Teachers finally have a new contract


Ending more than two years of acrimony and divisive debate over what is best for the education of Warwick children, the Warwick Teachers Union approved a contract Tuesday evening giving teachers a 2 percent retroactive pay raise for a portion of last year and 3 percent raises this year and for the next two years. Teachers also get to retain 90 sick days.

On the city side, the contract eliminates a system implemented more than 20 years ago of weighting special needs students as more than one student in determining class size and a multitude of language issues from giving teachers preference for coaching positions to the elimination of seniority as the criteria for teaching preferences. Many of the contract changes closely follow the findings of arbitrator Michael Ryan, who in the course of two years presided over scores of hearings where elements of the prior contract were discussed by both parties.

Setting the stage for the protracted dispute, unlike prior years and faced with consolidation of secondary schools, the School Committee and administration refused to recognize the terms of the expired contract until a new agreement was reached. The union argued a Labor Relations Board ruling made more than a decade earlier required the district to abide by the terms of the expired agreement. The Committee challenged the ruling in court and won.

On another level, the Committee abandoned negotiations and moved into mediation. Even that came apart when School Committee Chair Bethany Furtado termed the process a waste of time and ended the sessions about a year ago. Mediation resumed in January with Mayor Scott Avedisian serving as a facilitator to attorney and mediator Vincent Ragosta.

“I’m thrilled that it [the contract] has been ratified,” Avedisian said Wednesday. “Obviously it has been a very long process.” He thanked those who continued to come to the table and in particular Ragosta who, he said, “really focused on how to reach consensus.”

Avedisian termed arbitration “unwieldy,” adding that he intends to look at legislation in other states to set strict deadlines with penalties on when negotiations must start and results.

School Committee member Karen Bachus, who aligned herself with the teachers, called the end of the contract dispute “a great thing for Warwick,” although she is less than happy with the terms of the agreement.

She said teachers gave up a lot of language, a result of the arbitration, as well as individual and group grievances.

“Class size was the major sticking point. It was their major concern...that effects teaching and learning and effects everything,” Bachus said.

She said the union sought to limit the number of students with an IEP [individual education program] to 25 percent of a class. The arbitration award was for 30 percent, which is still a reduction from many existing class ratios. According to data provided by the superintendent’s office, about 14 percent of secondary school classes exceed that 30 percent threshold.

“We have some absolutely superb educators in this city and I know they've been working very hard in these years without a contract and hopefully we can all move on and there will be peace and everybody will get what they need,” Bachus said.

Union President Darlene Netcoh was hesitant to detail specifics of the agreement until they had been finalized. She said a “majority” of members voted to ratify the agreement.

“I am looking forward to labor peace. All the teachers have wanted is a successor collective bargaining agreement. We've seen what the past two years have brought. We have a contract now, it's a contract between two parties and I'm just hopeful that moving forward the union can reestablish a working relationship with central administration and the school committee,” she said in a statement.

Superintendent Philip Thornton said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, “We are very happy to have a finalized agreement. Going forward, we are pleased with the educational steps that this contract will bring.”

School Committee chair Bethany Furtado was hopeful that labor peace would enable the union and the administration to work collaboratively. “It’s all about the education and the best we can give them [students],” she said.

While seemingly a contract offers the opportunity for harmony and cooperation between the administration and teachers, the school administration faces a new challenge in funding the agreement, requiring an additional $4.6 million this fiscal year.

In presenting its budget request last spring to the City Council, the School Committee included $3.3 million for increased salaries based on the assumption teachers would get a 3 percent pay increase this year. But, as there was no agreement, the council cut the money from the budget with the pledge it would be forthcoming with a contract.

Now the committee will come back to the council for the $3.3 million plus $1.3 million more.

Whatever amount is agreed upon will presumably come out of the city’s unrestricted reserves.

For as much as council members are pleased there is finally a contract, fully funding it doesn’t look to be an easy sell.

Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur, chair of the City Council finance committee, accused the school administration of failing to prepare for a contract, although he agreed if schools had requested more than $3.3 million it could have sent the wrong signal during negotiations.

“If I was in a poker game, I wouldn’t want to show all my cards,” he said.

Ladouceur feels schools can come up with any shortfall beyond an additional $3.3 million.

“They’re going to have to figure it out,” he said. “I think they have the money.”

“I’m not a believer of throwing money to fix a problem. It’s not going to fix poor management,” he said.

Ladouceur said he moved to Warwick as a young family because he could get the most house for the least money and for the school system. He feels the city has lost both attributes. Taxes have pushed up the cost of homeownership and the school system has suffered from the lack of proper management, he said.

“The cost of [school] administration is out of control. I think it needs a complete overhaul,” he said.


