We don't know Shawn Beightol. Unlike Will Rogers, who never met a man he didn't like, we've met plenty of men we didn't like (and a few women too) so we're pretty cautious about who we choose to befriend or say we like. But we like this guy because he reminds us about one of the things that defines an American: he's standing up single-handedly against the bully on the block. Mr. Beightol is a high school chemistry teacher who is taking on the 800-lb gorilla known as the Dade County School Board. A United Teachers of Dade (UTD) union steward at his school, he is campaigning against the current president of the UTD. Seems the schoolboard doesn't like the idea of him using his school computer for sending emails that were "political in nature." In fact, they didn't like it enough to have school security guards meet him in the parking lot when he showed up for work Monday morning to stop him from entering the school. For his audacity in using the school email system, he was reassigned to the district's "maintenance depot."
Talk about a heavy handed response. It looks like the school board is trying to intimidate its teachers. Except for the fact that the board isn't sending him to Siberia to work in the salt mines, it reminds us how dictatorships handle people like Mr. Beightol. It also looks like a violation of Mr. Beightol's First Amendment rights on a public forum because no matter what legalese the school board uses to justify their behavior, that interschool email system was bought and paid for by public dollars-- and if he wasn't trying to pick up underage girls or boys, who cares.
We hope Mr. Beightol sues the schoolboard and wins the election. Many of the teachers are demoralized from low pay and having little or no say with school administrators. It is our opinion that the teachers should have gone on strike years ago for "more pay and more say" (our slogan, but feel free to borrow it) because it is the only action that will shake up the board and get the community's attention.
But, Mr. Beightol isn't even suggesting something as radical as a teacher's strike. He's only advocating "work to the contract" which means no more working overtime without pay (for a schoolteacher, that basically means not supporting after school activities). We don't blame them. As long as teachers behave like that, they'll never get any respect.
What's going on between the teachers negotiating a new contract with the school board is pretty much what is going on with the world trying to negotiate an anti-nuclear weapons agreement with North Korea. Unless the world gets serious, nothing is going to happen. Unless the teacher's play hard ball, nothing significant is going to happen. Going on strike will reverberate all the way to Tallahassee and force our lawmakers to face the truth: either pay the teachers what they're worth and incorporate their ideas in the classroom, or be prepared to face a catastrophic social event they brought on themselves and the public will inevitably hold them accountable for.
For all of those who wonder where the money will come from to give teacher's a realistic pay hike, MVB suggests that they can find some of the money by scrapping the cockamamied Port of Miami tunnel project. The state has allocated $600 million toward the $1.2 billion cost. That $600 million would sure go a long way in keeping teachers in this state and recruiting new ones. So, don't let us hear the money isn't available. It's there and you'll be surprised how quickly it and other money turns up when teachers exert the strength found in their sheer numbers.