December 21, 2014
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URI student aims to uncover multiple salary issues in Warwick schools
Jennifer Rodrigues
Kevin Shepherd

University of Rhode Island freshman Kevin Shepherd joined the fight to keep Gorton Junior High School open and now that that will happen for at least another year, he hasn’t stopped digging.

The Warwick native has put in a lofty request to the school department for the salaries of Superintendent Richard D’Agostino, Director of Human Resources Rosemary Healey and other individuals earning more than $65,000.

Shepherd, who was a student at Gorton and graduated from Warwick Veterans Memorial High School, is also asking for details on the salaries of individuals holding more than one position and wants to obtain former supertintendent Dr. Peter Horoschak’s mutual termination agreement.

Since citizens have the right to ask for this form of information through the access to public records act, Shepherd thought nothing of asking for the information, submitting a formal request to Healey following the May 7 hearing on Gorton.

“With schools closing down, they are talking about wasteful spending,” said Shepherd. “I personally feel no consolidation should be occurring at the school level.”

Shepherd says it was D’Agostino’s claim that one could drive from the end of Oakland Beach to Winman Junior High School in nine to 10 minutes that set him off.

“That is physically impossible. They are acting like what they’re saying is the way it is going to go and no one is going to check them. That’s just not true,” said Shepherd.

Then, on May 10, Shepherd received a letter from Healey saying that they would fill his request, but he would need to pay $150 first.

The letter explains that the $150 covers 10 hours of staff time to receive documents (although, there is no charge for the first hour) and the cost of copying 100 pages at 15 cents a copy.

When reached for comment on the issue, Healey said the $150 price tag had nothing to do with discouraging Shepherd from asking for the information; the cost truly reflects the amount of time it will take to fill his request.

According to Healey, although Shepherd said at the meeting that he is looking for the salaries of administrators, the wording of his request includes job descriptions, total annual salary, hourly wages, contracted payments, bonuses and pension agreements for “any individuals [employed by Warwick Public Schools] earning over $65,000 annually and/or holding more than one position (acting, elected, appointed or otherwise), and/or any individual previously employed by the WPS who solely, or by association with a third party or business contractor, provides any service with the reasonable expectation of compensation relevant to the WPS, back to the year 2005.”

Healey says that requires staff members to physically pull records for the past eight years on close to 950 people.

She estimates the total number of documents to satisfy Shepherd’s written request is between 6,000 and 10,000.

“To be honest, the $150 was probably a gross underestimate,” said Healey, adding that should the cost go up, Shepherd would need to pay.

“He may think he only asked for our administrators, but many of our teachers make more than $65,000,” said Healey, adding that teachers who coach teams, tutor and perform other duties would also need to be included, and those records are kept in different offices.

Shepherd was informed of this in a letter he received from Healey dated May 16. The letter acknowledged his payment of $150, which he hand delivered at the May 14 school committee meeting, and informed Shepherd that he could revise his request to potentially lower the cost.

Shepherd isn’t backing down.

“I guess [teachers] get roped in,” said Shepherd, adding that he has anonymous donors helping him cover any costs. “I think she wants to keep the information from me.”

Healey said the cost has no relation to trying to keep the information quiet since it is public record. She says they get requests for payroll details often, and anytime records need to physically be pulled from files, there is a charge.

“I have to pull staff off regular duties to fill these requests,” said Healey. “We can’t afford to not charge for this service.”

Healey says that if Shepherd would like to revise his request to a smaller group of individuals such as just administrators or asking for just this year, the cost could dramatically change.

“That could significantly reduce or even eliminate the cost,” said Healey.

She explained that salaries for the past year are readily accessible and would take no time at all to get together for those who request it, however, the system does not maintain records for past years or former employees. Those need to be found in archives.

“The current financial system only contains current employees,” said Healey.

When he was told his request would take 10 hours to fill, Shepherd went to employees throughout Warwick Public Schools, who wish to remain anonymous, that have been supporting his endeavors. Shepherd says they told him a request of that nature should only take two hours.

“I think this is an attempt to strong arm me,” said Shepherd.

Healey also says Shepherd may not find the information he thinks is there.

In his request, he is looking for salary information for Superintendent D’Agostino and Healey herself.

“My speculation is that they are pulling multiple salaries,” said Shepherd. “I can’t prove it until I get the records.”

Healey says that is not the case.

“Administrators do not receive extra earnings for additional positions; extra earning opportunities are usually only for teachers,” said Healey.

Shepherd doesn’t believe that administrators who hold multiple positions are not getting paid for them. He has done his own research online, looking into the budget. He says since every position has a salary, where else is that money going if not to the administrators doing the job.

