Thursday, August 30, 2007

Teaching Contract Situations in R.I.

**UPDATE** Middletown teachers return Tues. Of the 14 teachers laid off, 11 are still laid off. The "Teach of the Yr." has been assigned to teach one class. I still have not learned the names or the areas effected by their leaving. So sorry for them. A truly difficult situation for them all.

**UPDATE** I have a copy of the letter that Tiverton's Supt. Rearick sent to staff on Tues. apologizing for his admonition to them to "Sit down and shut up." Yes, as he states, a poor choice of words in a highly charged arena. I know him & his mother. He was a Soc. St. teacher here and was the leader of the Middletown Teachers Union. Having sat on BOTH sides of the bargaining table, I can appreciate what it's like being in his situation (although he is far better paid than I ever was).
If ever you need a cool head & a constant reminder to yourself to "Shut up," this is it. Words once said are impossible to take back. He realizes at this point, if not sooner, that any good will he's spent time building up over the years with his staff is now gone.
This old style adversarial bargaining just doesn't work anymore. So stop already!

It happens yet again. Teachers in Burriville not returning for the school year. Why don't we change this craziness? We could enact legislation that forces all districts not only to first submit to State mediation but, ultimately, to State mandated forced arbitration when the former does not work. I've blogged on this before. It works in Conn.

Teachers in Tiverton are returning but with no contract looming, expect further action. State mediation is generally useless with neither side being forced to do anything but show up, eventually. Layoffs in Middletown (?14), I've heard about layoffs in Smithfield (?8) with no decrease in school population.

We know the cause - not enough $, an over-reliance on property taxes to fund education, & a tax-cap. We all want a good education for our kids - it benefits ALL of us. But pitting seniors, against parents with kids in school, against parents with kids in private school, etc., etc. is not only wrong, it just plain doesn't work.

State-wide contracts, state health insurance, blah, blah, we need something NOW. When school committees & workers' unions don't even speak to teach other, we all pay the price. School committees don't like to cut programs & lay off people but their hands are tied. Teachers don't like to strike, or work-to-contract, but they have families to support, too.

It's beyond curious when the Guv awards a higher percentage aid increase to charter schools than public schools, when a bipartisan Lege committee states that schools need MORE funding, when the Guv supports more $ for only SOME towns/cities, and when the Lege decides to freeze aid. ARRRGH! And let's not forget a federal gov't who thinks a war is more important than anything else.

And who will take the hit when elections rolls around - local school committees & councilors who have the least control over any of this.

I see no relief in sight, although a new Prez with a people-centered agenda would help. Leadership on a part-time basis (lege) is at least partially to blame. But there is plenty here to go all around. While Union leaders are always advocating, I see few members working the polls, attending events, supporting candidates, joining town committees, etc. And with few willing to run for school committe (here, at least), and often no party platforms anymore (non-partisan), perhaps we have gotten what we deserve.

Beyond sad. Strike, lay-offs, work-to-contract - been there, done that. More than delighted that I don't do that any longer. I wish that no one else had to either.
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