments on Jeff's Monday's column more strictly than I usually do, in keeping with the column's statement to "please carefully consider what you say before you say it." It is the only recent article so monitored. Jeff: Please consider taking your own advice.
Jeff Ward October 31, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Bobby, I've never said your financial numbers were wrong. I've said you're an outright bully. And that I will debate you at the place of your choosing, because you wouldn't even be able to keep your cool then.
Lisa P October 31, 2012 at 09:00 PM
I too appreciate the work done by Bob and the group TaxFacts; it has awakened me along with all my Geneva neighbors. Bob M and the BOE has done a GREAT job getting the information out to the community. Jeff Ward, whatever grudge you hold towards Bob M., move on. Most of your column is unnecessarily complicated, hard to read, and doesn’t make a lot of sense. There are so many great comments and good ideas coming from the public- why not focus on that instead? When your tax bill goes up every year even as your home value slips 25% -30% +, the public has a right to question what is going on. It’s just that simple.
Rob Kelley October 31, 2012 at 09:07 PM
We have a socialist system operating within a capitalist society. All of the back and forth over bullying and who wins – teachers, parents, union or our children – would go away if the best people were hired for the job and paid for their performance only just like the rest of us. Then the tax payers, good teachers and children would win. Scott Walker stood up to the antiquated notion of government unions and received a vote of confidence from the people of Wisconsin…..twice! Illinois is so saturated that it seems impossible that we have the collective motivation to do the same. You can’t get a public teaching job without joining the union whether you want to or not, and this has given them the power hold both sides hostage. I know for a fact that some Geneva teachers value their compensation as fair and do not want to strike. Based on your readers comments it’s obvious that a good deal of Geneva citizens would rather have teachers get what they deserve. And like the rest of us what they deserve can go in both directions. Sending young, capable teachers without jobs in as SCABS should there be a strike would at least send a small message on our behalf. Jeff – is that even a possibility?
Jeff Ward October 31, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Angela, What comment about CTL? I don't see one! Don't forget, I write for the Beacon-News, the Courier-News and I have my own blog: http://www.thefirstward.net Since fair is fair, now I'm going to lobby Patch to ban your comments. Jeff
Jeff Ward October 31, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Rob, Yes it is, but it would be considered a doomsday option. That said, considering how the GEA has behaved and the plethora of unemployed teachers, I would seriously consider firing them all and starting over. Jeff
Angela Kane October 31, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Jeff posted a lie about me and then it was deleted so I deleted my response. Again, he has a right to an opinion no matter how much I or anyone else disagrees with him. He does not have a right to publish a lie. Folks, Jeff ward's pettiness is clouding the issues. Please look beyond the childish inaccuracies he posts and let's look instead at the financial situation we are in.
Bob McQuillan October 31, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Rick Thanks for the explanation but 1st Amendment rights of freedom of speech go both ways. When you have a opinion writer who says he is acting as a reporter and makes accusations with no proof, then I have a right to be heard. It is your responsibility to control Jeff Ward as he writes for your publication.
Dave Larson October 31, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Interesting... It seems that membership in your "TaxFacts" group is an opt-out program. Please remove me from the list. But I suppose that I'll still have to pay my "fair share" of the $10 - $20k for the costs of your FOIA requests. Thanks!
Bob McQuillan October 31, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Jeff Name the two county board members who back up your story and I'll get them to sign shown statements. I never touched you and you never prosecuted because no one would back up your story. That's what it is, a story. Next time you want to attack someone choose someone who will not fight back. I'm finished with your lies that you can't back up. Again, name the two county board members and I'll produce 10 people that will say nothing happened.
Jeff Ward October 31, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Bobby, I never said you touched me - it was your compatriot Rich Hayhurst. You simply acted completely irrationally because I ignored you.
Bob McQuillan October 31, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Jeffy You have no shame, we didn't cost the school district over $20,000 in two years. If that was true you would have provided the proof. But you can't do that. I'm finished responding to you because no one can have a conversation with a madman. You go your way and I'll go mine. The next time you say something untrue about me or GenevaTaxFACTS, you'll find yourself in the same court room that Bill Page did. That is not a threat, that is FACT. I know the GenevaPatch won't define you.
Malcolm October 31, 2012 at 10:50 PM
well this little anecdote certainly illustrates to me why Jeff spends so much time on his TaxFacts vendetta Grow up and get over it, Jeff
Sue J November 01, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Well said Max. Well said!
Julie November 01, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Ain't that the truth, Max! The funny thing is that a lot of the yards that those signs are displayed in are teachers' yards. I know of at least 6 of them. Classic.
Malcolm November 01, 2012 at 02:53 AM
You certainly don't see many of the "I <3 Geneva Teachers" signs in town - except on "for sale" properties. I have heard that the majority of Geneva teachers live outside Geneva. Must be the property taxes are too high. Or maybe they're just following the old adage, 'Don't <blank> where you sleep'
Jeff Ward November 01, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Bobby, And, once again, with all avenues exhausted, you threaten to sue me. What is that, the 349th time? And people have the nerve to say you're a bully!
Arron Lee November 01, 2012 at 01:29 PM
The hardest part about all of this is watching the negativity that is displayed on the patch. Max you have stated you don't like the name calling but then you throw out sock puppet, thug and then you suggest my wife (being a teacher) is threatening families with extortion. I would love to discuss all of these issues with anyone next Monday at the meeting. But really enough of the threats and name calling. The more disheartening thing is the gap that is widening between the BOE and its teachers. Long after the BOE's tenure, the teachers (EVEN NEW ONES) and BOE have to work together and we have to make this community work. Stop this name calling and the threats.
Max November 02, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Mr. Lee, I'm sure your wife is a fine person and would like to believe that she has our childrens' best interests at heart, as I trust you do. And of course you are uncomfortable with the idea that she might not be given respect. I hope you will help her to understand the situation in which the community finds itself, and the circumstances into which her support of the union's behavior helps to place D-304. If she continues that support, in light of union refusal to bargain sincerely, then she must bear some responsibility for the outcome -- and whatever may be its lasting effects. When you mention a gap between the BoE and the teachers, I believe that you mean the gap between the BoE and GEA/IEA. The BoE simply does what it must do in order to represent the legitimate interests of the community, and it does so in a sincere professional, even a restrained, manner. But understand this, too -- while the community continues to appreciate its teachers for the work they do, it expects them to act responsibly when pursuing their personal interests as well as when on the job. There will be no foreseeable time which is "...after the BoE's tenure." What makes the BoE is a continuity of values, not a continuity of membership. If the BoE is forced in the future to take a harder line toward the GEA, it will not be by choice but by necessity. It didn't have to be that way.

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