September 11, 2007

These Are Professionals?

Justin Katz

In response to tonight's post from the minivan in the Tiverton High School parking lot, the usual suspects will declare that I'm writing to script. My sympathizers will respond as if what I say is just common knowledge. But I have to admit that I was a little surprised at the comportment of the audience at tonight's school committee meeting.

As the committee went through the initial components of the agenda, microphone feedback led the young man running the PA system to kill the audio and run to the media room. It isn't surprising that, in the intervening time, members of the audience asked for certain things to be repeated more loudly, but the tone with which the requests were made was, shall we say, not what one would expect from people who daily have their patience and understanding tested by children. That tone was also audible in the requests that the minutia of the regular opening business of the committee be explored in detail.

At one point, a gym teacher of some sort shouted out, regarding a leak that has just been fixed in the gymnasium: "I have twenty-five young ladies who want to know why they waited until two weeks into the school year to fix the leak, when the gymnasium was empty all summer, and they want the right answer!" I'm sure very few of those 25 young ladies inconvenienced by the leak share even a fraction of their teacher's indignation, but I'd be surprised if their disinterest saves them from some choice comments about the committee and administration.

Another woman asked whether a leak in some new construction is still covered under warranty. The superintendent answered that it is and would be addressed on a punchlist. As the conversation continued, one of the council members interjected to ask whether the school's administrators had been alerted to the problem. When the relevant administrator responded in the affirmative, the councilman told the woman that that was the appropriate channel, before the committee need be brought into it. Somewhat abashed, the woman returned to her seat, but not before turning around on her way to give the councilman a catty glare and to hiss, for the benefit of anybody within a fifteen-foot radius, "Twerp."

The committee then voted to enter into executive session in order to discuss the contract, and the crowd began to depart. Perhaps if some other interested Tiverton resident than myself was within that crowd, I am not the only one who left the room thinking, "These are professionals?"

Behaving like testy adolescents at a public meeting of those whom the townspeople (the parents of their students) have elected to run the schools does not suggest that the schools' employees have any respect for their authority. Directing open hostility toward those with whom they must negotiate suggests that they know how imbalanced the union's power is in this situation.

If what I witnessed tonight is any indication, concerned citizens have reason to fear that the dynamic created by unionization makes our school systems much less effective, making it more difficult for all of those involved to work together in mutual respect. The teachers were acting as if the committee members are their representatives and are attempting to drive them into poverty to perpetuate some mysterious corruption.

I hope that future participation will disprove my impression that these meetings could be, and often are, worse than the mild dose that I experienced tonight. If not, I'd suggest that anybody who is interested in encouraging professionalism in our schools ought to call for the end of teachers' unions.


I think it goes without saying, but I want to make absolutely explicit, one, that my habit at all events that I've described on Anchor Rising is to behave more as an observer than as a reporter (i.e., I don't mingle or roam the room in order to make sure that all "voices" are represented in my impressions) and, two, that I'm still relatively new to the local Tiverton public scene and may be missing part of the backstory. All that I can claim for these vignettes is that they are my honest impressions — no doubt colored to some degree by my ideology and expectations, neither of which I keep secret.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Are you kidding me? Talk about selective reporting Jus. By the way, you look nothing like your Jason Priestly picture. Once again, right wingers only see what they want.

Posted by: Pat Crowley at September 11, 2007 9:41 PM

Okay. I shouldn't have left out the part where the home ec. teacher brought a tray of warm cookies for the council members. And I'm sure that the speaker hissed "twerp" as lovingly as she was able. Perhaps I missed one of the council members' calling a teacher a "hussy" or somesuch, but I can't observe everything.

(And if I look so different in person, how do you know that you weren't observing some other guy with stealth blogging equipment and a faded Patriots coffee cup?)

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 11, 2007 10:01 PM

(N.B. --- There were no cookies... or maybe I'm lying out of bitterness that I didn't get one.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 11, 2007 10:03 PM

Childish and unprofessional. This is unfortunately in line with the behavior of some South Kingstown teachers at a couple of School Committee meetings I attended.

Are all teachers like this? Of course not. But it is apparently the way politically active teachers behave. And they are the ones with a lot of input to union (a.k.a., all teachers, as Michael reminds us) policy on education and the shape of contracts.

Posted by: SusanD at September 11, 2007 10:35 PM

A bit over the top, don't you think?

I suppose the only connection between a physical education teacher angry at a school committee about a roof leaking on his students and his or her memberhsip in a union is that he or she possibly feels more empowered to raise the issue in public. Do you think that it would be a good outcome if a teacher didn't complain about a leaking roof (no matter how undiplomatically you think they were in doing so?)

