To the Editor:
I have been a resident of Warwick for over 50 years, so I am well invested in this community. My children attended Warwick Schools and have all grown into successful adults. At present, I am very concerned with the state of education in this city. The current students deserve the same solid foundation for success as adults that my children received.
First, I am perplexed by the consolidation process. Wasn't the plan for Vets to open as a middle school next fall, and elementary consolidation to be in the 2018 school year? How much extra money was spent to rush the makeover of Vets by the start of the school year? Secondary consolidation has thrown the entire district into turmoil. How can you be considering moving forward with elementary consolidation ahead of the recommended timeline?
Talking about extra expenditures, why are extra lawyers needed at each bend in the road? There was a staff lawyer at one time that took care of all legal matters. Why can this continue? From what I hear the school department legal expenditures are quite high. To me it sounds like a waste of money.
Second, I have seen contract disputes come and go over the years. Outside of the one that sent teachers to jail, never have I seen one like this. In the past, there have been actual face-to-face discussions that resulted in compromise by either side. The fact that the teachers union rejected the most recent proposal, which included raises, indicates to me that there is more to all of this than what the superintendent shares in his press releases. From past experience, I suspect there are important educational issues in play.
Negotiations should be a time when the team for each side sit down at a conference table and talk about each item in the contract. I have not seen this since the 1980s. A contract cannot be settled from opposite sides of a building on a take it or leave it basis. Negotiate.
Third, Mayor Avedisian, it's time for you to step in and encourage both parties to settle this dispute. It's not unprecedented, as one of your predecessors did so.
Fourth, whatever is happening in the special education department appears to be having a detrimental effect on our schools in general. While federal law ensures the educational rights of special needs students, I don't think it was intended to disregard the rights of other students. It seems like the district is trying to provide the bare minimum. I hope that changes happening in that department are based on what's truly right for all students, and not cost-cutting measures.
Finally, I hope the Warwick voters understand bond issues. They cost money. Almost every time a bond issue is called for, it is because something has been taken out of the department budget over and over again. Because preventative and routine maintenance is not accomplished in a timely manner, the cost is much higher when it goes to a bond issue.
I would not feel comfortable approving a bond issue for $90 million until the mess the district is presently in is cleaned up. Fix the boilers, fix the roofs, fix the plumbing and all the other problems before building a new sports complex.