'Chronic' Warwick teacher absenteeism is at 39%

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Warwick teacher absenteeism is on a par with teacher absenteeism in public schools statewide, which runs ahead of teacher absenteeism nationally and about twice the absenteeism of charter schoolteachers.

According to data requested of the Warwick school administration, 39 percent of Warwick teachers were “chronically absent,” with 10 or more absences in the last academic year. Excluded from this data are professional/workshop days, conference days and field trips.

This compares to 38 percent teacher absenteeism in public schools elsewhere across the state and 17 percent absenteeism in Rhode Island charter schools, according to a report released last month by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Nationally, the report found 28 percent of teachers in traditional public schools are chronically absent compared with 10 percent of charter schoolteachers.

Digging into the Warwick numbers, 48 teachers were absent for 60 or more school days; 32 were absent for 70 or more days; 19 were absent for 80 or more days and 11 were absent for 90 or more days. In total, 867 Warwick teachers took 12,292 days of sick leave last academic year.

“Why would we hold schools to account for the attendance of their students but not of their own teachers? How can anyone expect students to learn when their teachers are absent? Like everyone else, educators occasionally have to miss work. They get the flu, too. And anyone who has never actually taught would be wise not to underestimate the challenges that teachers face, especially in high-poverty schools and those with many at-risk children,” Amber M. Northern and Michael J. Petrilli write in an introduction to the Fordham study.

The study finds that school districts with collective bargaining agreements experience higher rates of absenteeism than charter schools that generally operate without collective bargaining agreements.

“Overall, these results suggest that the high chronic absenteeism rates we observe for teachers in traditional public schools are at least partly attributable to the generous leave policies enshrined in state laws and local collective bargaining agreements—and that the chronic absenteeism rate in many places could be reduced without exploiting teachers,” reads the report.

The study also found that, on average, US workers are entitled to approximately 8 days of sick leave per year, observing, “Yet, despite the fact that the typical school year is only 180 days (or about 20–25 percent shorter than the typical work year in other industries), teachers in traditional public schools are entitled to an average of 12 sick and personal days.”

Under the teacher contract that expired in August 2015, Warwick teachers are entitled to 90 paid sick days a year. That provision of the contract has been a bone of contention with some members of the School Committee, with Eugene Nadeau especially vocal. According to Superintendent Philip Thornton, the number of paid sick days was an issue raised during interest arbitration hearings.

“We do have an absenteeism problem,” Thornton said Wednesday. He said the issue of absenteeism and sick days was raised during interest arbitration and that he is reserving comments until the final arbitration report is rendered.

The final report of the arbitrator is expected to be released soon, but according to the “leanings” provided the administration and union, the 90 sick leave days remain unchanged.

In a statement, Warwick Teachers Union President Darlene Netcoh said, “Although the 90-day sick leave provision is a controversial number of sick days, it is not out of line with other districts. Coventry has 80, and Cranston has 75 with the ability to have 75 more if someone needs those days.”

“In Warwick, the number of sick days prevents the district from firing someone who is catastrophically ill. Also, teachers in Warwick have to pay for their sick days at the end of the year. The average number of teacher absences a year is just that – an average. That number includes teachers who are never absent and those who are absent due to serious, long-term illnesses.”

Katherine J. Duncanson, Executive Director of Human Resources for Warwick Schools cautioned, “Not everyone who takes it [sick time] abuses it.” She noted that teachers recovering from illnesses or undergoing treatments might have compromised immune systems, “and don’t want to be in front of a classroom full of kids.” She noted that teachers get “legal days” which would cover jury duty and other legal matters as well as five bereavement days for immediate family members, three days for grandparents and one day for other relatives. Maternity leave is six weeks from delivery and eight weeks after a cesarean delivery.

Thornton said the department closely monitors teacher absences, noting that chronic teacher absenteeism runs higher than absenteeism among administrators, which was 12 percent for last year. Warwick Independent School Employee chronic absenteeism – 10 or more days a year – is 41 percent. WISE employees receive 15 sick days per year. They can accumulate unused sick time up to 115 days. WISE members are paid out for 30 percent of the accumulated sick leave at retirement at a rate of $30/day. For example, if an employee has accumulated 100 sick days at the time of his/her retirement, he/she would be paid $30 for 33 1/3 days ($999).

