Monthly Archives: February, 2011

Bob Walsh Responds to Mayor Taveras on Teacher Terminations

Mayor Taveras asked on Facebook for people to respond to his decision to send out the termination notices to Providence teachers, and NEA Executive Director Bob Walsh replied:

Since you asked: I think the terminating rather than laying off teachers is not only a violation of the law, it is a violation of the trust that so many have put into you. Please fix this awful mistake.

One consequence of this misguided action is that every experienced Providence teacher in shortage areas becomes easier for the districts outside of Providence to recruit (see how many left Central Falls High School for other districts after last year.) Another is the chilling effect this will have on efforts for collaborative relationships in the future. A third is the cost of 1926 legal appeals!

I know you well enough to know that you don’t want to be compared to the Governor of Wisconsin. Please respect the contract, respect the law and most importantly, respect the teachers.

While I come down on the side of teachers taking some concessions to help with the budget crisis, I do not agree with the decision to send out termination letters. It really bothers me, and I am not even a teacher.

A Stupid Question

Slow news day for CBS, I guess. They have a flaming headline about the Obama administration’s plan to have Medicare cover the cost of testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

‘U.S. may pay for sex disease tests for elderly: Should taxpayers pony up?’

(CBS) If granny gets gonorrhea or gramps gets sick with syphilis, who should foot the bill to test them?

Taxpayers should pay. At least that’s what federal health authorities seem to think.

Read the rest of the story here.
It’s nearly content-free.

I guess this question needs to be answered, so here’s my expert opinion. Duh.

You want someone who suspects they have an infectuous disease not to get tested? That’s going to save money? Like when they show up in the ER with a raging pelvic inflammation or neurosyphillis? After exposing gods know how many other people?

I’m just surprised that these tests weren’t always covered. Most STD’s are easy to diagnose and treat. Counseling for prevention is part of the standard of care.

Well, I guess it’s a slow day at CBS. Or else they are trolling the news for something scandalous to attach to health care reform. Is Obama leading the nation’s elders into temptation? Will everyone just behave if they fear they’ll go blind and insane before the Alzheimers and macular degeration (covered by Medicare) gets them? Should we stop testing and treating younger people so they will be moral too?

Reuters covers the same story, minus the smirks, here.

Cops Join the Protest in Wisconsin

Do Providence Teachers Have to Apply to Be Rehired or Not?

It’s understandable that teachers are feeling anxious and afraid in Providence. But let Mayor Taveras reassure you — he is not out to bust the unions, so that solves that question. Whew, glad the Mayor is still the moral, union-supporting person that I thought he was. Still, a lot of other unanswered questions linger about the changes that teachers in Providence face due to the termination notices they received.

The biggest unanswered question in my mind is whether every teacher will need to go through the hiring process in order to have a job. Along with this being a tremendous insult to people who have poured their lives into their jobs, it will also be extremely expensive to carry out all of those interviews. Note to Mayor’s office — Think: interviews = expensive, like money that could be spent to keep teachers. But perhaps we don’t have to worry about that, as according to a Business Week article published today, teachers will not have to reapply and be rehired. From the article:

There are echoes in this week’s move of last year’s decision in nearby Central Falls, where every teacher at the high school was fired. Those firings, however, were the result of the school’s poor performance, not because of money. And unlike Central Falls, where a compromise was struck and all the teachers were rehired, teachers in Providence won’t have to reapply to keep their jobs. [bold mine]

And yet, in today’s Projo,

But David V. Abbott, the state’s deputy education commissioner, said the difference between layoffs and dismissals is this: When a teacher is laid off under state statute, he or she is put on a recall list. Although that teacher is no longer working and no longer paid, that person exists in an employment “limbo.” The teacher hasn’t been actually dismissed.

If a job becomes available for which that teacher is qualified, that person must be rehired based on seniority.

“If you are laid off, you have the right of recall,” Abbott said Friday. “You still have one stick in your bundle. If I’m dismissed, I’m out of work and I need to be rehired.”

In effect, every teacher who is terminated has to re-apply for his or her job as would any new teacher entering the system.

So which is it? You’ll forgive me if I’m still a little confused, and feeling some angst for the teachers in Providence. Yet, perhaps it’s not worth worrying about because it’s just a power play in a political game that is going to take months to play out. As the Business Week article put it, “The decision to send the notices was seen by some as another signal to public sector workers that government officials are ready to play rough to win changes to labor contracts.”

