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Warwick School Committee Approves Five Teacher Layoffs

[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] Warwick Veterans Middle School, 2401 W Shore Rd, Warwick, RI, is the venue for the Warwick School Committee meetings.

[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] Warwick Veterans Middle School, 2401 W Shore Rd, Warwick, RI, is the venue for the Warwick School Committee meetings.
[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] Warwick Veterans Middle School, 2401 W Shore Rd, Warwick, RI, is the venue for the Warwick School Committee meetings. Tuesday night, the School Committee approved five teacher layoffs.
WARWICK, RI — The School Committee voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to approve five teacher layoffs for the next school year, including three art teachers, a business teacher at Warwick Veterans Middle School, and one math teacher.

Chair Shaun Galligan, David Testa, Leah Hazelwood, and Michele Kirby-Chapman all voted in favor, with Karen Bachus in opposition.

Kimberly Ruggieri, Warwick Schools Director of Human Resources, explained the layoffs were based on course requests of the students.

“We make our staffing decisions based on those enrollments,” Ruggieri said. “We agree 100 percent that one layoff is too many for that one person. (Superintendent) Dambruch and I hand-delivered the (layoff notices) and spoke to each person directly and explained it’s not job performance and that we’re here because of the course enrollments. At the same time, we are tasked with being fiscally responsible to staff to the need of the district. This isn’t easy for any of us but it’s a necessity for the budget situation that we are in.”

“It’s a lot for those five people,” said Warwick Teachers’ Union President Darlene Netcoh, who had urged the committee not to vote for the layoffs. Netcoh noted the teachers were “dedicated to their jobs” and said the subject areas were “important.”

“We have the promise that if enrollment increases, those teachers will be called back,” said Hazelwood.

Last month, the Committee approved a FY’25 school budget of $190 million, which represents a slight increase over the current fiscal year – $185 million.

Kilns not up to code

Stephen Gothberg, Director of Buildings and Grounds, delivered a report on kilns in the schools.

“None of them meet code by any stretch of the imagination,” Gothberg noted. 

Space availability was an issue as well.

Gothberg said there was no space for kilns to be operated safely in any of the district’s elementary schools. There was no space at Toll Gate and Pilgrim High Schools either. However, there is room for two kilns each at Winman Middle School and Warwick Veterans Middle School.

An architect will be hired to review the space at the middle schools. The school committee would need to approve a design before September. 

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) would provide as much as thirty-five percent reimbursement for the cost, which Gothberg said would be under $500,000.

“We will do our best to get it done,” he added.

New High Schools Update

John Bates, a representative from Left Field Project Management, said the new Pilgrim and Toll Gate high schools would be enrolled in the Rhode Island Energy Incentive program. 

Bates noted steps would be taken to lower energy use in both buildings. Construction on the project will commence in November or December. In November 2022, voters approved a $350 million bond to pay for the project. RIDE may reimburse the district for the construction of the schools for $314 million out of the $350 million bond instead of $300 million as originally anticipated. The total cost of Pilgrim is $175 million. The total cost of Toll Gate is $174.5 million.

Saccoccio and Associates will be working on the design for Toll Gate. Pilgrim will be designed by Saam Architecture. 

Absenteeism, Budget updates

Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey reported declines in chronic absenteeism at several schools, including Pilgrim with 13 percent, Winman by 12 percent, Norwood Elementary by 16 percent, Robertson Elementary School by 13 percent, and Toll Gate by 11 percent.

McCaffrey noted the City Council’s budget hearing would be held on May 20 at 4 pm.

“We encourage all administrators, teachers, and staff to attend. It’s an opportunity to voice your support for education in Warwick schools.”

 

Joe Siegel
Author: Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel is a regular contributing writer for WarwickPost.com. His reporting has appeared in The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro and EDGE.

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