School Committee passes $161 million revised budget

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The Warwick School Committee voted 4-1 (Karen Bachus dissenting) last Tuesday to approve the revised school budget for Fiscal 18 as recommended by Superintendent Philip Thornton, which totals $161,795,442.

The budget includes a 3.1 percent reduction, totaling $5.22 million, from the budget proposal approved in April, which is the result of the loss of a potential $2.35 million incentive the schools could have received if the Warwick Teachers’ Union and school administration were able to come to terms on a new contract before the time to pass a new budget had come. No such contract agreement has been reached.

The reduction also stems from $1.52 million in salaries and benefits not being paid to 18 teaching positions that were cut, in part, due to expected reduction in revenues of $650,000. The revenue shortfall came as a result of a reduction in student enrollment and changing federal reimbursement rates, according to Anthony Ferrucci, Executive Director of Finance and Operations for Warwick Public Schools.

The remaining reductions come from $599,000 in adjustments to reflect the issuance of bidding contracts for projects to be completed during the 2017/18 school year and $749,000 in costs that the district will have to absorb, including $675,000 needed for school building improvements and maintenance across the city.

Cutting causes controversy

Although the budget was ultimately passed, it was done so with a caveat that the school committee would reconvene during their August meeting with ideas on how to trim other line items in order to find that $1.52 million to save the lost teaching positions, which include math and reading specialists, a team of four content teachers at Winman Jr. High and six elementary-level guidance counselors.

“We need these teachers. We need this compliment of professionals for our kids,” said Karen Bachus, generating a round of applause from many in the audience at the Toll Gate High School auditorium. “It’s all about education. It’s all about teaching.”

Chief Academic Officer Sheryl Rabbitt said that a new teaching model, which utilizes math and reading interventionists, along with a social worker, in place of traditional guidance counselors, was a financially and educationally responsible decision.

“We want to establish, at each of the buildings, the principal, the two reading interventionists, the math interventionists and the social worker,” Rabbitt said. “This team, that model, is a highly-effective design around academic work and social-emotional support in the elementary model...This is fiscally a solid recommendation that we would make otherwise.”

Darlene Netcoh, President of the Warwick Teachers’ Union, in response, presented a case in support of the guidance counselors’ value for elementary students.

“To eliminate guidance counselors from that team would be a huge mistake academically for the students,” Netcoh said, adding that eliminating an entire elementary department, such as guidance, was against the terms of the old contract. “Guidance counselors frequently serve as the point person for coordinating services for a student.”

In response to Rabbitt’s statement that guidance counselors at the elementary level were rare in her experience, and that the interventionist model has worked well for other districts, Netcoh was pointed in her reply.

“It doesn’t matter what other districts have done. I’m tired of hearing what other districts have done,” she said. “Warwick, for many years, was at the top of education in the state and now, due to new leadership, we have plummeted.”

School Committee member David Testa gave a measured summary of the situation.

“Maybe the discussion should be to find money to save as many [teaching positions] as we can,” Testa said. “I’m questioning how we’re going to do this. If you’re going to make the motion you have to find a million and a half. You can’t just say, we’ll do this and that, find the items and we’ll vote.”

Air conditioning for administrators stirs anger

Bachus vocally took issue with another provision of the budget, which included over $215,000 for school administration staff to move their operations to what was formerly Gorton Junior High School.

Included in that figure is $10,885 to make bathrooms ADA-compliant, $77,873 to make over 130 doors ADA-compliant and more secure (both of which are required by law due to the building changing uses from a school to offices), $33,799 to move furniture and, what Bachus took the most offense to, about $36,178 to provide window unit air conditioning to the offices for administrators.

“We’re in the business of education, not comfort,” Bachus said, again to applause. She added that the kids educated at Gorton went without ADA compliance or air conditioning, and that air conditioning was a luxury that could be addressed after all students in the district had access to it and was not a cost that should be put as a priority above saving the teaching positions that were cut.

Bachus went further, criticizing Ferrucci for listing the cost to renovate Gorton as “emergency building preparation,” because she said that it had been put on the agenda for the school committee last April but was never followed up with until this past meeting where it was suddenly listed as an emergency.

“This was not an emergency. And if this was an emergency on your [Ferrucci’s] part or on the superintendent’s part, then we have a very, very serious problem,” Bachus said. “This was talked about at the school committee in April and was supposed to be put into discussion for May. It never happened and it didn’t happen in June...I’m just very disappointed you kind of back-doored us with a non-emergency and tried to call it an emergency. Whoever did that needs to be slapped.”

