February 16, 2009

“Can you imagine Socrates not answering Plato’s questions because it isn’t in the contract?”

Marc Comtois

So says Robert Flanders,chairman of the state Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education. Prison guard (and union member) James Petrella essentially agrees:

James Petrella, a prison guard, has a few things in common with his son’s teachers.

He is in a union, and he knows what it’s like to work without a contract because he did it once for six years.

But the 45-year-old correctional officer said local teachers are using schoolchildren, including his own, as tools in their battle to get a new labor contract....Petrella said he first realized work to rule was in play last fall when his son’s teachers stayed away from the Winsor Hill School open house for parents.

When his son’s report card arrived with all A’s and B’s, except in music for which he got the equivalent of a C, Petrella called the school to ask about the low mark. The teacher said his son had been disruptive in class, shouting out answers.

Petrella asked why someone hadn’t called to tell him about the problem as another teacher had done in the previous school year. He said the teacher said he was under no contractual obligation to phone a parent.

Petrella persisted, asking why the teacher didn’t at least write a comment on the child’s report card to explain the C. The teacher, he said, responded that the contract doesn’t require him to do that.

On another occasion, he said, his wife asked a different teacher for some homework exercises that would help her son address a slight slip in the boy’s math scores. He said the teacher advised his wife to go to a store in Cranston and pay for a tutorial system called “Up With Learning.”

Kathleen P. Kandzierski, president of the teachers’ union, an affiliate of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, says the union has not ordered any work-to-rule or contract-compliance tactics.

Ah yes, they have not formally"ordered" it so it's all just one big ko-ink-ee-dink.

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This is not surprising at all. The prison guards use fear to scare the public.
The real criminals are the correctional officers union. They are basically extorting the taxpayers of RI with their budgetary theory of "more bars and guards" not rehabilitation or privatization.
We are in a real budget crisis here.
Those of us in the private sector are working harder for less.
The unions are still on the work less get more theory.

We NEED Change not the same.

Posted by: Scott at February 16, 2009 11:42 AM

This is even more reason that *everything* needs to be in the contract. Then let them work to rule. Put in college recommendations, informing a parent when a student is disruptive or abnormally falling behind in class, supervising a night dance, supervising lunch periods. I'm guessing the administration knows exactly what sorts of things go out the window during work-to-rule, so just put them all in the contract.

Hey, the amounts and dates that teachers get paid is in the contract, (even the company name of their health and dental insurance!!) why not put all the duties of a teacher in the contract?

Posted by: Patrick at February 16, 2009 11:56 AM

or god forbid they take initiative like privatre sector workers!

Posted by: Scott at February 16, 2009 12:04 PM

I'm fine with the idea of getting everything into the contract.
But does Flanders realize how ridiculous he sounds when he says work-to-rule is more harmful than strikes? Gee, Ned, maybe we should let teachers strike so we don't have to open THAT can of worms you're so afraid of.
If we make work-to-rule illegal, let's making breaking a contract legal (and not just for school committees). But then again, I don't think Flanders loses sleep at night worrying about the laws of unintended consequences.

Posted by: rhody at February 16, 2009 2:55 PM

"He said the teacher advised his wife to go to a store in Cranston and pay for a tutorial system called “Up With Learning.”"

Okay, so here we have a teacher saying we can make due without teachers ...

Yes, definitely, put it all in the contract. The damaging tactic of work-to-rule, as with so many other problems plaguing our education system, has been created by our elected officials; specifically, School Committees who repeatedly fail to stand up for children when contracts are negotiated. (And City/Town Councils who agree to fund such inadequate contracts.)

Posted by: Monique at February 16, 2009 3:57 PM

"School Committees who repeatedly fail to stand up for children when contracts are negotiated. (And City/Town Councils who agree to fund such inadequate contracts.)"

What the real problem her is the negotiating behind closed doors. The union and the TA go behind closed doors, lock themselves in, negotiate a contract, sign it, then come out with a binding contract signed by both parties and say, "Hey taxpayers, here you go, this is your contract. Pay for it, live by it."

My feeling is whoa, I had no say into what was happening during the negotiations? I have no say on the cost? I can understand you don't want every citizen being able to make comment directly in the negotiations, but at least let us see what's going on and then during a break or at the end of the day, I can get the ear of one or more committee members and ask, what the heck are you doing? Why did you did you do this? Why aren't you doing that?

Why's it all so secretive??

Posted by: Patrick at February 16, 2009 4:11 PM

Well, I hate to throw religion into the mix but I guess I will to prove a point.

Parochial schools have their own set of learning rules, either follow them or out you go.

Parochial schools teachers have to follow an internal conscience that prohibits them from 'working to rule'. Everyday is a banner day, everyday is 'give all you got' day.

The conscience is the only mental contract parochial school teachers need to fulfill their obligation to teach. They answer to a higher power.

Thanks to the ACLU, those lazy ass 'raise my kids at school and make sure they don't get pregnant' parents and the all too self-serving unions, the end product(s) coming out of public schools is so lacking in basic HUMAN skills that no one, even on the outside, wants to deal with such expensively trained idiots.

Posted by: Roland at February 16, 2009 5:03 PM

It was embarrassing to read that front page article. If the music teacher indeed said he was under no contractual obligation to call the parent, he should be fired. The parent pays his salary and entrusts his child to the teacher's care. A professional would understand contact with parents whenever needed is a basic responsibility.

The contract is the problem. Rather than having it cover every aspect of a teacher's job (what other professional works under such a contract?), it should outline salary and benefits, and maybe a few working conditions like class size. Eliminate work-to-rule by eliminating the contract that allows teachers to work the bare minimum without consequence.

Posted by: mikeinRI at February 16, 2009 9:17 PM


"Eliminate work-to-rule by eliminating the contract that allows teachers to work the bare minimum without consequence."

How does the current contract system do that? Your proposal sounds like you'd want less in the contract than there is now. How does that prevent a teacher from working to the rule of the contract?

Also, work to rule is usually when teachers' contracts are expired and they are working without one. How does putting anything at all in a contract solve that?

Posted by: Patrick at February 17, 2009 7:52 AM

Patrick, they are not working without a contract, but continuing under the previous contract. Work-to-rule means you only perform the minimum that is required by the contract, and nothing more.

Current contracts leave very little to the discretion of school leaders. Contracts dictate how many hours teachers must reserve for parent conferences, how many evenings teachers are required to be at school for events like open houses, how many minutes teachers must work each day, how many minutes of prep time teachers get each day.

School leadership should be able to set and adjust job requirements without drawn out contract negotiations. Shouldn't a principal be able to say, "Teachers must be in contact with parents of every student in the classroom at least once a month, whether by phone, e-mail, or newsletter," without it being delineated in a contract. And for a particularly difficult child, shouldn't the principal be able to ask the teacher to be in touch with the parents weekly? How do you represent this in a contract?

I want to give school leaders the ability to lead their individual schools in ways they deem necessary.

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