CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story inaccurately reported the proposed salary increase in a draft teachers contract. The 1.25% increase referenced by Bob McGuire is in the current contract, mutually agreed on, ending Aug. 31, 2024.
Additional information from Testa added to this story clarifies his statement about he and Sean Galligan’s conflicts regarding negotiating the contact.
WARWICK, RI — Members of the Warwick Teachers Union vented their anger over a new Warwick Schools contract proposal at Tuesday’s school committee meeting, taking issue with a proposed 2% increase for three years.
A 12 page e-mail sent last week to the WTU by Andrew Henneous, the legal counsel for the school department, stirred the uproar.
“You have awakened the sleeping giant,” said WTU President Darlene Netcoh, referring to the large gathering of union members in the Toll Gate High School auditorium.
“You, Andrew, were the one who set this in motion,” Netcoh continued. “The work that the teachers did during the pandemic, teaching students hybrid, only virtual, in-person, with masks, without masks, our Warwick teachers were never properly thanked, acknowledged, compensated, for the work they did during that period of time. Get down on your knees and compensate them appropriately.”
Michelle Landry, a teacher at Toll Gate, expressed her frustration with Superintendent Lynn Dambruch and Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey. “When you were both elevated to the top leadership positions in this district, I was relieved and elated. I thought we finally had administrators who knew exactly what it was like to be in a Warwick Public School classroom. I don’t know what is more shameful, the trust I’ve had in you, that you would do right by the students and teachers of this district, or the way you have betrayed us.”
School Committee Chairman David Testa told Landry that he and vice-chairman Shaun Galligan were “conflicted here on the particular negotiations.” After the meeting, Testa clarified that the “conflict” that he and Galligan have is that “Both of us have family members who are employees so we’re prohibited by law from participating in negotiations. Prior to public comment, neither of us knew any of the details of the currently negotiations.”
Bob McGuire, a teacher at Robertson Elementary School, lamented that, in his view, the school department could not offer a fair contract to Warwick teachers.
“Coming out of COVID, you’d think we’d get a bone thrown at us,” McGuire said. “No, we got a zero percent coming out of Covid. That’s an utter lack of respect. Our average over that three year contract was 1.66 percent. That is pathetic. That is paltry. Now we have a one year contract with a 1.25 percent (increase), referencing an earlier contract agreed to by the district and teachers.
“And now, we get a three-year contract offer at 2 percent, 2 percent, 2 percent, and changing contract language. We’re still on the bottom,” McGuire said, noting teacher raises compared to other union raises, ranging from police and fire at an average 3.42%, to WISE at an average 2.16%.
Jonathan Lautieri, a teacher at Winman Middle School, reported seeing a record number of teacher vacancies.
“I counted over 55 vacancies at the end of job fair,” Letteri noted. “There will be many more veteran teachers retiring in the next few years. Warwick is being impacted by the teacher shortage in this country. If we want to attract and retain the best and the brightest to fill current vacancies and the vacancies that will be anticipated over the next few years, you need to do better than the current successor (collective bargaining agreement) that is on the table.”
Teacher Peter SanGiovanni was upset by the “striking out” of special education language from the proposed contract. SanGiovanni is the father of an eighth grade student who is disabled.
“That language protects him and his classmates,” SanGiovanni explained. “The striking of that language shows you’re also willing to bargain and try to win your argument on the backs of the most vulnerable and at-risk students in the city. It’s shameful, it’s disgusting, it’s disgraceful, it’s embarrassing to the city and I’m not happy.”
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