In response to the criticism, Ferrucci said that the move to Gorton was slated to save about $230,000 in operation costs by moving out of the Warwick Avenue Administrative Building, Greene Elementary School and the annex at Warwick Veterans Junior High School. The school department will also receive 50 percent of the proceeds should the city sell the Warwick Avenue building, as is the intention.

Ferrucci also mentioned how the hot days of Rhode Island summers negatively affect productivity.

“The numbers of days that are effecting productivity in this district is what prompted the decision to do something because we need people to be productive,” Ferrucci said.

Terri Medeiros, school committee clerk, was candid in her defense of providing air conditioning at Gorton.

“It’s shameful that every student doesn’t have air conditioning. It’s shameful that every employee doesn’t have air conditioning,” she said. “I’m entitled to my opinion and I think everybody matters in this district. If you want [$1.5 million] for 18 teachers, help me find it line item by line item so we can replace it. We’re not going to just not move to Gorton and keep these three other buildings going. We just can’t do that. We’re just stuck. Unfortunately, we’re just stuck.”

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CrickeeRaven

Here is the most important quote from this article to be considered:

"The budget includes a 3.1 percent reduction, totaling $5.22 million... which is the result of the loss of a potential $2.35 million incentive the schools could have received if the Warwick Teachers’ Union and school administration were able to come to terms on a new contract before the time to pass a new budget had come."

As alert readers know, the school committee approved a contract to be offered to the teachers union last week, which the union then rejected: http://warwickonline.com/stories/teachers-reject-mediated-contract-offer,126005?

It appears that the school committee did the work to qualify for an additional $2.35 million in funding, while the union did not.

Tuesday, July 18
richardcorrente

Dear CrickeeRaven,

The fact is, as even agreed to by you, that the School Committee and the Warwick Teachers Union did NOT agree on a new contract. That is the one and only "fact". Everything else is just your very-biased opinion.

Stating that the School Committee "did the work" is wrong. They (you) repeatedly refused to sit at the negotiating table with the Teachers Union. The Teachers Union, in contrast, has ALWAYS been willing to sit and talk. Another undeniable "fact".

The biggest "fact" is that the Teachers Union "did the work" . The School Committee preferred to spend the taxpayers money in court. Get you facts straight CrickeeRaven, and please stop stating your opinion as if it was a fact.

Maybe you should say "It appears to me, an anonymous person who hides behind a fake name". At least that would make you a more honest spokesperson for the School Committee.

Happy Summer CrickeeRaven.

Happy Summer everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, July 18
CrickeeRaven

Corrections to the prior comment by the fake "mayor" for readers who value accuracy and honesty:

-- "The fact is, as even agreed to by you, that the School Committee and the Warwick Teachers Union did NOT agree on a new contract."

- As proven to the fake "mayor" previously, the school committee approved a contract and offered it to the union, which then rejected it. That is the provably true sequence of events that can found at the following link:

http://warwickonline.com/stories/teachers-reject-mediated-contract-offer,126005?

-- "They repeatedly refused to sit at the negotiating table with the Teachers Union."

- Both parties have met more than a half-dozen times since the expiration of the prior contract and attended mediation meetings with Vincent Ragosta prior to the start of arbitration in November, 2015. The following link provides a truthful timeline of the past negotiations between both parties:

https://warwickpost.com/teachers-contract-mediation-ends-after-alleged-misunderstanding/

-- "The School Committee preferred to spend the taxpayers money in court."

- As has been proven to the fake "mayor" previously, the teachers union initiated a National Labor Relations Board grievance over layoffs that the school committee then defended in court and prevailed. Also, the teachers union has been spending the dues of its members, paid out of their taxpayer-funded salaries, to pursue these actions.

-- "[P]lease stop stating your opinion as if it was a fact."

- All of the previously-provided information is objectively, provably true, and backed up with links to recent articles proving it, unlike so many of the claims made by the fake "mayor," including the latest:

-- "They (you) repeatedly refused..." and "At least that would make you a more honest spokesperson for the School Committee."

- The fake "mayor" seems to believe that readers of this site are not intelligent enough to disprove his claims without being aligned with the groups and people he routinely attacks. He also continues his bullying behavior by suggesting that he knows the identities of other commenters and criticizing the use of pseudonyms, despite the fact that the owners of this site have no such restriction for its use. He also persists in using the fake title "Taxpayers Mayor" that he has not earned [except in his imagination].

He will no doubt continue to embarrass himself in his future comments.

