Letter to the Editor: A change in management practices could help KPBSD resolve labor issues

We Alaskans are still locked into adversarial management of our teachers and students.

A change in management practices could help KPBSD resolve labor issues

I am an 87-year-old student that is still learning about life, love, conflicts and resolution and a whole lot more. Like the 85-year-old Cincinnati woman, who in preparing to die admitted she did not have all the answers to her many questions, I have a lot of unanswered questions. Unlike her I am not angry, but I am grateful for life’s puzzles and mysteries. They challenge me to think about solutions and better ways of doing things.

I must admit I am biased by what I have experienced and learned in those 87 years as an American, a former Kansas wheat farmer, a student in Kansas public schools, a veteran, a research chemist at Kansas State University and at the Procter & Gamble Company in Cincinnati. My 13 years of chemical research in the Research and Development Department in P&G exposed me to many opportunities to learn valuable lessons.

For example, I was exposed to adversarial and non-adversarial styles of management. I experienced both forms of management and saw the advantages and disadvantages of both management styles. P&G did not have unionized staff or technicians when I went there. After about eight years, word got around that the technicians were unhappy about their management policies. The R and D director called in all of the technicians, about 100, gave them the keys to a conference room, instructed them to take time to work out what they wanted and then to come back to him. They did and they worked out an agreement agreeable to both parties. To my knowledge P&G still does not have a union and people are happy.

They are not locked into never-ending struggles to sign employment contracts and blaming each other for their failures to reach an agreement, nor threatening to strike.

After coming to Alaska and 42 years ago agreeing to teach science-math at Kenai Central High School, I was surprised at all the unhappiness in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Anchorage schools. After some time I began to question the president of the KPBSB as to working together to solve these problems. I was informed it was not possible because we were in an adversarial relationship. Fast forwarding 42 years and observing the actions of the KPBSD and our new superintendent, it seems to me that our children, their teachers and we Alaskans are still locked into adversarial management of our teachers and students. Is this what we want?

As an alternative, I recommend at least looking at the non-adversarial management practices going on in the Pittsburgh school system. I believe this offers distinct advantages to everyone to avoid the wasted time, money and energy that has been going on in at least the six or so states that have carried out major disruptive strikes in the last two or three years. I believe we will all be happier and better off if we change our management practices.

Hugh R. Hays,


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