Note: Recently one of MACE’s longtime Members posed this question to me, and I took the time to provide her, I think, a thoughtful answer. We essentially learn by space repetition and sudden impact. So, I certainly do not mind repeating what MACE stands for and how MACE provides an invaluable service for each MACE Member. I would certainly not want to see a longtime MACE Member give up his or her membership, and then suddenly need MACE’s services because of a frightful and unexpected and undeserved accusation from a petty and abusive administrator, an irate and irresponsible parent, or a lying, defiant, and disruptive student. Here is what I wrote back to the teacher, with names (including schools) redacted and changed). MACE certainly hopes that this Member and all of its Members steadfastly remain MACE Members. MACE values all of its Members.
I am sorry to hear that you apparently feel so disgruntled about MACE. I am sure that no one made you join MACE, but perhaps you were feeling a bit more vulnerable in your first three years of teaching at Jameson High School. I am sure that the student discipline is a bit more challenging at Jameson than Willow Junction High School, but each school has its own personality, quirks, idiosyncrasies, etc. Although the student discipline may be more challenging at one school (especially with little or no support from the school’s administration) whereas at a school with higher socio-economic status, the parents can be more demanding, capricious, and unreasonable.
MACE speaks before the Atlanta School Board on issues that affect teachers.
MACE is a no frills union. MACE makes no bones about this. None whatsoever. MACE does not put on spelling bee contests each year for students…like the other unions do. MACE never has. MACE has its occasional Holiday BASH and Spring Fling to help teachers release the tensions of teaching in terrible situations. MACE has its Teacher Rights Seminars. But, putting on the conventions, giving out tote bags and coffee cups, doing the spelling bees, etc., is not the MACE shtick. You can get this at the other unions/associations…but you won’t get the same kind of protection that MACE provides. The administrators join and are members of GAE and PAGE. So, who is going to be defended when there is a conflict? There is a built-in conflict of interest. MACE aggressively defends the teachers…from verbal (and physical) and evaluative assaults from petty, small-minded, insecure, vindictive, abusive, and anal-retentive administrators; from irate and irresponsible parents; and from defiant and disruptive students. And when an administrator starts giving you skewed and biased evaluations because you simply will not give a grade (whether on an assignment or a test) to a student or because the administrator believes that “you give too many bad grades,” you will be wanting MACE to represent you, not GAE or PAGE. Schools are fraught with this kind of systematic cheating. Systematic cheating is not just the purview of standardized tests. And it is this type of cheating that puts much undue pressure on teachers. It was MACE which first exposed the cheating scandal in both the Atlanta City and DeKalb County school systems. The media and the Governor’s Office came in a slow second and third. MACE had been on the streets for years and writing for years about the “miracle growth” on standardized test scores. In fact, I think that MACE coined the phrase “systematic cheating” on picket signs in Atlanta and DeKalb.
The media contacts MACE on a regular basis.
Now if you want protection and empowerment to do your job, you stay with MACE. If you want to go to a convention in Savannah or Macon and try to be a big shot in that organization, you got to GAE or PAGE. But, if you have an issue with a student, a parent, or an administrator, you stick with MACE. When you let the administration know that you are represented by MACE, you will get a different kind of respect. I have witnessed administrators “get religion” very quickly when they find out that the teacher on whom they were picking was a MACE Member. A complete turn-about takes place. The MACE Membership is strictly confidential. But, there might very well come a time when you want your administration to know that you are a MACE Member and not the one to be messed with.
The MACE Team makes an impromptu visit to the Hart County superintendent on behalf of a teacher.
Ms. Smith, I know that you grew up in the idyllic setting of ______ but teaching in Georgia (or any state for that matter) is not always so idyllic. You want to have MACE as your ace in the hole, so to speak. I am wondering if you have ever asked MACE to assist you in any way. I don’t think that you have. The MACE response time is remarkable. The goal of MACE is to respond to each teacher the very day that he or she calls the MACE Office. (Other organizations will take up to thirty – yes, thirty – days to respond, if they respond at all. I am hearing now that one or two of the other organizations are requiring their members to leave emails. In other words, no more direct talking to representatives.) Ms. Smith, you have been a loyal Member of MACE for 10 years now. You pay on time. There are no issues with your MACE Membership. It could be that you are thinking of becoming an administrator. That’s no problem. We quietly stop your MACE Membership. No fanfare. No ballyhoo. We simply wish you the best and hope that you become a great administrator and very supportive of classroom educators. My nephew went back into administration this year. So, again, we stopped his MACE Membership. (His wife who teaches remains a MACE Member.) And he is one heckuva an administrator! The teachers and the students like and respect him. There is no conflict with you being a MACE Member while you are still teaching and still having the goal of becoming an administrator one day. As I previously mentioned, when you become an administrator, MACE simply quietly stops your membership. There are and have been school administrators all over Georgia who are former MACE Members. I think that a few have even gone on to become Assistant Superintendents and even Superintendents. But, when you are a teacher, you need to belong to a teachers union that represents only teachers, not administrators. Heck, the Georgia School Superintendents Association (GSSA) and the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL) do not allow teachers to join. They have strictly an administrative agenda. Then, why not be a member of a teachers union that strictly has a teacher’s agenda? Ms. Smith, when you call the MACE Office, you don’t have to worry about whose side MACE is on. Everyone knows. MACE doesn’t waffle. MACE doesn’t vacillate one scintilla. MACE doesn’t leave your side.
