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.
ADDENDUM 7:27p.m.
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.

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Mike
Mike
12 years ago

Ah Justin.
So young. Realize that the maggots in this state always win, the good guys always lose. BUT-the maggots have now bankrupted themselves such that the chickens are “coming home to roost”.
$770 million deficit by 2012?-and that’s the maggots own estimate-which means the real number is over a billion?
Like that lovely progressive male “couple” from Bristol said to the 4 little boys their fellow progressives turned over to them-
“just relax and enjoy”
The Wall is coming down.
he evil mpire is collapsing under its own weight.

Pat Crowley
Pat Crowley
12 years ago

Justin, tell the truth. You didn’t introduce yourself or anyone else. And how do you know I came from Lincoln?

Tom W
Tom W
12 years ago

As economist Herbert Stein once said: “If something can’t continue, it won’t.”
No matter the vote in Tiverton tonight, municipalities within Rhode Island, and the State of Rhode Island, are nearing the end of “business” as conducted the last 30 or 40 years.
Businesses and taxpayers have been leaving Rhode Island for some time, and probably soon will start leaving en masse.
“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The ability end of that equation is shrinking, dramatically, and so soon the “need” will not be a determinant, for there won’t be enough “from” to go around.

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

Duh, Pat. Because we’ve had you tailed for the last two days. (We pulled the team off Rhody and posted them on you.)
H’mm. Regarding the union guy who drove down from Boston, what constitutes “saying something bad about teachers”? If we were to say, for example, that teacher pay in Rhode Island is in the top fifth nationally but school/student performance is in the bottom fifth, wouldn’t that be pointing out a simple fact?

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

Or suppose we were to observe how grossly irresponsible it would be, in view of the recession, falling revenues and deficits as far as the eye can see for any municipality to sign a contract agreeing to raises for any of its workers?

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

… and that, in point of fact, with taxes in Rhode Island in the top 20% nationally, falling revenues and a sea of red ink on the state level, what we need to do is to begin rolling back compensation in the public sector, never mind discussing increases or keeping it level? That’s not bad, that’s just fiscally responsible planning, isn’t it?

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

” the state isn’t living up to its end of the bargain”
Ma’am, the state has more than lived up to its end of the bargain for decades. That’s why it’s budget is half a billion in the red and why the state has taxes in the top 20% nationally.

Tom W
Tom W
12 years ago

>>Strangely, the teachers are arguing that the committee have 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.
The “RItanic” post immediately below this one on Anchor Rising seems apropos right about now.

Tom W
Tom W
12 years ago

>>Guidance Councillor and active unionist Lynn Nicholas just took the microphon 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.”
THUG: Teacher Heaving Union Garbage

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

“there will be “a lot of harm done — some financial, some not,””
That sounds like a threat. Who or what would be harmed?

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

“Obama might swoop in and save us all”
With our money, let us note. Or, more specifically, that of our children and grandchildren.

Tom W
Tom W
12 years ago

>>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?
And what a about a “fair” contract for the taxpayers?
Obviously the concept of a RESPONSIBLE contract hasn’t occurred to them.
Gee, why am I not surprised? They’re living in a fantasy world.

Will
12 years ago

Do you think Pat has discovered the GPS tracking device on his car yet? 😉
Since Pat lives in Lincoln, it’s not a stretch to think that he came from home. Could have come from NEARI HQ in Cranston, too. Of course, it doesn’t really matter where he came from, only that he went to Tiverton. Concentrate on anything but what is actually important.
It would be unconscionable for them to approve any contract now, not having the slightest clue what their revenue is going to be. Local aid is likely to be cut substantially… they need to be looking for places to cut, not to increase spending. How about a contract which is fair to taxpayers, not just to teachers?
“Union President Amy Mullen just threatened that the deal on the table will not be available in the future.”
Why is it “on the table” at all? The committee should just table it to a future date and let the chips fall where they may. They shouldn’t be making any threats or demands of anyone. I can’t even imagine acting like that towards my employer. They seem to forget who they work for.

Will
12 years ago

“The contract failed, and the teachers stormed out…”
There is hope.

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

“Union President Amy Mullen just threatened that the deal on the table will not be available in the future.”
Please, don’t throw us in the briar patch!

Tom W
Tom W
12 years ago

>>Please, don’t throw us in the briar patch!
Good one Monique.

