Even though the sides haven’t met, or scheduled meetings, Superintendent Richard D’Agostino is confident Warwick Schools and the Warwick Teachers Union can reach a contract agreement by the time schools open this fall.
As for the union, President James Ginolfi was uncharacteristically silent on the issue of a contract.
“Nine days and I’m out,” Ginolfi said, explaining he chose not to seek another term as president and that Toll Gate music director George Landrie will succeed him. Since Landrie was the only candidate for the position, there was no election.
Ginolfi did say, as required, the union submitted a letter to the department in December saying that the current three-year contract expires with the start of the next academic year.
“I’m assuming something is going to happen,” he said.
Negotiations have a history of being contentious and Ginolfi has developed a reputation as an outspoken advocate for teachers. He is a frequent speaker at School Committee meetings and was critical of the plan to consolidate secondary schools with the closure of Gorton and Aldrich Junior High Schools and Vets High. The two junior highs would have been combined at Vets with the students from Vets being split between Toll Gate and Pilgrim.
“We’d love to have a contract,” said D’Agostino.
He expects the department will notify the union shortly, although he couldn’t offer a timetable.
“We need to solve the budget first,” he added.
He noted the department is also faced with a series of other issues, including the coordination of the next round of fire code improvements during the summer and the reconstruction of a retaining wall that is collapsing at the Winman Junior High tennis courts.
“We have a whole bunch of stuff on the plate,” he said.
While the City Council amended Mayor Scott Avedisian’s $288.8 million budget, boosting the city’s $119 million allocation to schools by $400,000, schools must still trim the $1.7 million from the budget approved by the committee. The committee approved a budget of $160,588,324. The budget approved by the city is $158,872,256.
The budget approved by the committee does not take into consideration any adjustments in the current teacher contract or raises for administrators.
“We’re basically going to have to deal with the economic realities we’re confronted with,” school business director Anthony Ferrucci said yesterday.
He said his efforts are focused on reconciling the budget to the city appropriation in time to have those recommendations before the School Committee for their July 15 meeting.
Asked where he would suggest cuts, Ferrucci replied, “The proverbial ‘everything is on the table’ applies.”
Teachers received a 1.5 percent pay increase this year. They are paying 20 percent of their health care premiums, an action the committee implemented about four years ago but the union successfully challenged the unilateral action, resulting in refunds for teachers. It was later negotiated as part of the current contract.