A Cause of This Effect
Things don’t look good in West Warwick:
There are no solutions to their immediate fiscal problem. In fact, their current deficit is projected to balloon into a $10-million deficit in the years ahead if nothing is done.
So school officials have worked “seven days a week” to come up with a three-year plan that would gradually wipe out the growing deficit.
It requires a supplemental tax hike in the current year to raise an additional $2-million. In future years, a hodge-podge of reductions, from health-insurance savings to staff cuts and eliminating sports, would gradually wipe out the deficit. It would only work with substantial union givebacks, they say.
Conspicuously absent from the story is a recollection of the work-to-rule action back in late 2007. The school committee, if you’ll recall, had followed the appropriate procedure to opt out of the last year of the contract, which would have left it up for negotiation after this school year. Witnessing the damage that the teachers were doing, however, the committee backed down and extended the contract through next year:
The next day [after the school committee’s vote not to extend the contract], the union announced it would take a “work to contract” stance that discouraged teachers from performing any duties not explicitly required by the contract. Union members began sporting pins that proclaimed “We Keep Our Promises,” and let their actions speak for themselves.
As the school year got under way, the resignations rolled in, affecting classrooms at all grade levels. Field trips and teacher participation in the school-improvement and teacher-support teams halted districtwide. At the elementary level, there were no yearbook advisers, book fairs, learning walks or teacher involvement in fundraising. Teachers shunned a Saturday-school program. The National Junior Honor Society adviser at Deering Middle School resigned as well.
Advisers for the French, Italian and Spanish clubs at West Warwick High School resigned, as did the summer school director, Academic Decathlon adviser and the credit-retrieval program coordinator. The band and choral calendars were scant. Community members and school administrators stepped in to fill vacancies, chaperoning school dances and volunteering to lead summer school programs.
And now the union has the upper hand as the town struggles and tears itself apart trying to balance its budget. The well-paid grownups got theirs, and now the question is how much they’ll deign to help the givers.