The Hostage’s Objection
In a letter to the Sakonnet Times, Class of ’09 Tiverton High School student Lexy Halpen expresses her frustration with the ongoing contract negotiations of those responsible for her education:
… Not only is it ridiculous that the school committee won’t fix this problem, but myself and my classmates are losing out on everything until they stop arguing. There won’t be a homecoming dance, any proms for the juniors and seniors, no after school activities that aren’t graded, nothing. …
The thing that bothers me the most is that they’re canceling math team, National Honor Society, and mock trial in the new contracts. Once again, why should the students suffer by losing these things when they try hard enough to win them? Mock trial is my road to college. Without mock trial, I don’t get any scholarships or accepted to colleges I need to go to. Without mock trial, I can kiss college goodbye…
This contract had better be fixed. This whole situation needs to be looked at from the students’ point of view. Let us have a say. The least they could do is allow students in to represent themselves.
Perhaps I’m missing something, but inasmuch as none of the activities for which Ms. Halpen argues are explicitly included in the union’s previous contract (PDF), it would seem more likely that the loss of her groups isn’t part of the new contract (which, after all, hasn’t been settled on, much less implemented, yet), but a casualty of the current work to rule strategy. In other words, she ought to direct her ire at the teachers and their “maneuverings“, even those whom she believes are “trying their hardest to get [their activities] back”:
As one move to put pressure on the school committee, the teachers last Thursday voted to begin what is called “contract compliance,” which Patrick Crowley, assistant executive Director of NEA Rhode Island, said “means that teachers will only perform duties officially called for in the current union contract.”
Amy Mullen, president of Tiverton’s union local and its lead negotiator said “contract compliance” as a practical matter meant that teachers would not be volunteering for activities.
For example, she said, guidance counselors will not be volunteering for the college fair in October. Teachers will not be volunteering for the school improvement meetings in the evenings, or paying for school supplies for students out of their own pockets, or volunteering for field trips (except for those already scheduled and paid for by students).
Mike Burk, co-chairman of the school committee said the “contract compliance” actions by students are beginning to hurt students, for instance he’s hearing that seniors aren’t getting college letters of recommendation written by teachers.
Mr. Burk said that not everything a teacher does as a professional can be written into the contract. The teachers counter by saying that if a time-consuming task isn’t specifically written into the contract, and they aren’t compensated for doing it, they should not be required to do it.
As “an active student at THS,” Lexy is many times over being made a pawn by a unionized workforce that — despite allowing the percentage of students with math proficiency, as measured by state standardized tests, to drop 8.7% — “continue[s] with their demand for a salary increase of 3.75 percent in each of the next years.” That’s 25% more than the annual raises (compounded by step increases) in the previous contract.
I only caught the tail end of A Lively Experiment yesterday evening, but during a closing discussion on improving the state’s circumstances NEARI’s Bob Walsh asserted that organized labor unions “aren’t going anywhere.” Judging from the statewide test results, I’d say that much is obvious (albeit taken differently than intended). Be that as it may, it’s unconscionable that teachers would seek to leverage students’ anxieties that they won’t be going anywhere unless the townspeople cough up the demanded ransom.