What We’re Up Against
So parking has already spilled over to the supermarket parking lot across the street, and it was clear from conversation that the women standing at the crosswalk with me were teachers from another district. As we crossed, the policeman directing traffic told them to “be loud — my wife is a teacher.” (There’s a six-figure household.)
Barely had I sat down when the unionist who had complained to me in the men’s room of driving down from Boston for a recent Tiverton School Committee meeting accosted me, suggesting that I “get a real job — you loser.” I tried to be friendly, but he didn’t seem interested. Subsequently, he walked around pointing me out to the other side.
At least there are some good guys here, some wearing t-shirts that read: “Teachers and Union Reps BIG Difference.”
ADDENDUM (7:36 p.m.):
The teachers are screaming like kids at a rock concert for the benefit of a television camera. This should be required viewing for all citizens of the state.
ADDENDUM 7:39 p.m.:
It’s sort of that old comic book cliché of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, isn’t it? There simply is no money, and yet, one out of six Rhode Islanders is being prodded by union organizations to get out and demonstrate against necessary adjustments.
Do they not understand what is happening, or do they not care? (Or does their union organization strive to keep them misinformed and maleable?)
ADDENDUM 7:44 p.m.:
I saw Pat Crowley strolling up the aisle along which I’m sitting, and I prepared myself to shake his hand, should we make eye contact. A friendly quip came to mind for the moment after skin contact: “See, reality didn’t explode.” Instead, he kept his shaking hand in his pocket and handed me a business card with the following quotation from a Boston Globe letter:
Why are we the pigs? The public employees I know are social workers who care for abused and neglected children. Or they work with mentally ill and mentally retarded adults and adolescents. They find homes for the homeless. They keep the roads repaired and clean. They open and close the bridges. They run the 911 emergency system. They teach our children. They keep the city and state hospital systems working. They run state prisons. Public employees are police officers and firefighters. Public employees help keep you healthy and safe.
But nobody disputes any of this. We who wish reform have a variety of roles that benefit society. Were I in a poetic mood, I’d list some of the more sympathetic among private sector jobs, but you can certainly come up with them yourself. Rhode Island simply cannot afford to keep leading with its heart, because those people who do all those wonderful things — along with coaxing the system to pad their wallets — are pulling the entire state into the quicksand.
ADDENDUM 7:56 p.m.:
True to the usual maturity of these audiences, the teachers booed as the school committee walked toward the stage — one of them a young lady who’s probably a student.
ADDENDUM 8:02 p.m.:
Vicious “boos” as Anthony Carcieri walks in room. Unbelievable. And intended to intimidate.
ADDENDUM 8:05 p.m.:
Boos and heckling as soon as Committee Chairman Carcieri tried to speak. I cannot believe adults think it’s appropriate to behave like this.
ADDENDUM 8:08 p.m.:
Even the Pledge of Allegiance became a bit of protest theater in their hands.
Despite quips and harangues from the audience, the school committee is just moving forward with the agenda.
Pay attention, teachers: this is what courage looks like.
As a few teachers continue to shout out, and the rejoinders from the crowd for them to “shut up” increase, I do wonder whether any of the teachers are embarassed that they are asked to join these mobs. Or did those teachers decline to come out tonight?
Mr. Carcieri has skipped an item or two on the agenda, requiring others at the table to correct him. There have been a couple of snickers from the crowd, but one really must appreciate the anxiety that his position engenders, just now — even those who disagree, I would think.
ADDENDUM 8:31 p.m.:
During a review of a district-wide analysis, an administrator mentioned a couple of instances in which teachers are volunteering time and working after hours. The teachers cheered, as well they should.
They’re also cheering as she describes that some deficiencies aren’t the teachers, but the supplies and tools that the district provides. As I’ll be pointing out in a graph in the near future, a significant reason for that development is that more and more of RI districts’ money has been going to pay teachers’ salaries and benefits.
Some heckles to “speak up” and “use the microphone.” A woman called out, “Scared?” If she were closer to me, I might have called out in return: “Wouldn’t you be.”
Perhaps the most astonishing thing, coming from teachers, is the utter lack of empathy that they exhibit. I imagine they do better with the students, but it’s disconcerting to realize that they believe school committee members to be The Enemy, and therefore undeserving of some basic respect.
ADDENDUM 8:40 p.m.:
A mention of an anti-bullying program brought what I’d describe as cackles from the audience. It’s like a movie set in Medieval times.
Now their screaming “out door voice.” Really.
ADDENDUM 8:43 p.m.:
It’s a good thing that we’ve gotten to the public comment section. I don’t think the audience could stand to sit still much longer.
ADDENDUM 8:46 p.m.:
Local union head Valerie Lawson wants them to accept the arbitration. “Let the teachers get back to teaching the students.”
You mean they’re not?
ADDENDUM 8:49 p.m.:
Comments from the crowd around me suggest that the teachers intend to run the clock.
One just gave a reasonable speech and said that she “has no problem not getting a raise for the next five years” if the school would admit the problems.
The next speaker got up and introduced himself as a taxpayer. He was jeered.
ADDENDUM 8:53 p.m.:
The union is declaring “point of order” that the speaker is bringing up issues that aren’t on the agenda. Heckle. Heckle. Jeer. Jeer.
But this isn’t an agenda item. It’s just a statement from an interested member of the public.
The school committee declared that the meeting is getting out of hand and called it a night.
ADDENDUM 8:58 p.m.:
Very loud boos as the school committee prepares to leave.
Any teachers who read this, I implore you: Take a moment to consider why it is reasonable for these town officials to be nervous. Think of the environment that you create at these meetings — not just this one, but every big and small town in the state. Is this who you want to be?