Providence Teacher Termination Letters

This January I froze my feet in Kennedy Plaza as Mayor Taveras was sworn in. Much of his Inaugural speech was devoted to promises to promote public education. From, which published a complete transcript…

Let me be clear: the time for Providence to take control of its
financial future is now.
At the same time, we struggle with the development of our most
precious resource: our children. Many of our public schools are
under-performing. In this era, when even the most basic jobs require
advanced skills, far too many of our children aren’t even graduating
from high school.
More than half of our students are not proficient in reading and more
than three quarters of our students are not proficient in math. It is
unacceptable – and unconscionable – that we provide anything less
than the absolute best: a college ready education for every single child
in this city, regardless of family income, regardless of skin color,
regardless of zip-code.
Let me be clear again: the time for Providence schools to become the
envy of American urban education is now.
In the face of all these challenges, and in the midst of this storm, I
am confident. Confident that together, we will overcome these
challenges, weather this storm and strengthen our city and our state.

Getting through this storm and solving the problems we confront
will not be easy. But have no doubt, this storm shall pass, we will
succeed and we will move our City and our State forward.
To weather this storm we must recognize that our fiscal situation is
unsustainable. We must, once and for all, eliminate the structural
deficit that year after year burdens our budget. Like any family or
business in America, we simply cannot spend what we do not have
and politicians cannot promise what taxpayers cannot afford for us to
We must be forthright and transparent in addressing our city’s
financial condition.
• I will ask all of us for shared sacrifice to solve our
financial problems. And it will start right here, in this building
with the executive branch.
• We have already begun to consolidate departments and
we will seek more opportunities to eliminate redundancies, save
on costs and improve services. Every department will be
charged with finding savings in their budget and making
government leaner, more nimble and more efficient. We will
lead by example.
• We will urge our institutions of higher learning and health
care – who bring a vibrancy to our city that cannot be
overstated – to continue to invest in their own future by
investing in our City and helping us weather this storm.
• We will invite the backbone of our city, our city workers
– who day after day serve this city in ways too numerous to
count – to partner with us in addressing our long term financial
• We will invite our neighboring cities and towns to work
together to jointly lower our costs by regionalizing services
where we can.
• And we will invite all of you to get involved in our City
by volunteering in our schools and community centers, by
supporting our community development corporations, and by
serving on boards and commissions.
If we commit ourselves to this notion of shared sacrifice, we can
weather this storm and put our city on solid financial footing.

Today all of the Providence public school teachers recieved layoff notices. The Taveras administration is claiming this is a legality to allow maximum flexibility in hiring. It’s hard to imagine anything more discouraging to the many good teachers in the system, who find their jobs in question in a mass action.

What will we be looking at in September?

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Friend Wilma has a link to Meredith who got this on an email– a funny comparison of wages– teachers vs babysitters. If you think teachers are the better deal you guessed right.

Kmareka Predictions 3 for 3

Well, my far more prescient and wise co-blogger Nancy was responsible for the first two correct predictions, and I can make claim to the third — predicting that Central Falls would be laying off some teachers in the New Year. I’m not sure I should be given any fortune-teller points for this, though. Some things are fairly easy to call.

As for Nancy’s prediction that the Dow would surpass 12,000, that one indeed came true, with a near 500 point cherry on top. But now it looks like now we’re seeing a pullback. Note that Nancy didn’t make any calls on whether the Dow would drop back down below 12,000 after hitting this mark. So, buyer beware as to what comes next after the initial Kmareka predictions. Mayor Taveras in Providence is talking about closing some schools. Wonder if Central Falls will also be thinking in that direction, given that their city is in receivership. I hope all these empty school buildings will be put to good public use, though I doubt there will be a quick turnaround. And if they’re building new schools, they better make sure they aren’t building on former superfund waste dumps. I wonder how the Race to the Top money for charter schools will play into this equation.

A Pint With Dave

I like to visit Dave’s Corner Tavern once in a while, especially today when Dave Von Ebbers gives credit to one of the great, underestimated music groups of the 80′s, The Bus Boys.

Chocolate Kiss

Theresa Brown, RN captures the feeling of a busy hospital unit and the temptations that lurk in the break room…

A Hershey’s kiss can be exactly what I need to make the day feel better, especially since lunchtime has long passed and I haven’t had time to eat.

The truth is, though, I try to eat sparingly because I learned early in the job that stress eating is an occupational hazard. Having our conference room filled with doughnuts and caramel corn makes it all too easy to, as we say, “eat my feelings,” rather than just feeling them.

