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Travis Rowley: Deborah Gist Deserves A Pay Raise (Chapter 1)

Saturday, June 01, 2013


The resume for Education Commissioner Deborah Gist was enhanced this week when a union-commissioned poll claimed that 85% of Rhode Island teachers “believe Gist’s contract should not be renewed.”

Only in the sophomoric world of organized labor is it notable whenever employees are found to – get this – dislike their boss.

But back here in reality, there would only be cause for concern if teachers overwhelmingly approved of the individual charged with making sure they do their jobs.

For political purposes, we often hear critics of organized labor speaking oh-so-delicately to the rank-and-file – the actual union voting bloc. It’s not you. It’s the union leadership that we have a problem with.

But the fact of the matter is that union members are hardly the harmless representatives of the “working class” that they portend to be. Many of them are hard-core professional activists – community organizers of the most radical variety.

Last year, after the North Kingstown school committee decided to save taxpayers money by privatizing the town’s custodial services, local teachers locked arms with an outright Marxist organization called Justice for Janitors – an SEIU outfit that was once caught designing a scheme that would “disrupt and create uncertainty,” “bring down the stock market,” “put banks at the edge of insolvency again,” and “literally cause a new financial crisis” – all in the name of “redistribut[ing] wealth and power.”

It’s an undeniable political reality: These are the types of people associated with government unions.

Even the most tame public school teacher can often be found embracing the religion of solidarity. Several years ago (during yet another labor dispute) a caller to the Dan Yorke Show (630 WPRO) expressed just how much she vehemently disagreed with the arguments being posited by her own teachers union. It was actually pretty refreshing. Until this: “But at the end of the day, I will always stand by my union.” (paraphrase)

It should come as no surprise that, in large measure, union members are unionists – labor religionists who view themselves as morally superior victims of “corporate America” and the “private sector” (you know, other people’s freedom). After all, there simply is no communication strategy that can compete with the access that union bosses have to their members.

Union Thuggery

Several years ago Central Falls School Superintendent Frances Gallo attempted to implement a “transformation model” for the City’s failing high school (CFHS), which required extra effort on behalf of the faculty. The teachers responded with the full force of union agitation. Protests, rallies, “vigils” – and the manipulation of student “activists” – typified the controversy. For months the union activists could be seen shouting, “We Are Central Falls!” (whatever that means).

After President Obama expressed support for Gallo’s reforms, one teacher displayed an effigy hanging in his classroom of the first black president of the United States. Among other hostilities, Gallo received a letter stating, “I wish cancer on your children and their children, and that you live long enough to see them die.”

With Gallo refusing to resign, the teachers union went public with their thuggery, passing votes of “no confidence” regarding her leadership, and bothering Rhode Islanders with reports of petty workplace disputes.

After internal documents were leaked to his office, the labor-friendly Senator from Smithfield, John Tassoni (D), hastily fabricated a media storm, informing the public that Gallo had wasted taxpayer dollars by purchasing a time clock for $100,000.

When chair of the Board of Trustees Anna Cano Morales tried to tell Tassoni that he was “misinformed” regarding the cost and details of the purchase, Tassoni stubbornly maintained, “I’m not misinformed. I mean the documents speak for themselves. I didn’t make these documents up.”

The story persisted throughout the Ocean State media for some time, until the Providence Journal determined that “it clearly was not just a time clock. And it didn’t cost $100,000. The total was just over half that.” The Projo’s Politifact editors concluded, “Tassoni could have asked school officials about the documents he was shown. Instead, the senator – who publishes a union newspaper and is a former union administrator – simply added up the totals on the three documents to push his case against the school leadership.” When Tassoni learned that his claims were being investigated, he finally cowered and admitted to Politifact, “I could be all wet.”

After Gallo pulled ahead of the unions in terms of public support and sympathy, Central Falls teachers then attempted to undermine the transformation model with “a high rate of teacher absences that…persisted all year…On any given day, an average of 14 teachers…[were] absent.” ABC News reported that CFHS had an “87% teacher absentee rate.” This meant that “on average teachers miss 23 days of school a year. Which is a lot,” commented one ABC reporter.

While it was clear that the union was employing a “work to rule” measure – an illegal and bad faith tactic of organized labor – union president Jane Sessums claimed that the teachers had suddenly found “themselves in a high-stress work environment,” and that explained “why teachers might be taking the number of sick days that they are.”

Just more union dramatics. We have children teaching our children.

