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CEA president looks to rebuild bridges with Canfield community

Published: Thu, October 20, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

CEA president looks to rebuild bridges with Canfield community

I am the new president of the Canfield Education Association, the union representing over 180 teachers within the Canfield Local School District. The goal of this letter is to introduce myself and to re-open the lines of communication between parents and teachers in the Canfield community.

I understand that some people feel that I am over-paid for teaching world history at Canfield High School. However, I feel that I am fairly compensated based on my education level (bachelor’s and master’s degrees) and the responsibility that I am entrusted with: educating our youth in the community of Canfield. However, is this disagreement about teachers’ salaries the only reason for the lack of communication between teachers and parents?

I am not blaming the parents and voters of the Canfield School District for starting this disconnect on how education is funded and delivered; that is more of a policy debate in Columbus or Washington, D.C. However, I am concerned about the nature of the discourse. In a time when there are so many ways to communicate, I feel that neither side is not doing a very good job talking about the tough issues. And difficult issues do exist.

If you would like to see the salaries of all government employees in Ohio, feel free to visit the state treasurer’s website at http://tos.ohio.gov/. This is an effort by Treasurer Mandel to create a culture of transparency in Ohio, and I agree with this movement.

Growing up in the Mahoning Valley, I can appreciate the values that all of our parents, teachers, and coaches have instilled in us. I know that the people of the Mahoning Valley work very hard for a living. It is in our genetics.

As a father, a teacher, and a coach, my goal is to inspire our young people to strive to be the best they can be in our society. Furthermore, I feel a tremendous sense of pride in the Mahoning Valley even though sometimes it seems as if the deck is stacked against us.

I have been a teacher for 12 years, and I am happy to say that I have many friends in Canfield. However, last year I found myself in awkward conversations with friends who did not support our school levy. Why does it have to feel so uncomfortable? As taxpayers, you should have every right to honestly ask tough questions about our performance as long as you can honesty listen to our response. On the other hand, we should be able to do the same.

I am proud of our Board of Education for listening to the taxpayers and lowering the upcoming November levy to 4.9 mills. The rate will be significantly reduced because of accelerated payments. For every $100,000 in property value, the amount would be as follows: in 2012 $104.16 per year ($8.68 per month) and from 2013-16 $73.56 per year ($6.13 per month).

The employees in our district heard you loudly and clearly as well. After the May defeat, all three local unions worked together with the board of education to restructure our contracts and save the district almost $2 million over the next three years.

CEA has secured an e-mail address for community members to send questions regarding teachers. We welcome your questions at: Canfieldteachers@sbcglobal.net.

This is a sincere way to discuss issues and re-open the lines of communication between the CEA and our community. I do respect your opinion enough to truly ask for it.

Dean Conley, Canfield


1walter_sobchak(2168 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

But, what about the black squirrels? I feel this is a much more important topic for the BOE!

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2mrsdocglb(9 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

This letter recognizes one of the biggest problems plaguing the Canfield school district…..a total lack of honest, respectful, open, QUALITY, two-way communication. This is especially come to light in the past year, as the District has attempted to gain passage of the school levies. Somewhere along the line, anyone who differs or questions the validity of a need for the school levy has been deemed an enemy of the district and an enemy of its students and teachers. This has divided the community of Canfield and adversely affected the schools. I have not ever thought for one moment that the blame for this situation fell solely upon the teachers. I have not ever thought that teachers alone should be responsible making all of the concessions that the District needs for an appearance or the reality of fiscal responsibility.

Canfield is totally representative of the problems the Ohio educational funding process has created. I believe that Canfield probably does need additional money from a new levy. I would like more of this money targeted towards students, however. I also totally appreciate and respect your pride in your education, salary, and job. I think you are representative of a majority of teachers in the Canfield school district. I feel that teachers have been both targets and victims in parental outrage over the levy. In some isolated incidents, I can totally understand the outrage, but I do not feel that teacher salaries and wages are the primary issue in the upcoming election.
Parents and their input have been marginalized for years in this District. If you want a levy to pass, you need to actively engage, respect, and listen to their views and opinions. Place parental input on a level commensurate to that of the educational "experts" . Public derision, criticism, and gossip don’t benefit anyone and do not encourage a willingness to engage in open and honest communication. There seems to be an overwhelming assumption, primarily at the administrative and Board level, that parents are incapable of having any valid concerns, opinions, or input into these policies and procedures simply because they do not have a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in education.

Hopefully your letter will start the process of healing and open the lines of communication between parents and teachers. The School Board and the Superintendent would be wise to follow the lead of the CEA, with a real effort to improve the communication between parents and the District. Notice how I said “real”…token efforts at poorly constructed mass mailings, surveys and paternalistic town hall meetings will not work. We need to move past the appearance of excellence in our district and restore some faith in the Canfield school District.

We all have the same goal in mind…success, education and safety of our children. It is time that we all concentrate on that.