“I’m not going to point fingers; I’m not going to go after anyone,” said Shepherd. “I am going to highlight interesting facts in the documents and send it to the media.”

According to the access to public records act, Healey has 10 days to fill Shepherd’s request, after which she could request an additional 20. Healey says in addition to the volume of Shepherd’s request, it is the busiest time of the year for the department as schools prepare to close for the summer.

“That’s going to be a challenge,” said Healey, “but we’ll do our best.”

As Shepherd waits to receive the information, he is looking into pressing charges through the Attorney General’s office regarding the costs. He has contacted the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union for information and to see if he has a case. He is still waiting to hear back.

“I want reimbursement for the charges, and if theses records prove what I think they will prove, there are huge fines to pay. I am sure the Attorney General will pursue that,” said Shepherd.

Support from the community has only made Shepherd more determined. He has a petition with close to 100 signatures he collected from his neighborhood to send to the Attorney General in the hope of being reimbursed and it includes 50 individuals who could show up in the documents he is requesting.

Just finishing up his first year of college, Shepherd says he will take all of the information provided to him, no matter how many pages, and start digging through it.

“If I have to give up a few weeks of my time, so what,” said Shepherd. “If I have to be the face of it, that’s fine.”

Shepherd also plans to put in a follow-up request for the names of all the individuals in the school department who needed to pull the documents and any individuals who had the documents before he received them. The request will also ask for a check register. Shepherd is filing this request at the suggestion of some of his supporters.


Comments
19 comments on this item

I think the school committee should have requested this information and need to start looking at the budget line by line. Warwick residents tax base is largely due to the schools....Those of us who no longer have children in the school system continue to pay the costs....I think an independent study would be well worth the investment highlighting ways to cut administrative salaries, looking at job consolidation, and cutting over all expenses at the administrative level and then if need be at the school level. Start operating the cities schools as a business if it is not meeting the budget then spending needs to be cut and jobs need to be eliminated from the top down. And I am sorry but if we are not using schools to the full capacity then changes need to be made by either closing the Jr High or changing the middle school to include grades 6-8....teachers not being certified in middle school IS NOT THE REASON not to do it....Get certified, it is called job security or hire teachers who are and get rid of those who aren't. And this busing your child an extra 20-40 minutes a day is not a big deal ....Pack a lunch and get rid of your RI mentality. school districts all over the country bus there kids for longer trips jeez it not like we are sending them to south county....just across town.

Dig deep Kevin

From the 2011 budget document for fiscal year 2012 that is a public document posted on the secretary of State Website is required by law.

I will use one example from the budget document. One can get all of the budget documents for a the schools on the secretary of State Website. They archive everything (by law). Here is Director of HR/ School Board Attorney information. This was in a public document and I am not releasing anything that anyone would not be able to get

Director of Human Resources FTE .25 Salary $29,952 Fringe Benefits $7,561 Total $37,513

School Board Attorney FTE .50 Salary $59,902 Fringe Benefits $15,117 Total $75,019

School Board Attorney FTE .25 Salary $29,952 Fringe Benefits $7,561 Total $37,513

You will see she is listed 3 times but the amounts she is paid in FTE (Full Time Equivalents is .25, .5 and .25 for a total of 100%. She is not getting paid a full salary for each position she holds. The reason she is listed multiple times is because she holds multiple positions and the RI Chart of accounts requires it be listed this way. You can not put everything under Lawyer 100% and then list the director of HR getting a salary of $0. The state requires the schools determine the portion of the job the person performs and list it. It they are a full time position, the amount of FTE must add up to 100%. The reason she is listed twice for School Board Attorney may be that a portion of her salary came from 2 different parts of the budget. For example, if .5 of her School Board Attorney salary came from local funds, it would be listed as you see it here. If .25 came from a federal grant or other grant, that portion would be listed separately, these are requirements of the Uniform Chart of Accounts. For more information google, Uniform Chart of Accounts RI. You will see many individuals receive a portion of their salary directly from the local funds and a portion from a grant. if you look at Title I Title II and Title III sections of the budget you will see this often. Many times the schools will try to get the salary of a person approved through Federal funding so local funds can be utilized for something else.

Reading specialists many times have a small portion of their salary from local funds but a grant for reading can be used to pay the other portion. Many special education staff are paid through grants.

It is not unusual for a person to be listed multiple times in the budget document, note the FTE amount for a full time staff member and see that it does not exceed 100% or 1.0 for any individual.

Here is a link to the Sec of State Open Meetings search page.

http://sos.ri.gov/publicinfo/openmeetings/

You can search for Warwick and then scroll down to Warwick Schools. I hope I have clarified this issue for you somewhat. I always went through the school documents and asked the same question. How much is each person getting paid and are they doing their job... Are they worth it? If I didn't think they were doing their job or worth it, I would suggest removing them and getting someone else or consolidating the position.

