Contract goes to teachers for vote

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After more than two years of contract negotiations and tensions which multiple times came close to boiling over, the Warwick Teachers’ Union has a tentative agreement in front of them for a new collective bargaining agreement with the Warwick School Committee – and they have about a week to say yay or nay.

During their Tuesday night meeting the Warwick School Committee put forward a motion, unanimously approved, which accepted the terms of the tentative agreement. However, if the union does not approve, the motion dissolves.

“This motion is subject to and contingent upon the Warwick Teachers’ Union ratifying the final tentative agreement, dated Oct. 19, 2017, within 10 days from the date of this motion invoked,” explained School Committee chairwoman Beth Furtado.

“The ball is in our court,” acknowledged union president Darlene Netcoh during public comments.

Had that lengthy October meeting not resulted in a tentative agreement between the School Committee and the union, non-financial contract provisions would have been made binding by an independent arbitration award, which was ready to be presented by state-appointed arbitrator Michael Ryan. However the two sides struck a deal on their own accord before that was officially released and became binding.

The two sides in the mediation session did, however, have an advanced copy of what that award would look like, in order to give perspective into what language was on track to becoming binding and provide an impetus for the two sides to come to middle ground on issues which had been sticking points.

As a result the final, ratified contract is expected to largely reflect the provisions of the independent arbitration findings, with a few key amendments to areas of particular concern of the teachers. The 91-page arbitration findings were released on Tuesday in full for the review of the Warwick School Committee during the executive session of their meeting.

The arbitration findings, now a public document acquired by the Beacon, revealed that compromises had been achieved in the most crucial areas of negotiations – class size restrictions, allowable percentages of students with special needs, weighting for students with individualized education programs (IEPs) and salary raises.

Keep in mind that, while these findings were used as a reference by both sides in their final mediation meeting, the final ratified collective bargaining agreement will have some amended variations. Neither side is commenting on the finalized details of the possible new agreement.

“Both sides made an agreement back in the wee, A.M. hours of Oct. 19 to not speak about our agreement to the press, and both sides have upheld that agreement,” Netcoh said proactively during public comment at the School Committee meeting.

According to the arbitration findings in regards to class sizes, a majority of both sides were able to agree to eliminate the process of “weighting” of students with IEPs to count as equivalent to 1.5 or 2 students without IEPs (depending on the severity of the learning disability). They opted to set up a structure of “collaborative classes” instead to handle classrooms that combine students with and without IEPs.

The provisions of a collaborative class include the following: The number of special education students will not exceed 30 percent and, if that percentage must be exceeded, the teacher shall be provided additional compensation corresponding to the number of students it is exceeded by. The 30 percent limit will take effect the 2018/19 school year, and shall not apply to classes with 10 or fewer students enrolled in the class.

A collaborative class is defined in the language as, “…a core academic class that is taught by both a regular education content area teacher and a special education teacher. Both teachers shall be teachers of record for the entire roster of students of the collaborative class…Intensive Academic core classes shall be collaborative classes. Core classes are defined as Social Studies, Math, English and Science. Electives shall not be considered core classes…Supportive Academic core classes may be collaborative classes depending upon student need.”

The two sides agreed that schools shall aim for 25 students as an ideal class sizes. The parties agreed that 26 students would be the maximum. Should situations require a class to go above 26 students, the teacher will receive additional compensation corresponding to the number of students it is exceeded by. The same applies in Kindergarten classes, but for a maximum class size of 22.

In terms of salary, it was revealed that the last offer given by the union included 3 percent pay raises for both years the teachers went without a contract, and 3 percent for the three years of the new deal. The School Committee had offered over the summer a deal of no pay increase for 2015/16, a 2 percent increase for 2016/17, a 2.5 percent increase for 2017/18 and a 3 percent increase for 2018/19.

In the award, Ryan agreed with budget director Anthony Ferrucci in his cautioning strongly against appropriating surplus funds from a budget to go towards salary increases, and agreed that “it would be extremely unwise, and actually detrimental to the bargaining unit, to use money from the health insurance account to fund salaries.”

However Ryan writes, after much negotiating, “a majority of the panel has decided on a compromise between the parties’ most recent proposals. As the School Committee points out, Warwick salaries already compare favorably with most other Rhode Island school districts. The School Committee has not sought an increase in health insurance contributions, so the percentage increases are real, not illusory.”

The compromise includes no increase for 2015/16, a 2 percent increase for 2016/17 delayed for one half of the school year so that the teachers will receive an actual 1 percent retroactive raise through a reimbursement, a 3 percent increase for 2017/18, delayed three-quarters of the year so that teachers will receive an actual 2.25 percent raise through reimbursement and 3 percent salary increases for 2018/19 and 2019/20.

The findings also mentioned the sick leave policy, which was discussed but no final decision made via arbitration. The School Committee wanted to shave the 90 sick days down to 18 (with only 1.5 a month for new hires), and accruable to a maximum of 90 days, in addition to creating a sick bank for extended absences.

To these large potential changes, Ryan opted to stay out of it entirely.

