Some last-minute pre-election teacher contract controversy has arisen for Tiverton voters’ edification:
Superintendent William Rearick and School Committee Chairwoman Denise deMedeiros thought they were close to approving a contract for the teachers this week, saying this is the closest they have been in more than 16 months of negotiating, but teachers union President Amy Mullen said there is no deal because the terms of the agreement keep changing.
Mullen said she thought they had a deal Oct. 15 when she met with Rearick and Fiore, but Rearick said the union’s figures did not mesh with the amount of money that is available for the teachers and some tweaking was needed.
“We’ve gone backwards,” Mullen said Wednesday. “We thought we had an agreement. We shook on it. I thought for sure they’d vote to approve it (Tuesday night at the School Committee meeting).”
Rearick gave the union a last best offer Wednesday morning after meeting with the School Committee.
“We’re pretty far apart,” Mullen said.
DeMedeiros was surprised to hear that Wednesday.
“We’re very, very close in salary. We’re almost right on,” said deMedeiros, who hopes to avoid costly arbitration that is scheduled to begin again this Wednesday. “When we first filed for arbitration, we were miles apart. We are now extremely close. There is no need for any of this anymore. If they want to go to arbitration, that’s fine, but I don’t understand it.”
So the union is blaming the school committee, and the school committee is blaming the union. That’s all unremarkable, and since the taxpayers who’ll be footing the bill don’t have access to the terms of the negotiations, there’s no way to tell who’s closer to the truth.
The cast of candidates for school committee gives some reason to think it’s the union that’s playing games. Of the five committee members, three seats are up for grabs, and two incumbents are running. Three non-incumbents are in the race — two who would be more amenable to union demands and one who would be more inclined to hold the budgetary line, Danielle Coulter. In other words, the union has reason to believe that the next school committee will be more apt to vote in its favor.
Union President Amy Mullen is on the right track on one count, though:
“We have no confidence in his educational leadership of this system,” Mullen said of [Superintendent Bill] Rearick. “He is dragging us down. He has no vision for this system. He’s shown no leadership.”
Watching from the outside, it has seemed that Rearick is more inclined to compromise with the union than the school committee is. If he wanted to show visionary leadership, he’d walk into negotiations, toss on the table a contract that the school committee has already approved, and tell the union that it’s a take it or leave deal. (And, no, I didn’t forget an “it” in that sentence.)