Local News Round-up

About 130 tutors who are employed by the Keene public school system are planning a rally to demand justice. They may even go on strike, even though that is illegal. “We currently have 128 tutors with 14 positions still not filled for this school year,” Kathy Twombly told the Valley Post on January 19. She is a tutor in Keene and she is president of the tutors' union. Twombly's union is part of a bigger union that has a web site at www.nea.org.

She wrote a powerful essay explaining the tutors' demands. The full essay is at:

www.facebook.com/kathy.twombly.3/posts/10157120253007948

It reads, in part, “Tutors in Keene earn about $15,000 per year on average, which is near the federal poverty level for an individual with no dependents. Keene tutors qualify for public assistance. (The Keene public schools human resources director is paid $105,000 per year.) We asked the board to consider paying tutors as much per hour as they pay custodians, and the board did not even acknowledge the discrepancy.... The school district has had to replace 34 percent of the tutor workforce in the past year.... One of the reasons for the high turnover rate is low pay and lack of benefits.”

Her essay continues, “There is an alarming and increasing rate of assaults against employees by students, including punching, choking, and broken bones. In one Keene elementary school, 10 tutors quit over the summer due to the violence and poor working conditions.... The board was unwilling to work on any provisions that would address the rising number of injuries, health and safety concerns, workplace violence, or other threats to employee wellbeing. (The board seems to be) preoccupied with busting the union.”

On January 18 at about 10 a.m., the Valley Post e-mailed George Downing, the chair of the school board, to request his response to the tutors' concerns. On January 22 after this article was published, Downing replied and asked if the Valley Post still wanted a comment. We said yes. When we receive his comment we will post it in the "comments" section, below.

Last year, thousands of teachers went on strike around the nation. Many of the strikes were illegal and many were opposed by union officials in Washington, DC. But the teachers won huge gains and judges generally declined to punish the teachers.

Rick Cohen lives in Keene and is one of the richest people in the world. In 2013, he had a “net worth” of more than $11 billion, according to an article published that year in Bloomberg News.

In other news from the Valley, on January 19 in Northampton, a huge crowd attended the Women's March. Photos are at:

www.valleypost.org/node/1472

The Northampton Women's March was "mobilized by the Women’s March on Washington in 2017," according to www.PioneerValleyWomensMarch.org. The Women’s March on Washington in 2017 was on Trump's first day as president. It was sponsored by Planned Parenthood, the AFL-CIO, 350.org, and other groups.

Trump and the Republican-controlled U.S. senate are trying to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care and education to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide.

In the year 1700, there were about 600 million people on earth. By 1800, there were about 900 million. In 1900, there were about 1.6 billion. In 2000, there were about 6 billion. That's according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The current world population of 8 billion is expected to reach 9 billion in 2030, 10 billion in 2050 and 11 billion in 2100. That's according to:

www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/world-population-prospect...

On average, one person in the USA uses as many natural resources as 53 people in China. That's according to:

www.scientificamerican.com/article/american-consumption-habits

The biggest cause of climate change is overpopulation. The world's leading scientists say climate change is a major threat to earth's ability to support human life.

In other news from the Valley, in Hatfield, Massachusetts on January 29, townspeople will vote on whether to save 23 acres of farmland. Hatfield borders Northampton. More information is available from the Kestrel Land Trust in Amherst.

In other news from the Valley, on January 17 in Cummington, Massachusetts more than 200 people attended a public hearing about a proposed corporate chain store. Town officials did what the people wanted: they rejected the application from Dollar General Corporation. Cummington is about 20 miles northwest of Northampton.

In other news from the Valley, on January 16 in Springfield, there was a rally calling on the federal government to release from prison Eduardo Samaniego, a local activist. Samaniego moved to Amherst in 2014. He lived there until he was arrested in late 2018 for being an undocumented immigrant. In February and March 2018, he was one of 10 people who marched from New York City to Washington, DC. “We are fighting for permanent protection for undocumented youth,” Samaniego told the Valley Post in March 2018. The organizers of the rally have a web site at www.pvWorkersCenter.org.

Comments

The Keene Board appreciates

The Valley Post received the following e-mail after this article was published from George Downing, chair of the Keene school board:

The Keene Board appreciates the hard work and compassion of the tutors in our schools. With that in mind, the Board’s negotiators offered the tutors raises over four years amounting to a higher percentage increase that what our teachers’ union just agreed to for the same time period. The offered raises were higher on average than what was agreed to by any of our bargaining groups over the last three years. In addition the Board’s negotiators offered additional pay increases for any tutors holding, or earning over the duration of the agreement, certifications in specializations identified as areas of need in the district.

Unfortunately at the conclusion of negotiations and arbitration it was clear that the district and the tutors remain far apart both financially and philosophically. The Board does recognize that our dedicated employees are the foundation of a sustainable public education, and remains committed to reaching consensus with the tutors, and with the bargaining groups of all our employees, on compensation that recognizes the hard work of our employees while remaining fair to both our student population and the full Keene community. We look forward to continued dialogue towards a new contract in the coming year that is fair to our tutors, our students, and our community.

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