But, apparently, the unions think you should be impressed by the fact that these people disapprove of Deborah Gist.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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what a clown you are...to ask for a raise for Gist or anyone when Providence is in the red by over 5 million dollars and now we have a mulktitude of indictments for URI's David Dooley and the issue of paying the bonds of 38 Studios..Gist is polarizing and caused havoc., She does not deserve a raise....she doesn't even deserve a contract...She pits teacher against teacher with stupid competitive awards and is an arrogant autocrat..She is not a team player..never was...

Comment #1 by dis gusted on 2013 05 04

Sounds like someone's a RI teacher...haha!

That's the union game: Call her a "bully" and a "fascist" and an "autocrat."

Nice job, Travis.

Comment #2 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2013 05 04

Once again, Travis, you've hit the nail on the head. Still, I'd like to know where the ridiculously highly paid union leadership has hidden its own pension investments. If the sleepy teachers knew what those folks were up to, and that their leaders' retirements are safely tucked away unlike their own, they might stir from their coma. How about some good sleuthing by investigative reporters on that one! Nesi, White, WHERE ARE YOU???? Gist has dared to try and make the lousy teachers work for a living; the good teachers have no problem with her, keep their heads down, and wish they weren't required to join a union. Good job, Travis. Keep banging the drum.....

Comment #3 by Harriet Lloyd on 2013 05 04

It is not a union game. You just throw words around without understanding what they really mean--they do describe Ms Gist's actions. Just look at her behavior over the past 4 years. She created her own persona by her actions..and a volatile mess at that...
When the commish doesn't meet with those who are asking to meet with her and you are not willing to be flexible and change RacettTop to help out your teachers to be able to meet those expectations but instead won't budge because you are afraid of losing the $75 million, then you are what your actions say you are. When you refuse to bend, refuse to compromise on evals, NECAP, standards, etc etc, fire teachers allowing Duncan and Obama to say the CF teachers deserved it--when they did not because Obummer was clueless as to what the real circumstances were as well as his Chicago thug croney, Arne Duncecap, and create a testing environment that is toxic to students, then you are a bully, autocrat and unflexible corporate type who shows inflexible leadership, then it 's time for non renewal of contract...
Words are meaningless....actions tell it all

Comment #4 by dis gusted on 2013 05 04

Why doesn't dis gusted sign his/her name? Typical union behavior, throwing eggs and hiding behind the veil!

Comment #5 by Harriet Lloyd on 2013 05 04

what difference does it make? You should be validating and commenting onmy words and not my name...
IS that your tactic? You attack a person personally with their name instead of what their opinions are on the issues? What a shame if that is your technique...attack someone personally rather than debate the words of one's opinions...maybe that's because you can't debate the words ...you change the focus....so unprofessional..
stick to what the issue is rather than attack personally...It's not becoming a commentator...

Comment #6 by dis gusted on 2013 05 04

LOL!!!!Love it!

Comment #7 by Harriet Lloyd on 2013 05 04

When we the people elect representatives to REPRESENT US and they hire people to do a job like run education then those hired are there to do the job for the people of the state not the interests of private interests. Deborah Gist has created a system that is being handed over to private for profit interests. That is not right for the people of RI, the teachers,and the students. There has to be be a counter weight to her and those like her. I only wish that the Unions would be stronger and call for actions against this assualt on the rights of children and their teachers. The unions have been way too complicit.

Comment #8 by Eloise O'Shea-Wyatt on 2013 05 04

Yea, "dis gusted", we get it...You disagree with some of Gist's reforms. Doesn't make her an "autocrat." Others have the exact opposite impression, that she is extremely open and cooperative.

And it is a union game to call people "bullies" and "fascists" when they don't agree with the policies. You guys said the same thing about Carcieri, Gallo, Laffey...on and on and on.

Comment #9 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2013 05 04

The irony is too much to bear: Unions calling other people "bullies" and "autocrats."

L.O.L. all day long.

Comment #10 by Gip H. on 2013 05 04

RI: Highest paid teachers and rock-bottom academic performance. Shame on Gist for trying to turn things around and ask employees to meet standards! Outrageous!

Comment #11 by Harriet Lloyd on 2013 05 04

"I only wish that the Unions would be stronger and call for actions against this assualt on the rights of children and their teachers. The unions have been way too complicit."

L.O.L. all day long.

Where am I?

Comment #12 by Gip H. on 2013 05 04

On one point I agree with the GoLoco All-Stars. Use your own name. Of course, they never call out their own people for hiding behind pen names.

