Welcome. Over the past year, the School Committee and Warwick Public Schools Central Offices have received numerous requests for information about the status of teacher contract negotiations. In an effort to answer questions from the community and improve access to public information on this important topic, we have created this webpage as a resource for residents.
- Arbitration & Mediation Updates
- October 17, 2016
- October 2, 2016
- The Expired Teachers Contract
- The Eleven Contract Issues Being Negotiated
- Rhode Island State Labor Relations Board Ruling
Arbitration & Mediation Updates
October 17, 2016
The School Department and the Union received the following correspondence from the Mediator, Vincent Ragosta this afternoon:
This will serve to confirm that mediation has been adjourned as of Friday October 14th. Both the WSC and WTU have made it clear to me that they are resolute in pursuing or opposing certain core proposals. Meaningful compromise is not probable given these postures. By way of example only, the WSC is adamant that the subject matters of weighting, stainines, and co-op classes be eliminated from the successor CBA. These proposals, which were part of the WSC’s packaged proposal of September 27th were rejected in toto by the WTU, explaining that these issues are “near and dear” to the WTU, and for which they will “continue to fight”. As I explained last Friday prior to adjourning mediation, given the strident and intransigent stances taken on these subject matters by both parties, the most practical forum for dispute resolution is the pending interest arbitration. I respect your candor and commitment to the respective positions of those you represent. Presumably Arbitrator Ryan will give you a full and fair evidentiary hearing and and issue awards to end your impasse with finality.
In the interim, I will keep my file open should you mutually agree to resume mediation at some point in the future. Don’t hesitate to contact me should that become an eventuality.
October 2, 2016
TEACHERS CONTRACT UPDATE IN FULL
Due to multiple requests from parents, community members, and the media, the Warwick Public Schools are disclosing their current state of contract talks between the school system and the Warwick Teachers Union.
Reaching a stalemate, the School Committee took the matter to Superior Court so that we could move forward. Just last month, Superior Court Judge Gallo stopped a Labor Board decision that would have halted our consolidation plan as we continue contract negotiations and arbitration process. The decision allows us to operate in the best interests of the students, residents, and taxpayers of Warwick.
The School Committee and the Warwick Public Schools continue to negotiate in good faith with the Warwick Teachers Union and remain optimistic that both sides can reach an agreement soon.
Listed below are the areas of discord.
The Warwick Public Schools are offering raises that would make Warwick Teachers among highest paid in state and region.
The School Committee is offering 0% for 2015-16, 3% in 2016-17, 3% in 2017-18, and 3% in 2018-19 with no changes to the health benefits (the school department currently pays 80% of teacher health care).
15-16 school year (last year) proposed 0% raise
16-17 school year proposed 3% raise puts Warwick top step teachers at $79,830
17-18 school year proposed 3% raise puts Warwick top step teachers at $82,225
18-19 school year proposed 3% raise puts Warwick top step teachers at $84,691
Currently 87% of the 897 Warwick teachers are at top step.
It is projected that some teachers may surpass the $100,000 per year with the inclusion of coaching, stipends, longevity and advanced degree. Currently, out of the 897 WPS teachers, some 618 (69%) receive some combination of these income benefits.
Each percent increase in teacher salary works out to be approximately a $1,000,000 increase in each year of the school department budget.
The Warwick Public Schools offered 18 per year. The WTU wants 90 per year.
We are proposing that teachers receive 18 sick days per year that they can accumulate to ninety (90) days. We are also proposing a teacher sick bank in case of serious illness. Additionally, the School Committee proposed participation in the TDI system (TDI on your paystub).
The WTU does not want the sick days in the expiring contract to change. In that contract, teachers have 90 sick days each year. To our knowledge, no other school district in Rhode Island has 90 sick days a year.
The Warwick Public Schools want athletic coaches annually appointed based on qualifications of candidate (best person for the job). The WTU wants coaches selected solely from an internal teacher pool based on seniority.
When a coaching vacancy is open, the Warwick Public Schools want to hire the best person for the job, regardless of whether they are an internal or external candidate.
