UEA officials show support for Ogden, Weber districts' teachers

Sep 12 2011 - 11:30pm

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MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner 
Utah Education Association President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh meets with faculty at James Madison Elementary School in Ogden on Monday. She says she didn’t notice a definitive morale problem with teachers as she visited different schools.
MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner 
Utah Education Association President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh meets with faculty at James Madison Elementary School in Ogden on Monday. She says she didn’t notice a definitive morale problem with teachers as she visited different schools.

OGDEN -- It has been six years since the Utah Education Association Road Trip has made its way to Ogden, so UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh had much to discuss Monday while visiting several schools in both Ogden and Weber school districts.

Gallagher-Fishbaugh and other UEA officials visited Lakeview, Farr West and Sandridge schools in Weber district and Ben Lomond High and James Madison Elementary schools in Ogden district.

They ended the day with a family night for teachers and their families at Ogden's Dinosaur Park.

Gallagher-Fishbaugh greeted James Madison Elementary School Principal Julie Palmer Gnotta with a hug at a faculty meeting Monday afternoon.

Palmer Gnotta was excited for Gallagher-Fishbaugh to meet with her teachers.

"She is articulate and bright and an advocate for the teachers," Palmer Gnotta said.

"It's been an interesting summer," Gallagher-Fishbaugh said regarding the situation with Ogden School District.

She said she didn't notice a definitive morale problem with teachers as she visited the schools, though. "They are anxious to get school started."

She saw that the educators have a real passion for teaching and for their students. She talked about how teachers shared their classrooms with her and discussed various teaching approaches they are using.

"They are all so excited to be doing different things," Gallagher- Fishbaugh said.

She said the agreement with Ogden Superintendent Brad Smith to do interest-based negotiation training is very encouraging.

"I think it's been the goal all along to get back to negotiations," she said.

As she spoke to teachers Monday, they also seemed encouraged.

"That is overwhelmingly what I'm hearing," she said of the idea of negotiating again. "It is a very encouraging development."

Smith had planned to be at James Madison's faculty meeting with Gallagher-Fishbaugh, but had to attend a new superintendents' meeting in Salt Lake City. He said in a later interview that there was never an intent to not negotiate.

"That is a complete misnomer. The board never refused to negotiate," Smith said. "That ball was never in play."

He said he has no problem negotiating with teachers. He said negotiations on the last contract broke down and the process was not working, but that does not mean negotiations will never happen again.

Smith said he just wants to move forward.

"I don't see anything good coming from articulating who is to blame," he said of the communication breakdown between the Ogden Education Association and the Ogden district.

He said he just wants to restore good faith between the groups.

"I have one focus in the district, and that's for the children in this district," Smith said.

He plans to do what it takes for them. "I will go to hell and back for the betterment of the children in this district."

Gallagher-Fishbaugh also is looking forward to things moving ahead in a positive direction, saying, "I am hopeful things will go forward for kids and teachers."

The road tour will continue through September, and Gallagher-Fishbaugh intends to visit as many districts as she can.

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