A great start
To the Editor:
I wanted to take a moment to thank the residents of Block Island and The Block Island Film Festival. We showed our film, “Nothing To Do,” at this year’s inaugural festival and couldn’t have been more pleased.
The local audience was engaged and appreciative. My wife, Liza Kravinsky, who was the music composer for “Nothing To Do,” and I enjoyed talking about our film with the audience as well as getting recommendations on great places to eat on the island. We were also honored with the Best Actor award for Paul Fahrenkopf, who played Kenny in “Nothing To Do.”
I wish the BIFF much future success. I see a day in the not too distant future when the Block Island Film Festival becomes a destination festival. The passion for film and energy of the organizers really showed. Thanks again. I hope I can bring another film your way soon.
Writer/Director, “Nothing To Do”
Let justice be done
To the Editor:
According to Pat Tengwall’s article (The Block Island Times, 5/25/19) and Marlee Lacoste’s letter to the editor of the same date, Marsha Gutierrez, midway in her career as the school’s administrative assistant and in recognition and appreciation of her high-caliber performance (and as encouragement and incentive to continue her service), the school promised her lifetime health insurance benefits (the “promise”) upon her retirement.
That promise was incorporated into her employment contract at that time and repeated in subsequent contracts through school year 2017/2018 when she became eligible for retirement after 36.5 years of service. Had she retired then, the promise would, indisputably, have then become the school’s firm and enforceable obligation.
Instead, she chose to postpone her retirement and stay on another year, 2018-2019 in order to acquaint the new superintendent with the protocol and modus operandi of the school, and to then retire on July 1, 2019 at the end of this school year, and receive the insurance benefits accordingly. However, in July 2018, the school attorney sent a letter asking her, after 36.5 years of service, to negotiate the contract for the additional and final year, proposing to reduce her insurance benefit from a lifetime one, as originally promised, to one of a fixed date short of lifetime.
Apparently disappointed and demoralized by such a proposal on the eve of her retirement, she seemingly ignored it believing she was nevertheless entitled to the insurance as originally promised.
Although a written contract for the additional year was never signed nor the promise repeated for that year, she, with the school’s acquiescence, stayed on for the additional year.
However, the school now claims that since she had no written contract nor promise for her final year, it has no further obligation to provide the insurance on retirement. Her attorney, in turn, argues that because of a so-called “roll over” provision included in a previous contract which also included a repetition of the promise, that contract automatically triggered, and resulted in, a renewal of that contract and the promise for the final year without the need to put it in writing.
Thus, in arguing over whether or not the school is now obligated to provide the insurance, both parties also argue over whether or not a contract repeating or renewing the promise exists for the present and final school year preceding her retirement, both thereby assuming that the existence of such a contract is an indispensable prerequisite to the school’s obligation.
Both are wrong: the assumption is erroneous: once given at the outset and initially incorporated into her contract, the promise, as a matter of law, became a so-called “conditional promise” or “conditional contract”: one which from then on remained executory and viable, independent of and without the need to ever again repeat or renew it in any subsequent contract, nor could it be tampered with, modified or renegotiated by the school as long as she, in reliance thereon, continued to perform to retirement. Its reach and viability was solely dependent on the performance or fulfillment of the original condition, to wit: the performance of her duties as administrative assistant, continuously from the time the promise was first given to the time of her retirement. Having relied on that promise and having performed accordingly (apparently, not merely satisfactorily but outstandingly according to her periodic evaluations), she is about to satisfy the condition whereupon the initial promise will then become a firm and enforceable obligation of the school.
Furthermore, having acquiesced to her continued employment this year though arguably without a contract, the school cannot, in good faith and without clean hands, treat her, as its attorney has suggested, as an employee at will, terminable without cause, before her retirement so as to deprive her of the insurance earned after 36.5 years of continuous service. Any such attempt would, in the circumstances, be a stain on the school, lilkely be viewed an unconscionable stunt and peremptorilly set aside.
However, beyond the foregoing legal analysis and outcome which favor Ms. Gutierrez, the more fundamental considerations of fairness, equity, justice, and gratitude for a job well done during 36.5 years of service, make her deserving of the insurance benefits, benefits which when originally promised were for full and complete medical coverage and considerably more costly than the secondary supplemental medicare insurance to now be provided per a change in the law, which reduced the school’s fiscal responsibility to its personnel.
The school committee is composed of dedicated volunteers who devote their time and energy into making the school what it is: a precious jewel of the island. They oversee a dedicated and outstanding faculty and administration vital to providing the students with a remarkable and sound education.
However, it appears that in this case, their zealousness to perform their duty of fiscal responsibility by attempting at the last minute to further reduce the benefits promised and earned by Ms. Gutierrez, blindsided them from the merits of her entitlement, an entitlement legally and morally justifiable and overwhelmingly supported by the faculty and the community.
By now providing the insurance as originally promised, the committee still has the opportunity to keep faith with her and with them and to retain their confidence and support.
In so doing, it will not only be doing the right thing but also saving costly legal fees and court expenses that would otherwise be incurred in unnecessary and unproductive litigation.
Please do not let this opportunity go by.
West Side Road
Heal the wounds
To the Editor:
I have been a patient of both Liz Dyer and Dr. Mark Clark and was in all cases more than satisfied with my care. With that said, my heart sank when I learned of Dr. Clark’s resignation.
Partly because we would be losing a gifted provider, but also for concern that BIHS would lose the momentum brought by Dr. Clark to build new programs and provide additional services, such as the Wellness Program, from which I personally have greatly benefited.
I don’t know the circumstances under which Liz Dyer’s employment was terminated but in my prior mainland career, I too was required to fire or force the resignation of longtime employees for reasons other than their direct job competency. To protect their confidentiality and future employment prospects, I was not able to share information about the circumstances. I needed to request the trust from my co-workers and community. Much has been accomplished at BIHS over the past several years under Dr. Clark’s leadership, along with the present board. It is often difficult to give away your blind trust but for the future of BIHS and for harmony in our community, I implore all to step back and allow the Board to do its job.
I would also request that the BIHS board absorb the feedback it has recently received from members of the community and develop and carry out a plan to heal the relationship between the BIHS board, customers of BIHS, and the community.