Patrick Maloney

Kevin, great job! Do you realize that you are exercising rights that generations of veterans fought and died for starting with our founding fathers? It is because of men like you that their sacrifices are not in vain. Be ready for cheap tricks and petty games by those in cheap suits. They may even try to make you look bad or whatever, especially once you start making headway. Ignore all that and just focus on your goals. Personally, I would like to see the school consolidation take place but I still stand by your right to gather the public information you seek so as to make an informed decision of your own. Maybe your final report will even change my mind! Dont forget to go on godaddy.com and start a proper web site with an easy domain name to remember, so we taxpayers can see what you are finding out about the budget and how much it supports your position on the proposed school closure.

-

Also, PMaloney your post was very informative, thank you.

Good Luck in getting the info from the school department.

Thank you Mr. Maloney for the information. What about the 2013 and 2014 budgets?

There public shouldn't have to go to a state website and hunt a peck to find out what an employee makes.Doses the 2014 have a salary apendix that is clear and easily understood?

Kevin, I commend you for having the will to perform this analysis. But from the tone of this article it leads me to beleive that you have a negative bias toward the school department, especially the administration and are turing a blind eye toward Mayor Avedisian, his administration and some members of the city council who have supported a city budget over the past years that has resulted in continued tax increases to support increases in city spending.

I have been compiling data related to the city and school budgets for the past ten years and after analyizing the data I can tell you that school spending is not responsible for the annual tax increases over the past years. Rather if it was not for the school department consolidation and budget reductions over the past 8 years, the City of Warwick would be in serious financial peril.

If the city had taken the same approach as the schools regarding healthcare contracts and state pension reforms, many of the tax increases over the last five years would not have been necesasry or the funds could have been allocated toward many of the programs in the city that have been eliminated or the cpaital expense projects and infra-structure repairs that have ceased over the last 8 years.

In fact based on Mayor Avedisian's 2014 proposed budget since 2008 fiscal year the overall number of local tax dollars allocated to the school budget is $5,518,277. The number of local tax dollars allocated to the city budget is $35,642,138 or over 6 times the amount given to schools.

In addition over that same time period overall school spending is $-1,080,732, below 2008 FY levels. Read that sentence agin. School spending is one million dollars below where it was 6 years ago. City spending has increased $12,172,074 and is at an all-time high.

In 2007 63.9 percent of property tax dollars were allocated to the school budget and 36.1 to the city. That's around the norm based on the testimony from educational experts as a result of many more employees (teachers) on the school side of the budget than on the city side. Based on the mayor's 2014 budget the allocation now stands at 54.4 percent to schools and 45.6 percent to the city. Practically even.

Think about that for a second and then try to understand why the school deparment has had to close 4 elementary schools over the last few years, eliminate the transportation department and with it over 60 positions and now needs to consolidate at the secondary level.

Also consider this, why I was Chairman of the School Committee in 2006 bonds were approved by Warwick citizens authorizing $25 million in school capital improvments, including fire safety mandated changes. Eight years later because of the financial condition of Warwick these mandates still have not been completed. Why you might ask? Becuase the city didn't have the capability of paying the principal and debt on the bonds.

Yet city pension and healthcare costs have doubled in the last ten years and most of the new tax dollars collected and given to the city have gone towards these expenses.

For example, since 2007 the city budget has been allocated 87 percent of all new property tax dollars collected in Warwick, leaving schools with only 13 percent.

My point of this discussion is to lead you to the fact that you also need to consider the city side of the budget when you look at the overall fiscal picture in Warwick.

I would be happy to sit down with you and share my ten years worth of city budgetary information with you. Contact me at cushmanr@cox.net if you are interested in my offer.

Hi Taxpayer and Gordianknot,

The information I posted was from a previous document and I used it only as an example. The new budget documents should also be online at the WarwickSchools website. They will include information for the current year and previous year for comparison for people to see what the budget is compared to last year. It may even include 2 previos years. I do not have a copy of the document. When I was on the school committee, I would always make sure that the IT Dept would post the documents online and keep them posted throughout the year. I do not know where the document is on the site. I always asked for it to be on the main page, it may be under the school committee documents area. If you can not find it, it is a public document and should be easily obtained. Simple call over for the current budgt document should do the trick. There is one or 2 pages of administration salary and benefit information. It should be formatted according to the UCOA (uniform chart of accounts) and should not change year to year.

Patrick

Bob, thanks for the great info, as usual.