Justin Katz
12 years ago

One of the reasons that I continue to brush off the suggestion of TCC members that I run for office next time around (one of many reasons): I think I’d have responded to Ms. Mullen, “You’re damned right this contract is not going to be available in the future.”

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Man, Pat: You don’t ever let up on the tarring, do you? I think it’s pretty clear that the AR readers introduced themselves to me, just giving me a more positive vibe for the meeting.

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

Major kudos to the School Committee for doing the responsible thing and nixing this contract.

rhody
rhody
12 years ago

Leave it to Mike to turn a discussion over a teacher contract into a place to air his homophobia.
Ah, Mike, our voice of rect-titude.

losing interest
losing interest
12 years ago

You all obviously do not care if your child gets a decent education. If you do not respect the teachers they will leave. They won’t all leave, the young, newly educated, excited, energetic ones will leave.
Teachers are professionals with college degrees. Teachers deserve raises. Most other professionals will receive one at some point in the year, maybe it will be a bonus at the end of the year or an incentive for a good sale, either way it’s still a raise. Why shouldn’t teachers, educated, hard working people earn raises as well?
Do any of you know a teacher personally? Your sibling, cousin, friend? That entire summer they have off with no work must be nice huh.
You know what must be nice? Having weekday evenings from late August to Late June off, that must be nice. Most of you leave work, and aside from the occasional report that has to get done, when you get home, you are done with work for the day. Forget it if you are a teacher. From the first day of school to the last there is ALWAYS homework. Much more than many can even imagine.
This entire situation is sickening. Many of you people need to stop running your mouths and realize that you couldn’t last a week being a good teacher.

Justin Katz
12 years ago

losing,
Your assessment of private sector work is flatly false. In the private sector, you receive raises if the money is there. Away from unions, you receive money if your value to the company goes up markedly. I personally know well-credentialed professionals in the private sector who are agreeing to pay cuts, benefit cuts, furloughs, and so on, in this economy. Economic laws are not suspended in the public sector.
The only reason young and energetic teachers will leave is if they’ve been promised to much from unionists. Besides which, they’ve got nowhere to go, and there are plenty of other qualified professionals to take their place.
And as for your questions and statements about personal experience: I’m married to a teacher. I’ve taught. I know the work. But if you think you’ve got a bad deal, you’re nuts.

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
12 years ago

Hey loser,
Get it straight – teachers that need contracts are NOT professionals. Professionals don’t do contracts, loser – factory workers do.
If you need a contract you don’t get any respect as a professional.
What in God’s name makes you think you deserve respect as a professional, when you need a contract to perform your duties. You are, indeed, a loser!

Tom W
Tom W
12 years ago

We need a law prohibiting anyone under 35 from teaching – they need time in the real world first.
The comments of “Losing interest” (and similar ones by other teachers over the years) betray a serious lack of knowledge regarding the real world of the workplace. To paraphrase their attitude, “I have a college degree, thus I am a professional, and thus I deserve annual raises because of that status” is, well, simply laughable.
In the real world, degrees and titles get your foot in the door, after which you have to perform to get raises and/or to advance.
Those who went to a teachers college and then went straight into the classroom just don’t know what other forms of full time, year round work entail. They’re way too coddled in the insular environment of public education and its step increases, tenure, seniority and lack of accountability.
I mean, we’re supposed to be impressed because with a 180 day work year, of 6 hour days (only part of which is actually spent in a classroom), “Losing interest” corrects some homework while sitting on the couch watching “Wheel of Fortune?”

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Mike C.:
I’m going to have to disagree. There is a place for contracts in a professional setting. Your statements might have greater applicability where there’s a very high degree of specificity in the contract (well beyond simple salary and duration explanations and a general description of duties), but as an employment practice there’s much to be said for spelling out rights and obligations.
I would agree, however, if we specified collectively bargained contracts. Make it union-negotiated collectively bargained contracts, and we stand shoulder-to-shoulder.

