Yes It Is, It’s True: Do grievances reveal morale problems?

The unpleasantness Troubling true stories_1of a grievance hearing last Monday night for four teachers probably was avoidable, but even worse, it once again showcases the growing feeling there is a serious employee morale problem in Wayland schools.

Four Steeby Elementary teachers presented a grievance to the Board of Education, asserting they were not compensated for doing extra duty because of a roof leak and flooding last October. Some may react at first by saying it’s just a heroic part of the job to go the extra mile when disaster strikes. That seemed to be the response of the administration.

But a little more critical thinking and a little bit of human compassion can reveal that these four teachers felt unappreciated in the wake of them putting in extra time and effort.

One local citizen rightfully suggested that the grievance could have been headed off at the pass by administrators presenting the four teachers with a surprise gift card for dinner at an area restaurant, or by ordering pizza and pop for everybody doing the cleanup. Administrators ordered the teachers to do extra non-teaching duties during that unpleasant development, but did virtually nothing afterward in publicly or economically expressing thanks.

There seems to be a pattern in this administration’s lack of compassion or empathy toward the hired hands. This administration has shown improvement in public relations over the previous Swan regime, but seems stuck in the corporate attitude that money, not human beings, is what matters most. And that public schools should be run like a business.

The Swan Administration seemed to have no compunction about dismissing 23 longtime loyal custodial employees to save money, in its worst show of bad relations with employees and community members.

Since then, this administration has demonstrated an alarming lack of empathy for classroom and playground aides, who have been rebuffed at every turn in their desperate quest to avoid potential bankruptcy by seeking health care benefits. This, while four administrators earn at least $100,000 a year, far more than any other district in Allegan County.

And it was only a couple of months ago that the food service employees presented six grievances to the board, all of which were denied.

Perhaps the nastiest, most miserable wretch I ever had as a boss in my 40-year journalism career was David P. Hohendorf, general manager and assistant publisher of the Spinal Column Newsweekly in Oakland County. He once angrily told me that if I continued to go out to local bars to have a drink with staff writers, he’d have to start treating me like staff, as though they were just bottom feeders.

But even “The Ho,” which is what many employees called him behind his back, had the foresight to order pizza, breadsticks and pop for all staff one night at the Spinal Column when we were forced to do lots of overtime because of a glitch in the machinery.

I learned during my 28 years as a manager that if you can’t give the hired help the money they want, you’d better treat them with decency and respect if you want to keep them. I think I got away with keeping a lot of good people who finally went on to bigger and better things, and today we still are good friends.

This administration would do well to take heed of a lesson that even The Ho had to learn.

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