A Familiar School Committee Time Line
“I had the sense that everybody around the table knew that we were part of the same team.” That’s how Tiverton School Committee member Carol Herrmann described negotiations with the teachers’ union this summer. On August 14, the committee passed the contract extension.
It isn’t surprising that the negotiations would be “cordial,” as Herrmann put it. Negotiating for management were Herrmann (a union teacher), Deborah Pallasch (Herrmann’s campaign partner in 2008), Superintendent William Rearick (formerly a union teacher), and Finance Director Douglas Fiore (who works for Rearick). Chairwoman Sally Black is a retired union teacher.
The committee’s “negotiations,” so to speak, with the people of Tiverton have been less cordial.
In January 2009, the committee approved a contract with retroactive raises despite residents’ fears that the recession would continue. And voters at the May 2009 financial town meeting (FTM) refused to approve the committee’s requested budget increase.
The school committee meeting a week later was heated. One guidance counselor told the committee: “I am the last person on this Earth that would want to hurt a child, but you need to make a statement… to get people to the town meeting.”
As it happened, the Obama administration’s stimulus filled the gap and then some.
In May 2010, Pallasch proposed an increase, as an FTM voter, that essentially made the stimulus a permanent part of the budget. Herrmann’s husband, Nick Tsiongas, then made the familiar threats; if her budget didn’t pass: “We will begin by closing one of the new elementary schools… eliminating all extracurricular activities… every sport and every after school activity… middle school band, high school chorus… and then five or six teaching positions at the high school.”
We’d heard that before, and we’ve heard it ever since, including before this year’s financial town referendum (FTR), which has replaced the FTM.
For the upcoming FTR, the “five-year plan” that the committee mentioned when it approved the teacher agreement calls for a school department appropriation of $29,106,009, an increase of $1.2 million (4.3%), well over the state tax cap.
And the cycle continues. The only way to stop it — and to make the people of Tiverton feel as if they are the ones “on the same team” — is for voters in Tiverton to elect Susan Anderson, Ruth Hollenbach, and me to the school committee. We will insist that the district maintain its programming within the budget that taxpayers feel they can afford, without threatening to “hurt” children in order to “make a statement.”