September 21, 2014
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School Committee approves $100K in pay raises, step increases

In an effort to treat all employees equally and fairly, the School Committee unanimously approved a series of step increases and pay raises for administrators Tuesday night, to the tune of approximately $100,000.

Prior to the vote, Acting Superintendent Dr. Richard D’Agostino explained the need for the pay increases. First, he addressed step increases for administrators.

“We have three groups with steps in their contracts in the Warwick school system. We have the teachers, the WISE [Warwick Independent School Employees] union and we have administrators,” he said. “Two of those groups have received their step increases over the last three years and one didn’t. I believe we should all be treated equally, and if people are working hard, they should receive their steps.”

D’Agostino said some administrators have not received step increases for the past six years.

“I think it’s unfair and unjust that some administrators have been at Step 3 for six years,” he said.

Rosemary Healey, who serves as legal counsel for the committee as well as director of human resources and compliance, explained how steps work.

“Employees work under a five-step pay scale. Steps 1 to 3 are automatically granted from year to year, but in order to go from Step 3 to Step 4 and Step 4 to Step 5, it requires a vote from the School Committee,” she said.

Healey said a step increase freeze has been in place since 2007, which means 12 administrators have been frozen at Step 3 since that time.

While D’Agostino said he understands the tough economic times everyone is dealing with, he feels not allowing administrators to increase their steps is hurting the district.

“It’s difficult to start a person at a higher step if other districts are paying more,” he said. “Also, there’s no incentive for our teachers to move into an administrator position because they see it as working longer hours for less pay. We should send the message that we’re all treated equally and fairly.”

School Committee member Christopher Friel said he agreed with D’Agostino’s assessment.

“If one group of employees receives their steps in a timely fashion, then so should the others,” he said.

Healey said the total cost to implement the step increases for 12 administrative positions would amount to between $27,000 and $28,000.

Next on the agenda was a request to approve a 1 percent pay increase for administrators, middle managers, confidential secretaries and the acting superintendent, for a total cost of $55,000 for 67 employees.

D’Agostino said since teachers received a 1 percent pay increase and the WISE union received a 2 percent pay increase, that administrators should also be considered for a pay increase.

“All of the groups work together for a common cause, working hard side by side, and we should send a positive message that everyone is treated fairly in this district,” he said, echoing his earlier comments. “It sends the message that we appreciate what you do for our schools.”

School Committee Vice Chair Patrick Maloney said he was conflicted about approving the raises.

“I’ve visited schools and talked to administrators, who do a lot of good work and find money where it doesn’t exist, which keeps us in budget, but I can’t ignore our current economic situation,” he said. “I’ve voted against every raise that has come up during my time on the School Committee, except for a small one in 2009. The administrators deserve raises, but it’s difficult to give anything to anybody with our current economic climate.”

Maloney continued his comments, addressing the district’s need for additional principals this school year.

“We saw a need for additional principals this year and we had some excellent candidates, but on the day we were ready to vote on them, we had to go back out and search again because they went elsewhere,” he said. “I believe we compensate people fairly, but we’re missing out on some great candidates.”

Contrary to Maloney, Friel said he wasn’t conflicted at all.

“Both sets of professional workers have done a great job. The pay increases have averaged less than 1 percent since 2007, and even if we approve this [tonight], it will still average less than 1 percent,” he said. “We need to also look at the scope of work and duties of administrators during the time when they weren’t receiving raises, such as dealing with a new evaluation system and taking on the Uniform Chart of Accounts, so I support this without hesitation.”

With regard to adjusting the pay scale for support staff, including bus monitors, lunch aides and non-teaching substitutes, the request was to increase the hourly rate by 3 percent, or from a range of $8.02 to $9.97, to a range of $8.26 to $10.27.

Healey said it was hard to calculate what the total cost would be since the number of substitutes changes, but said the last time she checked, the total cost was less than $20,000.

“This is a large group of individuals that work behind the scenes in part-time jobs, but they’re important jobs because they watch the students and keep them safe at lunch and on the bus,” she said.

According to Healey, the last time this group of employees, who are non-union and who do not receive benefits, saw a pay raise was November of 2005.