And why is a council member telling a member of the public with a legitimate question anything at a school committee meeting? Maybe, as you note in your addendum, there is a backstory here.

With everything else going on in Tiverton, it makes sense that folks would have a frustrated tone when complaining they could not hear the proceedings, by the way.

Posted by: Bob Walsh at September 11, 2007 10:52 PM

News tip for you Jus. School Committee meet until almost 11PM tonight and couldn't come up with a counter proposal for the Union. We are still here, they went home.

Posted by: Pat Crowley at September 11, 2007 10:58 PM


Your experience is not uncommon. I've had years of experience witnessing their kind. These "professionals" that are disrespectful and hostile activists at school committee meetings are less mature than the children they claim to teach. I'd say that if you showed a video of their performance to their students, the students would not be surprised. You see Justin, unless you have experienced these teachers at work in a classroom, you can't know how they abuse their students with their union and political rhetoric during class time.

Put simply, they are not professional and too often they are not even competent. The power of the unions to protect the bums from the unemployment line needs to change. Only the GA can do it. Make sure you save you comments so you can just repeat them every three or four years. Change isn't coming, now or in the future.

Finally, don't waste your time with PC, he's just the east coast version of Henry Waxman!

Posted by: Ben at September 11, 2007 11:01 PM


Of course there's no problem with a teacher's raising the issue of a leaky ceiling. What was striking is the combination of the fact that the leak has apparently already been fixed with the general tenor of the exchange: The teacher called it out, to my ear, in a contentious way. The committee asked her to step forward (you know, to the public podium) so that they could hear her better, a request that inspired snickering guffaws from the crowd. And I, as a parent, was uncomfortable with the way in which she invoked the students as absentee justification for her ire.

As for the "twerp" lady, I'm pretty sure that she wasn't just "a member of the public," but an employee of the school. She had, apparently, already initiated the proper steps to have the situation remedied (and such punch lists aren't exactly uncommon in new construction). But even if the councilman pushed the boundaries by informing her that the committee meeting wasn't the proper channel for addressing such issues (which I suspect she knew, having already taken the appropriate steps), professionals don't then turn away from the microphone and call the public representative a "twerp."

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 11, 2007 11:22 PM


Have you considered that your demands might be unreasonable, given the constraints that the school committee is facing?

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 11, 2007 11:24 PM


Of course they haven't considered the alternative, because that would require an open mind. Remember, it's ALL about them, not the taxpayers of Tiverton.

Sounds like Pat can dish it, but can't take it, hmmm? Also, I'm not sure that someone with Pat's, um, looks should be remarking about those of others.

I have a new phrase to refer to the co-called "professionals" by, based on another, more political phrase, "Professionals in Name Only" ... PINO's!

Posted by: Will at September 12, 2007 2:12 AM


Your observations of teachers at public meetings are right on. I was quite startled the first time I observed teachers behaving like spoiled brats in public. Now I expect no less from the ones who show up.
In their defense it is only a small percentage who act like this. But they are the ones who come to the meetings and they are the ones you remember at the end of the night. I always wonder to myself if they realize people are observing them and if they think they are really helping their cause.

Posted by: Frank at September 12, 2007 6:29 AM

>>In their defense it is only a small percentage who act like this. But they are the ones who come to the meetings and they are the ones you remember at the end of the night

They also tend to be the ones that drink the NEA Kool-Aid and are most inclined to be active in the union (e.g., local union officials, "shop steward" at a particular school, etc.).

Their chugging of the NEA Kool-Aid IS economically rational on their part, for they're the ones who most benefit from seniority and contractual protections that make it almost impossible to terminate poor performers.

("PINO's" - I like that!)

Posted by: Tom W at September 12, 2007 9:56 AM

I guess you all missed the meeting where the Vice Chair screamed at co-member Ms. Black because she touched his arm as he was screaming at a member of the public, with which he disagreed. Or the many meetings where the Chair refused to let anyone in the public comment on agenda items. I am not justifying disrespectful behavior, but there is always a back story.

Posted by: WillP at September 12, 2007 10:38 AM

To be fair to the teachers, Pat Crowley is a senior member of their organization and he's regularly PRAISED for being a jackass. They're just following his example.

Posted by: Greg at September 12, 2007 11:43 AM


I can't comment on events that I did not witness, and I haven't a basis to judge either the specifics of that which you describe or the causes and effects of attitude. I do have modest hopes, however, that the presence of a public eye will help people keep an eye on their behavior in the future.

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 13, 2007 6:19 AM
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