“The most important thing in school is having the student and the teacher in school. Substitutes [teachers] are not the same thing,” Thornton said.

According to the Fordham study, “Several studies have examined the relationship between teacher absenteeism and pupil achievement and found a strong connection. In fact, there appears to be a one-to-one relationship: a ten-day increase in teacher absence results in at least a ten-day learning loss for students.”

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Thecaptain

On par with the fire fighters.

Friday, October 6
Justanidiot

If you give people a benefit that they have to use it or lose it, just what do you think they are going to do?

Friday, October 6
CrickeeRaven

Whatever benefit of the doubt that the teachers union thought they had with regard to time off just evaporated: https://warwickpost.com/pilgrim-high-school-classes-canceled-today/

The short version: So many Pilgrim teachers called in "sick" on Oct. 6 that the school could not open.

As several commenters have said previously, this group clamoring to be treated as professionals has been exhibiting disgraceful behavior. Now, barely a month into the new school year, they're already torpedoing the academic potential of the students that they claim to be fighting for. The blame for this starts at the top with the WTU president, who curiously claimed no knowledge of this "sick out."

When Warwick teachers complain about their poor perception by taxpayers and the media, they should look inward and ask why they allow themselves to be led into such short-sighted behavior.

Friday, October 6
JohnStark

Based upon the dismal academic performance of Pilgrim students, this "sick out" day is unlikely to have any impact, other than to further alienate the teachers' union from those that pay their salaries. Please, please stop with the "...education is an investment.." idiocy as 'investors' are avoiding the Warwick public schools like the plague if at all possible. If the elected school board had a scintilla of fortitude, they would reduce the number of sick days to two per year in any new contract, to the extent that there needs to be any type of collective bargaining agreement in the first place. We've seen the academic impact of the existing contract, and it's deplorable. In the dreaded private sector, these people (who insist upon being called "professionals") would be fired!

Friday, October 6
RISchadenfreude

But it's "ABOUT THE CHILDREN"! Feh.

Friday, October 6
Justanidiot

Remember, the teacher's have to have a doctor's note if they are out the day before a three day weekend.

Teacher's are helping the quack doctor industry! Good show old sports.

Friday, October 6
Jenn1000

Typical union puppets. They claim to care about the children. SHOW IT! SHOW UP! No school today because of a "sick out". Pathetic. Nice example they are sending.

Friday, October 6
Kammy

I am irritated by the WTU using the students as pawns in their contract negotiations.It is a hard pill to swallow that you rejected the arbitration because of issues that "are near and dear" to you only to have a sick out a month later. You have the audacity to say that the teachers are legitimately sick and that is why they called out. NO ONE BELIEVES YOU. You keep saying you are working without a contract but you are still getting paid and still receiving your 90 sick days. You have lost my support. You are paid to teach students. Students aren't being taught if the school is closed.

Friday, October 6
Thecaptain

I am wondering now why the FAKE MAYOR has not commented on this story. A culmination of all of his previous comments would indicate that he applauds this type of abusive behavior. He will remain silent, just as he did on the fire apparatus article, as he knows that he cannot defend the action as he will get pummeled, yet, he cant speak against the union that he has sold his soul to. Talk about an empty sack !

Friday, October 6
ThatGuyInRI

What?

No comments from "The Tax Payer's Mayor?"

Must be everyone's lucky day!

Oh, and way to go winning the hearts and minds of the public WTU, brilliant tactic.

Friday, October 6
ThatGuyInRI

Netcoh said she didn’t know why individual teachers had called in sick, but noted there are some legitimate reasons that are likely, including a cold that is circulating, unhealthy air conditions reported at the school, and stress.

___________________________________________________

Really? Must be one of those health issues that only affect people who work in one building, and not the kids. This is just like the "sick building" at Vets that only affected the staff and not the kids, admin, or staff. Cut the BS Netcoh, your tactics continue to fail and continue to alienate the very people -the public- you need to support you. Time for new leadership WTU, past time actually.

Friday, October 6
Thecaptain

I wonder what would happen to these union members if they ever decided to start their own business. No holidays, no sick days, plan for your own retirement, etc... They have no idea how difficult it is in the real world. 90 sick days is insane, even the 20 sick days on the WFD is insane. If you need that many sick days you should be in an isolation ward.