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3streetsmartt(127 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Conley,

I have several problems with your letter:

1. In the last 5 years your salary has increased 36% - from $45,791 to $62,299. People in the private sector haven't seen their wages go up like that.

2. You talk about "lines of communication" between teachers and parents. Basically, you are referring to parents voting for or against the school levy. We are on opposite sides, don't your see? We pay you out of our taxes. It is in our best interest to get the most from school employees in the form of services for our tax dollars. That's why there exists a Board of Education - to represent the taxpayers' interest in negotiating contracts with your union. You don't care about "lines of communication" with parents when levies pass, only when they fail. This is because you need only have a line of communication with the school board to negotiate your contracts.

3. Why has it been "awkward" for you to converse with parents who don't support the school levy? It isn't awkward for us. Is it perhaps that you have a personal agenda that conflicts with the taxpayers' desire to get the most services for our employee dollars?

4. Your job is to secure the most lucrative contracts for teachers that you can. That is your job as president of the union. How can you possibly be "proud" that the board of education is asking for less money for your members? How can you say that you "worked" with the BOE to give back 2 million in planned increases? You fought them every inch of the way, or you should have as union president.

5.The whole tenor or your letter is that we are all on the same team. This is poppycock. Parents and teachers are on different teams when it comes to delivering an educational "product" to our children. We want the best for least cost and your members want the most pay for the least amount of exertion.

6. Your approach to this whole question of the school levy is disingenuous, sophomoric, and lacking in humility. That is probably the biggest problem I have with this letter and the reason the levy will fail - if it does.

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4walter_sobchak(2168 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

"The employees in our district heard you loudly and clearly as well. After the May defeat, all three local unions worked together with the board of education to restructure our contracts and save the district almost $2 million over the next three years."

There you have it. AFTER the levy defeat, contracts were reworked. Therefore, if the levy would have passed, contracts would NOT have been reworked. Well CEA, get ready to rework those contracts because this levy is going to fail also! Maybe a real giveback (not just accepting only a 2% raise instead of a 3% raise) by the union so that their "brothers" can retain their positions!

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5Shoooooo(14 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Black Squirrels of Canfield say, "VOTE NO"

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6smurf0898(17 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Conley,

I applaud your efforts in taking the first step to repairing the damage done to this school district. Please don't be discouraged by negative feedback. Alot of people are still pretty ticked off. It will take time but I think you're efforts are genuine and will eventually be recognized.
The announcment of Zambrini's retirement will go a long way to restoring the spirit that once existed here.

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7paulparks(235 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Conley will say anything to get the levy passed.

Mr. Conley represents the teachers. It is not in his best interest to have a dialogue with parents.

Mr. Conley refrains from mentioning that Canfield teachers have received over 10% in raises the last 3 years + step raises. (No givebacks on that!)

Mr. Conley is an "iron fist in a velvet glove."

Mr. Conley, we will not be fooled by what you say or by Mr. Z's "decision" to announce his retirement.

The levy will fail again.

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8Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

The mascot is ready . . . ..


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9lumper(291 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

make the teachers pay over 20% of the cost of their healthcare plan and contribute to their retirement with only a maximum 2% match from state or local funds . then maybe i'll vote for the levy. communicate that, big boy.

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10streetsmartt(127 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago


Your attitude is typical of the "cry babies" who still think teachers should be on a pedestal, still believe in the "goodness" of the public education system, and still think it's not about the money to teachers. I stand by my previous post. (#3)

Teachers have got it made - with Cadillac perks and bennies, early retirement, and excellent working conditions. Have you have a 36% increase in your pay the last 5 years like Mr. Conley?... No?

Parents like me have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in the education system. It's not all bad - it just has gotten out of hand. Teachers these days make way too much money for 9 months of work.

Where are you coming from with your "diversity" comment? Diversity is just another name for "political correctness." Do you believe parents don't have any rights to criticize the education system?

There is an unsavory smugness and "air of superiority" in the teachers, administrators, and pro-levy parents in Canfield. Believe me, you people don't know it all.

Where are all the yard signs, public meetings, and multiple "letter to the editor" chastising people to vote for the levy this time?

I think it's all an organized effort to stay under the radar and hope the levy "sneaks" through.

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11republicanRick(1420 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Private industry workers' pay raises came to a screeching halt around 2008. Through inertia and school boards that were afraid to say no, the teachers pay kept rising at a healthy pace. This has resulted in, well, an out-of-whack economic model.

Teachers need to take pay cuts to right the model. Either that or take 5 year wage freezes, along with no longevitity raises, until the sytem rights itself. If not, voters will just keep voting down levies.

Teachers have to realize that it is not what they think they "deserve", it is the community economic situation that dictates their pay. The economy sucks and the teachers need to take a hit like everybody else has.

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12charms(228 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

The only line of communication with the voters that matter is at the ballot box.

It's the only "check" on the out-of-control spending.

It's the only way to tell the school board whether or not they have done a good job.

It's the only way voters grade the superintendent.

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