Saying language that protects the teaching and learning environment is most important to them, the Warwick Teachers Union has turned down an offer that would, among other things, give them raises in line with other city employees and, according to Superintendent Philip Thornton, move Warwick teacher pay into the top five in the state.
Thornton disclosed the action in an email Wednesday following talks on Monday and Tuesday. He said the district presented a package proposal at the suggestion of mediator Vincent Ragosta.
While Thornton did not disclose the contents of the full proposal as examples of the administration efforts, he cited common planning time for teachers and the wage offer.
Warwick Teachers Union President Darlene Netcoh was not surprised the administration disclosed its wage offer and she made a point that increased wages is not the critical issue separating the parties.
“Their proposal is not acceptable at this time,” she said, citing the co-op formula and weighting that determines whether a special education teacher is added to a class based on the number of students with individualized education programs in that class.
In an interview last week, Thornton made it clear he is looking to removing class weighting that has been a part of the contract for years. He has pointed out that other school districts don’t have weighting and that Warwick follows federal regulations in providing services to students with IEPs. He said he and the union have “philosophical differences” over weighting and the co-op formula.
Netcoh said, “Our language that protects the learning and teaching environment in the classroom is most important to us.” She said the co-op formula is being used in the staff of math and English classes but not for social studies and science.
“They don’t follow our formula for weighting,” she said of the administration. “They’re not doing what’s right for kids right now.”
In his release, Thornton listed common planning time for teachers as an “example of our efforts.”
“This is an opportunity for teachers and educators to share best practices, discuss what is working and not working, and map out approaches to teaching in the coming semester. We want a principal or other administrator to be able to join these sessions, a commonplace practice, to discuss and collaborate on best educational practices for our students,” he said.
He said the union said “no” to that proposal.
He also said the union rejected the wage proposal that would give teachers an immediate wage increase comparable to other city employees.
“The subsequent six  percent raise for the following two years would further elevate the Warwick salary scale in relation to other school districts,” he said.
Netcoh said the union would have a counteroffer and the parties agreed that the next scheduled meeting is Oct. 14.
Yesterday afternoon, Netcoh issue a press release under the title “Spin Doctor Phil Needs to Tell the Truth.” She said the
superintendent and the School Committee submitted a proposal with no significant changes from their past proposals. She said Thornton fails to point out that the teachers are fighting to preserve language that protects students.
“Superintendent Thornton needs to get a second fact straight when he claims that the union did not make a counter-offer. They demanded that the union ‘take it or leave it’ because they submitted it with the condition that the union either accept it in its entirety, or they would immediately withdraw it. Therefore, the condition they imposed precluded the union from making a counter-offer,” she wrote.
Thornton countered, “My priority as superintendent is to protect students and the teaching and learning environment. The current contract language is in no way in the best interest of the students. This flies in the face of current best practices of teaching.”