Friday, October 6
Bob_Cushman

This is not unusual for the union to claim no knowledge of such detrimental actions towards the students. They did the same thing 12 years ago. See: http://warwickonline.com/stories/omission-of-teacher-comments-awakens-citys-sleeping-giant,3381?

The school system has been forced to down size for a decade, yet the WTU wants to keep the same old inefficient costly policies in place.

Its the same old tactics from some of the same people who were in charge during the last protracted labor dispute. And like in 2006 the only way schools will move forward is for new leadership at the WTU.

In the last 12 years the WSC has turned over many times, along with the Superintendent and top administrators. What's the common denominator to all these disputes? It's the WTU and the recalcitrant leadership.

Friday, October 6
WwkVoter

The LAST thing we need is to lose collective bargaining for teachers, but they are at risk now more than ever. This is NOT the time to push the envelope. Or the public may be pushed right into the arms of "charters", privatized for-profit "schools", with the lack of standards, under-compensated pension-less instructors with high turnover, cherry picked students, rich "investors" leaving decimated public schools with the most at-risk students and far less resources. Cooperation needs to return on all sides or we risk losing all the good things about our public education system that took decades to build-in!

https://www.salon.com/2017/10/07/betsy-devos-vision-goes-beyond-privatizing-education-and-she-is-alarmingly-close-to-realizing-it_partner/

Sunday, October 8
JohnStark

Voter, collective bargaining has brought us some of the highest compensated teachers in the northeast. It has also resulted in fewer than 1 in 4 Warwick high school students meeting basic competency standards in either Reading or Math. Further, it has resulted in a mind-numbing exploitation of a system of sick days that became outmoded three decades ago. It is no coincidence that the latest "sick out" stunt occurred just prior to a three day weekend. And we are, somehow, supposed to take the union head seriously when she mentions "...cold and flu season" in the first week of October! This is who is teaching our children who demands to be seen as a "professional"?! Please. The rest of the world got away from pensions years ago and moved to defined contribution plans, much to the delight of participants. Of course, this requires a level of personal responsibility on the part of participants, something for which government employees have never been known for. It's time to a) De-certify the union and refuse to negotiate collectively, b) move to a voucher plan, which would save money as well as give lower income kids the same opportunities for quality schools as children of teachers who want nothing to do with public schools for their own kids, and c) transition to a defined contribution retirement plan for school employees younger than 35. We've tried it the 'union way', and it's a disaster.

Monday, October 9
Thecaptain

JohnStark,

You are 100% correct with your comments. The fact of the matter is that the collective bargaining system has bankrupted virtually every community. Of 14000 school districts in the US, the Warwick teachers are the 3rd highest paid with the 2nd highest benefit package. Further, it is my opinion that the union is refusing to accept any concessions for one reason and one reason only. They know that next year 4 members of the school committee will not be running again for office. This is their opportunity to select their candidates that, following in the tradition of Scott Avedisian, they will bow to the union concessions no matter what the impact is to the taxpayer. Not withstanding that 60% of the teachers do not live in Warwick and have children in other school districts, does anyone really believe that "its all about the kids". Cant wait to see them fired.

Monday, October 9
PaulHuff

So decertification is an interesting topic if it is true that many teachers feel they are being held hostage by WTU

https://www.nlrb.gov/rights-we-protect/whats-law/employees/i-am-represented-union/decertification-election

Tuesday, October 10
JohnStark

Captain and PaulHuff,

Coincidentally, I happened to have been speaking with two Warwick teachers on Friday, the day of the sick stunt. They told me that many, many Warwick teachers felt humiliated by the actions of Pilgrim's teaches. Neither teacher with whom I spoke will attend union meetings anymore. As one teacher put it: "What they are asking us to do will hurt kids!" I have always found it interesting that the teachers most dependent upon the union are invariably bitter and burned out, many of whom should have gotten out 10-15 years ago. A previous poster suggested that the WTU needs new leadership, but this does not go nearly far enough. In fact, the WTU has been an archaic collection of entitled misfits for over 30 years, churning out illiterate kid after illiterate kid, and 'demanding' more money in return. Will someone in a position of leadership (Mr. Mayor?...School Board member?...Hello?) please look to do what's right for kids and de-certify this union!

