We want to make one thing very clear about the ongoing teacher contract impasse, which has now persisted over one month into the third consecutive school year since the last contract expired in August of 2015.
We’re all getting pretty sick of this, and nobody is coming out of this situation labeled as the “winner.”
Unfortunately, as last Friday’s teacher-led “sick out” at Pilgrim High School displayed, students are now beginning to be directly affected by the fallout from this never-ending dispute.
While those sympathizing with the teachers will immediately argue that the students have already been suffering as a result of irresponsibly large class sizes with high percentages of students requiring special educational programs, this course of action still could not have been any less beneficial to your cause – which to this point had been a unified cry of “we only want what is best for our students.”
This is the harsh reality for those who think that every classroom in Warwick Public School buildings contains 30 students, half of which have IEPs. Class sizes in Warwick are right in line with averages across the state.
There are some outliers, of course, which the Teachers’ Union continuously point to as an example of how class sizes are out of control. While it is certainly worth bringing up and addressing those few cases where class sizes are excessive, this is simply not an accurate representation of the entire district. The same goes for IEP percentage. Address the outliers, for sure, but stop exaggerating the situation as a whole when it is verifiably false.
Now on the flip side, for those who saw news of the sick out and immediately went to Facebook to demonize teachers and call them lazy. You sit on the opposite side of the same incorrect extreme. A vast majority of teachers in schools across Warwick showed up to do their jobs on Friday, and none of those teachers have a contract either. Did you give them credit for showing up, as they have for the entire length of this contract dispute?
Friday’s demonstration was not a union-led initiative – the union would have gleefully taken credit if it were – and it was not a widespread event. It was an isolated effort involving fewer than 100 teachers from one school who are understandably frustrated, especially since they work in an establishment that use renovations. Renovations, by the way, that the same demonized school administration is actively trying to address through a bond.
Here’s the major problem with this situation. It has been unresolved and messy for so long now that, at this point, both camps are firmly entrenched in their positions.
You either side with the teachers and hate everything the administration does, or you think the teachers are just whiny and greedy. The reasonable folk sitting in the middle of the issue, who recognize that both sides have legitimate concerns, are shouted down or find it entirely pointless to even speak up.
At this point, there is enough blame for this impasse to go around. The union won’t give an inch when it comes to grievances over violations to a contract that literally no longer exists, and thinks that 90 sick days is a reasonable provision of a contract. The school committee refuses to take responsibility for overspending on administrative positions, legal fees and public relations costs instead of working with their teachers a long time ago in good faith.
The point is this. Teachers have a right to be angry, and they have a right to want a contract. But they don’t have a right to play hookie. That goes counter to everything your coworkers and union reps are trying to accomplish. Get back to the table and finish this, for everybody’s sake.