Not the Way to Arrive at a Salary

By far the most interesting audio from last night’s Tiverton School Committee meeting, in my opinion, was Vice Chairwoman Sally Black’s reasoning for voting to approve the teachers’ contract (stream, download) because the thought processes are indicative of the flawed way in which Rhode Islanders have conducted their public business.
Mrs. Black cycled through a bit of education policy history to conclude that the state and federal governments have not followed through with promised funding for decades, even as they’ve demanded more and more from local schools. From her perspective, the school committee did the work that they were supposed to do, and moreover, she was very pleased with her children’s experience in the school system and believes the teachers deserve as much compensation as the town can give them. Therefore, the contract is “fair and just” and ought to pass.
The problem with this approach is that it disconnects financial decisions from financial realities. We cannot come up with a notion of fairness and justice based on abstractions or on emotions and then make that the primary consideration. The primary consideration has to be the money that’s actually coming in.
Especially from the perspective of elected representatives — unless they were elected of the unions, by the unions, and for the unions — the first question has to be what is good and what is sustainable for the town. Double-digit tax increases are not sustainable. The next question has to be what is good for the students, and as I’ve pointed out, based on Department of Education data, Tiverton already pays more per pupil for teachers than the state average, and its student-teacher ratio is only slightly lower than the state’s overall. In other words, based on the money that the district actually has, it is already more generous to the teachers than the norm for Rhode Island, which is more generous than the norm for the nation.
Rhode Island has, for far too long, begun with the pay and benefits that “should be deserved” and only as an afterthought wondered where the money would come from and what the effects would be of taking it. Our teachers, specifically, are paid above the national average, even as our median household income is below the national average. We have to readjust, and we have to do so quickly.
ADDENDUM:
For interest and public record, here’s the audio of Guidance Councilor Lynn Nicholas’s threat of “harm”: stream, download:

Before I ask Doug a question, I just need to make it clear that, if the award is not agreed upon tonight, there will be a lot of harm done. Some of it will be financial; a lot of it will not be, and I’m not going to go into detail.

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thinkaboutit
thinkaboutit
12 years ago

I just can’t follow Sally Black’s logic. I think it is unfair that student programs and resources have to be cut in order to pay the teachers even more than they get now. Does she not see that it’s not just the taxpayers, but the kids, that pay for these raises?

Frank
Frank
12 years ago

Sally Black is unfit for the position of school committee. She doesn’t even realize who she is representing and how best to achieve that end. Though I am sure the teacher union is very happy she is holding the position she is in, she is indicative of the worst aspect of school committees – people getting elected to that office who either have no understanding of their role or have no intention of carrying it out. Someone needs to let her know that she represents the schoolchildren and the taxpayers, not the teachers. There are too many others like her out there and they all need to go.

WillP
WillP
12 years ago

As a Tiverton resident, I do find all the Tiverton posts here very interesting. I also enjoy the debates of state/national policy as well. But I am curious about the sheer number of Tiverton posts here — Is Tiverton now considered the hotbed of Republican activity in the state?

thinkaboutit
thinkaboutit
12 years ago

Justin – How does the world of blogging work? Can you contact Sally Black and ask her to join in?

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Will:
The high Tiverton content started mainly because I happen to live in Tiverton and have been using my experience here to experiment with some blogging strategies. One of the things that I’m hoping to do, if I can manage more time for such activities, is to encourage and help folks in other towns to do similar things and post them on Anchor Rising, as well.
Related to that, though, is the fact that Tiverton Citizens for Change is doing something that’s still unique in Rhode Island, and I think that makes it worthy of documentation as an example.

Justin Katz
12 years ago

thinkaboutit:
Sally’s certainly welcome to participate, if she chooses, assuming somebody points her this way. (There’d be something presumptuous about my doing so.)
Some folks aren’t comfortable with this sort of forum, though.

rock
rock
12 years ago

The reason why some people aren’t comfortable is that Katz picks and chooses what he wants post.

