Thursday, May 19, 2011


James Williams sighting

Remember our old friend James Williams? The former Dayton superintendent was forced out in 1999 after a tumultuous eight years when the state auditor uncovered a multi-million dollar deficit. Williams is also remembered for tough talk with the teacher’s union here soon after ascending to the district’s top job, which culminated in a 16-day strike in 1993.

Well, Williams is now superintendent in Buffalo and guess what? He’s stirring up a some angst by talking tough with the union there. (I spotted this through the Chalkboard blog, written by author and former education reporter Joe Williams — no relation.)

Back in 1993, Williams was proposing what were then radical ideas — merit pay for teachers based on the test gain of their students, hiring based on a school committee’s recommendation instead of seniority and rewarding or penalizing teachers based on the total performance of the schools where they teach.

Williams also took on the teachers over health care, claiming in 1993 that Dayton teachers were among the very few anywhere who still had 100 percent health care coverage.

Interestingly, Buffalo apparently held out more than a decade longer than Dayton. Their teachers STILL have 100 percent health care coverage — so it’s not surprising that Williams says this must change. He’s also asking for other union givebacks, saying without concessions any new money the district receives from the city will not reach the kids in the classroom.

It will be interesting to see if this goes better for Williams in Buffalo. The 1993 strike here led to replacement teachers, classroom chaos and ultimately a school board cave-in that ended up giving the teachers most of what they wanted (they did begin paying 5 percent of their health care costs).

In the end, Williams took a beating from the union.

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