January 14, 2009

The Sound of the Beginning of the End

Justin Katz

The following are some audio clips from the East Providence School Committee meeting. Keep in mind, while listening, that the sound isn't entirely representative. For one thing, I was sitting near the taxpayer group, so they might be overrepresented in the general sound level (although still greatly outnumbered).

  • School Committee Chairman Anthony Carcieri makes his appearance to booing: stream, download
  • The union sets the tone right from Mr. Carcieri's very first words (and, yes, that's me shouting "grow up" — keep in mind that I'd already been subjected to a half-hour of union slogan chanting and screams): stream, download
  • The teachers cheer that some of them have actually done (gasp!) extracurricular work: stream, download
  • The teachers cheer that they can blame poor performance on "facilities" (nevermind that keeping up with teacher contracts has been bleeding other segments of school budgets for years): stream, download
  • A moment of heckling, including the call of "Scared?": stream, download
  • Just a snippet of the tone that continued, with a gradual escalation, throughout the meeting: stream, download
  • The teachers find the phrase "anti-bullying" humorous: stream, download
  • The teachers find the quip "outdoor voice" humorous: stream, download
  • Anthony Carcieri attempts to lay down the ground rules for public comment, and local union leader Valerie Lawson speechifies: stream, download
  • East Providence teacher Mary Texeira offers a reasonable statement — although she probably goes off the union message a bit when she states that she wouldn't mind a five-year pay freeze if the school committee would lay out the reasons that it's necessary: stream, download
  • Taxpayer Tom Riley takes the mike and faces down the hecklers — inspiring the single most silent moment of the night when he suggests that younger teachers will lose their jobs if the union doesn't let the district spread the costs across their pay packages — but the devolution of the meeting leads the school committee (almost inaudibly) to adjourn: stream, download
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I don't have any more to say other than this audio sounds more mob pressing a cop to beat a suspect into submission.

This audio should remind those teachers just how childish they are sounding.

Posted by: Roland at January 14, 2009 1:50 AM

The teachers were heckling and trying to shout down those who they disagree with, even though they have no facts that they can point to which would actually help to solve the budget deficit crisis (which is actually likely to be even worse than what is currently in the public sphere). The city is broke. There is no rainy day fund. Bankruptcy is on the table, and frankly, it should be. Any money not currently accounted for in the current budget is coming directly from spending cuts or property tax increases.

As for the teachers and their backers, they acted like wild zoo animals (which is even more apparent in video than on the audio). It only reflects badly on them, and doesn't set a good example for the children (which is what their focus is supposed to be). I applaud the school committee and especially the chairman for their considerable patience in dealing with a very hostile and potentially dangerous atmosphere.

If they want to be treated like "professionals," perhaps they should consider acting like them. They were shameful and disgraceful.

PS Whenever I encounter a situation like this, when facing what appear to be overwhelming odds, I tend to get philosophical. Just remember, good always triumphs over evil ... eventually. It sometime takes a while.

Posted by: Will at January 14, 2009 2:48 AM

If their students behaved like the teachers did, would that be allowed in the classroom? Why couldn't they discuss the problem like adults? This behavior is why teacher unions are not viewed with respect and why unions (especially public employee unions) are viewed as being the reason why the state is bankrupt. I belong to a union where, in order to keep our jobs, we have had pay freezes for 3 years, pension freezes for 7 years, increases in health care payments, and no new full time hires for more than 10 years. These have been necessary in order to keep the company profitable. It sucks, but in tough times, sacrifices must be made and I am tired of sacrificing my family for greedy unions.

Posted by: Chris at January 14, 2009 7:50 AM

"I am tired of sacrificing my family for greedy unions"

Chris - we need a 1,000 more people like you!

Posted by: George Elbow at January 14, 2009 8:00 AM

The people really to blame last night weren't so much the loonies yelling and screaming, but Lawson, Crowley and the other union "leadership" who called for teachers from all over RI to show up. It sounds like from people who know EP teachers, that many of the rabble-rousers weren't teachers in East Providence. So these people felt they had nothing to lose, it wasn't *their* employer up on stage, so they could cut loose. Hopefully this was a lesson to the EP teachers and to other towns in the future that if you bring in people with nothing to lose, they're going to make you look like an idiot. I have a feeling that if it was *only* EP teachers in attendance, it might have still been noisy at times, but I doubt it would have been quite so raucous.

Posted by: pitcher at January 14, 2009 8:02 AM


Consider that this was part of the plan by the NEA "leadership" - perhaps part of their regular playbook.

Knowing that EP teachers might be reluctant to face down their "neighbors" - particularly when trying to defend the indefensible - they trucked in proxies from other districts who didn't care and would be happy to try to intimidate the members of the school committee (hoping for a ripple effect intimidation of the school committee in their own town).

In turn, if this was to occur in, say West Greenwich, perhaps last night the EP teachers would have been there behaving just as badly ... "just following orders" from their union leadership.

Posted by: Tom W at January 14, 2009 9:32 AM

Tom, I agree completely, but I gotta think it completely backfired as the SC didn't blink, didn't fire back, and let them look like idiots. To the common person watching that display on the nightly news, that is the EP teachers. Goodbye sympathy.

I think if there's another one, someone needs to be there with tv cameras and put it on Cox public access tv so everyone can enjoy the spectacle.

Posted by: pitcher at January 14, 2009 9:40 AM

I totally agree. I think last nights debacle was completely disgusting. I'm sure everyone watching their televisions this morning lost any and all "sympathy" they may have felt towards the teachers.

The bottom line is that there is a deficit, a rather large one. There is no more money. RI's UNEMPLOYMENT figure is at the highest in the country. I think if I were facing a possible loss of my entire job and everything associated with it, that I would want to sit rationally and discuss my options. Instead, they choose to bring in people that aren't even affected by this to threaten and disrupt a needed meeting.

The EP teachers should have the balls to step up and meet professionally and tell the UNION to go F themselves before they all get fired, which I've said all along should happen anyway.

The teachers in RI have had it too good for too long and they need to be made an example of. I support the school committee and commend them for not being intimidated. I am self employed and can't even get healthcare for my family. I work 7 days a week, weekends, holidays, summers, nights, whatever it takes to get the job done. I don't need a contract or a union to tell me what needs to be done. These people sicken me. There are 53,000 Rhode Islanders out of work who would gladly take any of the last 3 contracts, a cut in pay and partial co-pays of healthcare just to have a job and those benefits. They are PIGS and they deserve to be fired! Start over.

Posted by: Bill at January 14, 2009 10:11 AM

"I think if there's another one, someone needs to be there with tv cameras and put it on Cox public access tv so everyone can enjoy the spectacle."

Our meetings are routinely filmed. I will be on Cox TV, but I think only in East Providence. I'll see if we can obtain the tape.

Posted by: Will at January 14, 2009 12:13 PM

Yeah Will, if we can get that on statewide PATV, that'd be great for people in every town to see, plus maybe some other towns' teachers would be seen on there for their students to ask why they were acting like that.

Posted by: pitcher at January 14, 2009 12:40 PM

"To the common person watching that display on the nightly news, that is the EP teachers."

It was genuinely funny to hear the president of the EPEA say, "We're happy with the message that we sent the School Committee".

Posted by: Monique at January 14, 2009 11:24 PM
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