WARWICK, RI — With a contract agreement signed by the Warwick Teachers Union and the Warwick School Committee, teacher picket lines seemed on extended hiatus, but the School Department is poised to violate an agreed upon date to deliver back pay, and the union plans for two protests.
“I have a document that (School Committee Chairwoman) Beth Furtado signed that sets Dec. 21 as the pay forward date,” said Warwick Teachers Union President Darlene Netcoh.
The retroactive pay, part of the new contract agreement covering raises teachers did not receive while working without a contract for two years, ranges between about $400 for the first-step teachers to $779 for top-step teachers, Netcoh said.
But in an email to Warwick Teachers last week, Warwick Schools Superintendent Phil Thornton said the School Department is not likely to meet that part of the agreement.
“Since the WTU officially ratified the agreement, we have worked tirelessly to get on the December City Council Agendas without any success. Accordingly, it does not appear that we will be able to meet the December 21st payroll goal,” Thornton wrote.
Warwick School Committee member Karen Bachus cast a skeptical view of Thornton’s account of the cause of the delay.
“We just had a special meeting with the Council on November 29! Neither you nor Ferrucci made mention of any of this! You had the stage! Why didn’t you use that meeting to broach the subject? You did nothing before December!” Bachus wrote in an open letter posted to the Let’s Save Warwick Schools Facebook page.
Netcoh was also skeptical that the School Department is truly dependent on the Warwick City Council for the funds to pay teachers in keeping with their agreement. Netcoh said the School Department could pay teachers out of an account for school improvement bonds, and could pay teachers from that until they can reimburse the expense by asking the City Council to release the funds later.
“Which is what they should do,” to live up to their agreement, Netcoh said.
Netcoh also pointed out the recent ingenuity the School Department showed over the summer, when administrators made a $36,000 emergency purchase of air conditioners at the Gorton School building. Bachus noted the School Department didn’t have approval for that expenditure at the time.
“They have no problem taking care of what they want,” Netcoh said.
So, Netcoh said, Warwick teachers will picket outside the Warwick School Committee meeting Tuesday night, starting at 5:30 p.m., this week at Warwick Veterans High School. Teachers will also picket at the School Administration Building, 69 Draper Ave., the former Gorton Jr. High School, on Thursday from 2:45 p.m. till 4:15 p.m.
This fall, we set as the goal for payment a date of December 21, 2017. As you are well aware, during the budget approval process the City Council held a portion of the School Department’s requested budget that was attributable to the estimated teacher contract raises until we reached an agreement with the WTU. Accordingly, we must now request the release of that money from the City Council prior to the expenditure of the unbudgeted salary dollars.
Spending prior to that appropriation would put the school department in deficit spending and would require the involvement of the Rhode Island Auditor General. Since the WTU officially ratified the agreement, we have worked tirelessly to get on the December City Council Agendas without any success. Accordingly, it does not appear that we will be able to meet the December 21st payroll goal. We have been informed that the matter has been docketed on the City Council Agenda for January 3rd at which time they are considering approving the resolution for approval of the additional funds to be voted on January 17, 2018. While we are disappointed with this time frame it is not within our control to alter it. Meeting with the City Council on January 3rd will set us up to process the pay increases in the February 1st payroll. I do want to apologize to you all for the delay in receiving both your retroactive pay increase and the raise for this year. We will continue to do everything in our power to move the process along and as soon as we can get before the Council and get the necessary approval, we will expedite the agreed upon payments.
Seriously Phil, your nose is getting longer and longer! STOP lying!
Just admit that you didn’t realize that you had to go to the Council to ask for the money to be released; and that your best buddy didn’t give you a heads up! The CBA was signed the 3rd week of October.
You just started to try and get on the docket in December? How does that show you “working tirelessly” to get this done for our teachers?
We just had a special meeting with the Council on November 29! Neither you nor Ferrucci made mention of any of this! You had the stage! Why didn’t you use that meeting to broach the subject? You did nothing before December!
You were too busy taking pictures of fields, new construction, and gyms to be bothered! Please resign! You are an embarrassment! Please just take your media guru, Justin and company,and the rest of your lovely friends, and go find another place to terrorize! Really Phil, we have more than enough problems without adding your drama to the pile!
Signed, Karen Bachus, MA Warwick School Committee (1 of 5 of your supervisors) PS. “4 in favor, Ms. Bachus dissenting!”