“This is long overdue,” Friel said. “It’s almost unimaginable, when you take into account the increase in living expenses.”

Maloney asked Healey how difficult it is to fill those positions and how many of the positions are currently open.

Healey said it was hard to gauge but said the district does what it can “to get people’s foot in the door.”

“We used to have a chance to turn substitute positions into a permanent teaching job, but unfortunately with cuts over the years, that opportunity has decreased,” she said. “In Warwick, we also have a higher level of requirements for teacher assistants than other districts, but I think that’s good and we should maintain those.”

Healey said while there’s a healthy level of interest in positions, it’s much tougher to retain people because once they get an offer for a full-time job somewhere else, they leave.

“Our hope is that people will be patient and stick with us for the long haul with this [pay] increase,” she said.

In other action, the committee approved the addition of a paralegal/compliance specialist assistant position for an estimated total cost of between $39,000 and $42,000 a year.

Healey explained that when she was hired as the director of compliance, her duties solely consisted of dealing with legal matters but two years later when there was a vacancy in the director of human resources position, she agreed to take on the responsibilities of both positions to help out the district.

“I was unable to perform both duties without an assistant director of compliance to assist in legal matters, and that worked well for five or six years,” Healey said, “until 2010 when the position was replaced with a lower paid position with the description to be determined by the then-superintendent, but that never materialized. So, I’m asking for that promised position.”

Healey said she reconfigured the position request by changing it from an assistant director of compliance to a paralegal/compliance specialist, which does not require a law degree, and results in a significant lower cost to the district, “about half of what the assistant director of compliance was earning.”

Healey said she’s been dealing with an inordinate amount of work lately, such as having to reconfigure the district’s policy on bullying as well as having to respond to information requests much quicker with the new open records regulations, which involves a lot of paperwork.

“I think this [position] would be a great service to the school department,” she said.

Committee member Eugene Nadeau added, “We can’t ask any employee to perform two jobs without the proper assistance and compensation.”

When Maloney asked for D’Agostino’s opinion on the matter, as he often sees things others may not in his capacity as the acting superintendent and director of special education, he said, “We always would like to have an attorney prepared for any situation that arises. Yes, I feel this is needed.”

Prior to the vote, which was also approved unanimously, Maloney pointed out that it could cost the district roughly the same amount of money if it were to hire an additional attorney on a part-time or as-needed basis to help out, but by creating the paralegal position, it’s an employee that would be retained full-time at similar cost.


Comments
14 comments on this item

Again, we are spending money that we dont have and that has not been budgeted. Does anyone understand this concept?

The School committee made cuts and these positions and raises are within the budget. The School Committee budget will not go up this year because of these increases. The step increase was $29,000 and the raise for the administrators was $55,000. So, for far less than the cost of 1 teacher salary, 67 employees got a small raise.

Here is how it was done: We have chosen NOT to fill positions and have eliminated positions. Administrators have absorbed additional tasks and responsibilities WITHOUT additional compensation.

This is the equivalent of a 40 cent per hour raise. The administrators have not had any raise 3 of the last 5 years. They have received about $1.50 an hour raise in 5 years and the School Budget has NOT gone up in the same amount of time. The school budget is at the same level it was at in 2008.

The school committee understands the concept TheCaptain, the city council and Mayor should take some lessons from the school side.

It should be noted that the Administrators also starting paying the 20% co-pay a year prior to the Teacher/ WISE unions as well. This is several years before the city side started paying an equivalent amount.

There should be no raises....PERIOD.....the same excuses we hear all the time...they haven't received a raise in years. Who cares...the taxpayers who work in private industry haven't either and they wish they had the gold plated healthcare plan the administrators get for ONLY a 20% copay.

Patrick...apolgize to the taxpayers for your baseless justification !!!!!!!!!!!!

FedUp1,

The schools have the same budget as 2008, the costs have been kept to a level amount, we have secured savings in all areas including maintenance. Our budget was slashed $6 million and we still came in within our budget. I repeat, Slashed $6 million and still came in under budget. How could this possibly be achieved without good administrators making good decisions? I know I didn't do it alone. They deserve nothing? These people deserved a small pittance of a raise. I have several administrators doing 2 and 3 jobs now and they used to do one AND for no extra pay. They are leaving and we would replace them with people who don't know how to do the job, it would cost us more.

