These Are Professionals?
In response to tonight’s post from the minivan in the Tiverton High School parking lot, the usual suspects will declare that I’m writing to script. My sympathizers will respond as if what I say is just common knowledge. But I have to admit that I was a little surprised at the comportment of the audience at tonight’s school committee meeting.
As the committee went through the initial components of the agenda, microphone feedback led the young man running the PA system to kill the audio and run to the media room. It isn’t surprising that, in the intervening time, members of the audience asked for certain things to be repeated more loudly, but the tone with which the requests were made was, shall we say, not what one would expect from people who daily have their patience and understanding tested by children. That tone was also audible in the requests that the minutia of the regular opening business of the committee be explored in detail.
At one point, a gym teacher of some sort shouted out, regarding a leak that has just been fixed in the gymnasium: “I have twenty-five young ladies who want to know why they waited until two weeks into the school year to fix the leak, when the gymnasium was empty all summer, and they want the right answer!” I’m sure very few of those 25 young ladies inconvenienced by the leak share even a fraction of their teacher’s indignation, but I’d be surprised if their disinterest saves them from some choice comments about the committee and administration.
Another woman asked whether a leak in some new construction is still covered under warranty. The superintendent answered that it is and would be addressed on a punchlist. As the conversation continued, one of the council members interjected to ask whether the school’s administrators had been alerted to the problem. When the relevant administrator responded in the affirmative, the councilman told the woman that that was the appropriate channel, before the committee need be brought into it. Somewhat abashed, the woman returned to her seat, but not before turning around on her way to give the councilman a catty glare and to hiss, for the benefit of anybody within a fifteen-foot radius, “Twerp.”
The committee then voted to enter into executive session in order to discuss the contract, and the crowd began to depart. Perhaps if some other interested Tiverton resident than myself was within that crowd, I am not the only one who left the room thinking, “These are professionals?”
Behaving like testy adolescents at a public meeting of those whom the townspeople (the parents of their students) have elected to run the schools does not suggest that the schools’ employees have any respect for their authority. Directing open hostility toward those with whom they must negotiate suggests that they know how imbalanced the union’s power is in this situation.
If what I witnessed tonight is any indication, concerned citizens have reason to fear that the dynamic created by unionization makes our school systems much less effective, making it more difficult for all of those involved to work together in mutual respect. The teachers were acting as if the committee members are their representatives and are attempting to drive them into poverty to perpetuate some mysterious corruption.
I hope that future participation will disprove my impression that these meetings could be, and often are, worse than the mild dose that I experienced tonight. If not, I’d suggest that anybody who is interested in encouraging professionalism in our schools ought to call for the end of teachers’ unions.
I think it goes without saying, but I want to make absolutely explicit, one, that my habit at all events that I’ve described on Anchor Rising is to behave more as an observer than as a reporter (i.e., I don’t mingle or roam the room in order to make sure that all “voices” are represented in my impressions) and, two, that I’m still relatively new to the local Tiverton public scene and may be missing part of the backstory. All that I can claim for these vignettes is that they are my honest impressions — no doubt colored to some degree by my ideology and expectations, neither of which I keep secret.