Marc
Marc
12 years ago

Rock, which is obviously proven by his allowing you to post that comment.

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

Not sure what you mean, rock. If someone wants to offer any sort of reason or logic (other than we deserve it * ) for supporting a contract with raises when already compensation is at one end of the scale, school/student performance is at the other and the state and municipalities are broke, be assured no one at Anchor Rising would censor it. In fact, we all (contributors and commenters) would love to hear it.
* We deserve it simply doesn’t cut it because
1.) – and this is said without sarcasm or rancor – we all deserve to make more money at the jobs we do and
2.) not all teachers “deserve” raises or even the current level of compensation. Only the good ones.

johnpaycheck
johnpaycheck
12 years ago

after hearing a comment from ms nicholas, i can only wonder what kind of teacher and human being she is. very vindictive, spiteful…
its a disgrace to use the kids as pawns. an absolute disgrace. she should be fired on the spot.
as for what teachers do.. coaching, mentoring, teaching,etc,,,,umm.. i think thats what you are supposed to be doing.right????

johnpaycheck
johnpaycheck
12 years ago

after hearing a comment from ms nicholas, i can only wonder what kind of teacher and human being she is. very vindictive, spiteful…
its a disgrace to use the kids as pawns. an absolute disgrace. she should be fired on the spot.
as for what teachers do.. coaching, mentoring, teaching,etc,,,,umm.. i think thats what you are supposed to be doing.right????

Greg
Greg
12 years ago

“The reason why some people aren’t comfortable is that Katz picks and chooses what he wants post.”
As someone who kicks Justin in the face more often than most I can say that’s a lot of bull. He’s had more than a few opportunities to take the easy way out and just ban me and I don’t think it’s ever crossed his mind.

wordofreason
wordofreason
12 years ago

It is extremely clear those in Tiverton do not want their real estate taxes raised and I can see why in these tough times. Everybody is feeling the crunch, contractors, business owners, and teachers as well, but to me it seems the residents of Tiverton are missing the major problem; the town’s inability to generate tax revenue from having more business in town. It seems all too often that Tiverton is constantly refusing or making it extremely difficult for businesses to locate there. While those in town complain about higher taxes and take it out on teachers, more and more revenue is crossing the stateline.

Jon Devolve
Jon Devolve
12 years ago

Wow, the people who post on this site really have no clue. Since everyone here likes to do research that will only benefit their cause, I would like to point out some facts. Lynn Nicholas has stood up for what she believes in and you people want her fired? Wow, now I know why some of you take the positions that you do. Lynn has more character then any of you. So she stood up at a school committee meeting and voiced her concerns! At least she had the balls to do it in public! I have not heard Justin or Monique do that! You people like to hide behind your laptops and give your opinions. Lynn has done more for the well-being of this town then any one of you! Here is an idea. The next time Lynn, or any teacher gets up to speak, get yourself up and speak! Anyone can say what they want in front of a computer. There is no one to counter what you have to say. I have quickly learned that the majority of you that are concerned are cowards that do not have the ability to speak in public. Leave your laptops at home and stand in front of the mic!

Bri in NC
Bri in NC
12 years ago

“Lynn has more character then any of you.” – Jon Devolve
“[…]if the award is not agreed upon tonight, there will be a lot of harm done. Some of it will be financial; a lot of it will not be, and I’m not going to go into detail.” – Lynn Nicholas
Vague threats are not exactly an indication of good character. Perhaps she didn’t intend this statement the way she made it, but I haven’t seen anyone retract it nor apologize for any misunderstanding, so I have to assume she meant it.

“At least she had the balls to do it in public! I have not heard Justin or Monique do that!” – JD
This web site is publically available. The AR writers aren’t exacly hiding here.

“The next time Lynn, or any teacher gets up to speak, get yourself up and speak!” – JD
“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.” – Justin Katz
It appears that some people did speak, and were discouraged from doing so by the chairman. If you want some honest discussion and real solutions, the dissent suppression has to stop.

