WARWICK, RI — The Warwick School Committee approved a resolution disavowing contract continuation Tuesday night during their meeting at Warwick Veterans Jr. High School at 2401 West Shore Road.
The vote was 4-1, with member Karen Bachus as the lone dissenter. Chairwoman Bethany Furtado, Terri Medeiros, David Testa, and Eugene Nadeau all voted for the resolution.
The resolution states in part: Current state law does not provide for mandatory continuation of an existing teacher collective bargaining agreement;
Contract continuation would serve as a disincentive for unions to bargain in good faith and allow existing employee wages and benefits to continue unchanged indefinitely forcing districts to possibly violate state-mandated property tax caps and RIDE’s rules and regulations;
That the Warwick School Committee respectfully requests the Rhode Island General Assembly to oppose 2018 – S 2927 & 2018 – H 7198 and any and all legislative proposals, that would mandate expired teacher contracts must continue at the existing terms and conditions;
A copy of the resolution will be forwarded to every Rhode Island Municipality, School Committee, State Senator, State Representative and the Governor.
Last year, the Warwick School Committee emerged the victor of a dispute over current law governing expired contracts thanks to a Superior Court decision that February. A full account of the years-long dispute over the Warwick teachers contract can be found in the WarwickPost.com archives.
During the meeting, School Committee members also clashed over the way teachers were treated during recent contract negotiations.
“What happened to our teachers was horrible,” said Karen Bachus. “The administration was taking one-sided potshots at the teachers.”
Bachus noted the contract talks would have been resolved much sooner if the administration had acted in a more cooperative manner.
“If (the contract) was not ended when it ends, there would be civil unrest,” said Nadeau. “What they ended up with was an 11 percent salary increase over the next three years. They were not treated unfairly so there is no reason to believe they suffered unduly.”
“It’s not just about money,” Bachus responded. “It’s about benefits and that contract effects every other person who works in this district.”
The Committee also reviewed the elementary consolidation plan.
In Phase I of the plan, Aldrich and Gorton Junior High Schools were closed as school buildings, and Veterans High School was converted into a junior high school. Winman remains a junior high school as before. Gorton has been converted into an Administration building, housing all of the district’s administrative staff who were previously working in three different locations. The former Aldrich building was sold back to the City of Warwick.
Phase II of the Secondary Consolidation will see the 2018-2019 school year Veterans Junior High School and Winman Junior High becoming middle schools, with rising sixth graders moving from their respective elementary schools into these two buildings. This will align Warwick with the rest of the districts in RI, excluding only New Shoreham on Block Island, who all offer the middle school model to their communities.
For Phase II the Grade 6 Assimilation Committee has been meeting to discuss the transition of current fifth graders into grade 6 at the middle schools in 2018-19. Their topics of discussion include program offerings, class scheduling, student orientation, staffing, transportation, space reconfiguration, and furniture.
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