There’s That No-Can-Do Attitude, Again

My reaction to this sort of thing can’t be uncommon:

Under proposed changes to the 2008 high school regulations, high schools would be required to offer support to struggling 11th graders this spring, and possibly this summer, to help them advance in math and reading, Gist said.
However, at a public meeting last week, several high school principals said they are worried they will be unable to offer adequate assistance given the short timeline and budget constraints.

Stay late. Work more. Convince the entire faculty and staff that it’s necessary to take a 1% pay cut in order to hire a specialist or two. Get results, because otherwise you could be out of a job…
… oh wait. This is the public sector we’re talking about.

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Bill
Bill
10 years ago

They’re teachers……don’t they already know how to teach? Short timeline? The whole thing is about the budget constraints….pay me or I am doing nothing. It’s always about more money. The teachers could care less about teaching for free. You would have thought that the scare of losing their jobs would have made them more amenable to assisting the students..but alas…nope. I say FIRE THEM all and follow through with it this time. Thank God my kids go to private school now. It’s a huge finacial burden but well worth it. The teachers there don’t make as much as the public teachers but boy are they professional. They eat with the kids, they are available before or after school for tutoring, they are available by email, home phone etc.. if there are any questions, they call me to keep me updated about my kids….all this without contracts or extra pay! My kids actually are excited about school again, after going through the hell of 5 years of public school, under work to rule etc… The kids in RI are doomed to mediocrity and for some reason, parents, teachers and elected officials don’t seem to mind. I’d live in a cardboard box before I let my kids go back to being “taught” by these maggots!

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

“… oh wait. This is the public sector we’re talking about.”
Umm, we have that type of conversation with folks from the business all the time. It’s easy to say do more with less, but the reality is there is only so much that can be managed effectively with the resources in any department, and burning out key personnel only makes matters worse.
Good managers raise these issues upfront, before the project explodes in a fiery mess. Ask any geek what “scope creep” will do to a project.

Contrarian View
Contrarian View
10 years ago

Remedial reading and math for 11th graders is not “scope creep”. It is more like turning on the garden hose after the entire house is fully involved in fire.
Only radical reform will save our children from the abuse of our present system.

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

“Remedial reading and math for 11th graders is not ‘scope creep.'”
Of course it is. There are only so many hours in a day and the article above mentions “and possibly this summer” which you can imagine might be a problem for anyone who has a summer job, childcare responsiblities, or even a vacation planned, not to mention that buildings might need to be kept open during periods they are normally closed, air conditioning provided, etc.
I’m not commenting on whether this should or should not occur, only that it is a reasonable concern for an administrator to raise “given the short timeline and budget constraints.”

Aldo
Aldo
10 years ago

Parents provide these students with cell phones, nice clothes but limited supervision as it relates to school work.
They come to school for exams without pens, pencils or calculators.
Ability to write in cursive? Nope!
Write a coherent sentence without an inordinate amount of spelling errors? Nope!
Submit Portfolio assignments REQUIRED for graduation on time. Yeah right!
Study preps for exams. Not on your life!!!
Basic comprehension? Give me a break.
You really want reform; link Driver’s Ed participation to proficiency on the NECAP. Then you will have results.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

“Ability to write in cursive? Nope!”
I actually agree that that one is a waste of time. Other than my own signature, I have never had to write cursive in my life.

michael
michael
10 years ago

It doesn’t seem that long ago when if you failed, you stayed back, and if you were 16 and failed, you were out.
Now, we want teachers to teach for free.

