Students, teachers to feel budget cuts as schools open

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Warwick schools open for the 2019/20 school year this Thursday for K-6 and ninth grade students, with all students beginning on Friday. It will mark the end of a drama-filled summer that was rife with uncertainty regarding whether or not sports and after-school activities would be running – in addition to concerns about the cleanliness of buildings due to the laying off of custodians.

Those marquee issues have been resolved, at least for the time being. Sports, after-school activities and second shift custodians have all been brought back following a $4 million allotment approved by the Warwick City Council in July, meaning there will be no situations like last year where groups had to finance custodians to stay after their allotted work hours to hold activities.

However, with about $7.7 million made in cuts to balance the school’s $173 million budget back in June, the cuts that remain will still be felt by teachers and students in some ways as the year goes on. One of those cuts came at the expense of keeping up to date with the district’s technological push.

“The biggest thing from a student perspective is we're not buying new Chromebooks,” said Doug Alexander, technology director for Warwick, in a recent interview.

Alexander had over $800,000 in his technical hardware budget slashed – 90 percent of the budget – which has necessitated older Chromebooks being recycled and distributed to new students. Alexander said about 2,500 Chromebooks that would have been refreshed with new laptops have been recycled and will be re-used instead.

In total there are about 10,500 Chromebooks in the district, which is enough for every student and teacher to have one and to have some reserves in the inevitable instance that some break or are broken during the school year. Alexander said that at Warwick Veterans Middle School last year there were “several hundred” screens replaced.

“It is our biggest expense,” he said of replacing the screens that get broken.

The budget cut affected more than just Chromebooks, as the district won’t be able to buy more projectors for classrooms, and peripherals for computers – such as printers, various cables, keyboard and mice – will be in short supply as well. Principals will not be able to get new laptops either, which Alexander said are getting to be three and four years old and in need of a refresh too.

Additionally, hopes Alexander had of beefing up security through increasing data backups and maintaining the data center’s aging equipment have been put on the back burner as well.

“It's digging into core operational stuff,” he said of the cuts, adding that the problem this year will only be expounded in years to come, as technological issues pile up quickly when there is no money to maintain existing equipment or invest in new versions.

“It's a little frustrating when everyone focuses on sports and technology falls below the line. It's going to be a tough year if we don't come back from this [level of funding],” he said. “We’ll have to spend twice as much next year to replace everything and I don't see how that's realistic. You're just kicking the can down the road at that point.”

From a teacher’s perspective, Warwick Teachers’ Union president Darlene Netcoh – who is about to start her 30th year in Warwick and her 32nd year overall in teaching – had a couple key issues in mind regarding the budget as well.

First, she mentioned the cuts including the running of late buses, which would ferry students from after-school activities that run around 3:15 p.m. for the high schools and 3:30 p.m. for the middle schools.

“If you're going to have activities, you're going to need the late buses,” Netcoh said.

The issue had generated conversation at recent school committee meetings, and although it isn’t finalized yet, finance director Anthony Ferrucci said on Monday that late buses would indeed be running this year.

Thanks to an unexpected increase of about $280,000 in state funding, the school committee was able to move forward on a second phase of bond projects that will kick off in the summer of 2020 by spending $200,000 of that increased state money. Of the remaining $80,000 the schools are planning to earmark $25,000 of it to pay for the late buses.

Another issue for Netcoh, an English teacher, was the total cut to the budget lines that would enable the purchase of library books ($21,000), reference books ($25,000) and periodicals ($13,000).

“They're geared towards the students,” she said of the materials. “It's not just ‘Time’ or ‘People’ magazines, they’re educational periodicals.”

There is potential for the remainder of the aforementioned state aid money (about $55,000 if the late buses are brought back) to be utilized for the purchase of these materials, but that would have to be finalized or discussed at the committee’s upcoming meeting on Thursday.