“Anyone can say what they want in front of a computer. There is no one to counter what you have to say.” – JD
The irony of this statement is staggering. AR continually allows dissenting statements to stand here, including this one.

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Jon,
What you teach is clear in your machismo.
As it happens, I’m happy to speak at these meetings, and I’ve done so before. At this particular meeting, I had gathered data and prepared comments. It was clear very early on, however, that the votes were going the way that I’d wanted, and that at least one of the committee members voting my way did so despite sympathy for the teachers and a desire to pass the contract.
Staying in my seat wasn’t a lack of courage, in other words, but strategy.
It shouldn’t go without saying, though, that you unionists make a point of controlling the atmosphere at these public meetings. A few weeks ago I put up audio of y’all booing Tom Parker for speaking his mind. Indeed, your behavior at school committee meetings played a significant role in my discomfort with the idea of allowing you to educate my children (an outcome that I’m experiencing a great deal of financial pain to avoid).
I’d also note that one doesn’t have to brave a hostile room in order to conduct discourse. I’d actually suggest that this forum tends to be more productive toward conveying differing views.

Jon Devolve
Jon Devolve
12 years ago

All name calling aside, I hope you all have a nice Thanksgiving.

Michael J. Clarke
12 years ago

Right off the bat: My name is Michael J. Clarke.
Some of the comments here make it obvious that some of the readers/responders are not getting the point of some of these postings. I don’t believe Mr. D. has a problem with your right to post your opinions here. His point (and I agree with him 100 percent) is that you don’t have the COURAGE to stand up at a public meeting and state your views; nor do you have the COURAGE to identify yourselves in this particular foum. You remain anonymous. Identify yourselves!
Again – Michael J. Clarke – See?! It’s easy!

Jon Devolve
Jon Devolve
12 years ago

I hope everyone had a nice day. I was not going to post on here anymore but something has been eating at me all day. I believe Monique stated that Tiverton teachers pay does not match their results. Since Tiverton teachers currently rank near the bottom of pay in Rhode Island (I believe we are 38 out of 38) and our students continually score high in their assessments (I believe our high school is ranked 11th in the state), this statement made by Monique is not valid. The Rhode Island Department of Education has a link on their website called infoworks, that will validate this.
Some responders on this site have stated that in the “real world” there are no contracts. What world are you referring to? There are many industries in this nation that use contracts. Both unions and private businesses use them so I am not sure where this thought process comes from.
Finally, Justin, how did you come to the conclusion that Tiverton’s schools did not adequately serve your children? Did something happen? Please clarify why you made the switch from public schools to private. I am not attacking your choice, but I would just like to know your reasoning.

Justin Katz
12 years ago

When you say that the data shows that students score highly on their assessments, I wonder whether you’re referring to:
* The 29% math proficiency on the NECAP? (PDF)
* The plummeting math proficiency and stagnant English proficiency? (PDF)
* Or the fact that following the any grade for three years of movement through the Tiverton school systems gives the impression that they’ve become universally less proficient over time? PDF)
As for my schooling decisions:
* I was disappointed that there’s no gifted-talented program.
* I was worried about the outcome when a district that already spends more on teachers, per pupil, than the state average ran into the obviously inevitable budget problems.
* I was concerned about the possible consequences of visible opposition to the unions.
* I was positively astonished and discouraged at the behavior of teachers at school committee meetings and during “negotiation” events.
* And I couldn’t stand to think of my children spending another minute in some of the buildings in the public system.

thinkaboutit
thinkaboutit
12 years ago

One significant reason people choose to post anonymously is because they are fearful of retaliation by vindictive teachers, especially for their children in the system. The unprofessional threats made by Lynn Nicholas are a perfect example of why such concerns are valid.
Perhaps if the union leadership didn’t behave like a bunch of thugs, then people would be less fearful to place their family names at risk. Until then, maybe we should focus on the arguments, not on how one defines “courage”.

cleaningcabinet
cleaningcabinet
8 years ago

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