Comment #13 by Jonathan Flynn on 2013 05 04

I'm still waiting for someone to report on Gist's successes rather than choosing sides based on union or non union beliefs. The media just acts as a mouth piece for her platforms. Travis, you've joined the club:(

Comment #14 by tom brady on 2013 05 04

The loony Travis Rowley once wrote
""Those who constitute the ranks of organized labor are not honorable individuals""

Talk about painting with a broad brush ..LOL not just the labor leaders but the "entire rank and file", which includes many right wing-nut conservative Republicans, JUST LIKE THE GENERAL POPULATION AS A WHOLE I wonder if the still wet behind his ears, Mr Rowley knows that Ronald Reagan was not only a union member, he was the president of a union, Don Carcieri and Brandon Doherty, were also union members and the nutty Sean Hannity still is a union member

Comment #15 by Sammy Arizona on 2013 05 04

Give her a raise?

I have a cheap way out. Just move her office to the second floor. That'll raise her.

Comment #16 by Robert Anthony on 2013 05 04

not if she is for the common core curriculum.

Comment #17 by LENNY BRUCE on 2013 05 05

Stop Common Core!

Comment #18 by LENNY BRUCE on 2013 05 05

"tom brady" makes a good point. Gist should be evaluated based on her performance. But his point about the media doesn't follow. I don't think the media are ever a "mouthpiece" for anybody. They thrive on sensation and controversy.

My interest in this particular controversy is much like everyone else's. We spend a lot of money in RI for education, and our schools' perform very poorly based on national surveys. Why should that be? We obviously need to shake things up, and that would seem to indicate that we need people like Gallo and Gist.

The most recent specific controversy about use of NECAP test results has raised a number of questions in my mind. I presume that most students awarded diplomas far exceed the minimum requirements implied by use of the NECAP test to assure minimum standards before a diploma is awarded. So I was puzzled by the reaction against this idea. Never mind the very cautious way the new requirement was implemented, finally requiring nothing more than "progress" toward minimum competency in the early years. How could this be a problem for students expected, one hopes, to learn a heck of a lot more than "minimum competency" in math and reading? Good grief!

You have to like Gist. She stood in there defending her performance against a firestorm of political nonsense. I agree with Mr. Rowley.

Comment #19 by Kenneth Amylon on 2013 05 05

Well the big problem as always ids that the money NEVER goes to the schools it goes to administration and now more than ever to private for profi businesses.

I think people ar not aware of how much their tax dollars are going to enrich private for profit interests. This is a huge problem becaus the actual schools are being starved. So blaming teachers and the stidents is really useless because they have NO POWER OR ANY SAY WHERE THE MONEY GOES.

Comment #20 by Eloise O'Shea-Wyatt on 2013 05 05

teachers had it easy for a long time... they had a tough job but there were no metrics to determine if they were doing a "good" job.

now you introduce metrics and they dont 't like being evaluated for the first time. surprise!!!

i am not sure if the metrics are right but my point is , would we all like it have a job that guarantees seniority, raises, pensions, etc and we can never be evaluated once we sign on and for the enxt 30 years?

Comment #21 by jon paycheck on 2013 05 06

Let's copy the Finland school model. All teacher will come from the top 10% of their college class--no exceptions. Currently, most come from the bottom half....

Comment #22 by Mike Govern on 2013 05 06

Professionals are judged by other professionals.

If you judge an oncologist by the survival rate of patients, they all get an F

Comment #23 by I.C. Havoc on 2013 05 06

LOL.... Putting aside the Union stuff and Gist's capability for a moment, there is no money to give raises to public employees.

Comment #24 by John S Smith on 2013 05 06

What about the fact that the developers of the NECAP test insist that it should not be used the way Gist is using it? Does that fact count? Do you realize how this fact could be used in a lawsuit against RI when someone is denied a diploma on the basis of an NEVAP score?

Comment #25 by John McGrath on 2013 06 01

The gist – no pun intended – of this article is this: Government in Rhode Island is broken and cannot be fixed. Why? Because government has a monopoly on the services citizens need. Where there is a monopoly, there is a lack of efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability, which drives costs higher than they should be, necessitating far greater taxes than necessary.

Sadly, Steve Laffey, Travis Rowley, Deborah Gist, Fran Gallo, and so many others have risked their personal safety and well-being by daring to challenge the monopoly in a bid to save us - from ourselves. Rhode Island is beyond saving because Rhode Islanders are addicted to expanding the monopoly.