The topic of professional development is another of importance. The district saved around $300,000 by cutting all scheduled professional development opportunities for teachers throughout the year, leaving only one voluntary session for elementary educators only this Wednesday – which unfortunately is also held on the same day as the district’s orientation day.

“If it's good PD then obviously we need it,” Netcoh said. “And we need it in general, because they're making so many changes.”

Lastly, Netcoh said that the $15,000 that would be applied towards renting space to hold school graduations has to be restored prior to the year ending, as no school in Warwick has the capacity to host a class graduation and the accompanying families.

“That needs to be put back,” she said.

Comments

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justanidiot

youse tink dat kids can graduate. bwaaa haaa haaa haaaarrrrr

Tuesday, August 27
incredible

The only ones who really have felt the pain are the taxpayers who have to pay for the ridiculous, excessive teacher contract Avedisian gave the teachers.

Over 85% of school budget goes to teacher salary and benefits.

The teachers' refrain "It's all about the kids" is a joke . It always been about giving the teachers' fatter paychecks.

The test results for the students is disgraceful. The Warwick teachers should be ashamed.

Tuesday, August 27
Bg9385

Incredible...you had your opportunity to become an educator and chose to go whatever career path your chose. No need to hate on teachers because they enjoy a good wage and benefits. You sound a bit salty. May I suggest selling your home and moving to a town that doesn't have tax increases (good luck), or possibly voting to supplant the current administrators who agreed to the contract.

Tuesday, August 27
Fed up

Bg935,

A typical comment by an under performing union slug who believes that his or her under performance is acceptable because the union says so with no consideration to the unintended consequences. By the way, let the parents buy the chrome books just like the residents who send their children to private schools. Under performing teachers, unacceptable student results, decrepit schools, crooked politicians and school committee members, and the taxpayer gets boned. Disgraceful.

Tuesday, August 27
Apponaug Gator

Fed Up aka Stacia,

Do you get to speak anymore at city council meetings now that you no longer live in the city as a taxpayer?

Tuesday, August 27
YourRealName

Not being from Rhode Island, could someone please explain to me how the school districts and the city councils are intertwined?

Wednesday, August 28
Cat

Isn't the most important thing ensuring the education of our students? Shouldn't that be goal #1? Everything else is just additional perks outside of teaching the children. I would rather have my child proficient in math than playing field hockey.

We have dug a hole for ourselves. We have told people over and over that the more well-rounded our students are, the better they will be as adults. Now we have a bunch of Millennials that can barely count change but had a blast at the pep rally.

The public school system is set up to educate the children of that community. I think it is time to strip everything down to the basics. The more we try to do, the less we accomplish.

Wednesday, August 28
John Stark

Patently absurd! First, does anyone truly believe that "...2,500 Chromebooks that would have been refreshed with new laptops have been recycled and will be re-used instead" will have one iota of impact on measurable outcomes? We've already seen the result of every kid having a Chromebook, and test scores resemble those in Mogadishu. Second, we've also seen the impact of decades of "professional development" that we, apparently, can't live without. And again, the impact on student outcomes is less than encouraging. And while we're on the subject, why is it the responsibility of the Warwick taxpayer to underwrite 'professional development' for employees? is that not the responsibility of the individual 'professional'? Bg, it is not "hating on" (?) anyone to point out that One Hundred Seventy Three Million Dollars is an awful lot to spend on fewer than 9000 students, and in exchange for utterly deplorable outcomes.

Wednesday, August 28
warwick10

Bg9385... because everyone knows teachers don't go into teaching for the money.

After all, isn't education about helping students prepare for the future? Education should be #1!

Wednesday, August 28
incredible

Bg 9385

Typical hubris by a Warwick teacher. A taxpayer (who just got a whopping tax bill ) to pay the egregious Avedisian teacher contract is told to move. How dare anyone question the performance of any union member in Warwick. Their sense of entitlement is palpable. The unions have been coddled by Avedisian for years and unfortunately Solomon has done nothing to change that perception. Solomon has sold his soul to the Vella-Wilkinson contingent.