Justin Katz
10 years ago

Spoken like a true unionist, Michael. Asking for a little extra work from highly paid employees who work 180 days of the year is tantamount to asking them to work for free. Yup. Uh-huh.
Put it in terms of your own employment: If you were only getting 55% of people to the hospital alive, would it be unreasonable of the public to ask you to (1) work some extra if more time is the issue or (2) take a little pay cut so that money could be invested in faster vehicles, better equipment, and a specialist or two?
I know, I know, you’ll suggest that the capacity of taxpayers to keep forking over money to you and your coworkers is not yet exhausted (massive pension deficits notwithstanding). But at the same time, you’ll insist that the government shouldn’t be allowed to seek to fill your positions with less costly, non-unionized labor.
There is but one choice: More money, and if, to return to the initial subject, a high-cost education system is still failing to live up to expectations, well then, it must be the people being served or the lack of even more money.

michael
michael
10 years ago

Actually, I was referring to the lack of personal responsibility and consequences for lack of effort on the part of the kids.
And, I work about five hours every week for “free.” When a call comes in five minutes before shift change, as it always does, we go.
I don’t involve myself in teachers issues, but the ones I spend time with do plenty of teaching related things during their time off.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

“When a call comes in five minutes before shift change, as it always does, we go.”
So the same thing logically happens before your shift as well, and somebody picks up a “free call” for you. Sounds like it all works out to me.
Now tell us how much overtime pay you get. Did you hit corporate attorney pay again this year?

Aldo
Aldo
10 years ago

I’ll say it again. For all you non-teachers out there, you just don’t get it. I AM a teacher. I am there 45 minutes BEFORE the start of school and often an hour AFTER the end of school. Guess what? I have about 1 at the most 2 students come for assistance. Parents provide these students with cell phones, nice clothes but limited supervision as it relates to school work. They come to school for exams without pens, pencils or calculators. Ability to write in cursive? Nope! Write a coherent sentence without an inordinate amount of spelling errors? Nope! Submit Portfolio assignments REQUIRED for graduation on time. Yeah right! Study preps for exams. Not on your life!!! Basic comprehension? Give me a break. You really want reform; link Driver’s Ed participation to proficiency on the NECAP. Then you will have results. There IS a major problem with “social promotion.” Many “students” and I use the term loosely, should not be in High School when they’ve failed 5 out of 6 subjects in junior high. That said, they are promoted because the “parents” feel there is a stigma attached to being kept back… They feel it’s better to have their children in the age appropriate grade, even if they are functionally illiterate, than to have their child repeat a grade an actually be able to understand content. Way too often, teachers are forced to reteach the basics rather than content. It’s easy to criticize if you’ve never done it. Just like our present Commissioner of Education. She’s taught a total of 8 years at the elementary level. Absolutely ZERO experience in high schools… Yet she has all the solutions? Yeah, right. If you check her “record” in DC, you’ll find she was mainly a fundraiser. By the way, DC has the… Read more »

michael
michael
10 years ago

Gee, Dan, getting out five minutes earlier as opposed to an hour late-yup that works out great. I have no idea what a cooperate attorney made last year, but I do know that did pretty well, and earned every penny, regardless of what you consider a fair wage.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Aldo – that’s a lot of fallacies in one post. So you think only a commissioner who has taught every single level of education is qualified? And coming from DC makes her responsible for the high cost and low achievement there, like she was some kind of dictator?
Michael – So what are we talking, $80k+? $100k+? Ballpark it for us. I know, I know, the overtime… just looking for a number.

michael
michael
10 years ago

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.
Or, you can do the work yourself and look at the links on the left and figure it out.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Michael – Large firm corporate associate attorneys make around $100-200k, depending on the firm and the geographic area, with smaller cities like Providence usually on the lower end. They work 70-80 hours per week, and they have to record every 6-min increment of their day (so if they walk down to Starbucks for a coffee, they can’t bill for that time). They also frequently work pro bono hours and do preparatory work that is not recorded. These positions are highly competitive and go only to people at the very top of their class and/or the very best law schools. Very low job security. Difficult work. Blackberry next to the bed. Law degree required.
So now explain to me why some firefigthers and EMTs “earn” the same range of money ($100-200k) for working the same hours (through overtime) for the state with the most basic education requirements, a very large qualified applicant pool, lots of down time, and excellent job security.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Just to preempt our very own “Working Class Hero” Tom Kenney or Michael expressing disbelief at the $100-200k compensation range I give for some firefighters, here is the Boston Fire Department payroll from 2008. Keep in mind that they have since been awarded a double digit raise through binding arbitration.
http://www.bostonherald.com/projects/payroll/boston/last.ASC/221000//1/
Quickly reviewing the data, $80-90k seems pretty typical, with at least a few on every page earning north of $100k, some significantly more than that.

michael
michael
10 years ago

Because it’s a better job.

