New union president puts education first
In June 1974, George Landrie’s last day of 6th grade at Hoxsie Elementary, he decided to become a teacher. Having a rougher childhood than many, Landrie found sanctuary in school. Teachers had stood by him, becoming role models and mentors for him. He hoped to do the same for later generations.
Now 40 years later, Landrie is the new president of the Warwick Teachers Union. He was uncontested in the race and backed by the nominating committee.
Landrie said, “I have integrity and there is a lot of work that needs to be done. I took no one running against me as a vote of confidence from the entire union.”
“I have been the best union soldier in the past 25 years, becoming president was just the next logical step,” Landrie said in an interview Friday.
Landrie graduated from Rhode Island College and joined the Army for seven years before beginning his teaching career. He started teaching music in North Providence at four different elementary schools. In 1990 he was offered a job to teach music at Gorton Junior High School, and he jumped at the chance to work at the school he had gone to.
“Junior high fits me like a glove. I found my niche early on. I find it to be the most dynamic environment. Everything is always changing,” he said.
Landrie wanted to be a music teacher because music had always been a saving grace for him. In 5th grade Landrie began playing the trumpet and excelled.
“Music was my savior; it became my outlet to get away. I beat a lot of odds and I know that,” Landrie said.
Landrie’s mother left the family when he was five and his father had issues that took him away from home. Landrie turned to his teachers for guidance.
Landrie’s music classes have also done well competitively. The last three years he has been teaching band at Toll Gate High School. This year his jazz band went to the Berklee High School Jazz Festival and won 4th place in the competition.
As union president, Landrie will not be teaching but believes he can best serve the students of Warwick in his new position.
“I will miss the classroom. I have always wanted to help kids. I can have a bigger impact for kids as union president. I am going to be the guardian and defender of quality public education,” Landrie said.
Although Landrie believes he is capable of finding a middle ground and finding compromise, he swore he was not going to give in easily.
“I am not going to sell out my members and I am not going to sell out our kids,” Landrie said.
Landrie was one of the young and new teachers that were sent to jail during the 1992 union strike.
“I am an American, I did nothing wrong. When they ordered me back to work I said no. I went to jail with some of the finest teachers in Warwick. It may be ancient history to most, but not to me. I can still remember that time vividly.”
Landrie has already proven that he is willing to go far lengths to get the contract he thinks the teachers deserve. Now as president, he will work directly with the administration to create a contract for this year.
Landrie compared the school administration offices to the army. He said that the wheels turn slowly. You hurry up just to wait. Landrie, a self-proclaimed fast and diligent worker, said he is unused to having to wait to accomplish things.
“I am hoping to begin a new era based on trust. Let’s get it done. This city doesn’t need anymore labor strife. Under my presidency the union is going to be more proactive rather than reactive as it has been in the past,” Landrie said. “The teachers of this city deserve it. A boost in morale would do this system good.”
As president, Landrie would like to bring back programs that have been cut and to ensure there are no more cuts to programs he finds essential to the school system. His first fight is to keep tier 2 literacy, a program for students who are behind in their reading and writing skills, in the junior high schools that may be cut due to the budget.
Landrie said, “Cutting literacy classes is only going to hurt the kids who are already disadvantaged. They shouldn’t have to miss out on an opportunity to improve and learn.”
Some of the programs Landrie wants to bring back are ALAP, junior high intramural sports, the marine environment courses, two music positions in the district and a librarian for Gorton, “just to name a few.” He would also like to see the “draconian drastic cuts” to physical education remedied.
Landrie would like to see the teachers receive time whether through comprehensive scheduling, a half day or professional development day to do all the extra work that has been sent down by the state. The constant paperwork, testing and evaluations cut into the time teachers have to teach the curriculum and he does not want to see the students’ education suffer because of it.
Since becoming president, Landrie has been meeting with teachers and principals to create relationships throughout the school system and plans to continue to do so for the remainder of the summer.
“I love this city. I know the public schools get a bad rep because they have been level funded by public funds. I could parade my teachers around the city and show off all the amazing work they have done,” Landrie said. “They go above and beyond the call of duty. They are coaches, mentors, role models, tutors, so much more than just teachers. We have gems in this city that just get overlooked. I want to make sure this union does a better job of promoting our teachers.”