letter to Tim Culver, Sun Prairie School District Administrator

On Feb. 17, educators throughout Wisconsin were called upon by WEAC (Wisconsin Education Association Consortium, their union) to call in sick to rally at the Capitol in defense of their collective bargaining rights, as Scott Walker threatened to push his budget bill through in a matter of days without hearing public testimony.  Sun Prairie teachers called in on the 17th and returned to school on the 18th; other districts' teachers called in sick for many more days.  On the 18th, our family brought in a cake and a thank you note for the teachers at our school, thanking them for teaching our kids the importance of standing up for their rights.  I later learned we seemed to be the only family who'd stepped up publicly in support of the teachers and launched a Teacher Appreciation campaign and emailed parents on our school email list encouraging them to show our teachers some love during this trying and exhausting struggle. On Feb. 20, Tim Culver posted this "FAQ" blog and emailed all SPASD parents advising them to read it. This was my response, which I also shared with the teachers and staff at our school and the Sun Prairie School Board (which later passed a resolution in opposition to the budget bill).

Dear Mr. Culver,

While I understand that you are in a very delicate position, I felt that the tone of your email was unfairly unsupportive of the Wisconsin  teachers who have been forced, of necessity, to take action to defend their rights by our governor's attempts to push his budget bill through so quickly.  Your email presumes that the reader is "against" the teachers' actions, which belittles those who support them.  Your dismissive suggestion, that we might applaud these efforts, is offensive and biased, and makes it seem like parents who support the teachers are a minority - something which does not, in my experience, seem to be the case at all.

I am particularly appalled that you suggest we contact the school to thank the teachers who DID report to work on the 17th.  I am doing exactly the opposite: I want to thank every single teacher who called in sick for teaching my kids what democracy really looks like. This is the best lesson in civics they could have provided - they taught our kids that when it's time to stand up, you stand, even when that action is difficult and unpopular.  I have already thanked the teachers at Bird School for their efforts, and I hope other parents will do the same during this shameful time when people dare to publicly disparage our hard-working teachers for making the painful decision to take the only action they felt they could.

I hope that the teachers who dared stand up for their rights - knowing, undoubtedly, that their administrators would not be on their side - are not severely punished. They certainly have the full support of our family.  I would also have hoped that the district dared take a stronger stance in support of its wonderful teachers. As proud as I am of the teachers, I feel ashamed of your response.

Heather DuBois Bourenane
Proud SPASD parent, and proud supporter of SPASD teachers

update: On March 15, 2011, I sent this letter to Tim Culver, having read his much-changed blog entries over the next couple of weeks:

Dear Mr. Culver,

I'm not sure if you read the message I sent last month, but I wrote it in response to your initial InspirED blog post after the SPASD teachers' "sick day" action.

I just wanted to follow that up by acknowledging that I really appreciate the more balanced and measured tone of your recent blog posts, which present the budget situation much less apologetically and give Sun Prairie families a much more clear sense of the crisis at hand. These posts seem much more carefully reasoned and less of a knee-jerk reaction to what you might have perceived as the initial parent responses, which makes me think perhaps I was a little harsh in my own knee-jerk reaction to that first post.

I was at the School Board meeting last month and spoke out in favor of the teachers and against the proposed Budget Bill.  I was really thrilled to see the Board adopt a resolution to take a public stance against the move to eliminate collective bargaining, and am happy to hear more support for our wonderful teachers in your own posts.  So, thank you. Our community needs to come together to defend its schools now - this is a key moment. I'm happy to help in any way I can.

Heather DuBois Bourenane

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