Aldo
Aldo
10 years ago

“So you think only a commissioner who has taught every single level of education is qualified?”
Absolutely not. The issue with Gist is that she is CLUELESS as to what is happening in HS classrooms. Witness her response to the student at CFHS dancing to his iPod while a substitute teacher was there. She walked out.
The woman has absolutely ZERO experience in dealing with situations like this and instead of taking action, she fled the room.
“And coming from DC makes her responsible for the high cost and low achievement there, like she was some kind of dictator?”
Again,Absolutely not. That said, she was and in line in DC. A lot of theory but ZERO results. It’s easy to throw out ideas that SOUND like they will bring about changes but it altogether another thing to actually make substantive positive change,
Gist is ALL theory. Her actions to date will bring change to the status quo but I seriously doubt they will bring about the positive and NECESSARY changes that are REQUIRED!!
As for “fallacies”, what did I write that was misleading? I stand by my arguments. Gist is a sham!

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Aldo, “fled” is a ludicrous characterization of her leaving the room. I don’t know what actually happened, but I seriously doubt that she was “fleeing” anything. You expose your own biases with your loaded terms. And has nobody ever taught you that capitalizing words in every sentence with exclamation points looks extremely unprofessional and tunes out the reader?
Michael, if being a corporate attorney is is actually a better job than being a fireman or EMT, why is the attrition rate something like 50-75% for the first few years while the attrition rate for firefighters and EMTs is far lower?

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Michael, could you at least try to use some basic economics principles in your explanation of why firemen and EMTs deserve to make the same money as corporate attorneys? At least acknowledge some of the usual factors in salary calculation. I initially assumed that you meant “easier” by your statement, which would be entirely false, but thinking on it a bit more, your term “better” is completely arbitrary and meaningless. Can you at least put 2-3 min effort into coming up with some attempt at a rational explanation for this apparent absurdity? Or just admit that public firefighter/EMT salaries are totally out of whack with the market, that would be fine also.

michael
michael
10 years ago

Being a fireman is a better job.

michael
michael
10 years ago

The market? If anything is absurd, it’s “the market.” Since last year I have delivered two babies, while driving over some of the worst roads in the state, administered epinepherine, adenosine, narcan, solu-cortef, lasix, morphine, dextrose, lidocaine, atropine, and versed without Dr.s orders, run at least a dozen cardiac arrest asystolic recessutation attempts, and succeeded with them a few times, treated gunshot victims, stabbing victims, motor vehicle accident victims, declared dead more hanging and self-inflicted gunshot victims than I care to remember, and the took care of the families,and hundreds of similar things. Last week I was first in on the line at a house fire, which we saved.
Before I did this, I cleaned offices on the weekends, houses during the week, and tended bar at night. I got between 50-100 dollars per cleaning job, and I did 20 a week-do the math. Then three nights a week I tended bar, and at the end of the week brought home far more than a firefighter, or corperate attorney.
While you were in school, I was a line cook, and got my EMT-B licence, and started applying for fire department positions. I was twenty when I took my first test, twenty-nine when I got a job with the Providence Fire Department.
You have only an inkling of an idea what we do, and how difficult and competitive it is to have the opportunbity to do it.