9 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

Just as we all suspected....It wasn’t about the kids since the teachers capitulated on the class weighting issue and took the money instead.

Greedy....too bad the school committee gave away the store. Vote them out!!!!!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Paul, weighting classrooms based on IEPs is a fairly outdated system. As much as I personally believe those students should be weighted - they require more resources, so they should count as more than a non-IEP student - the WSC wasn’t going to budge. Instead they are limiting class sizes and reducing the percentage of students on IEPs that is allowed in the classroom. Explain how that isn’t about the students? Oh, right, you only read the part about the $$, which is exactly what The Beacon and the WSC want you to read. By the way, these were decisions negotiated based on arbitration. Are you going to spout off about his decision making? Probably not, because you don’t sound very educated on the matter.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Well, at least that is done for three more years.

When will the contract be released? Sure pay and class size are the sexy items but healthcare and staffing really drive the cost, when will we get that info?

And please, enough about the "high taxes" in Warwick. Take a look at E.G., Cranston, Johnston; taxes are relatively low in Warwick -by RI standards- because we have an enormous number of retail stores to tax, as well as the airport, hotels, etc. Take a look at Woonsocket if you want to see what crushing taxes look like.

Monday, November 27, 2017

tank you mr mayer. the taxprayers were well served . lets reerect him for another turm so hes can save us from the horror of the airports and airplanes

Monday, November 27, 2017

How disappointing is to know that, "Many of the contract changes closely follow the findings of arbitrator Michael Ryan, who in the course of two years presided over scores of hearings where elements of the prior contract were discussed by both parties."

Why or what did it take for you to finally agree with what had already been on the table for two years? What a colossal waste of time and money. I feel very bitter about the entire contract issue. What would make me (and probably a lot of Warwick Residents) feel better is too see an improvement in our student's scores, higher graduation rate and proficiency with our graduating Seniors. That would really help us to know that it is all about the students. I am talking to you both - WSC and WTU!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The School Committee HAS the money to fund these raises. They won't show it. They won't allow an impartial audit from an outside independent source either, but they have it. They have a cash reserve just in their health benefits of over $3 million dollars. They have added to it every year for the last 17 years and have never taken a penny out. That's because there is no need for a cash reserve for this account at all! The fact that they never have taken a withdrawal, proves that their hasn't EVER been the need to do so. As health insurance claims increase or decrease, the premiums go up or down accordingly. Therefore Warwick doesn't NEED a cash reserve for this account... and never will.

Ed Ladouceur said it best when he said "The cost of the administration is out of control."

Merry Christmas everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Richard, wen you go to the next meeting, ask that question. Go get some answers Mr. Taxpayers Servant. I look forward to hearing you speak up at the meetings since you are seeking an elected office.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Dear Kammy,

Excellent idea. I will take your advice.

I spoke with Anthony Ferrucci about a year and a half ago and asked "Anthony. The school department has (at that time) about $3,300,000 in their cash reserve account for their health benefits. Is that right?" He said "Yes." I asked "Would it cost about $1,000,000 to purchase enough Chromebooks so that every student would have one?" He said "Yes." I said "Anthony! Why don't we take $1,000,000 out of that cash reserve, and go to Best-Buy TODAY and buy the Chromebooks that our students so desperately need?" He laughed and went on to explain (for about fifteen minutes) why we couldn't touch that money. When he was done I only had one more question. I asked "Anthony! Why can't we take one million dollars out of a fund that the School Committee has NEVER needed to withdraw from; no a penny in SEVENTEEN years, and go to Best-Buy TODAY?" Again, he laughed.

I still don't have a real answer, but I honestly like your idea. I will ask at the next School Committee meeting, but I don't think the members will answer questions, just listen to comments. I will try. I promise.

Like you, I am also bitter about the lengthy contract-talk process. Here's what we do know. The Warwick Teachers Union was willing to meet anywhere, any day, anytime, about any related topic. They deserve our respect and gratitude. The School Committee refused to put even a mild effort, as far as I have seen, and deserve our contempt as a result. Finally, the Mayor, who waited for two years before he entered the conversation, should have made himself available right from day one. That's what I would have done. That's what I will do if elected.

Merry Christmas Kammy.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Friday, December 1, 2017

More pandering from the disgraced failed candidate:

"The Warwick Teachers Union was willing to meet anywhere, any day, anytime, about any related topic. They deserve our respect and gratitude. The School Committee refused to put even a mild effort, as far as I have seen, and deserve our contempt as a result."

As he has done so often before, the lying fake "mayor" ignores the dozens of meeting held by both parties, the PR stunts by the WTU, and the approval of a contract this past July which the union subsequently rejected. This further proves his delusional belief that he can mislead Warwick voters, and he will certainly continue to humiliate himself in his future comments.

Monday, December 4, 2017