WARWICK – Teachers and faculty members of the Warwick Public Schools expressed their outrage over comments made by School Committee chairwoman Karen Bachus at the Oct. 20 meeting.
Bachus alleged that parents had complained about teachers not teaching a full day’s schedule and only having office hours a half-hour a week. She also said she’s seen copies of schedules that she dubbed “embarrassing.”
“We’ve had a lot of complaints about that. It’s concerning,” she noted. “We have not cut anybody’s salary as far as I know. And so we’d like to know a little bit more.”
“Miss Bachus implied based on secondhand information that teachers in Warwick are not doing their jobs,” said Tony Greeley. “I strongly suggest that in the future before comments like Miss Bachus’ are made in a public forum, that some effort should be given into finding out the entire story for both sides before stones are simply cast.”
“All the teachers that I know have been working like crazy,” said Andrea Sharkey, a nurse at Oakland Beach Elementary School. “They are trying to do it all, the in-person hybrid classes, two different groups of students, as well as the students whose parents have chosen to do distance learning. The teachers are doing a tremendous job, often sacrificing time with their own families and children, whom may also be hybrid or distance learning. To assume they are only working a few hours a day is shameful.”
I suggest you think twice about making threats to cut salaries and blanket statements about me and my colleagues,” said Sara Evans. “I’m always working to improve my practice as an educator. That is what we do which may be hard for you to see since you never taught in a public school and certainly never during a pandemic.”
“You continue to group every teacher together no matter how hard we try,” said teacher Gloria Rasener-Massey. “I’ve been working everyday to get to know my 110 students in one way or another. I am not sure of who is not putting in the time for their students because all of the teachers I know are working harder than ever.”
Bachus acknowledged her comments had been “insensitive” and began Tuesday’s meeting with an apology to the teachers who felt demeaned.
“I want to thank you for caring enough to confront me with my bad behavior,” Bachus said. “I was wrong and I humbly ask for your forgiveness. You are so important to kids, to students, to us. You are educating our future citizens and I can’t think of anything more important than that. Covid-19 is a new reality that has impacted all of us and not necessarily for the better. Times are very difficult and teaching whether online or in-person is more difficult than ever. I want to thank you all for rising to the occasion every day to teach, listen, advise, coach, help, and everything else you do for our students.”
Following an unusually lengthy public comments portion, Bachus apologized again to the teachers and everyone watching the meeting: “I created this mess that held up this meeting until 9:30.”
The committee also discussed various distance learning options. When Darlene Netcoh, the President of the Warwick Teachers Union, was preparing to share her thoughts, she and Bachus engaged in a contentious exchange of words.
“We were all taken aback and shocked at the way that you were so disrespectful,” Netcoh said, referring to the letters which had been read earlier in the meeting from disgruntled teachers.
“I was shocked at myself,” Bachus interjected. “I thank you and I thank people for bringing it to my attention. I was insensitive and downright ignorant and I apologize and I hope that people will accept my apology.”
“I hope you are being sincere,” Netcoh said.
“I am very sincere,” Bachus replied. “You know that.”
“I don’t know that so I’m hoping that your actions will speak for themselves as we go forward,” Netcoh said. “Last week was not a stellar example, Miss Bachus, but as I said I will take you at your word.”
“Can we move on please?,” Bachus said. “I also fully recognize the support that I have given to our teachers for the past eight years.”
“And it’s unfortunate, but last week it kind of eroded that,” Netcoh said. “People were very demoralized. What is going on right now in the elementary school is totally demoralizing. People are exhausted and can not do their job the way they want to do their job. As I’ve stated before, this district is going to have pay teachers for either two or three extra classes because they are preparing for and teaching what amounts to three different classes, so get out your checkbooks.”