The school administration and the Revere Teacher’s Association (RTA) have had an unprecedented run of peace recently, but Superintendent Paul Dakin said this week that he is seeing less cooperation this year.
Most of that is due to a change in leadership, with longtime RTA president Susan Lanza moving on. The new president now is Lincoln teacher Mariregis Fusco, and she told the Journal that she didn’t want to get into a discussion about the union in the newspaper. However, she indicated that they are not uncooperative or unreceptive to management.
Dakin, though, was not shy about airing his concerns, noting that the problems recently erupted with a study commissioned by the schools on the special education program.
“I would say it’s a new leadership in the Teacher’s Union and I don’t know that they fully understand how things have worked in the past,” he said. “There’s definitely a need to build some goodwill there. The union has been involved in this (the study on special education) and that’s the reason why people like Mr. Freni are so charged up. They elected to proceed one way instead of sitting down and talking.”
Well-known parent Rick Freni wrote a vocal letter last week to the Journal detailing his concerns for an audit of the special education department done by Educational Futures, Inc., a controversial company that has reorganized some departments in other cities like Lynn and Everett.
“The recent audit done by a company called Futures has met with the administration, talked to a few people, and will make recommendations that may include decreasing staff and bringing less-than-qualified employees into the Revere School System,” read Freni’s letter last week. “This company does not have the best interest of your child in mind. Their recommendations will need to be signed off by the School Committee.
“Contrary to what some members of the School Committee may want you to believe, this is not a union issue,” continued the letter. “This is a quality of life issue for children that are at the highest risk because of their intellectual and physical disabilities.”
However, Dakin said it was a union issue.
He indicated that they have brought in the company to do a very limited review of administrative changes made to the Special Education department hierarchy two years ago.
The review, he said, concentrates on Deputy Superintendent Chris Malone, two Special Education directors and a handful of Educational Test Liaisons (ELTs) dispatched throughout the district.
“This audit was about the deployment of these people after the reorganization to see if it was working well,” Dakin said. “This is not a study about removing people from their jobs.”
Fusco said they are still gathering information on the issue and are waiting to see how it might affect the RTA membership.
Dakin said the RTA has not worked with the traditional cooperation he has come to expect – and he said it’s a growing trend.
“It’s more about people not knowing the history of the way we have done business together,” he said. “They’re skeptical of management and leadership and don’t have a complete understanding yet of how I work. We’ll wade through it and hopefully begin to understand each other. It’s not hard to get along. It just doesn’t work if you don’t want it to work. They fear-mongered this issue and sent the alarm out to parents. They took that kind of action instead of sitting down and asking questions.”