Politicians, judges, government employees and their unions did not prevent the collapse of Greece, Central Falls, Detroit, Stockton, etc. They are not going to prevent the collapse of Rhode Island and its municipalities either. Most politicians, judges, government employees and their unions are simply not interested in turning things around.

Comment #26 by Christopher Lee on 2013 06 01

Bingo, Christopher! You get it!

Comment #27 by Harriet Lloyd on 2013 06 01

Poor Mr Rowley, must be over worked, or out of fresh new ideas...LOL this loony article is a reprint from May 4 2013

Comment #28 by Sammy Arizona on 2013 06 01

As for Gallo refusing to resign...after years of her "transformation" CFHS is still near the bottom. Can't be the teachers since more than 50% were replaced following her "transformation." How do you explain the schools's poor ratings Mr. Rowley? In private business, CEOs are held accountable for the bottom line. Just look at what happened to Ron Johnson who "shook things up" @ JCP. Where is he now?

Comment #29 by barnaby morse on 2013 06 03

barnaby, what happened to all those CEO's that were working on Wall St a couple of years ago? They were responsible for nearly destroying the country's economy. How many of them were held accountable?

Comment #30 by Patrick Boyd on 2013 06 03

Patrick--please become a little more informed. The meltdown was a complex issue and those CEO's had plenty of help from our Feds requiring lending to people that had little ability to repay. Frankly, the ignorance displayed by people in this state is one of the reason it's in the condition it is.

Comment #31 by Mike Govern on 2013 06 04

Mike Govern - Yes, please be a little better informed. The financial/mortgage crisis had almost nothing to do with the federal government, even though at the time it was in the hands of neo-liberal (laissez-faire) theorists who blithely ignore empirical data.

The meltdown started with a decision in 205-2006 by Wall Streeters, namely to buy sub-oprime mortgages to be securitized, along with high quality mortgages, into complex, layered, deceptive derivative jumbo bonds. Previous to this decision the buying up of mortgages on the secondary market, that is, the market for bundling them into derivatives, was confined as bankerly prudence to high quality mortgages. Once this fatal decision was made the Wall Street banks let huge amounts of money to sub-prime lenders who went about the country enrolling anyone into a mortgage since they would immediately sell those mortgages to wall Street to bundle into those notorious derivatives, thus creating a class of lenders with absolutely no accountability for their actions. These sub-prime mortgages were cleverly and deceptively layered into the derivative bonds in such a way that the bond raters would be able to get through only the top layers filled with the quality mortgages. Thus these dodgy derivatives got top ratings, and could be sold as the safe equivalent of cash (the meaning of a top rating) even though the sub-prime mortgages layered in would inevitably collapse and destroy the value of the derivative bond. Wall Street did all this deliberately.

Robert Rubin, the Greenspan darling, ensconced at Citigroup as their resident Ne0-Liberal economists genius, gave as his defense that he had no idea sub-prime mortgages were being accepted for bundling. He had no idea where this decision was made since it was a generally accepted tule that only high quality mortgages be bundled. Rubin, and others, assumed that sub-prime mortgages would never be accepted since Wall Street would naturally avoid them in its alleged ability to self-regulate. In his defense nobody did ever bother under Obama to find out where the decision to accept sub-prime mortgages was made. Rubin really did not know of it.

You can learn about this historic set of facts by reading, among other, a succinct analysis by Barry Reitholtz, a highly respected Wall Street investment manager. Just google: Reitholtz The big lie has gone viral.

P.S. You can no longer rely on the Wall street Journal (under Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News) for honest financial analysis. You need to use Bloomberg.

Comment #32 by John McGrath on 2013 06 04

Mike Govern - you leave out some important facts about Finland. Its school system had been very low ranking in world ratings for achievement. Then the government decided to put the teacher - not billionaires in love with the neo-liberal illusion that privatization is always the answer - in charge of school reform. That is what led to Finland's racing to the top of the international rankings. Part of the reform was to pay top dollar to teachers in order to attract top graduates. That part of the reform has worked too, thanks to the teachers of Finland. The canadian province that used the Finnish model also shot to the top rankings.

Comment #33 by John McGrath on 2013 06 04


Your terminology lets us know where you are coming from, and I'm sorry if your bias blinds you to the facts. Ignorance is sad--wilful ignorance is really sad.

Comment #34 by Mike Govern on 2013 06 07

Mike Govern - You give no facts, just teh usual vague generalities and the discredited meme about the origins of the financial criis based and the mortgage/mortgage derivatives meltdown. Please stop making accusations and make your case in some detail, not insults..

Comment #35 by John McGrath on 2013 06 07

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