I lost a principal who was filling in as a temporary principal for 2 years. This guy was great. He knew technology, the teachers liked him and were willing to learn technology from him. They were doing EXTRA work because he was very charismatic, he knew how to get things done without paying the teachers or staff extra. We offered him a full time principal position and he didn't take it because he got a job somewhere else for $1000 more. I lost a great principal with great ideas who got more work out of the employees for no extra pay over $1000. Doesn't sound like a good deal for Warwick. I would have paid him the $1000 to stay if I had the chance because he worked as hard as 2 principals. We lost 2 or 3 principals for the same reason in 3 years. They knew if they took the job no matter how hard they worked it didn't matter they were not going to get a raise.

Go back and check the school committee minutes. Do you go to every school committee meeting? I voted for NO raises for 4 years. They only time I voted for a raise was in 2009 when if I didn't vote for a 1.5% raise, administrators would have gotten a 3% raise. There are 5 members of the committee, I WAS THE ONLY ONE TO VOTE AGAINST EVERY RAISE (except the 1.5% in 2009, again, I only voted for it because if I didn't it would have been double). Contact the other committee members, contact your city council and mayor. Hold them all accountable. I am accountable, I held the line for 4 years.

As a side note, I was already working on a 25% co-pay but as I was not re-elected, we will have to see if that happens. I know Mr. Nadeau was pushing for the 25% co-pay too. We needed 1 more vote. Who else on the committee is willing to push for it? Will it be our new Union School Committee member? Doubt it. I would have gotten it done. I was the one who pushed for the 20% and I got it done. Period. Go back and look at the SC minutes from early 2009, I was the first to bring it up when they were looking at closing schools. It wasn't even on anyone's radar.

I made sure the schools paid back the city the $3.2 million deficit created before my time on the Committee. I stayed within the budget for 4 years, we had a surplus each year due to cuts not a higher budget. NO schools had a roof leak during the storms we recently had because proper maintenance was done and roofs were fixed. When I started half the schools had roof problems. I secured a contract with the WISE union after no contract AND no raises for 5 years. We saved millions on outsourcing Special Education transportation to first student. I secured a contract with no raise for a year (I believe it was the first time in Warwick History) with the teachers and secured a 20% co-pay. I raised the co-pay for all administrators. We saved millions every year from closed schools and for getting federal grants. We are not Central Falls or Woonsocket. The school committee from 2008 to present has saved the city at least $18-20 million in 4 years by my count. The school committee did it with the help of the administrators and other employees at the schools.

Fedup1, You are welcome. I wish I could have done more.

It should be noted that the amount of money given in raises to administrators is less than the amount of money the city pays to Kenneth Naylor the city worker who took city property and "borrowed" it to fix his house. He was out of work from Sept 2011 to Aug 2012 and was awarded full back pay. He is back on the job. I would much rather reward the good workers than keep a thief on staff.

http://www.warwickonline.com/stories/Worker-fired-for-theft-back-on-job-city-ordered-to-give-back-pay,74011?search_filter=Kenneth+Naylor&town_id=1&sub_type=stories

The City budget is up $30 Million in the same 4 year period that the schools were level funded. Actually, the school budget was cut $6 million. If the city and the Schools both did an equally good job at watching out for the taxpayers, then the taxes would not have gone up each year and we would not have an outrageous car tax.

There should have been raises period! No amount of spinning can justify wage increases with the state economy doing so poorly.

Ok Gordianknot (Mayor?) Talk about spinning. Are we talking about the State economy now? Let's talk about Warwick. School Spending = same as 2008 level. City spending up $30 MILLION, $30 Million, $30 Million since 2008. $30 Million more EVERY YEAR. Thank you City Council, Thank you Mayor. No thanks to the schools for keeping costs down. No thanks for the schools. There is no spin there, just the truth. The numbers don't lie. Look at the numbers.

Check out the headline. Beacon says 100K in raises and step increases. 55K + 29K= 85K, not 100K. There is your spin. The Beacon Spin. The Mayor "owns" the Beacon, they print what he wants. Get it straight.

