Another Night at the High School
Well, here we are, at what’s sure to be a tense school committee meeting — as the teachers demand their retroactive pay and a handful of us concerned citizens try to explain that it would be insane to dig our financial hole deeper, with the state facing such a daunting task.
You know it’s got to be an event, because Mr. Crowley made the trip all the way from Lincoln. Luckily, a few AR readers made a point of introducing themselves to me before the meeting to lessen the minority feeling, and we’ve also got some moral support from the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens.
Which is not to say that there’s anything resembling parity in numbers. But when a special interest is used to facing absolutely no opposition, perhaps a ragtag band of reformers can mount an adequate defense.
ADDENDUM 7:23 p.m.:
Interesting anecdote: During a start-of-meeting executive session, I left the auditorium to use the men’s room, and as I stepped to the sink to wash my hands, a man came in complaining about the traffic from Boston: “But you get the call that you’ve got to come down; what are you going to do?”
I joked about the traffic, and he further stated, “I just hope they don’t say anything bad about the teachers in front of me, because I just drove down from Boston and I’m not in the mood.”
He appears to be intending to sit near the audience-use microphone.
Ah, union tactics.
While I look around the room during the wait, I’m reminded of the difficulty of this whole process. Here is a roomful of people most of whom are dedicated to educating children and only want a fair salary in keeping with what they were told to expect when they entered the field. And yet, their combined efforts, in town and across the state, are a significant part of the chain that’s dragging us under.
Little wonder they’ve been able to do it, though: as contentious a man as I am, I very much dislike having to look at the faces around me and see opponents. The average citizen is certain to accede to their demands.
ADDENDUM 7:35 p.m.:
Committee Chairman Jan Bergandy just announced that the executive session was going to be longer than expected. Odd, if they’re deciding how to vote, that they have public discussion at all.
ADDENDUM 8:04 p.m.:
Interesting note: they just voted to approve the minutes from the last meeting — usually an uninteresting formality — but it was actually necessary for one of the new members to amend the minutes to include comments from Tom Parker, whom you’ll recall made a citizen’s plea not to approve the NEA contract for financial reasons.
Wonder how that became omitted.
ADDENDUM 8:07 p.m.:
The feeling of reluctance, from those on the stage, to progress through to the meat of the agenda (contract negotiations) is palpable. Can’t say I blame them. I’m stressed, and here I am hiding out of view.
ADDENDUM 8:13 p.m.
Interesting to watch Pat Crowley reading Anchor Rising real time:
ADDENDUM 8:18 p.m.:
Chairman Jan Bergandy is expressing grave doubts about the contract, given likely cuts from the state, so he’s posing the question: What are the consequences of not approving the contract?
ADDENDUM 8:22 p.m.:
Predictably, new committeewoman Carol Herrman moved to pass the contract (Sally Black seconded): She argued that if the numbers don’t work out… hey, we’ll reopen the contracts. Of course, she didn’t mention that the leverage would be completely different.
She also argued that all contracts should be reopened, but the teachers’ is by far the biggest, and if the teachers take a hit down the road, there will be more leverage to renegotiate the others.
ADDENDUM 8:26 p.m.:
Of course, the teachers cheered loudly when Carol made her motion. Subsequently, new member Danielle Coulter spoke in favor of holding off on the contract until the state makes more information available.
In support of Mrs. Coulter a few of us in the audience applauded, and Chairman Bergandy chided us for being inconsiderate to the teachers’ feelings.
Sorry. It clearly was not easy for Danielle to say what she did. She’s going to get heat for it. And I for one am going to make sure that she’s not sitting up there without support.
ADDENDUM 8:31 p.m.:
Vice chair Sally Black just made an impassioned speech that the state isn’t living up to its end of the bargain, so she votes to pass the contract because it’s “fair and just.”
We can no longer operate that way. We have to start with the financial reality and negotiate from there. The money doesn’t appear on the grounds of justice or fairness.
ADDENDUM 8:51 p.m.
Strangely, the teachers are arguing that the committee has long known that cuts were coming. Me, I’m inclined to agree — which has made it a dubious proposition to allow things to get to this point — but I don’t see how that’s an argument for irresponsible financing, now.
ADDENDUM 8:57 p.m.:
Despite a stated two to three minute time limit per person, one teacher has been going on for about ten minutes now saying that political changes in the past few weeks have accounted for the change in the committee’s opinion.
I disagree to an extent, but beyond that: so what? That’s how we decide how things should work in a democracy! Politics is what makes it in officials’ interests to represent the interests of their constituencies.
ADDENDUM 9:14 p.m.:
Guidance Councillor and active unionist Lynn Nicholas just took the microphone to say that, if the committee does not pass the contract, there will be “a lot of harm done — some financial, some not,” and she made a point of leaving it there, continuing with: “Have you even begun to think about the lawyer fees.”
Yes, they’re all about preserving the quality of our schools.
ADDENDUM 9:19 p.m.:
I’m surprised it took this long for a teacher to suggest that Obama might swoop in and save us all.
ADDENDUM 9:26 p.m.:
Mr. Bergandy is making the very good point that, if the committee approves this contract and large cuts do come, programs will be cut, which means that teachers will be laid off.
ADDENDUM 9:30 p.m.:
Now we’re having classroom logic lessons from the teachers: “If you admit that this is a fair contract and then there are cuts and you decrease the contract, wouldn’t that make it an unfair contract?”
This mindset is maddening.
ADDENDUM 9:32 p.m.:
Union President Amy Mullen just threatened that the deal on the table will not be available in the future.
ADDENDUM 9:35 p.m.:
The contract failed, and the teachers stormed out…
Except for one — an English teacher — who although clearly upset took a moment to introduce himself and give me hope that we can, through it all, resolve differences.
Thank you, sir, for that.
ADDENDUM 9:48 p.m.:
There’s a feeling of afterward to the continuing meeting. The committee is deciding whether to hire a technology person. Carol Herrmann moved that they hold off on this contract; Danielle Coulter concurred.
The difference is that they’re currently paying a per diem person to fill a necessary role.
ADDENDUM 9:58 p.m.:
The new technology guy was not hired, with discussion postponed until after the union issue is resolved.
ADDENDUM 10:04 p.m.:
A potentially telling statement: the committee is discussing the process of bidding for a new attorney, and Superintendent Rearick just recused himself on the grounds that he’s been working with the current attorney for a very long time.