There may be light at the end of the tunnel yet.
A new mediation session, the first in months between the Warwick School Committee and the Warwick Teachers’ Union – mediated by Mayor Scott Avedisian on an “as-wanted” basis and selected mediator Vincent Ragosta – has been scheduled for Wednesday at City Hall.
While there are no illusions that next week’s mediation session will end with both parties smiling, holding hands and inviting the media for a photo opportunity with a neatly-signed stack of documents labeled “perfect new contract,” at the very least it is a step in the right direction.
It is also, in light of recent events, a step in another direction – the direction of simple, human decency.
Decency is not found in wasting two days of school to make a statement that has been, at this point, firmly driven into the ground. It is readily apparent that many are unhappy being without a contract, and with how they feel they are treated by the school administration, but inconveniencing families and preventing kids from going to school – on top of costing the district money to provide busing for another day of school in June – is so ironically backwards that it should make any teacher feigning an illness feel deeply ashamed.
Decency was not found in the utterly pointless exercise in name calling that was a press release sent out by the union on Tuesday, expressing “no confidence” in the superintendent or school committee chairwoman.
Decency is not found on Facebook (surprise, surprise) when people with no real knowledge of the complexities of the contract situation berate and spread hate against the teachers – most of whom haven’t participated in a sick out, or in the multiple pickets, and just want to do their jobs and stay out of this mess.
And decency certainly has not been found at this month’s or last month’s school committee meetings, where the union has stacked the audience with what appear to be adults, but have actually turned out to be nothing more than bullies – a boisterous, raring-to-go mob of yes-men, yes-women and intimidators.
One doesn’t need to be invested in either side of the negotiations to find a serious problem in how some – not all, of course – have conducted themselves at these past two meetings. Jeering administrators without letting them even speak, shouting “liar” and personal insults at fellow human beings and bursting into obnoxious applause whenever someone says anything closely related to “Teachers good. Administration bad.”
At the core of this issue, at the core of what is making adults act like petulant children, is education. If the sick outs do not prove that some members of the union actually have no regard for education or children, then their behavior at these meetings certainly proves it. Anybody who is a parent, or teaches children, would be disgusted if an adult acted that way while out at any type of public presentation. They would, hopefully, tell their children, “Never act like that person. Even if they have a good point, they’re going about it incorrectly.”
What purpose do actions like these serve but to further divide the gaping chasm between the two sides? Mayor Avedisian couldn’t have said it any better than during his press conference on Wednesday, saying “I’m just worried that we’re going to get boxed into polarized positions that we can’t move forward on.”
Unfortunately, a vocal portion of the union, and many other non-union residents save their hateful, anti-teacher drivel for Facebook, is already at that point. The only hope remaining is that the decision-makers, on both sides, have retained enough decency to forge a new agreement amidst the rubble that continues to accumulate.