October 9, 2007

They're Like a Mob

Justin Katz

I wish more parents and townspeople attended these school committee meetings, because were more to witness the behavior of the unionists (one hesitates to speak of them principally as teachers), I've little doubt that support for them would evaporate even more rapidly than it is currently doing.

The committee discussed volunteers for various extracurricular activities, and just before the meeting moved on, teachers started taking the podium with somewhat related statements. The first (the woman who referred to a committee member as a "twerp" at the last meeting I attended, I believe) cited a press release in which a member of the committee had stated that teachers are not writing recommendations. "There are 63 recommendations in the file in my office," she said.

In the back and forth, it wasn't clear when the letters had been written or whether students were aware that they had been completed. (Indeed, the mob took the opportunity to jeer at Committee Chairwoman deMedeiros over her asking whether they'd been handed to the children, which apparently is not how it's done.) Personally, I'd have liked to know whether they were recommendations that predated the union's "work to rule" action or perhaps whether a bunch had just been filed since the media mentions.

Unfortunately, discussion didn't get that detailed, as the teacher noted that two of the recommendations in her possession were for deMedeiros's daughter. Hoots and laughter again. Ms. deMedeiros noted that her daughter and a friend had both been told that their teachers weren't sure whether they were allowed to write recommendations.

At that point, the committee attempted to bring up the pertinent person for the next item on its agenda, but additional teachers took the microphone and refused to step aside. (If I were the requested Mr. Alves, I believe I'd have stayed away, as well.) Seeing no progress — in fact, hearing an escalation of the shouts to "stop lying!" and "do your jobs!" — the committee moved to adjourn, and everybody began filing out.

Memo to the teachers: the school committee is the group whom the people of Tiverton have elected to conduct the town's business vis-a-vis the schools. You don't run these meetings. You oughtn't be attempting to intimidate the people with whom you're negotiating for increases to your already-generous remuneration packages.

I know the Bob Walshes and Pat Crowleys have encouraged the teachers — most of whom took up their vocation for more noble reasons than to be paid for days of striking — to see this behavior as appropriate, but they have been deceived. This is not how professionals act. It's how thugs act. It might be appropriate if union members were being forced to work under hazardous conditions. It might be appropriate if all salaries (or the number of positions) were being cut to a disastrous degree. As the circumstances exist, informed citizens would surely be astonished to recall that these are people with enviable salaries and benefits for rewarding work in a comfortable atmosphere.

And to be honest, speaking strictly as a parent, it sparks anxiety about my children's experiences as they (possibly) go through the school system over the next sixteen years.

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The committee meeting will be on TV in Tiverton Thursday. I am sure people will get the real picture rather this this biased view. Hey, why didn't you blog about how the school committee refused to have a hearing on the grievance? why didn't you blog about how they screwed up the waste removal bid? Why didn't you blog about how the school committee also got called out on their lie about volunteers? And how they called called out about how field trips are still going on.

You're right about one thing. I hope more parents and tax payers do show up and see what they elected.

Posted by: Pat Crowley at October 9, 2007 9:44 PM

Well, Pat, the atmosphere that your organization encourages in these meetings makes it very difficult for any points to be made or conveyed between the teachers and the committee. The whole thing is a wall of insinuations and voice tones. I'm not letting the committee off the hook on this, but I'll admit that I have more sympathy for the testiness of the people on the stage facing an increasingly unruly mob than for the organized labor unionists treating the town's business as a negotiating strategy in an orchestrated assault and treating every statement of the opposing side as if it is to be presumed a lie.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 9, 2007 10:08 PM

By the way, you really have no idea how apparent and unbecoming it is to others that you and your cohorts so clearly enjoy your performance, do you? I guess it's not difficult to see the fun in union negotiations when you're very many steps away from life and death. But again, folks will notice that your threshold to cry "injustice" is very, very low.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 9, 2007 10:43 PM

Thank you for the first hand report, Justin - possibly more revealing and informative than cooler heads in the teachers' unions would like.

Posted by: Monique at October 9, 2007 11:00 PM

You probably need to be more careful when making authoritative comments about what you "know" about people.