The MACE guys with a happy teacher after MACE aggressively represented her before the Atlanta Board of Education.
I remember back in 1997 when a MACE Member was falsely accused of telling a high school student that she would give him an A for his grade if he would have sex with him. This scandalous accusation was covered on national news. MACE defended the teacher before the school board in a hearing, then before the Professional Practices Commission (before the Professional Standards Commission took over this role), and in a three-day trial in the Clayton County Superior Court. The jury verdict was “Not Guilty.” This teacher thought everything in her career was just fine. She had been a successful teacher in Clayton County for about 15 years before this little thug falsely accused her of this reprehensible action. The case was very controversial and tinged with many racial overtones. But, this teacher stated, “MACE never left my side.” (You can read her full testimony on the MACE website.) After these grueling three hearings (the last of which could have sent her to prison for many years, if she had been found guilty), she finally went back into the classroom and taught about 15 more successful years before retiring. MACE was very, very aggressive in her defense, and Ms. Walker was extremely grateful. She never once asked about a tote bag or a spelling bee contest. Why do you really join a teachers union…for an alleged discount on tires or some alleged ineffective lobbying at the Capitol…or for job protection and empowerment? This is the issue. This is the question. If you are looking for fluff, then, yes, join the other organizations. But, if you want to have the peace of mind that you will have aggressive representation when you need it, then by all means stay a Member of MACE. We value your membership. We really do. At MACE, we love teachers, and we do not apologize for this!
The MACE Picket Squad is always ready to picket an administrator(s) on behalf of a MACE Member.
MACE is the only teachers union/association that has the proper vision and accurate mantra for teachers: You cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions. This has been the inalterable and unchallenged mantra of MACE since MACE’s founding in 1995.
Now about stopping your bank draft: You simply send a short letter to the MACE Office, send an email to MACE, or send a note to MACE via facsimile, explicitly telling MACE that you no longer want to be a member and want your bank draft stopped. You understand that it has to be in writing to avoid anyone fraudulently posing as you on the phone. This communication needs to be in the MACE Office by the 15th of the month previous to the month in which the bank draft will stop. This two-week notice is needed because MACE has to notify the bank well in advance before the next scheduled bank draft. It is painless, Ms. Smith. Goodness. We would love for you to remain of Member of MACE. By remaining a MACE Member, you will have the backing of by far the strongest and most aggressive teachers union in Georgia. By far. And when you say, “MACE,” the administrators listen. I remember back right after MACE was founded, a school board member in Clayton County told me that the school board attorney (who was also the school board attorney in DeKalb County) told the school board that “MACE terrorizes the administrators.” I remember a teacher who was a good friend with a middle school principal in DeKalb County telling me that his principal friend was approached about taking the principal job at Southwest DeKalb High School. His friend turned down the job, saying words to this effect: “Nope, I don’t want to go there. MACE is there, and once MACE gets after you, they don’t ever let up!” Now, Ms. Smith, if this is not important to you, then you are indeed in the wrong union. You need to be in the tea and crumpet groups. That’s OK. We are not mad at you. But as soon as someone comes after you (and someone will, no matter how good a teacher you are; in fact, sometimes it is because you ARE a good teacher), you’ll realize then that you should have stayed a member of Georgia’s toughest and most aggressive teachers union. On a regular basis, MACE receives nice letters of thanks like the one below…
“Mr. Barnes, I wanted to let you know how thankful I am that you worked everything out for me! Not only did you send a letter for me (thanks Mr. Haynes and Dr. Trotter), but you helped me get a contract, and on top of that, negotiated with central office to get my transfer approved. Words cannot express how thankful I am! Every dime that I have spent for my membership is well worth it!” – Jackie Warren.
We wish you well in your career, and we hope that you remain a loyal MACE Member.
John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD