May 20, 2008

More Unionist than Professional

Justin Katz

West Warwick teacher Paul Bovenzi appears to have attended a few too many union prep and pump sessions:

Teachers drive education, and know what's best for children in their schools. Contrary to popular belief, administrators (or managers to use his misnomer) are no more educators than a hospital administrator is a doctor! Do you want a hospital administrator making medical decisions that affect your health?

Mr. Achorn wants to give these "managers" more power. I think they should get less. Administrators should do budgets, scheduling and handle disciplinary issues. Beyond that, we should let the educators take care of teaching children.

Mr. Achorn wants to give managers more evaluation power. I call for educators to push for a peer-evaluation system, much as the Rhode Island Bar Association evaluates its lawyers, Internal Affairs its police, or the American Medical Association doctors. Administrators have no business evaluating educators. The professionals in the field should evaluate and "police" themselves.

Besides, not to put too fine a point on it, but there is a dearth of any administrators out there, specifically good ones. Most administrators I have worked for can't handle the responsibilities that they have now and could never handle more, especially a more rigorous evaluation system. Who exactly are these managers who are going to turn things around in the public schools all by themselves? I am not saying there are not good people doing these jobs, but there are no super-administrators with all the answers. If they are out there, I haven't met them yet.

See, the problem with the union mentality is that the ostensible "professionals" lose credibility for their claims that they "know what's best for children in their schools" and "should evaluate and 'police' themselves." After some years of experience with strikes and "working to rule," the objective taxpayer and parent is apt to wonder how that's "best for the children," and to wonder what real consequences will be imposed in the course of self monitoring.

No, I don't want a hospital administrator making my medical decisions, but neither would I want doctors to be given too much rein to fashion the hospital with their own benefit centrally in mind. Indeed, were that to happen, I would go to all lengths to make sure that I received my medical services elsewhere.

And there's the rub. Doctors and lawyers have to perform. They may have routes toward accreditation and consequences administered through professional organizations, but they still have to convince clients that their services are worth employing. Moreover, through their control over "budgets, scheduling and... disciplinary issues," administrators exert influence over them, and over their organizations in whole.

As many of us have been saying for years: if teachers want to be respected as professionals, they have to begin playing that part, rather than the industrial unionist role that they've allowed to define them in Rhode Island.

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You just have to love these teacher union morons. Every time you talk to one of them they whine about how they get no they have advanced degrees...blah, blah, blah.
It's like somebody that has a Phd. in Nuclear Physics - but drives a garbage truck. Doesn't really matter, does it?
Even worse, these teachers are too stupid to realize it.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 20, 2008 9:29 AM

This is an aside, but the RI Bar Association does not evaluate, police or discipline RI lawyers in any way. The RI Supreme Court's Office of Disciplinary Counsel disciplines attorneys for misconduct, but it, too, in no way evaluates them absent allegations of misconduct. It is left to private organizations and individuals to evaluate and rate attorneys.

Posted by: Jon at May 20, 2008 9:48 AM

I thought this particular part of Bovenzi’s piece was illuminating:

“… Mr. Achorn insinuates that what’s good for schoolchildren will be opposed by teachers unions. Of course, there are no data to back this up. Not even any anecdotal evidence. This is just his opinion. In fact, teachers unions have done more than any group in Rhode Island to effect positive change for students. I could give you countless examples — including pushing for class-size limits and leading the charge for quality professional development.”

Of course he left out all the damage that RI teacher unions have done: poor performing schools, striking, work to rule, and all the lost programs, closed schools, etc. that are a result of teacher union demands that have been too exorbitant.

A very strong case can be made that neither of the items that Mr. Bovenzi mentions has helped our children one bit. Lowering class sizes and paying teachers more for certifications and advanced degrees did nothing to advance student achievement. However these union “accomplishments” certainly helped pad teachers paychecks, and added more union members, both contributing to increased dollars to teacher union coffers.

It’s pretty sad if this is really all the union can come up with when asked how they have moved public education forward.

Posted by: Frank at May 20, 2008 10:03 AM

I'm sort of surprised that this portion of the letter was not quoted:

"In fact, teachers unions have done more than any group in Rhode Island to effect positive change for students. I could give you countless examples — including pushing for class-size limits and leading the charge for quality professional development."

Class size limits directly benefit unions by ensuring more members. I'm not sure what quality professional development is - I'm not sure the author does either - but when these are the top two cited of the "countless examples" of what unions have done for students it says quite a bit...

Posted by: JP at May 20, 2008 10:30 AM

The teachers should hang their heads in shame for what they have done to the students. I am dealing with this firsthand in W. Greenwich. They want respect for what? For writing letters to the editor of the ProJo detailing the 19 items that they will do and the 43 items that they won't unless their contract demands are met.How do you ask to get paid MORE for doing LESS! What makes me really pissed is knowing that eventually these buffoons will get their dear contract and be made whole. How do you make the kids whole after screwing them out of everything for the last year? As for those stupid signs you all hang in your cars..."still working, no contract" should change them to "thankful to have a job". Try to get some respect from the 31,000 people in RI who have lost their jobs. I guarantee every one of them would kill for the benefits you had even six years ago. Police each other, what a joke. You all deserve to be fired, not admired or respected. I for one have NO RESPECT for any of you so called teachers.

Posted by: David at May 20, 2008 2:52 PM

One more thing. I just read the entire Bovenzi article, which I should have done prior to my last post, my fault.

I laughed at his calling on Mr. Achorn to name names of the teachers that are "troubled" by the union tactics. He goes on to say that because no one was named it must be false.

I, as a parent, have spoken to some of my kids teachers and they have expressed that they are indeed "troubled" by the union and their tactics. I won't name them either, because now I have teachers telling me what the union is really doing to the parents, to our kids and to those who don't agree with your tactics. I don't have to read your propaganda in the papers anymore. I hear it right from the horses mouth as to how you're trying to pork me and my kids. Oh, and please give me an administrator any day that wants to screw me by lowering the tax rate. You guys are unreal.

Posted by: David at May 20, 2008 3:10 PM

Oh, come on folks.

Why all the "teacher bashing".

These poor folks work a grueling 6.75 hour day, 185 days a year!

After 9 "hard years", they earn $67,000. That's the equivalent of $103,000 per year in the Private Sector for someone that works 48 weeks a year, 8 hours per day.

They get gold-plated healthcare for either free (if they're "grandfathered") or near free if they're not grandfathered.

They retire in their early 50s with and 80% Pension that grows by a minimum of 3% every year if they're a "Plan A" employee or, if they're "unlucky" and are "Plan B", they have to wait until the ripe old age of 59 to retire with a 75% Pension.

They get Retiree medical.

The best teachers get paid the same as the worst.

Job security has NOTHING to do with Merit or skills, but instead, it is based on the date of hire.

Their jobs are "recession proof".

They are immune from "globalization", as their jobs can't be outsourced to India or China.

On top of all that, they achieve performance results that places them in the bottom 10 states in the Nation. Very impressive, indeed.

Gosh, don't you people have any sympathy for these poor folks? Aren't they ENTITLED to it?

Face it. We need ONE school district to grow some balls, goad their teachers into a Strike and FIRE every last one of them the minute they walk off the job. Cancel their healthcare and benefits immediately.

Then start over and hire all new teachers. At worst, they'd be stuck with the same hack Union representing them, but they could cherry pick who they hire. It would be disruptive for a year, but it is exactly what needs to be done, ala Reagan and the Air-traffic Controllers. The School Committee's slogan would be "Break the Union ...Do It For The Children!"

Looking forward to Bob Walsh's indefensible defense of the morons he calls "teachers".

Posted by: George Elbow at May 20, 2008 7:02 PM

"will get their dear contract and be made whole"

And that is a very troubling aspect of "work-to-rule". After working to rule for a week, a month, a year, compensation for that period will be at a MINIMUM the same as - if not better than - the lapsed contract. They are indeed made whole.

It is then the children who pay the price for a work to rule action.

Posted by: Monique at May 20, 2008 8:09 PM


That is exactly what pisses me off more than anything. These jerks piss and moan and decide that they aren't going to help the kids with their tutoring, their after school projects, field trips etc... but then we end up rewarding them anyway. How do our kids get paid back and why aren't the other parents mad? Why should these idiots get paid just because they call themselves teachers? Where else can you provide inferior services and keep getting raises?

It's funny how Bovenzi doesn't want administrators telling the teachers what to do because they're not teachers yet he's ok with having the union dictate what he should and shouldn't do, are they teachers? They speak out of both sides of their mouths and it's our kids who are suffering.

I'd love to get paid for doing a s&^%%y job. How do they sleep at night? Again, fire every last one of them and let them feel what it's like to have to earn their checks!

Posted by: David at May 20, 2008 8:24 PM

As you've all done a marvelous job at drawing and quartering Mr. Bovenzi’s piece, I'm not going to hyperanalyze his entirely predictable piece of propagandistic pablum (channeling Sprio Agnew). However, I do want to break down what I consider to be the most important sentence in it:

"Teachers drive education, and know what's best for children in their schools."

1. If teachers drive education, the question should be "into what?" I'll propose, a brick wall.

2. Why do they presume that they know best?

3. Effectively educating children to should be the primary focus; what teachers may or may not want is secondary.


5. They are not "their" schools. THEY ARE OURS!

Posted by: Will at May 21, 2008 12:45 AM

"Looking forward to Bob Walsh's indefensible defense of the morons he calls "teachers"."

This kind of rhetoric doesn't solve the problem; it only makes it worse.
Do you really think kids coming out of college now will want to become teachers if they have any access at all to careers that pay better coming out of school? A smart kid won't join a profession where he or she is set to be attacked and abused by talk radio and the likes of the individual who provided the above quote. If you think you're paying too much for teachers now...
Then again, maybe that individual doesn't give a damn about education, period. If he feels comfortable living out his later years among young savages, who am I to criticize his choice?

Posted by: rhody at May 21, 2008 1:08 AM


Wake the F%&$ up.


Or just shut up. Your ONLY purpose here is to spout the liberal party line and then yell from the rooftops "Don't call me liberal!" and it's just old.

Have an idea. A thought. An epiphany. SOMETHING. But stop with the brainless posts. Every one just makes people ignore you more.

Posted by: Greg at May 21, 2008 6:51 AM


Teachers was put in quotes (i.e. "teachers"). Teachers are NOT in of themselves the problem. The UNION is.

Teaching is a great profession. Unfortunately, it is a profession that has been hijacked by the Union.

If teachers want respect, they need to distance themselves from the likes of Pat Crowley, Bob Walsh and these other Entitlement minded Union fools.

Posted by: George Elbow at May 21, 2008 7:16 AM

Rhody’s plan of action: 1) Ignore the primary problem - costly, poorly performing RI schools; 2) Complain about those who are bringing attention to the problem; 3) Bemoan the possibility that future teachers will be deterred from entering a profession where they would become part of the same recycled primary problem.

Certainly sounds like just another brain dead liberal.

Posted by: Frank at May 21, 2008 8:30 AM

Hey Greg, if my posts make everyone ignore me more, why do you feel compelled to respond?
And Elbow (trying to wiggle out of his attack on the teaching profession)?
And Frank (crying "Liberal!" whever he disagrees with something)?
I'm getting more bile out of y'all than Crowley, and I'm not even a union official nor a public sector employee.
(If only this server had smile emoticons...)

Posted by: rhody at May 21, 2008 11:17 AM

Let me amend that for you. Those that don't ignore you only pay attention long enough to point out that nobody takes your 70 IQ statements seriously.

At least Crowley doesn't pretend to be anything he's not. You're just a fraud. You've never made a statement that didn't fall squarely into 'raving liberal' territory and yet you continue to pretend that you aren't a straight "D" voter.

And it's not bile. It's pity. Pity for the remaining lonely braincell bouncing around like a BB in a boxcar in your empty friggin head.

Posted by: Greg at May 21, 2008 11:35 AM

The real Greg, the next time you post here, you should realize that some raving idiot (with a IQ of 7.0, based on the content of the above post) is posting pious drivel under your name. You need to check your computer's security. Really.

Posted by: rhody at May 21, 2008 12:01 PM

Say something intelligent, Rhody. For all that is good in the world, PLEASE say something intelligent.

Or go back over to RIFuture with Pat and Bob and Matt and the other batshit insane twits.

Posted by: Greg at May 21, 2008 12:57 PM

Greg, if I upset you that much, you should just ignore me.
Now, if that's not intelligent advice...

Posted by: rhody at May 21, 2008 2:32 PM

Wow, so this is where all of the bitter, selfish republicans hang out! The "Blogosphere!" What a great place. Where else can people who have no idea what they are talking about, pretend that they do, and spew forth! I especially like the blogger who admits to not knowing what Professional Development is (really?) and then calls Bovenzi ignorant! Outstanding. Usually when faced with people telling me how easy teaching is, I ask them why they didn't become teachers. In this case though you are all so angry and viperous, I don't think it would be a good idea! (unless of course your medication gets adjusted!) Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Teach at May 21, 2008 3:07 PM

By the way - Anchors don't rise - they sink!

Posted by: teach at May 21, 2008 3:09 PM

Anchors do sink. Not surprisingly, so have our kids' test scores in the RI public schools. It's too bad we can't get the level of quality education that we're PAYING for.

Posted by: Greg at May 21, 2008 3:33 PM

Based on the test scores for our kids, I'm not sure the teachers know what "Professional Development" is either. I haven't witnessed any professionals and the only development has been finding ways to get paid more for doing less! The reason people don't want to become teachers is because you lazy, ignorant, self absorbed pieces of #$@! have made a mockery of the profession. You are not teachers, you're thieves. You care not one iota for the kids but for yourselves and what's in it for you. I still wish you could all get fired and have to live in the real world. Gosh, what would you do without your summers off?. So shut up and go to work and teach for a change! If you know how?

Posted by: David at May 21, 2008 5:49 PM

Hey Teach -

Why do you assume everyone that is fed up with the Unions are Republicans?

You give us Dems a bad rap.

Are you going to dispute that the Unions are not responsible for destroying the Public Education system?

Are you going to suggest that prior to the rise of the Union's prominance education in America wasn't working?

Are you going to defend a system where the Best get paid the same as the Worst; where job security is the result of Hire Date as opposed to Merit?

Can you point to a single Union Teacher that has ever been Fired? Are we to assume that they are ALL that talented that none of them deserved to be let go?

Where in the Contracts is there anything about "teaching" or "children" ...and don't tell us that Class Size is about the Children.

Are you going to defend a system in which spineless fear of the Free Market determining one's worth is something to be proud of?

No one said Teaching wasn't Hard work. Most jobs are hard work ...that's why they call them jobs.

Why do Union Teachers insist on Contractually defining their work-day to be 6.75 hours per day if they actually work so many more hours than that?

The issue is that the Entitlement Union mentality has hi-jacked the Profession.

The only "Professionals" I know that have Contracts are teachers. But, given their allegience to the Union rather than the Teaching Profession, I think it might be a stretch to call them "Professinals". Wouldn't you agree, Teach?

Posted by: George Elbow at May 21, 2008 7:12 PM

I didn't know the public education system was destroyed! It was fine when I left it this afternoon (after 6.75 hours!) Wow, I guess I don't just have summers off anymore!

Test scores are how we measure a teachers' effectiveness? Did you ever wonder why the kids in Barrington always do well on state tests while the Central Fall kids don't. They are both taught by Union Teachers! Could it be that there's more to doing well in school than whether your teacher is in a Union or not? If you weren't such idealogues you might consider it.

Why are you all so angry? Is it because of your taxes? Or are you really concerned about schools?

I know what it is. You are unhappy with your crappy non-Union jobs, so you begrudge me mine. I am sure all of you are the best at what you do and beyond reproach. That's why you have so much time to blog!

Actually, I have seen many teachers fired, and if you worked in schools, you would have too.

A non-tenured teacher can be fired for NO reason at all - and without any cause or consultation with the Union. Some teachers are non-tenured for 5 or more years. If admin. doesn't get rid of them them after having 3 to 5 years to evaluate them then who's fault is that!

After a teacher is tenured admin only has to show cause, but most are too lazy to do it! It's just easier to blame Unions instead of doing their job.

Thank God the private sector doesn't have any less than average workers in it!

If you Union teachers have it so good, then why not join us? Or better yet unionize your own profession and then everyone can bitch about you too!

Posted by: teach at May 21, 2008 8:12 PM

Hey Teach,

Where shall we start?

Test scores? You are soooo right. A good student is the product of Good Genes, Good Parents and Desire. A Good Teacher is also helpful, but not critical.

Make no mistake, a Good Student can overcome a Bad Teacher, but a Good Teacher can't overcome a Bad Student.

So what that means is that you Union teachers need to get off your high horse and stop pretending that you (teachers) are the be-all / end-all to a good education. You are an important part, but not the most important (nor the least).

I'm sure you have a pat Union response for why only 22% of 11th graders are Proficient in math. It must be the test, right?

Perhaps I should have been more specific: When was the last time a TENURED teacher was fired? You'd have us believe that after 3 to 5 years, every employee is perfect? Give us a break!

And your comments about Admin are quite revealing. That is another problem with Union hacks. You people should spend more time Teaching and LESS time trying to Administer / Manage the Schools. We hire professional administrators for that, not Union hack whiners.

And what the hell is Tenure anyways? No, all workers in the Private Sector are NOT perfect. But they have to prove their worth on an ongoing basis ...not just the first 3 - 5 years.

What self-respecting, self-reliant individual would ever need a Union? And why would any orginization that wanted excellence want to hire weak-minded fools that felt the need to have a Union support them like a bra?

And how do you respond to how layoffs work know, that bull-shit Bumping thing you Union hacks do? If there is a lay-off, the person out the door is the last one in, even if that person is the best and most qualified employee. Do you think that happens in the Private Sector? Do you think that is good for the "children"?

How would you like to go for surgery and find out that the hospital just had a lay-off and the world's greatest surgeon who was hired a year ago was laid off, while some decrepid, unenergetic, unsteady hand of an old incompetant surgeon was going to cut you open?

You people think you are entitled to the Private Sector equivalent of $103,000 per year ($67,000 for 185 days at 6.75 hours per day, grossed up to reflect 250 days per year at 8 hours per day for the Private Sector employee) because you have a "degree". And on top of that you want near free health-care and a guaranteed Pension equal to 75% of your pay, but you refuse to have any measure of competance or performance.

Of course people are bitching. You fools have ZERO concept of how the real world works, as you are frightened sheep living in a bubble, sucking off the tit of the taxpayer.

Face it, the Union you belong to has ZERO concern for Education or Teaching. They are all about Pay & Benefits, or should I say "Entitlements".

And because of that, you will go thru life knowing that you couldn't make it on your own merits needed the diaper that is the Union to support you. Very sad indeed.

Posted by: George Elbow at May 21, 2008 9:08 PM

By the way Teach,

Will you be going to the "Let Your Voice Be Heard" rally at the Statehouse on Tuesday June 3rd, which is being sponsored by the RI Teachers Federation?

It will just be teachers and state workers in attendance, as it starts at 4:00 pm ...when the rest of the real world is still at work.

Say hello to Pat "The Clown" Crowley for us.

Posted by: George Elbow at May 21, 2008 9:17 PM

George, you need to find yourself some therapy to deal with the anger issues you have.

If I concede that it's all the Union's fault will you relax and back away from the computer for awhile before you give yourself an anurism.

Repeat after me . . . "It's not Union's fault that I have a crappy non-Union job . . ."

Hey if it's test scores you're talking about, my school's High Performing and Commended. I guess I'm worth every penny huh.

I'll be at the rally. I'm taking the Caddy because I figure the Hummer will be too big to park downtown. You want a ride?

Posted by: teach at May 21, 2008 9:30 PM


Repeat after me: "It's the Union's fault that, despite having some of the highest taxes in the nation, RI has $400+ million budget deficits, $5B Pension short-falls and Public Employees retiring in their 40s and 50s, while every other self-respecting citizen is working 'til the day they die to support the lazy Entitlement-minded Union leeches that have attached themselves to the tit of the taxpayer."

Now go get to bed. You have a long & grueling 6.75 hour day ahead of you tomorrow.

Posted by: George Elbow at May 21, 2008 9:48 PM


Thank you for reinforcing why so many taxpayers will not be shedding tears when your pensions are restructured to close the budget deficit,either by the General Assembly or eventually by a judge.

On the Barrington vs. Central Falls results, you ignore multiple studies that, after adjusting for demographic differences, find that RI schools underperform those in most other states. RI resident's only need to look across the border to Massachusetts for a painful comparison.

As for why people don't enter the teaching profession, I have one bit of insight for you. I know a lot of people who have begun their careers in Teach for America. Most have eventually decided not to stay with teaching as a career. Why? Because they are totally turned off by a "profession" in which, thanks to unionization, superior performers get exactly the same pay as poor performers who can't be fired because of tenure. Unfortunately, there are few saints among us who are so driven by intrinsic rewards that they'll give up the chance for extrinsic rewards linked to their performance. In short, unionization has and is significantly changing the demographics of the teaching "profession" (which I put in quotes because I know of no other professionals who would recognize teachers as such, given your Teamsters culture).

Teach, it is wonderful and grand that you can bitterly spew your favorite talking points. But the facts remain the facts: RI's school performance stinks and its taxes are high and rising. The people who pay taxes are leaving RI (catch the NYT article the other day on RI's economic "uniqueness?"). I look forward to seeing what you have to say when your obstructionist rhetoric and union solidarity produce their inevitable consequences for your pocketbook.

Posted by: John at May 22, 2008 10:38 AM


You are proving with every utterance why teachers in RI are so despised. You pretty much admit that you and your buddies are taking advantage of a corrupt system that lines your pockets at the expense of the taxpayers and their children. You are a true piece of $#@! I can only hope that your Caddy or your Hummer inexplicably slip into gear while you happen to be either in back of or in front of them so that you are a vegetable for the rest of your life. Fortunately you'll have damn near free health care to support you for the rest of your miserable existence. Though in that case, I wouldn't be upset. You low life!

Posted by: David at May 22, 2008 3:08 PM
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