Posted by: Bob Walsh at October 9, 2007 11:08 PM

You wanted the teachers' butts back in the classrooms? You got 'em. But you also didn't get closure to this whole sad episode.
You can't expect people working without a contract to just shut the hell up when you want them to, though. If the school board wants to fire teachers for their behavior at the meetings, let 'em, if they feel like opening another can of worms that will dwarf the problem you've got now.

Posted by: rhody at October 9, 2007 11:09 PM

Is that a threat, Mr. Walsh? I haven't the resources to defend myself against a legal attack, but I'd do my best. How the public (and your members, for that matter) would respond to your attempting to ruin a carpenter and his young family over a word on a blog would be an interesting thing to discover. (I suspect local and national news organizations might agree.)

I'm afraid my actual defense would be largely literary, though. I'm clearly using you and Pat emblematically in that sentence (inasmuch as I'm not aware of there being more than one of each of you), and my statement is clearly not made with the presumption of authority. In that context, "know" is commonly a figure of speech, not a statement of fact.

I don't know how such an argument stands in the law, but it does have the nice feature of being the truth of my intentions with what I wrote.

Purely as a matter of potentially related interest, I would add, however, that Pat's performance for the audience's benefit might have tended to give an outsider the impression that he encouraged the resulting behavior. And you continue to employ him and send him out as the union's public face 'round these parts.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 9, 2007 11:41 PM

I work without a contract, Rhody, and yet I understand that attempting to bully the people who set my salary is wrong and ultimately ineffective. Somehow the balance of my value and my employer's needs seems to work out pretty well.

You do raise an interesting point, though, that perhaps the expectation of having an itemized contract facilitates an environment that is detrimental to the children and corrosive of the society.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 9, 2007 11:58 PM

Once again, the NEA demonstrates that public sector union negotiations in Rhode Island are like a bad Sopranos rerun.

Hey, Mrs. deMedeiros -- I have two of YOUR DAUGHTER'S college recommendations in my file, capice?

Or hey Justin Katz, Mr. Blogger -- the NEA has deeper litigation pockets than you do, capice?

Frankly, Justin, if you don't have your kids in private, parochial, or homeschooling now, I'd think seriously about doing this sooner rather than later -- because it is just a matter of time before some NEA members start flagging your kids as ADHD, or their grades start going down, or something else. That's how these wannabe wise guys play the game, Justin -- this is Rhode Island, after all -- the land of no shame.

Why do you still insist on staying on? Why not just leave and watch the place collapse from afar? Frankly, I look forward to seeing the public sector unions and poverty advocates fight for the last deck chair as the flames of fiscal crisis envelope the state.

Posted by: John at October 10, 2007 12:29 AM


A professional liar who associates with low rent scum like Dufault and Nee shouldn't expect to be taken seriously when calling out someone else over what they 'know'. You and Ducky have become cartoon characters.


I wouldn't worry about Walsh and his 'threats'. He's angry and acting out because the days of the NEA calling the shots around here are over.
As to your last comment you should be worried about your kids in public school. They will face retribution from these 'professionals' if their relation to you becomes known. Always remember Justin it's all about the kids with these 'pros'. lol

Posted by: Tim at October 10, 2007 7:27 AM

I wish Jus would address the core issues here.

1. The School Committee chairperson lied to the public about teacher not writing recommendation. Her own daughter has received two in the last two weeks.

-- but it is still Ok for her to tell the press and the public that teachers are refusing to write them? Even when she has first hand knowledge that that is simply not true?

2. The School Committee lied about what volunteer activities are going on. Field trips continue. I can't wait for the one to Salem on Halloween Day.

3. The school committee messed up the pay roll for the entire year simply by trying to be cute. And then, when they tried to be funny and put the grievance on the matter in open session (another violation) the union called their bluff. As a result, they refused to answer questions and even silenced one of their own members who had questions.

Posted by: Pat Crowley at October 10, 2007 7:35 AM

Hey Justin,

Is Pat as amazingly small in person as he comes across online?

Posted by: Greg at October 10, 2007 7:50 AM

1. I won't say that you're lying, Pat, but you're certainly not being wholly accurate with your words, at least according to the exchange I witnessed last night. Your own union members laughed at deMedeiros when she asked whether the children had "received" (your word) their recommendations. Apart from that, the fact that letters are in a file tells us nothing about when they were requested and written. One can easiy imagine how a mixture of insinuation and timing could result in students' thinking that they weren't going to get recommendations until the teachers get their way with the contract despite there being some number of recommendations on file.