Aldo
Aldo
10 years ago

“Fled’ is most appropriate.
In my opinion, Gist did not know how to deal with the situation so she fled, i.e left the classroom.
And yes, I am biased. I am in a classroom every day.I see what goes on and I also am at the receiving end of these ill conceived “reforms”
When was the last time any of the “pundits” who seem willing to throw these kids under the bus was actually in a HS classroom?
The Board of Regents is a joke! Any experience in Education? Yeah right. Yet they have all the answers.
I’ve also heard a rumor that former RIFT Director Marcia Reback is being mentioned as a potential member of the BOR. Heaven help us if that occurs.
Before you cast aspersions at those who are in the trenches, perhaps you might want to visit an urban HS to observe first hand what transpires in a modern day classroom.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

All of the various tasks you list, however gruesome, are part of the job and aren’t really relevant. I’m not talking about a pissing contest between who does the more undesirable stuff. That’s only one small and indirect factor in calculating a reasonable compensation. To name some obvious examples, taking abuse from customers at Burger King and cleaning toilets as a custodian would be highly undesirable tasks for anybody, but the market (and the state as well, in the latter case) sets compensation very low for a variety of very logical reasons, the biggest of which is the large qualified applicant pool for those jobs. Something they have in common with firefighter/EMT positions. There is nothing “absurd” about these market forces unless you believe that hard work = valuable work, or subscribe to Marxist egalitarian redistribution principles. It’s interesting that you list competitiveness for firefighter positions as a justification for high salaries, when any economist would view that as a factor to depress wages. I’m well aware that the line for state firefighter positions wraps around the block 5 times every time they are hiring, and that is precisely my point. Why pay people corporate attorney salaries to do a high school grad’s job for which 100’s of qualified people would trade their left nut? Aldo, your logic is self-serving and warped. It seems like you would only be happy if teachers were allowed to govern themselves, since you object to any “outside” forces telling them how to do their job. Are you familiar with the concept of a manager? You are a public servant which means that elected or appointed politicians will be directing you. I’ve dealt with it myself, yes it sucks, but such is the choice you’ve made. If you don’t like it, go work for the… Read more »

michael
michael
10 years ago

Dan. you must be an idiot. People lives are in our hands, every day. Their lives, Dan, not their money. There is a reason, nothing to do with economics that the job of firefighter is so well compensated. If you prefer unmotivated people to do the job for free or “Burger King” wages so be it. Rational people see the advantage of offering more to attract people willing to learn, and perform under incredible stress. Of course thousands apply for the position of firefighter. They think, like you do, that anybody can do it, all you need is a high school education. They find out quickly enough that people far more qualified and able are going to get the job. You just don’t get it, and never will. Thankfully, most people do.
And incidentally, nothing I described is “undesirable” to those of us in the trenches, which is why we are there, doing it, and happy to make a difference in people’s lives during their darkest moments.
I pity you for your inability to understand that.

Justin Katz
10 years ago

How can anything dealing with monetary compensation have “nothing to do with economics”? That’s like saying there’s a reason, completely apart from biology, that my lungs expand and contract. It’s instructive that you deign to declare Dan “an idiot” just before proclaiming your deep involvement with matters of life and death. Judging by the gratification and affirmation of moral worth that you extract from your job, it appears that you are compensated in other ways, suggesting that your monetary compensation might be correspondingly excessive. The underlying question is how we all arrive at the monetary value of your job. Dan’s point is that an inability to attract candidates isn’t the driver. Alternately, the compensation level could represent an outpouring of public support, but if that were the case, politicians would trumpet their plans to increase your pay; instead, they run on controlling it. In reality, the process for arriving at your monetary compensation is political manipulation by your union and the occasional demonstration to illustrate the negative ramifications of failing to provide the remuneration that your union believes its members to deserve. No doubt you’ll see it as unfair, in some abstract way, that the public would take advantage of your deep desire to make a difference in people’s lives by decreasing your salary, but then we’re back to the matter of economic and non-economic compensation. One could argue that the market allocates such high salaries for corporate lawyers precisely because it’s not really an objectively desirable job, yet it demands a great deal of education and dedication. You’re right, I guess. Being a firefighter and EMT is objectively better than being a corporate lawyer. That’s why we call firefighters and EMTs heroes and children have action figures to prove it. If I stand back from the emotion, though, it… Read more »