Tuesday, July 18
Thecaptain

And my question to the fake. Non taxper mayor would be the following:

From which line item in the budget will you fund your "buy a house, get a check" ridiculous proposal?

Tuesday, July 18
richardcorrente

Dear Reader,

TheCaptain (AKA Rob Cote) wants you to believe that if we give a tax rebate check to a NEW taxpayer, we have to cut a line item from the budget to do so. Not so. He apparently doesn't understand that the new taxpayer will give Warwick thousands of NEW tax dollars and we can easily give a potion of THAT NEW MONEY back to the NEW TAXPAYER. He wants you to believe that we HAVE to cut a certain line item. That way he can attack me for doing it. Please forgive him. He doesn't know a lot about taxes and the accounting of them. He doesn't even know how to spell "taxpayer" He calls me "the non taxper". And Cote went to Hendricken!

Happy Summer everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, July 18
CrickeeRaven

Hello again Thecaptain:

It is a sign of the truth behind your words that the fake "mayor" resorts to, essentially, "NUH-UHHH!" as his reply to your prior comment. He still has not, as you have repeatedly asked, identified the line item or account in the city budget that would pay for his imaginary "rebate" before his supposed additional tax dollars are received by the city. This continued failure to recognize the fiscal irresponsibility of giving money away before receiving any is yet more proof of his complete unfitness to hold any office, as his refusal to factually explain the practical details of how such a rebate system would be funded within the structure of the city budget.

Do you find it hypocritical, as I do, that the fake "mayor" would espouse tax giveaways on the fallacious assumption that it would provide future tax revenue, when he himself is a tax delinquent? Would you agree that his documented delinquency proves that future revenue from new taxpayers can not be assumed as readily as he suggests? And do you find it pathetic, as I do, that he continues to advocate for tax giveaways as a campaign gimmick?

Also, perhaps you agree that he should be correct his own misspellings ["we can easily give a potion," "Forth-of-July," "Vella-Wilkenson"] before criticizing others for theirs.

We can certainly expect that he will continue to embarrass himself in his future comments.

Tuesday, July 18
WwkVoter

I think it is almost unbelievable that the fake mayor Corrente continues like he does, after not paying his own taxes.

Wednesday, July 19
CrickeeRaven

Hello again Wwkvoter:

After all this time, one does wonder why the fake "mayor" persists in his behavior.

Perhaps the most likely explanation is that the fake "mayor" is a self-centered, angry person with an oppositional streak who has convinced himself [against all available evidence] that thousands of others see things the same way he does, and is simply too stubborn to acknowledge otherwise. This certainly explains why, when other commenters have repeatedly and extensively documented his falsehoods, he routinely just repeats his statements [often with all-caps, as shown in a prior comment on this page] before moving on to newer articles and trying to mislead readers again.

Thank you for joining me and the thousands of honest, taxpaying Warwick voters who understand the truth about the fake "mayor."

We can be certain that he will continue to embarrass himself in his future comments.

Wednesday, July 19
Thecaptain

Mr. Corrente should feel vindicated that he identified my typo that took place while I was posting this article from my phone in 3 ft seas while fishing offshore on my boat. This, no doubt, is his highlight accomplishment of his lifetime. I find it humorous and pathetic that he states that I know nothing about taxes and accounting. Well I do know this. My taxes are paid on time, I have never been late on a tax payment, I have never bounced a check and I am 57 years old and have had a checking account since I was 16, I did not loose my house to foreclosure and tax sale as the fake Non-Taxpayer Mayor did. I was not delinquent on my car taxes for years. My credit was not destroyed due to failure to pay bills. I did not neglect my children and argue in court for 9 years that I could only afford $10 / month child support. I did not loose 16 civil litigation's in the Rhode Island court system. I did not leave a water bill in excess of $500 to be paid for by the company that assumed my foreclosed house. I did not higher a junkie crack head lawyer to defend my forcible eviction from my home which I lost due to tax delinquency, and, my home was paid for in 5 years after being purchased at the peak of the bubble. By the way, I unlike you Mr. fake mayor, am completely debt free.

Unlike the fake mayor, I understand that every disbursement in the City of Warwick is cut from a particular line item. The mayor does not have a drawer filled with cash to disburse, nor does he have a discretionary check book in which to offer rebates. There is this small item called the city charter that all expenditures must be in accordance with. But Mayor Dumbness doesn't realize that due to his delusions and ignorance.

