Chariho School Parents’ Forum

September 2, 2009

Shhhh! Nobody is watching so maybe they won’t notice

Filed under: Chariho,contract negotiations,transparency — Editor @ 8:33 pm

I should say, “Shhh! We won’t let anybody watch so maybe they won’t notice.” What I’m referencing is the Chariho teachers contract. It expired Aug 31 but I don’t recall seeing anything in the paper during the entire process. One would assume that since it’s overdue, maybe the school committee is pushing the envelope and the union isn’t buying. But we can only guess…

Having spent time on both governing bodies, I can tell you that the process of deciding how far to push the envelope is a matter of power.

In the town council our choice was to use the town manager and council person to negotiate the contract and find a reasonable middle ground, which has not impact on the budget, or spend money for legal help.  And in the case of police and fire, they have binding arbitration so at best you will be ordered a middle ground resolution (although more and more legalminds are suggesting that binding arbitration is unconstitutional). So the POWER goes to the union because they have plenty of lawyers on staff and love long expensive battles.

But at the school we had the fear of strike – POWER of intimidation. Andy Polouski carried the union’s water during the negotiations I was involved in and told the committee that (paraphrased), ‘if we push they will strike, then the food service strikes and the parents will complain because they won’t know what to do with their kids when they can’t go to school.’

In the town example, the union had the power of money, and in the school example the union had the power of intimidation (manifest in parent complaints). Both of these could be remedied with transparency.

I tried to make the case to the HTC that if we were transparent with the process we might find the people would support and want us to fight harder. Tom et. al., did well getting rid of longevity, but I still think more could have been done especially with the pensions – an issue that was mostly resolved until Bill DeLibero made a last day change.   To a woman, or man, most on the HTC agree that we treat the public sector employees better than private sector employees, but we can only change it in small steps – otherwise it would require legal help ($$$). My thought was that if we were willing to let the voters decide if we want to spend $2m to purchase open space (the bond) then we could ask the same people if they want to spend half a mil to fight the contract (and binding arbitration).

In the case of the school, transparency would let the public give input to the school committee members if they did or did not want them to push the envelope – and if they would be willing to stand behind the school if the teachers went on strike. Transparency also lets the people know the truth – that teachers, police, etc., are willing to strike to hold onto their double digit raises and gold plated pension while you, the ones paying the bill, must settle for much less. At least make them own it publicly.

But for now, we are on the outside looking in (through a blacked out window).  If anyone has heard anything in the news that I may have missed please let us know.



  1. The certified contract drives the admin and staff pay rates. It is simply too huge of a financial obligation for our towns to be negotiated in secret, something like 65% of our total property tax bill. At minimum, all the town councilors should be regularly briefed and their opinions appropriately considered.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — September 4, 2009 @ 7:37 am | Reply

  2. Gene,
    In Richmond it has been 82% or thereabouts. Hopkinton in the 70% range and Charlestown high 60% range. Do you know current diffferences between general government and education?

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — September 4, 2009 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

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