Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Will Tacoma have school on Sept. 1?

My father, who spent most of his career in PR, told me many times that reality isn't as important or powerful as what people perceive as reality.

I'm beginning to perceive that even if school starts on time in Tacoma, it will do so under a cloud of contention.  It's contract negotiation time and the Tacoma Education Association and the administration are sniping more, not less, as the deadline approaches.

Perception management has been awkward on both sides.  First, in a message to members, the TEA spoke sharply of the administration's unwillingness to bargain.  The administration said little.  Finally, the administration posted a letter saying the union hadn't been as available for bargaining as they should have been.  Then, today, the superintendent expressed his 'frustration' with the union's late addition of new issues into the discussion.

Read the public comments on the superintendent article and you'll see how inflamed passions are by all this.  So much for the 'across the table' model of too readily ends up adversarial, which encourages both parties to think of the process in a zero-sum way, and thereby focus on what they think they must win.  Heels get dug in, anger rises.

And if there is some sort of labor action...? Trust corrodes further, and organizational capacity weakens more.  Doesn't look good...if these general perceptions are at all accurate, that is.

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