Student Placement (stanines):
The Warwick Public Schools want students placed in classes based on data, potential, and performance. The WTU wants to maintain a student tracking system that arbitrarily determines a student’s academic future based solely on his or her performance and behavior in sixth grade.
The Warwick Public Schools seeks to eliminate the current practice of Grade 6 teachers recommending 7th grade student placement process. The Warwick Public Schools wants all students to have the same opportunity for success regardless of their sixth grade performance.
The Warwick Public Schools would like to eliminate the process of weighting special needs students in calculating class size. Under the WTU model, the number of students with disabilities are counted as 1.5 or 2 students in calculating class size, arbitrarily based on the level of their disability.
All students are provided services based on individual student need. Weighting students does not guarantee improved student services. The Warwick Public Schools wants to allocate resources based on the needs of each and every student we serve.
To our knowledge, no other school district in Rhode island uses special education student weighting to calculate class size.
The Warwick Public Schools wants all grading recorded online with parent access to grades, assignments, projects, and homework. The WTU did not.
The Court has already ruled that the School Committee can require electronic grading throughout the district. The Warwick Public Schools and WTU have agreed to contractual language regarding this subject, however the WTU will not cooperate until the other pieces of the contract are resolved.
All other school districts in Rhode island utilize a district based electronic student grading system.
Co-Op versus Co-Teaching:
The Warwick Public Schools want to eliminate co-op classrooms and move to a co-teaching model, requiring both educators in a classroom to participate in the instruction of all students. The WTU wants to continue the current co-op model where staffing is based solely on the number of students in the classroom and not the individual needs of the students in the classroom.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a federal law, requires that IEP teams, including parents, determine students’ needs, write goals and objectives addressing these needs, and provide all necessary specialized instruction from the special education teacher. The co-op formula in the contract does not individualize student need, and simply guarantees that a special education teacher will cover, not teach, students with disabilities.
To our knowledge, no other school district In Rhode island uses a co-op formula model for special education staffing.
The Warwick Public Schools is seeking layoffs, as needed, due to consolidation and enrollment decline. The WTU wants to limit layoffs to 20 per year, regardless of enrollment or school closures.
The WTU’s expired contract limits teacher layoffs to no more than 20 per year. We did close Aldrich Junior High, Gorton Junior High, and Veterans High School as we right-sized the district for efficiency and effectiveness. We believe – with these school closures and far fewer children in the schools than even ten years ago – that a reduction is necessary and warranted. We identified 64 positions to be cut. Through retirements and other changes, the actual number of employees on layoff has been reduced to 22.
Common Planning Time:
The Warwick Public Schools want Principals and Instructional Leaders to participate in helping teachers improve instruction.
Principals and instructional leaders want to meet with the teachers in their schools outside of classroom time, to participate in discussions on curriculum, instruction, assessment and student learning. This is a commonplace practice that occurs across Rhode Island and the nation. Current contract language prohibits instructional leaders from attending these educational discussions.
The Warwick Public Schools want a job fair process that is not based solely upon the teacher’s seniority in the district and allows for some input from the Superintendent based on experience, credentials, and ability. The WTU wants to continue the process based solely on seniority.
It should also be noted that the district is currently awaiting a RIDE decision on a hearing that was held this September to determine if the current job fair process is compliant with state regulations.
The Warwick Public Schools want teachers evaluated using the same criteria as the rest of the state. The WTU wants its own evaluation model used.
The majority of schools in Rhode Island are currently using the “RIDE Model”, firmly rooted in research and best practices related to teacher quality. Warwick currently uses its own model which is neither approved by RIDE nor based on research.
Evaluation of Department Heads:
The Warwick Public Schools want department heads evaluated annually. Currently, there is no evaluation process in place.
The Warwick Public Schools want high school department heads – teachers who oversee the courses taught in a subject area – to be reviewed annually and renewed based upon that evaluation. Currently, there is no evaluation of these positions and they have lifetime appointments.
The Warwick Public Schools want to expand the definition of educational materials to include 21st century terminology. In essence, we want the term “textbooks” to include educational materials such as ebooks, software, and apps.