It's about time teachers are held to performance standards. Likewise for the WFD. No more side deals etc.

If the union members can give the taxpayers value for their dollars spent, they should be fired immediately.

Wednesday, August 28
incredible

Bg 9385

Typical hubris by a Warwick teacher. A taxpayer (who just got a whopping tax bill ) to pay the egregious Avedisian teacher contract is told to move. How dare anyone question the performance of any union member in Warwick. Their sense of entitlement is palpable. The unions have been coddled by Avedisian for years and unfortunately Solomon has done nothing to change that perception. Solomon has sold his soul to the Vella-Wilkinson contingent.

It's about time teachers are held to performance standards. Likewise for the WFD. No more side deals etc.

If the union members can give the taxpayers value for their dollars spent, they should be fired immediately.

Wednesday, August 28
Robert

Allow me to make a point. Public education is illegal. It isn’t allowed by the US Constitution, the highest law in the US. Of course the teachers in the Warwick schools won’t teach this fact.

Wednesday, August 28
wwkvoter

I just want to throw something out there... teachers are EMPLOYEES, who, by and large, work as directed by all kinds of administrators. If the entire system results arent to our satisfaction, we need to look at leadership, methods, and things like that. ALSO, teachers get the kids they get who are a product of the community. Would you say people care MORE nowadays about their children's academics, or LESS? The kids show up with whatever pre-education, interests, and values they learn AT HOME. Teachers can only do so much to bend the student's core values about learning and knowledge, and I'd say they by and large do a good job.

So, before you attack "da teachah's" look at these other more relevant influences of aggregate outcomes.

I am a product of public schools.

Wednesday, August 28
Bg9385

I'm not a teacher, I'm just of the opinion that complaining about someone's profession is petulant. Telling you to sell your home is obvious hyperbole. I didn't think I had to explain that. I've read time and time again from the usual suspects that the majority of teachers in Warwick don't live in the city, so voting union supporters out and voting your ideals in shouldn't be that difficult, right?

As for evaluations, they're mandatory every three years so long as the evaluation results are sufficient. If they aren't, there is an evaluation the next year. The guidelines are set forth by the school committee from my understanding.

Where is the accountability from the students and their households when it come to standardized testing? Everyone jumps to criticize teachers when they don't have any say in how the tests are designed, how they're proctored, how the curriculum is designed, etc. The concept of standardized anything is antiquated. A classroom with 20 students and 5 on IEPs all take the same "standardized" test. How much sense does that make? But hey, keep the name calling coming ;)

Thursday, August 29
scot63

It's all about the kids!!!! (LOL)

Thursday, August 29
OldButInformed

The school’s biggest problem is having to reuse Chromebooks? The kids don’t know their times tables from memory and the hack bureaucrats on Draper Avenue are worried about computers. Ponder this people.....

Friday, August 30
phillipdrummond

My condolences to the parents who have kept their kids in this wretched school system. Get ready for another year of mediocrity and frustrations. For those parents who value their children's education and left I say bravo to. You've made the right decision. Like I have said before there are teachers and administrators who live in Warwick that send their own kids to private school or schools outside the district. That's always a tell in my opinion. For me, it's not all about just the education but about the environment provided by the school and teachers. I as a parent can create in my children the want and desire to learn and hold them accountable but I need teachers and the school to provide the environment that allows for learning and growth. Warwick can't do that. All parents want what is good for their kids. Some parents just want more.

Monday, September 2
perky

for one thing kids should not be using computers in school thats why we have idiots walking around and the teachers should have to take a pay cut and they should have never wasted the money for school sports

Thursday, September 5
perky

warwick 10 they are in it for the money or they wouldnt go on strike every year

Thursday, September 5
Patient Man

Why are there late buses? If you play sports or other after school activities you can find a way to get home. I usually could get a ride home after practice. If I couldn't I would walk the 1.4 miles home (yes, I looked it up on Google Maps).

Wednesday, September 11