Sometime next week in California, the reins of leadership of the Fairfax Education Association will inauspiciously change hands.
Outgoing president Gerry Gripper and president-elect Bill Costello will be attending the National Education Association's annual convention in Los Angeles when the change becomes official July 1.
While Costello says he is looking forward to heading the 6,500-member teachers' group, he admits that an even "tougher year" than the one just past waits him.
Gripper, the outspoken leader who has been credited with making great strides in teachers' rights, agrees with Costello's assessment that a turbelent year is likely when classes resume in September and says he is leaving office reluctantly. "I'm ready to go another round," he said in a recent interview.
If he is still in the county and the teachers want him, Gripper says he would run for office again, perhaps after Costello's term is up next year.
Looking back at the 1979-1980 school year, which saw teachers engaged in a work-to-the-rule job action until they were awarded at total 10.4 percent salary increase, Gripper said he considers the year of work by the FEA as successful.
"It was a year full of conflict, but conflict can be very positive," Gripper said, "We let the folks know that they can't have it both ways.
"They can't keep keep raising their expections of the educational system unless they are going to pay for it. We told them, 'Either get off of our backs or fund the system adequately.'"
Griper said inflation and continued increases in the cost of living will likely be major factors in producing another intense battle next year over teachers' salaries. He added that increased teacher awareness will force the FEA to lobby hard and long for fair salaries for its members.
"Teachers are being burned out stressed out of their minds," Gripper said.
Leaders in the FEA say Gripper was the first association president to successfully bring home the problems of teachers to the public.
He spoke frequently to community groups, telling them that they would have to fund quality education by paying teachers more or they would have to settle for a second-rate school system. An unprecedented 300 speakers who turned out at a public hearing to plead the teachers' case to the county Board of Supervisors bore testimony to Gripper's effectiveness.
Under that kind of public pressure, the County Board funded the school budget with only minimum cuts.
But Gripper warns that the factors that make teaching an increasingly difficult job are not abating, but becoming more pronounced.
Among the basic problems, according to both Gripper and Costello:
Low pay, Many teachers find it necessary to hold second jobs to supplement their teaching incomes, Gripper said, while others are leaving teaching for more profitable jobs in private industry. One result, Gripper and Costello say, is that public schools lose some of their best teachers.
Parents who abdicate their responsibilities. More and more, say the two education leaders, parents expect teachers to assume responsibilities that traditionally should be met by parents. Gripper contends Fairfax County children are increasingly being neglected by parents who, when their children develop problems, blame it on the schools.
The rebirth of the ultraconservative groups. These right wing groups have repeatedly attacked the National Education Association as being a "giant union" and have labeled local education association presidents as "union bosses." Gripper said bonds forged recently between these groups and taxpayers alliances make next year's battle for the tax dollar harder.
Gripper, who is slated to return to his job as physical education teacher at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School in September, instead may take a job with another education association. In an interview earlier this week, Gripper said he had been discussing job possibilities with several education groups and would be tempted to take one if the "situation were right."
Bill Costello, Gripper's soft-spoken successor, says he hopes to continue Gripper's forceful leadership, while developing his own style.
Costello, who is taking a year's leave from Annandale High School where he has taught social studies for 24 years, says he favors putting more control of educational programs back into the hands of educators," and cites several fads as examples of experiments by curriculum specialists that have failed. He contends it is vital to consult teachers before deciding to implement such programs.
"I say 'talk to us before you tell us how to do it,' "he says.
In looking ahead to the 1980-81 school year, Costello exresses uncertainty about future relations with school administrators under the tutelage of new Superintendent L. Linton Deck but plans to take teachers' case back to the community.
"I don't differ in any major ways from Gerry's policies, particularly his method of trying to reach the community," Costello says. "I'm a strong believer in advocacy."