TREND Fall 2018 - Page 12

The Intent and Spirit of Collaborative Conferencing Have educators achieved all that was intended from the passing of the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act of 2011 (PECCA) and the required training? No. And it is time to assess our progress and adjust the legislation. Let’s examine TCA § 49-5-601 which contains the statement of purpose for PECCA. First, PECCA is about education, both its administration and the hardworking teachers who dedicate themselves to its delivery and improvement. PECCA is NOT about labor unions, associations or other organizations. That stated, teachers have a right to join groups to effectuate the “highest possible education standard in the institutions they serve”. Those groups, along with the individual educator, participate in the PECCA process in order to “foster open, collaborative relationships between boards of education and their professional employees based on mutual respect.” Teachers and school boards should not be adversarial to the other, but to the extent possible, work together for the benefit of students, improve performance, attract future teachers, and retain and obtain benefits necessary to keep quality teachers in the classroom. No union or association negotiates an exclusive contract with a Board of Education. The professional employees and local boards of education reach a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This understanding becomes district policy. Unions DO NOT negotiate an MOU on behalf of their members. They may or may not be a member of a union, but they have been selected to be part of a panel which represents all district professional employees. We cannot ignore the important role that all organizations, including unaffiliated teachers, play in the PECCA process. Together we must vote affirmatively before collaborative activities can even take place. They then vote to establish which representatives will participate in the MOU process itself. This process probably needs to be addressed to be more reflective of nonunion and unaffiliated members in the future. The Tennessee Department of Education may be the proper vehicle to conduct impartial training. It is time the Department takes the lead in this arena. “Experience has shown that boards of education and their professional employees can best reach the objectives described in subdivision (b) (1), if each considers the ability, experience and judgment of the other in formulating policies and making decisions that involve the operations of this state’s public schools through a collaborative effort of mutual interest and mutual gain.” This statement of purpose provides the proper view on which we come together to improve education under the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act. Flaunting lawsuits or threatening legal action under PECCA frustrates the ability to work together and provides a basic misunderstanding of its intended purpose. Any self-serving