“Interest arbitration is generally a conservative process, which disfavors the imposition of comprehensive changes and novel language,” he writes. “It is far better for the parties themselves to work out the details of such changes, because they are much more familiar with the situation than an outside neutral.”

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Justanidiot

They are bringing in teachers from East Greenwich to read it to them.

Thursday, November 16
ThatGuyInRI

So....

When Netcoh stated that the School Department was lying in stating that the WTU had requested(demanded) a retroactive raise of 3% and 3% as well as 3%,3%,3% going forward it Netcoh who was lying all along. Let's restate that:

Netcoh lied to the public, not the school committee at least on this one issue. It'll make for good reading to see who was lying about what. My money says it was the hack Netcoh who was doing most if not all of the lying.

Friday, November 17
richardcorrente

Dear ThatGuyInRI,

Are you saying that Netcoh "requested" or "demanded"?

Big difference.

I'm sure that over the last several months, she discussed a ton of options, including retroactive pay. I don't think she ever denied talking about that, but rather than play the "he-said, she-said" game, let's just look at the facts as we know them. Fact: Netcoh was willing to meet with the School Committee (SC) "anywhere, anytime, on any day to discus any related topic" She gets an "A" for effort in my opinion.

Fact: The SC flat-refused, on multiple occasions, to meet under any conditions and then finally agreed to meet only if several topics were prohibited from the conversation. They get an "F" for their behavior, and while we're at it I give the Mayor an "I" for incomplete.

Fact: He didn't even show up for 2 years! I would have been there from day one. (unless the parties preferred to talk in private)

You may or may not agree with the terms of the final contract (I may not either!) but I think we can agree that Netcoh spent a "ton" of effort on it. That effort alone deserves great respect.

By the way ThatGuyInRI, how do you grade Netcoh, the SC, and the Mayor for effort over the last 2+ years of contract talks?

I do agree with you on one thing. It will make for good reading. I look forward to reading your comments at that time. Until then Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Monday, November 20
PaulHuff

Richard,

I’m giving you a “P” for pandering. Please stop. Most of the greedy teachers don’t live in the city so they won’t be able to help your unsuccessful quest to become mayor.

Tuesday, November 21
richardcorrente

Dear Paul Huff,

You are entitled to feel that way. I tend to agree with you. I have been pandering to the teachers for about the last two years. The reason is, that I see a critical need to solve the teachers contract issue for the betterment of the City of Warwick. I "pandered" to the teachers because it seemed to me that 95% of the effort was coming from them. If it came from the School Committee and NOT the teachers, I would give the School Committee that same credit, and short sighted people would accuse me of "pandering" to the School Committee.

But it didn't.

It came from Darlene Netcoh and the Warwick Teachers Union. That's why I gave credit where credit was due.

But you can call it "pandering" if you want.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Paul Huff.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 21
ThatGuyInRI

Well Rich, I don't feel that I have the information nor position to offer grades on the SC, Mayor, or Netcoh as I do not have all the facts, bet you don't either.

The one fact I do know is that Netcoh lied publicly when she stated that the WTU had never asked (or demanded, I don't know hence both options) for 3% & 3% raise retroactively and 3%,3%,3% going forward. The fact is the union did ask for this and Netcoh said they did not. That is the only fact I have and thus the only thing I'm qualified to comment on.

BTW, I saw one of your "cut taxes" signs on Greenwich Ave the other day. It's and easy enough concept to understand and one the misinformed can easily support, what's not to like about lower taxes? The problem is, cutting taxes means cutting services. If elected, what services would you cut? Would you reduce the police or fire departments, lay off teachers, reduce parks & rec, sanitation, now plow the roads in winter, close the senior center, how precisely would you pay for these tax cuts? And for the record, the taxes in Warwick are not particularly egregious in my opinion by RI standards at least, I think people just like to complain about taxes, much like the weather.

Are you still glad you waited for my response?

Tuesday, November 21
richardcorrente

Dear ThatGuyInRI,

You are right...again.

I don't have the final facts to form a final opinion. I was stating my opinion/grading (I'll bet you have one too) based on the events we know so far.

But I did want to comment on your question, What services would I cut? The answer is...none.

In Cranston, a community that is growing at about the same rate as Warwick is shrinking, their services haven't been cut either. Mayor Fung realizes that adding more taxpayers increases total tax revenue. Therefore he was able to reduce taxes per taxpayer WITHOUT cutting services. Sounds like a good idea to me. Maybe we should take a lesson from it. That's why I spent 700 days in a row promoting it. You should too. Avedisian raised taxes every year for 17 years in a row. Then I campaigned to "Cut Taxes - Cut Spending" and for the first time in 17 years we didn't have a tax increase. (You don't think that was a coincidence, do you?) That doesn't mean Scott didn't try. He introduced 29 amendments to the budget. Each one would have raised taxes, but all 9 members of the City Council, who had heard from their constituents, "Cut Taxes - Cut Spending" unanimously shot him down all 29 times! The big difference, I believe, was my 700 days-in-a-row campaign. I'm exceptionally proud that I had something to do with that movement and the effect it had on the City Council, and it continues today. Hey, why don't you join us!

Merry Christmas ThatGuyInRI.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Friday, November 24