Gordianknot, the reason the state holds the info is for record keeping. Storage of documents in one localized site allows for easy access to everything and saves the local municipalities and schools money they would have to use for storage. The schools are responsible for the local documents while in use but they are archived with the state and must be recorded with the state within a certin timeframe. This is good because the state keeps track of when the documents should be there and if they are not there requires the city and school committees to provide them. You can look up any document from any city or town on the site and actually compare different cities and schools.

I visited the Warwick Schools site and did not find the information. I found the info about the Gorton Presentations and STFPC/LTFPC meetings but not the current budget or request to the city.

I just contacted Beth Furtado of the Warwick SC. She is requesting that the information be posted to the Warwick Schools website so people can get information about the current School Budget request from the city prior to the city council meeting. Please read the budget document and please attend the city council meeting.

It is my belief that if the schools receive level funding again this year from the city, the 5th year in a row after having the local funds reduced $6.2 million, across the board cuts will need to be made affecting every student and family in Warwick. Level funding would mean the schools have lost nearly $25 Million in 4 years and are currently paying the interest on bonds for repairs to the Pilgrim roof and Fire code upgrades for buildings they do not own. I would have prefered that the citywork with the schools to repair their buildings and the funding go to the students and improving education.

Thank you. Patrick

Thank you for the info Bob and Patrick.

The question posed by the student is a narrow one; how much do people make. It reminds me of the annual Parade survey in the newspaper. I think what it will show is that the school administration is well paid as well as the teachers

It seems to me what the student wants is a disclosure of who makes what without having to look at multiple documents. Seems fair to me.

One document has it and it was available at the budget meetings. I have already made arrangements for the document to be reposted online at the school website. I expect it will be up Tuesday.

Pat, thanks. The problem I have is that this info has to be asked for. Last year, when you were still on the Committee, iI asked you to look into why the most recent WISE union and WTU contracts were not on the schools website. You asked Rosemary Healy in an email and the reply was that they'd put it up when the had time. It's still not up. That to me is emblematic of what's wrong with Admin. Thes docs, contracts, budget docs, the info Kevin Shepherd is looking for, should all be easily accessible on line from the schools website. This goes to leadership, from Admin and the School Committee. From the outside, it looks like no one cares - a 'public be damned' attitude. This is 2013 and it's simply unacceptable for docs like this to not be easily available to the public. The School Dept is a bureaucracy and, like all other municipal entities, it needs to be led. No one is doing that. Frankly, in this matter it's the school committee that should lead and direct Admin to put thes docs up as a matter of course all the time. Scanning these in does not take up that much time, regardless of staffing levels.

Dave, it is funny that you mention it because in my conversation with the SC member I talked to, I specifically mentioned that I asked for the new contracts to be uploaded to the website in PDF format. She said she would have it done. I asked for it to be done as I was ending my time on the committee and it didn't get done and the remaining members didn't follow up. I agree it is leadership responsibility. I should add that the schools might be behind getting this info online but they have something online. The city doesn't have any of the contracts online, never has, probably never will. The city outsources the website development. The schools do it all in house. While I was on the committee, we voted to go out for website development and set aside funding to do it. The committee has not followed up. If they don't have the personnel to do this properly, they should have someone who can do it actually do it. You are correct, it only takes a little effort to get the documents online. I was always critical of the response time of the IT dept and suggested multiple times that they get the right people in there to get the job done. Unfortunately, I was the only IT guy on the committee and now there is no one with an IT background and they believe what IT tells them. I am still waiting for ASPEN to be fully implemented from years ago. We were told to go to it because it would make everything easy and it has so many features. It was impressive, unfortunately, it isn't fully implemented. I would suggest getting rid of the entire dept and either combining with the city or outsourcing, which ever is more cost effective.

Healey I will gladly donate to help support these punitive charges. Start a facebook page... then a kickstarter campaign. The PARENTS and the PEOPLE are on your side. The Goliath school board must be brought to its knees... something is very rotten in the system. Thank you!!!!

All city budget documents are posted on the city finance portion of the web site going back to 2005.

The 2014 docs can be found at this link:

http://www.warwickri.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1255:fy-2014-online-budget-resource-warwick&catid=46:financedepartment

Thank you Bob. This is great information and the city website is 10 times better looking and functional than the school website. I did not find the police, fire, or municipal union contracts online. Are those available online?

Hello Everyone Here is the FY2014 SC recommended budget. I uploaded it to my website until the schools update their website. Click on the link and share with others. The document was provided to me by Beth Furtado and Jen Ahearn.

Copy and paste the link into your browser.

www.maloney4schools.com/scbudgetfy2014.pdf

Patrick Maloney

Contract links:

http://www.warwickri.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=858:municipal-contra..

Thanks Bob. It's nice to see they are up there. I could never find them. I will note they are also outdated and only go to June 2012. Both the city and schools websites need updated contracts uploaded.

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