2. You go on the field trips? That's a horrifying thought. Anyway, your credibility on these complaints is nil, based on past behavior as well as the fact that your side has immeasurably more incentive to twist facts.

3. I didn't see anybody on the committee silenced. As for the "cuteness," even if it costs more not to pay teachers for striking, the committee has my support for making that point. It'll pay off hugely next time the teachers are considering a similar action.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 10, 2007 8:04 AM

>> because it is just a matter of time before some NEA members start flagging your kids as ADHD, or their grades start going down, or something else.

I would be more worried that my kids grades would go up. And stay up. Regardless of performance. Providing no clue along the way that anything was ever a matter of concern until it was too late. That would be the most harmful action a spiteful NEA member could take in my opinion, to let your kids think they're brilliant, all the while accepting and praising substandard work that never prompts the child to try any harder to succeed or to realize their full potential.

Let's face it, anyone who follows the actions of these education unionists can't be all that comfortable with leaving their children in their hands all day. Not when they are capable of behaving that badly in public.

Posted by: Frank at October 10, 2007 8:28 AM

Frankly, I look forward to seeing the public sector unions and poverty advocates fight for the last deck chair as the flames of fiscal crisis envelope the state.

Posted by John at October 10, 2007 12:29 AM
Boy, that is true. A better show than anything at PPAC.
Pat Crowley is the anti-unionists dream. Let's hope they make him their main spokesman. He makes (well almost) Guy Dufault look classy.

Posted by: Mike at October 10, 2007 9:03 AM

Mike, that is the beauty of the Socialist Party. Given the right pressures they'll tear each other apart trying to get the last nickel. The best thing we can do is stay out of the way.

Posted by: Greg at October 10, 2007 9:09 AM

>>I won't say that you're lying, Pat, but you're certainly not being wholly accurate with your words, at least according to the exchange I witnessed last night. Your own union members laughed at deMedeiros when she asked whether the children had "received" (your word) their recommendations. Apart from that, the fact that letters are in a file tells us nothing about when they were requested and written.

Justin -

Is it possible that Ducky and his ducklings are being cute by saying that they're "still writing references" (true) but neglecting to mention that they aren't delivering them ("they're in a file"), so they may as well not be writing them in the first place as far as the students are concerned?

Can you imagine a physician saying that they're writing prescriptions, but it's staying in the file so don't bother going to your pharmacy to pick up your medicine?

Yeah, those Tiverton teachers are "professionals" in the same sense that Teamster thugs are "marketeers."

Posted by: Tom W at October 10, 2007 9:57 AM

A threat? Please. But your response allows me to reiterate the point - you need to be more careful about what you say. Unlike Greg and Tim, who think they are posting anonymously and are not taken seriously, your name is on the line whenever you write and your points are worthy of debate, and while you can feel free to igonre my advice, your message is diminished with inaccurate speculation. If you want to continue to get various points of view over here, you probably should learn to respect the differences we have without getting personal (or downright silly, if you actually believe that I would sue you over something you wrote).

Posted by: Bob Walsh at October 10, 2007 3:23 PM

Justin, we're all envious of your professional situation. In a perfect (or at least kinder) world, we wouldn't need unions - I don't like have to shell out for dues, either. I have a little freelance work going myself, and have no 'plaints on that end thus far (wish that were true for the real-world job LOL).
But it's far from a perfect world, as Mrs. Rhody, who went from a union to non-union working environment, is discovering right now. My father always used to say businesses exist to make money, but we workers are also businesspeople and need to cut the best deals for ourselves.

Posted by: rhody at October 10, 2007 3:36 PM


Your comments didn't read like a friendly suggestion the first time around. (And I suspect it's less silly to think you would threaten to sue.) At any rate, my assessment isn't wholly without experience when it comes to Crowley.

Which makes me wonder — seeing as you've protested the suggestion that you encourage the behavior that I witnessed — whether you'd like to condemn it and chastise the teachers for indulging in it and Pat Crowley for obviously enjoying it and seemingly goading it on.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 10, 2007 7:16 PM
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