The schools have done great since 2008 and the city over spends and raises taxes just like the state. I listened to Fogarty on the radio this morning spewing lies. He says the state is getting better, we improved .1% this month. Meanwhile I have 5 people in the last 2 days walk into my store and tell me they are laid off from their full time jobs. The only reason we didn't go down is because temporary jobs went up. Seasonal jobs saved the unemployment rate. Companies are cutting the hours of employees to save money on healthcare.

The schools ARE NOT breaking the backs of the Warwick Taxpayers. The Mayor and city council is to blame. Good thing we voted them all back in, now maybe they will fix it. Give them one more chance to fix it. They promise they will every 2 years. They fix it by spending more and raising taxes.

When Warwick ceases with the idiocy of paying for three high schools, I'll believe there's a sense of fiscal responsibility. Each school was built to accomodate 2000 students. All three now have about 1000 students. At what point will the school committee openly address what many have been saying for five years: It's time to close a high school.

John Stark. The schools are still at 2008 funding levels. That should lead you to believe that there is fiscal responsibility in the schools. No other state or city in RI is still working at levels from 4 years ago.

As far as the umber of schools, this is being addressed. Several elementary schools have closed in the last several years. The bubble of a large class has moved through the jr high and is in the last year at the senior high school level. I believe the School committee is looking at the future of all the secondary schools and is not going to look at only the high schools. I believe the long term facilities committee and/ or an outside agency will be reviewing the situation so a decision can be made. I hope the decision made is not politically motivated and the correct decision is made.

I believe it is important to look at the whole picture prior to making a rash or quick decision. The real money savings is in the salaries not the number of schools open. The number of teachers on staff, the number of administration and the number of support staff have all been reduced as the student population has reduced. The number of buildings are also being reduced. I would like to see the administration building on Warwick Ave returned to the city so it can either be used for another purpose or be sold.

John, you would like the idiocy of 3 high schools being open to stop. Which High School and/ or Jr High school would you like to see closed? Which would you decide to close and why? Will you be volunteering for the Long term facilities planning committee? Would you like to be harassed by parents, children, teachers or others for years for closing the school your kids or their parents went to after it is closed? Believe me, it is not an easy decision. Making the wrong decision will cost more money in the long run.

What would you say about closing all the high schools and building one new building? What about closing all the Jr high schools and moving the Jr High students into one of the High Schools? These options are all able to be looked at but the largest group of students (the bubble) had to move through the secondary schools for it to be looked at completely.

I believe the schools were also waiting for the airport situation to stabilize before making a change.

"As far as the umber of schools, this is being addressed", should have read: As far as the number of schools, this is being addressed,

Patrick,

Are you aware that the middle school does not have math books that adhear to the new math curriculum? My kid has no math books, you got raises. Does that make sense?

Hello fenceman. This is a good question. I am aware the Math program did not get new books. The committee voted last year to not get new math books. The reason was not funding related. We were ready to get all new math books but the math books were written for the old curriculum and not the new required PARK curriculum. We need books for the new PARK curriculum that all students will be required to take for state testing. If we had bought the books last year, we would have to replace them after only a year or two because they would outdated. The curriculum coordinator and team recommended not getting the books until they were updated for the proper curriculum. I am sure the Math books will be reviewed again this year and if the books are fully updated, they will be purchased. Once again, this is an example of administration doing their job to save the district money. They could have easily said, spend $1 million on the math books and in 2 years been looking for another $1 million for new books again. Administration continuously has made recommendations to save the schools money. This decision alone saved us $1 million. So I believe, giving them the $55,000 raise and step increase was appropriate and it did make sense at this time. If these administrators with experience left we could have had someone else that didn't know the job or the curriculum and made a poor recommendation. We would have paid a much larger amount than the raise they received. Over the last few years, I have voted several times to replace outdated books and always after a careful review from the curriculum committee and the curriculum coordinator. New books have always been a concern of mine. We can't replace all of them over night but I worked hard to make sure the correct books were purchased.

I also believe that there is funding reserved in the budget this year for new books so if they are written properly for the PARK assessment tests, they will be purchased.

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