According to information provided by the school administration, almost 90 percent of Warwick’s 897 teachers would make more than $79,000 – and some with longevity and coaching stipends more than $100,000 a year – under the contract proposal turned down by the union negotiating team last week.
In addition, in response to questions submitted by the Warwick Beacon, Superintendent Philip Thornton said salary increases rejected in the offer would have cost the department an additional $3 million this year. In years two and three of the contract, giving teachers 3-percent pay increases each of the years would cost an additional $3 million each year.
The wage package would make Warwick teachers among the highest paid in the state, Thornton said.
WTU President Darlene Netcoh said Monday that the school administration “wants to eliminate all contract language that protects education.”
Last Wednesday, Thornton disclosed that the WTU rejected the administration’s offer, which was made at the recommendation of contract mediator Vincent Ragosta. He cited three years of 3-percent annual wage increases and common planning time as examples of the offer, but did not release the full proposal.
The WTU said Thornton failed to mention that it was a “take it or leave it” offer that would have limited class weighting and the co-op formula used in setting class size when the class includes students with individualized education programs [IEP] and requires special education teachers in addition to content teachers in classrooms. Thornton wants to eliminate weighting, which is unique to the Warwick system, on the basis “it does not guarantee improved student services.”
The union argues doing away with the system will result in larger class sizes and reduced individualized instruction.
They have made this and the co-op formula fundamental to their rejection, even though the administration counters that federal law requires IEP teams including parents determine a student’s needs, set objectives, and provide the instruction from a special education teacher. Thornton argues the co-op formula guarantees a special education teacher “will cover, not teach students with disabilities.”
Netcoh defended weighting and the co-op formula, saying yesterday, “the system has worked for us for 40 years without complaint.” She also said now that the administration has started to strip away the system, there are complaints.
An outline of the administration’s proposal was posted on the school Facebook page Sunday.
Other major features of the offer include:
l Schools offered 18 paid sick leave days a year, whereas the union is looking to maintain the 90 days they currently have. The school offer would allow the accumulation of 90 days.
l Schools are looking to have athletic coaches annually appointed on qualifications, whereas the union is seeking to have the selection based on seniority.
l On student placement, schools are looking to have students placed in seventh grade based on data, potential and performance. According to Thornton, the union would maintain a tracking system “that arbitrarily determines a student’s academic future based solely on his or her performance and behavior in sixth grade.”
l Schools are looking to have all grading recorded online with parent access to grade assignments, projects, and homework.
l The administration proposes to lift the 20 layoffs per year limitation set by the former contract.
l The administration proposes that teachers be evaluated using the same criteria as the rest of the state. Thornton said the union wants to use its own evaluation model. The administration is also looking to implement annual evaluation of department heads. These are teachers who oversee courses taught in a subject area.
Netcoh said another mediation/negotiation session is planned for later this month. She thought there would not be much progress until Thornton changes his method of negotiation.
“He operates in concepts and not proposals,” she said.