The Expired Teachers Contract
The sections highlighted in yellow are the items the School Committee is negotiating with the Warwick Teachers Union. We continue to negotiate in good faith and we resolve to meet wherever and whenever the union wishes in our efforts to seek resolution and a new contract.
The Eleven Contract Issues Being Negotiated
The School Committee continues to meet with the Warwick Teachers Union in the hopes of reaching compromise on a new contract. There are 11 items that we – the Warwick School Committee and Central Administration team – are working on. We have tried our best not to negotiate through the media with the hope that taking a professional approach to talks would result in reaching an agreement sooner rather than later. However, the high number of interest from the general public on this issue has led to sharing this information. The eleven items being negotiated are listed below.
We are proposing that teachers receive 18 sick days per year. The WTU does not want the sick days in the expiring contract to change. In that contract, teachers have 90 sick days each year.
The WTU’s expired contract limited teacher layoffs to no more than 20 a year. We are currently closing two schools as we right size the district for efficiency and effectiveness. We believe – with two less schools and far less children in the schools than even ten years ago – that a reduction is necessary and warranted. We have identified 60 positions to be cut. Through retirements and some modifications, the actual number of employees on layoff has been reduced to 30.
Principals as Instructional Leaders/Common Planning Time
Principals – our building instructional leaders – want to be able to meet with the teachers in their building once a week outside of classroom time, to talk about expectations, curriculum, and student learning. Yet the union doesn’t want to give principals access to these meetings. Principal participation happens all over the state and the nation, and is a state department of education regulation, yet the expiring contract prohibits principals from working with teachers in this manner.
The School Committee is offering 0% for 2015-16, 2% in 2016-17, 2.5% in 2017-18, and 3% in 2018-19 with no changes to the health benefits (the school department currently pays 80% of teacher health care).
Currently, moving internally between teaching positions such as changing from a high school math teacher to a second grade classroom teacher is based on seniority and certification. The School Committee is asking for one change: two to four weeks before job fair date, teachers wanting to move out of their current certification being used must get approval from superintendent or designee to make such a move. This would bring Warwick in line with the rest of the state and comply with Rhode Island Department of Education.
Discontinue use of Warwick evaluation model and use the Rhode Island Department of Education evaluation model. Most school districts in Rhode Island are currently using the “RIDE Model”, the “AFT Model”.
Department Head evaluation
The School Committee is proposing department heads – teachers who oversee the courses taught in a subject area – be reviewed annually based on an evaluation tool created in collaboration with the WTU. Department heads would be appointed to two-year terms and eligible for reappointment by the school principal. At current there is no evaluation of these positions.
The School Committee is proposing that when a coaching vacancy is open, the best person for the job be hired for the position, regardless of whether they are an internal or external candidate.
Co-Op versus Co-Teaching
Proposal to eliminate co-op classrooms and move to co-teaching model endorsed by the Rhode Island Department of Education. The old way – the Co-Op model – is based on a formula irregardless of student need. Co-Teaching is based on meeting the specific needs of the students and reflects best practice.
The School Committee seeks to eliminate the current practice of Grade 6 teachers recommending 7th grade student placement process. Current data shows this practice historically has dis-proportionally placed males, special education students and blacks, African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians in lower groups.
The Court has already ruled that the School Committee can require electronic grading throughout the district.
Rhode Island State Labor Relations Board Ruling
The Labor Board encourages the practice and procedure of collective bargaining, and protects employees in the exercise of full freedom of association, self organization and designation of representatives of their own choosing for purpose of collective bargaining, or mutual aid and protection, free from the interference, restraint or coercion of their employers.
The Warwick Teachers Union appealed to the Labor Board regarding the status of the expired contract.
The Labor Board ruled the expired contract is in effect until a new contract is agreed upon or the parties have litigated the issue to finality. The ruling is here (Labor Board Ruling.pdf).
At current, the School Committee plans to appeal in Superior Court this ruling by the Labor Board, asking for decisions on these items. When the decision is made, the details of that decision will be posted on this page.