michael
michael
10 years ago

I mentioned that Dan must be an idiot because he refuses to budge from his notion that firefighters, and I’m led to believe, soldiers, police officers, correctional officers and anybody else that does not hold a degree is somehow unworthy of a good paying job. There is more to an education than a degree. He completely ignores my arguments and rams home his opinions.
The “market” is a joke. People who sing and dance to entertain us are millionaires, people whose dedicate their working lives to protecting and saving others are demonized from making $100,000 a year. People sell mattress tape and make over a hundred thousand a year. They sell cars, or talk on the radio, or run businesses that produce trinkets and live like kings.
I don’t condemn them for it, they do what they do, and I do what I do. Dan asked for my reasons for making what a corporate lawyer makes and I told him. I could care less if he agrees.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Michael, you either misunderstand my point or you aren’t being fair to me. You call me an elitist, but elitism has nothing to do with it. I am actually *thrilled* when people find ways to provide valuable services to other people and make good money without going through all the ridiculous hoops that I had to go through just to get a decent job. If you made that much money cleaning houses – I think that is awesome! I wish I didn’t have to blow $100k in loaned money to do what I wanted to do in life, but I did. I constantly question whether it was all worth it or not. Time will tell. I deeply respect people who have a gift or a passion, or simply a drive or work ethic that they can turn into a good living without getting some piece of paper that says they can. Why do you think I am such a strong supporter of vocational programs on here? I want people to be productive and happy in life, and I’ve seen such programs do that for people where the arbitrary school system fails them. Education to me is just one piece of the broader category of qualification, and whether you like it or not, that’s what rationally determines wages – the qualified applicant pool and what those people are willing to accept. At least before the state and public unions and political wheeling and dealing come into the picture. As Justin pointed out, compensation has nothing to do with the objective value or moral worth or goodness of a job, because that is something we decide for ourselves. Compensation is by its very nature, an economic issue. You’re the one conflating the two, not me. One of the reasons I so detest… Read more »

michael
michael
10 years ago

“The whole point is that you personally don’t get to be dictator and decide how much everyone else *should* make, because everyone else needs to have a say through the actions in a market economy as well. Why is Britney Spears a millionaire? Because people, collectively, really value her. I don’t get it, but that’s just the way it is, and to think that her wealth should be stripped of her by a just government and rechanneled to what you personally consider more worthy recipients is fascistic, arbitrary, and evil.”
Thousands try out for American Idol, so, therefore, in a market driven economy, that American Idol’s worth should be far less than what Brittany Spears makes, according to your logic.
A firefighter makes about a thousand a week. After taxes takes home about six hundred. If he or she applies themselves, and if it is available, we can work overtime, which can, and should be taken away any time. Through comparison with other trades and similar professions, the wages are agreed upon, not by Dan and Justin who think firefighters are over paid. Just who wants to be the dictator here?

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Michael – you continue to fundamentally misunderstand how market economies operate. The political process is not equivalent, and your statements implying that entertainers making more than teachers is a mistake or accident of the free market would fluster even the most liberal economist. Ideologies aside, I must again suggest that you take an adult education economics course for your own edification. You are an intelligent man, but every time these topics arise, your mistaken ideas about prices and supply and demand hold us back from having a meaningful discussion. I hate to say it, but there is nothing left to discuss here until you put some effort into better understanding the topics at hand. We’re not speaking the same language.

michael
michael
10 years ago

Tell you what, Dan. You’re a smart guy, you take a Fire Science course, then get your EMT license, and do a few Haz-Mat drills and do a few tours on Rescue 1, and maybe make an attempt to better understand the topics at hand, and then we might be on the same page. Until then, I have nothing else to say.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

If I had any interest in becoming a firefighter, then I would certainly do all of those things, Michael. But we are talking about fair public compensation here, which one does not need a fundamental understanding of fire science to determine. Unless you feel, as Aldo does, that public employees should simply set their own salaries and self-govern, since nobody from the outside could possibly direct them effectively.

