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Some thoughts from just one of many teachers in the crosshairs.

February 12, 2011

I want to share some thoughts about the last few days of being a teacher in the crosshairs of the right-wing bullies who want to take away our unions and our democratic rights to speak out for what we think is right.

I’m writing this a day after the fall of Mubarak in Egypt and a victory for the Egyptian people in their fight for democracy.

It never stops, you know.

The fight for democracy and the fight against those who would steal it away. It never stops. It goes on everywhere in the world. And it never stops.

Many years ago I learned the words of the Civil Right Movement song that went, “They say that freedom is a constant struggle. Oh Lord, we struggle so long. We must be free.”

Why me?

Why is the Education Action Group going after me?

Because I’m outspoken. Because I’m a union guy. Because people listen and respect what I have to say. Because I have an activist history. Because they wrongly thought I’m vulnerable. Because they want to scare others. Because they’re bullies. Because they sneak around likes snakes in the grass and lie about who they are.

And then they cry like babies when we shine the light on them.

They demand (demand!) that my district fire me because I printed a picture of that little weasel, Ben Velderman, on my blog.

They cried, “The unwarranted attack on Mr. Velderman, who was simply carrying out the instructions of his supervisor, can be viewed online at preaprez.wordpress.com.”

Are they suggesting someone should feel pity for the pathetic Velderman because he was only following orders?

In that case, let’s see who gave the orders.

Who are they?

Steve Gunn is the guy who wrote the letter to my superintendent demanding that I be reprimanded for writing about his anti-union outfit on my personal blog.

Gunn is the “Communications Director” of this little four-person office in Michigan. He can be reached at (231) 733-4202 or (231) 903-5585 sgunn@edactiongroup.org

Perhaps you can explain to this guy about the first amendment to the US Constitution. The one about the right to speak freely.

Don’t email him from work.

Says the EAG website: “Steve has a Bachelors degree in history, with a separate completed communications major, from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan.”

What kind of school is Grand Valley State that you can have a “separate completed communications major” and not learn about the first amendment?

Then there is Kyle Olsen. He is the head of the Education Action Group.

You can pretty much judge Kyle by the friends he keeps: Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart.

Although he is pretty much the low rent version.

His Twitter followers amounted to 48 the last time I looked.

A few words about my school board president.

In the last 24 hours I have received dozens of emails and texts about the letter that my school board president John Heyde wrote to Steve Gunn.

You can read it yourself here on my blog.

When I asked if I could post it John answered, “I would be honored.”

I have been across the table from John a couple of times during contract negotiations.

John’s a fair but tough negotiator. Let me tell you that he’s no pushover. You don’t do 13 hour negotiating sessions until 2AM trading proposals with a pushover.

But John cares about children, schools and, yes, teachers. I don’t want to speak for him since you can see he speaks for himself quite eloquently.

But I can say I know he believes in the collective bargaining process. I know he believes in the right of teachers to have a union. And I know he believes that the process of collective bargaining improves schools.

And John is a democrat. Small “d.” I have no idea about his party affiliations.

Communities and schools need more board members like John.

This is not just about me.

My friends and colleagues are laughing at that at this moment.

But it’s truly not.

Public school teachers are in the crosshairs of groups like EAG and others. I’m neither the first nor the last.

Groups like Stand for Children and the Civic Committee go after teachers in the legislature. They want to take away our right to strike, to organize, to collectively bargain tenure, seniority and evaluation rules.

Groups like EAG go after public school teachers through the back door. They lie about who they are. They video tape teacher’s private lives and activities. They make FOIA requests of teacher emails. Then they cry the blues when they get caught and have their slime activities brought to light.

In the end they’re all just different wings of the same bird.

Are they done with me yet?

I doubt it.

The district is going to respond to their FOIA request as the law requires. I have sent thousands of emails at work. They are incredibly mundane. Meeting times. Supply orders. Sub requests. I only wish that Velderman and Gunn are going to have to read through all of them.

There is nothing there.

But that isn’t their point. Their point is to scare people. Bargain basement terrorists really.

The answer, as always, is to stand up to bullies.

They just picked the wrong guy.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2011 11:42 am

    Fred,
    I don’t see the letter from John Heyde. Where do I find it?

    What an awful situation — but how wonderful when you are able to prevail over these bullies. The deformed school reform movement has taken an ugly turn when people are willing to use fascist tactics to get their way –“the only way” (ha!). Not so strange though when we realize they are adopting the bullying tactics of Michelle Rhee. Thank goodness for people like John Heyde with moral fiber and a clear mind.

    You have lots of supporters out in the hinterlands. Keep on keeping on.

    Katherine Cox
    http://www.inthetrencheswithschoolreform.com
    http://www.saveourschoolsmarch.org

  2. Fred Klonsky permalink*
    February 12, 2011 11:49 am

    Sorry Katherine. I linked back to it now.

  3. February 12, 2011 12:15 pm

    Go get ‘em. Thanks for alerting us to these creeps. Looks like you can take care of yourself.

    • Fred Klonsky permalink*
      February 12, 2011 12:26 pm

      I can. But, we gotta take care of each other.

  4. mattmezgersr permalink
    February 12, 2011 12:53 pm

    Give a man a fish….

  5. February 12, 2011 2:00 pm

    Remarkable the lengths people will go to vilify teachers. Personally, I’m not quite as concerned with those on the right as those who profess to be on the left, but really aren’t.

    • Fred Klonsky permalink*
      February 12, 2011 2:19 pm

      This is too vague for me NYC. Who on the Left are you talking about and in regard to what? Duncan? Weingarten? Klein? Rhee? What is “left” about them? Some are Democrats. True. But calling them “Left” is another matter. Unless you mean somebody else. In any case, nobody from the Left has made a FOIA request of my emails. Nobody from the Left has written a letter to my employer demanding I be reprimanded or fired for publishing a blog. So, while you may not be quite as concerned, forgive me if I am.

  6. February 12, 2011 6:35 pm

    Forgive me my poor choice of words. I see this sort of nonsense supported by faux-Democrats at all level and I suppose they really are not a true left. Or true Democrats. But lately I can’t tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans. They all seem to have it in for teachers, and I’m sorry you happen to be on the receiving end of this. I had in mind Duncan and Cuomo. I suppose Rhee may be a Democrat, but I’m trying to be nice to her as I heard a house recently fell on her sister.

    • Fred Klonsky permalink*
      February 12, 2011 8:11 pm

      Agreed.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    June 10, 2011 9:33 am

    Good for you.

    Liberals have always been tougher than rightwingers.

    It’s just that liberals love conciliation/compromise and HEALING
    more than the nasty, bullying-type conflict preferred by righties.

    When Liberals fight back HARD, righties usually cry, then try to cheat, then
    run for the hills, in that order.

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