Portsmouth teachers rebut School Committee letter; let's support them tonight

The head of the Portsmouth teachers union, Joseph Cassady, released a letter to Portsmouth Patch this morning in response to the School Committee's e-mail to all parents on the status of contract negotiations. Tonight at 7pm at PHS, parents will have a chance to be heard, and I would encourage everyone to show up and support our schools.

Among the key points Cassady makes:

Seniority: "A most misunderstood concept," says Cassady. "The process is there to protect the individual from personal agendas and grudges that may have nothing to do with teaching."

Funding: "How disingenuous is it to complain about lack of funds when it was a conscious choice to underfund the schools."

Benefits: "[T]eachers agreed to increase our co-share and were actively seeking alternative plans. The teachers even agreed in principal to an HSA plan that was suggested by the School Committee only to have it withdrawn when we suggested we share the financial benefits of said plan. In addition, after that plan was rejected, we proposed a three year plan where we agreed to move to 20%, but that has not been announced."

The Cost Difference: "We [...] agreed to take no increases for the fourth in five years. It is interesting that a group that has been so maligned in public is given no credit for taking next to nothing for half a decade."

Cassady's conclusion bears repeating at length:

"PCC-like behavior (or Tea Party) has shredded this community. They have so valued tax decreases that they have devalued everything else. Our schools are the backbone of our community. To suggest that anything else takes precedence is to forget how much we depend on our next generation. They are the future. We will depend on them and in return we have an obligation to them. Teachers are one of our most valuable assets and Portsmouth has the best. No one is honestly arguing that they are not. Instead they shroud their points in vague comments of how bad Rhode Island is or, worse yet, how unprepared our kids are. None of this stands up to scrutiny, but fear-mongering is not meant to be provable—only terrifying. Enough of the fear, time for us to stand up and take back our schools."

You can read the rest of Cassady's note on Patch, and you'll want to click through to the PDF on contract negotiations.

Hope to see you at Portsmouth High School tonight.

Full disclosure: I am married to a member of the Massachusetts NEA. But my record of opposing the PCC-crowd's cuts to education goes WAAAAY back.