michael
michael
10 years ago

I guess it boils down to what somebody is willing to pay for services rendered. I don’t say this casually, or as some emotional plea to justify my compensation, but I am in a field where nobody wants to pay until it is necessary. And it is always necessary, maybe not to you, but to somebody, somewhere, and when it does become necessary, the people on the recieving end need the best possible responders to show up. Anybody can put on the uniform, not everybody can fill it. Compensation is based on comparisons to similar fields such as electritians, carpentry, nursing and other hands on skilled positions, not dictated by unions, but negotiated between the firefighters unions and the leaders of the municipality. Your contention that firefighters are overpaid is your perogative, but the reasons for your opinions are flawed, not researched, and an emotional reaction to something you feel isn’t fair. I for one would never have applied for the position if I couldn’t make a decent living doing it, job satisfaction or not. I need to make a certain amount of nmoney, as you do, the fire service offers that, so I applied. Sure, somebody else could do my job, and might even do it better for less, but is the $58,000 per year I make that far out of line with what is considered normal for a person with similar training in a highly technical position, with years of experience and a desire to do the job to the best of my ability? Cut the opay by $10,000, eliminate or reform the pension and what have you accomplished? Instead of the fire department being 6% of the city budget, it would be 5 1/2 %. Then who knows, will the lesser paid people do the job as… Read more »

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

“Difficult work. Blackberry next to the bed. Law degree required.” – Dan
Firefighters are pikers when it comes to danger in their jobs. All they have to worry about is being burnt or falling through holes in floors or off ladders or being electrocuted, or having vehicular accidents on the way to alarms. They don’t have to live the horror of having a blackberry next to the bed.

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

“That’s why we call firefighters and EMTs heroes and children have action figures to prove it.”
Those action figures that are made by companies such as Hasbro that moved manufacturing jobs to places where the people are working for pennies but the owners and top managers make millions for selling freakin plastic toys. There’s your market.

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

Oh no, there’s that blackberry again. And an action figure is holding it.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Phil, I can list at least two dozen low-wage jobs off the top of my head that are more dangerous than being a firefighter. But they aren’t sexy, high-profile jobs like firefighting, so nobody gives a sh*t about them. If you purport to care about the numbers, then really care about the numbers. Not that risk should rationally determine wage in the first place.
Michael, base pay for many firefighters is fine (except in corrupt Boston where it starts at $52,000 or a similar figure). It’s the overtime abuse that pushes those salaries up to $100-150k that needs to stop. Especially when a lot of that time is down time.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
10 years ago

Firefighters pay an unseen price in exposure to some really horrendous sh*t they inhale or are otherwise exposed to during fires and toxic spills.
As someone whose life was basically f**ked up by toxic chemicals I may be carrying a grudge,but it is a real situaion.
There’s no glory in lung disease.
When it comes to police,low pay is an invitation to the worst imaginable corruption.
New Orleans were among the lowest paid big city cops in the country.The reult?The most corrupt large police force in the country-they were almost like Mexican cops-supplement your income by whatever means are available.
Suffolk County police in NY(not a small department)are about the highest paid in the country-almost no corruption and professional attitude.
The RISP here are another good example.
BTW falling through a ceiling is not the joke it appears on the Three Stooges-I had that happen once on my job-with firemen it’s a little more common.

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

Joe
You are absolutely right.

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

Dan
All the occupations with the exception of police work and military do not purposely take on the danger that is associated with those jobs. Miners mine. Fishermen fish. Firefighters that battle structure fires place themselves at risk by doing their jobs. That’s the difference. 24/7. I’m glad that we have people like michael and Tom Kenney who are willing to do what most of us would run away from. I don’t think that they are paid enough and I vote.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

“All the occupations with the exception of police work and military do not purposely take on the danger that is associated with those jobs. Miners mine. Fishermen fish.”
That makes no sense. You don’t think miners know that mining is dangerous? I generally dislike ad hominem, but stop acting like an idiot, Phil. You’re just arguing for the sake of arguing at this point.

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

but stop acting like an idiot, Phil
In the course of dispensing his services a lawyer may come across an enraged client or someone who feels as though he has been wronged and decides to show up at the courthouse with a loaded gun. You may know that this is a possibility but still your job is not inherently dangerous. By the way what is the difference between a bottom feeding catfish and a lawyer?

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