Open letter to Carol Carr:
I am in receipt of your recent letter regarding the ongoing contract dispute between the teachers’ union and the school committee within the Warwick Public School district. Please allow me to address your recent concerns outlined in your letter.
First, I understand your frustration as contract negotiations continue. The issue of the unresolved contract is a great point of frustration for me, too. As you may be aware, I have continued to host open dialogue meetings with both superintendent Thornton, as well as Union President Netcoh.
Additionally, we are actively engaged in mediation sessions where all parties meet and work to resolve the remaining issues surrounding the contract dispute. I have personally taken on an active role in the discussions between the parties, and have sat in on every mediation session to date. I have done this despite the fact that I have no legal authority to negotiate a contract resolution. Under Warwick’s city charter, in accordance with state law, I can only act in an advisory role. Ultimately, it is up to the parties involved whether they choose to act on or follow my advice and proposals. With that said, it has been, and will remain, my first priority to work with all parties involved to reach an agreement in an amicable manner. To that end, we have just scheduled our next mediation session for Saturday, May 6.
As for my presence at School Committee meetings or Warwick Community Outreach Educational Committee meetings, I do not attend those meetings because I am not an official member. However, the makeup of the Warwick Community Outreach Educational Committee was designed to have representation of teachers, school and city administration, constituents and other elected officials. As you know, residents elect School Committee members.
Furthermore, while the city funds the school department, I do not have the power or jurisdiction to force the union and/or the school committee to reach an agreement. At every turn, I have remained in contact with the Union, School Committee and School Department, with the priority being, that which is in the best interest of our schoolchildren. Superintendent Thornton and I, together with other elected officials, continue to work on rebuilding trust and confidence between all parties. It has been and remains my hope that City and school officials can work together, continue to have open lines of communication and reach compromises that are in the best interest of the students in our community. This issue is of utmost importance to me, and I know our students are the ones most affected by this ongoing dispute. I will continue to do everything I can to help facilitate a contract agreement and I have repeatedly reminded all those involved with the negotiations that we must act in the best interest of our students.
Finally, as I am sure you can imagine, my office is flooded with letters and requests similar to yours. I, along with my staff, work diligently to address each and every concern that comes across our desks. I can assure you that my staff takes all constituent concerns and complaints seriously and brings them to the appropriate channels of authority for resolutions. I ’m sorry you feel as though your concerns were not addressed as swiftly as you would like, but please realize that your letter, while dated April 5,2017,was hand delivered to my office yesterday, April 11, 2017. I have relayed your concerns to my Chief of Staff and we’d like to schedule a time for you to come in and speak to both of us. Please contact my secretary, Carol Caruso at 738-2004.
I hope this helps clarify my stance and participation on the ongoing contract negotiations. Like everyone else, I hope an agreement is reached quickly.
Thank you again for writing.