Will
12 years ago

“Losing interest” appears to be sincere, but one can be sincere and oh so wrong. This is like reading NEA talking points: “Teachers are professionals with college degrees. Teachers deserve raises. Most other professionals will receive one at some point in the year, maybe it will be a bonus at the end of the year or an incentive for a good sale, either way it’s still a raise. Why shouldn’t teachers, educated, hard working people earn raises as well?” Statement: “Teachers deserve raises.” That really says it all, doesn’t it? That’s some sense of entitlement. You “deserve” nothing. You earn it. Taxpayers deserve not to be repeatedly screwed year after year, with nothing more to show for it (just to rile you up a little more, teachers are NOT net taxpayers, they are net tax consumers). You’re paid out of public funds. Kids deserve a quality education. Their quality of education is not dependent on what you get paid. I don’t know how Tiverton ranks compared to other cities and towns, but you’re certainly no Barrington. Private school teachers get paid far less, and they produce a whole heck of a lot more for it — because it’s demanded from them! Most professionals in the private sector, if the economy or an industry isn’t doing well, don’t get pay raises and bonuses, especially when they haven’t done anything “extra” to deserve it. Nothing is automatic. I worked in financial services for a number of years, and the highest percent raise I ever got in a year was 4%, but typically it was around 2%. Several years, it was 0%. One year, we did so badly, they laid off 1/3 of the employees a month before Christmas. You know why? It wasn’t because they were mean — it’s because they didn’t… Read more »

losing interest
losing interest
12 years ago

Many of you have misunderstood my first comment. When I said that teachers deserve raises, I was not referring to myself. I do earn a “step” increase each year, however small, it is a raise. The teachers who do not earn raises are the veterans who have been hard working for over ten years. They have earned a raise.
Lets be honest here, its no secret that teachers get the summers off and its also no secret that don’t make a lot of money.
The union has its issues, its messy, its difficult, but it is the way it has been for many years and there is no simple way to just “get rid of it”.
There needs to be many changes in the education system at the state and local levels, but complaining about it and bad mouthing teachers is not changing anything at all.
Mike C- I am not a “loser”. Come on. 🙂

Justin Katz
12 years ago

I’d suggest that the union is to blame for leaving top teachers twisting in the wind. The union has structured the pay scale in such a way as to use the most experienced teachers as leverage to push salaries ever higher — to put a face on the folks receiving no raises.
I’d also dispute your assertion that teachers “don’t make a lot of money.” Public school teachers have enviable employment packages. On an hourly basis, y’all make $50 to $70 per hour. I know some argue that with your degrees and whatnot, you ought to be comparable to doctors and executives, but that’s simply not realistic… or fair to the many professionals who aren’t in a gilded class.
On the other hand, some teachers most definitely deserve to be very highly paid, based on their dedication and their talent. The problem, again, is the union, which won’t let us pay them what they deserve in order to make sure that other teachers get paid what they don’t deserve.
The unions go away when teachers stop supporting them and assenting to their tactics and worldview.

mikeinRI
mikeinRI
12 years ago

losing interest, I am a public school teacher. And although I find it hard to believe, I guess you can call me a veteran, having taught for 17 years now. I must state emphatically that I am paid very well. Yes, I work long hours, much longer than any contract suggests. But I also have the option of saying “not tonight” when I am exhausted or in need of a break. I am not working today, nor tomorrow or Friday because of Thanksgiving. I have a week and a half at Christmas, a week in February, another in April, and 10 weeks in the summer. Compare that to any vacation schedule in the private sector. I also receive some of the best benefits available anywhere, and as you get older, you realize just how important these benefits are! And we could talk forever about job security. I love my job, and enjoy spending the extra hours providing the most I can to the kids who deserve it. I appreciate your passion “losing”, but please don’t let that lead you to whining and complaining. We have great jobs, and our pay and benefits are more than fair. On the flip side we must learn to ignore some. Their hostility reveals how little they know about the profession. Teaching is a very difficult job, emotionally and physically, and certainly not a profession where success is easy. Reasonable people outside education often say “I could never do your job” and they are probably right. I feel the same way about nursing, or retail management, or carpentry, or firefighting. I could never do those jobs, but thankfully there are people who can and do. As a final note, I think we can “just get rid of it” in some ways. Teachers should demand from… Read more »

thinkaboutit
thinkaboutit
12 years ago

I’m impressed that Pat Crowley is on this thread. I’m not sure if this is naive or not, but I would really like his input – seriously – on what he thinks need to be done to improve education in this state, especially given the constraints at hand. If he is interested, can we start another post on this?

Alfred
Alfred
12 years ago

Laughable,.. why would you want his input?
All Mr. Crowley does is spread gossip and slander about anyone he can.
what a joke.. his input lol

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