She thanks the patients and families who show their appreciation with home-made cookies or a box of candy. With all the stress patients and families go through it is really amazing how often they take time to give a word of thanks and encouragement to the staff.

The last time I worked inpatient, in a nursing home, I kind of dreaded the holidays. With the kindest of intentions families would send boxes of chocolate that I seldom managed to resist for the full eight hours. Especially when it was so often impossible to find time for a meal break.

Reading between the lines, Ms. Brown describes a work pace that is taxing, constant, and stressful, without time to rest, eat or drink some water. Heck, there’s hardly time to go to the bathroom. I used to kind of envy the smokers, because they managed to take their ten minutes off the unit.

Skipping break was not a badge of honor. You tried to be efficient enough to have time to eat. You didn’t advertise that shift after shift you used that thirty minutes just to keep up.

In the normal course of things, there will be times when a lot of people are sick all at once and everyone is flat out busy. When every day is like that there’s something wrong. Nurses work, and not only RN’s but LPN’s and CNA’s, is overloaded, with staff spread thin.

You really see the best of people when you work in nursing. The courage of patients and families stays with me. Even sitting here with nothing worse than a bad cold I think of the people I meet who feel sick every day, and how seldom they complain.

One of the commenters to Ms.Brown’s article suggests that families might want to send a card or a note to the unit and the boss, and I second that. While all acts of kindness are appreciated, these notes are read and have an impact. When some consultant comes along and decides to make the staff ‘leaner and meaner’ they will go over every aspect of the job looking for ‘fat to trim’. Those cards and letters mean a great deal then.

Community Garden Opportunity in Cranston

From Democratic City Council Member Steve Stycos:

I am working with Mayor Fung to start a community garden in the park at the end of Narragansett Street and Bay View Avenues. Those participating would receive a small area of land, perhaps 10 by 20 feet, to grown vegetables or flowers. To gauge community interest, I am holding a community meeting for those interested in participating, Thursday March 3 at 7 PM at the Open Table of Christ Church at the corner of Broad Street and Montgomery Avenue. The church, also known as the Washington Park Methodist Church, is on the Cranston/Providence line, but the garden is only for Cranston residents.

Next week, a flyer announcing the meeting will be going home with kids from Edgewood Highland Elementary School. I would also like to hand it out door to door along Narragansett Street and Bay View Avenue, and surrounding streets. Would you be able to help me distribute leaflets this weekend?

I will have leaflets and maps available Saturday morning. You can hand out the leaflets whenever is convenient over the weekend. Please let me know if you can help. Hopefully, you may also want to participate in the garden.


Celebrity Debris

After running around to three libraries in the freezing cold all last week your Kmareka correspondent has been struck down with a sinus infection.

I’m stuck in bed, reading a lot of Agatha Christie– mistress of distraction, storyteller extraordinaire. Her mysteries don’t actually make any sense, but who cares? I’m not up to anything that requires mental effort.

This week’s New Yorker has a short profile on Crystal Harris, the 24 year old almost college graduate who is engaged to the 84 year old Hugh Hefner. She gave up everything to be with him…

“I was a psychology major, and I didn’t want to be a psychologist,” she said. “I thought it would be cool to come up here and just, you know, hang with Hef. School will always be there, I guess.” Read more

Agatha Christie could have made this stuff up, and she’s a genre writer.

I wish Crystal Harris every happiness, and I want to give her some words of encouragement. Men are living longer these days.

I only see the old people who are sick, so you can extrapolate that there are more well people I never meet. It’s not so unusual to encounter a dude over 90 who still has his marbles.

Any man or woman who makes it past 80 in decent shape has a strong constitution and a good shot at making it to 100. The oldest man I ever took care of was 105, and feisty enough to demand that the items on his bureau be rearranged every ten minutes. How lucky that Hef is loved by a woman with the youth and energy to take care of such needs. And how lucky that his wealth can provide for the many necessities that consume the savings of a lifetime. Hef will even be able to try expensive and experimental cutting edge treatments for longevity. Dick Cheney, I have heard, is bionic. With any luck, it will all come out even and Crystal will not begin her middle age in debt.

If she survives her husband, Crystal will still be young enough to finish school. She’ll have learned so much about psychology by then.

I wish them a long and happy union.

Any more celebrity debris I can find to take my mind off phlegm and congestion will go into updates here.

IN RELATED NEWS: Sr. Cecilia Adorni celebrated her 103rd birthday by dancing a polka. She’s still working. They have her picture and she doesn’t look a day over 90.


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