Tuesday, October 10
knowthetruth4

Once again the Warwick Beacon and the school committee have joined forces to vilify teachers.

Fact 1: Warwick teachers do not get short term disability from the school dept.

Fact 2: Those 90 sick days are there in place of providing a real short term disability insurance.

Fact 3: Warwick only pays for 5, that's right, 5 sick days per teacher. Any costs incurred by them in excess of the pool established for sick time is back charged to every teacher that was out even one day.

Fact 4: Warwick does not provide any teacher for time out due to pregnancy, surgery, treatments for cancer. The teachers take of our own by absorbing all the extra costs through the back charges. All that time goes against our sick time.

The Warwick Beacon and the School Committee should be ashamed for publishing such misleading, biased distorted information.

Tuesday, October 10
CrickeeRaven

Once again, instead of working toward a contract, the WTU instead escalates the already-tense situation: https://warwickpost.com/wtu-announces-no-confidence-vote-thornton-furtado/

By taking a no-confidence vote in Thornton and Furtado, the WTU is clearly proving that it was never seeking a resolution to this impasse unless it gets everything it is demanding. The move also proves that the WTU is trying to salvage some kind of PR victory in light of its loss at the General Assembly, its decision to reject the mediated contract approved by the school committee in July, its disastrous sick-out on Oct. 6 at Pilgrim, and its failure to rally anyone beyond its vocal minority to its cause.

None of these actions has, in fact, improved the WTU's image among the parents and taxpayers. It is curious, then, why the union leadership continues with these stunts.

And to JohnStark's suggestion about de-certifying the union, the school committee may not be able to do that itself; however, Wisconsin's law that requires 51% of union membership [including those who do not show up at the vote] to recertify may be instructive here. If Warwick put that sort of measure in place -- which means that, for example, 100 teachers voting to stay and 101 not voting would result in failure of recertification -- it would force the WTU leadership to prove its effectiveness to its members, and place the entire burden of the WTU's future on their shoulders.

While Wisconsin's was a state law, perhaps a measure like this could be a local referendum.

Tuesday, October 10
knowthetruth4

Sounds like CrickeeRaven is the taxpayer funded School Dept PR firm hard at work.

Tuesday, October 10
CrickeeRaven

knowthetruth4:

Your comment is neither original, nor true. See past comments by the fake "mayor" that made similar accusations with no proof.

And if he's your inspiration, you got bigger worries.

Tuesday, October 10
Thecaptain

I would add that CrickreeRaven's comments have been proven to be backed up by substantial information and documents. Feel free to contest them, just be able to offer substantial documentation, otherwise, like the fake mayor, you will be instantly dismissed.

Tuesday, October 10
Justanidiot

Stand fast Mister Thornton!

The union is starting to crumble.

Wednesday, October 11
richardcorrente

Rather than continue to define the problem, I think we all should focus on the solution.

The solution is to get the School Committee and Warwick Teachers Union to sit down and work this out!

Darlene Nepcoh said it best when she said "That's all we want is to be able to sit down and mediate and finish. There's no reason we should be for three years without a contract...We deserve no less."

I think that all effort should be aimed in that direction.

Happy Autumn everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Wednesday, October 11
CrickeeRaven

For someone who claims a business background, the fake "mayor" certainly lacks some of the most basic skills that running a business require, namely how to negotiate and to understand reality.

If the WTU wanted to negotiate, it would have agreed to a contract in 2015 and not pulled the series of PR stunts that culminated in the symbolic and ultimately futile no-confidence vote.

Also, whether everyone [or anyone] outside the contract process agrees that there should be a contract, it's the WTU that has the burden to actually agree to what it has been offered.

Allow me to repeat that for the fake "mayor," who seems to have forgotten that the school committee approved the mediated contract on July 11: what it has been offered.

Frequent readers know that the fake "mayor" simply can't [or won't] let go of any talking point, no matter the objective and true information presented to him. In fact, he's been calling for the school committee and WTU to "sit down at the negotiating table," primarily on honor roll articles, after mediation and arbitration meetings were held.

Calling for his "solution" now, after the pickets, the schoolyard taunts at the superintendent, the sick-outs, the rejection of an actual contract, proves what the fake "mayor" has in common with the WTU that he so readily panders to -- not paying attention to reality.

Thursday, October 12