But Mayor Dumbness is correct on one issue. I did go to Bishop Hendricken. That's the school where students are required to take 4 years of ethics classes. That is also the school that requires students to be responsible for personal choices such as paying bills. Too bad Mayor Dumbness was not able to pass the entrance exam into such a school. Maybe he would have paid some of his tax bills that he incurred while living in this community.

Wednesday, July 19
JohnStark

According to RIDE data, Warwick spends about $18,000 per student in it's public schools. Cranston, with 1400 more students than Warwick, spends about $15,000 per student. The results:

23.5% of Warwick's junior high students demonstrate academic proficiency, compared with 43.1% of Cranston students. 23.6% of Warwick high school students demonstrate academic proficiency, while 47.4% of Cranston high school students do the same. In Warwick, the deterioration in proficiency from elementary school, to junior high, to high school is dramatic. In Cranston, there is virtually no drop-off. Before spending another dime Warwick taxpayers and parents may wish to consider the utterly deplorable return they are receiving for their "investment". At present, the only ones not running from the Warwick public schools are those who do not or can not understand the data. As Warwick students grow less and less competitive in an economy requiring the very skills Warwick kids lack, those in charge are arguing about air conditioning! I'm told the admissions office at Bishop Hendricken is having a hard time keeping up. What an utter and complete embarrassment.

In exchange for this expenditure, only 23.6% of Warwick high school students are proficient in Reading and Math, and 23.5% of junior high students are proficient. While some may be heartened that 39.1% of elementary students are proficient, the bad news is that the longer those students remain in the Warwick public schools, the less proficient they become. In rather marked contrast, Cranston spends about $15,000 per student. 47.4% of Cranston high school students demonstrate adequate proficiency, and 43.1% of junior high students. Unlike Warwick, where proficiency declines, Cranston students appear to retain their proficiency as 46.1% of elementary students demonstrate proficiency.

Wednesday, July 19
CrickeeRaven

Hello JohnStark:

Thank you for your insightful comparison of Warwick and Cranston schools. While I am not going to defend the comparatively poorer results in Warwick, at least some of the fiscal discrepancy can be attributed to Warwick maintaining relatively level funding of the school department as the student population has plummeted; had the school department more responsibly handled the consolidation process earlier, Warwick's per-student spending would have been reduced to more comparable levels to Cranston's. Put in plain terms, Warwick has been keeping half-full buildings open for too long.

On those disparities in achievement, you make several valid points about families who may not have the choice or availed themselves of the information to send their children elsewhere. I am hopeful that the consolidation of the high schools and the planned consolidation of elementary schools will somewhat right this proverbial ship, reducing the overall spending on education while paying for schools that operate closer to their capacity in terms of student population.

Wednesday, July 19
Thecaptain

Once again we can rely on John Stark for the production of fact and and data, unlike the Non-Taxpayer Mayor who relies purely on pandering and rhetoric. I would also like to add this piece of fact for the record. The derailment of the school consolidation process can be attributable directly to Vella Wilkinson and Karen Bachus. About 2 years ago (forgive me for not having the exact date), I attended the school committee meeting where they were voting on the consolidation and the recommendations from the 25 member volunteer committee. At this meeting, Wilkinson and Bachus decided that they would fabricate a story to derail the vote from the school committee. They met openly and Bachus revealed that she had just been given information from a council member who had received confidential information from an un-named member of the consolidation committee, who confided in her that, they, (the consolidation committee) in actuality, had not done the proper research into the consolidation process, had never met and had not done their due diligence. As a result, Bachus recommended not voting on the consolidation and having a third party report put forth. That report cost the taxpayers $350,000 to issue the same results as the report issued by the volunteer committee.

The reasoning behind this sabotage was that Wilkinson and Bachus, two union hacks, were aware that several teacher positions as well as maintenance personnel positions would be eliminated. The two, relying on union pandering, concocted this scheme simply to avoid any political fallout.

In fact, the entire school committee failed that evening by voting not to vote. How insane. They all knew that either way they voted there would be political ramifications. The committee took a cowardly stand and decided not to vote on the consolidation. These two individuals, Bachus and Wilkinson have been a detriment to Warwick for years, and they are the idol's of the fake mayor. They openly support perpetual contracts and binding arbitration, both of which will have an extreme detriment to the level of education and to the impact of taxes in this city.

As I said before and i'll say again, not another penny or benefit should be paid to the teachers until the proficiency scores of the students improve dramatically. Intelligent parents remove their kids from these shamble buildings and send them to schools that produce. Unlike the fake mayor, I and everyone else who pays their taxes realize that 52% of your property tax goes to the school system, even if you are not using it and paying for private school. I wonder how much thought Mayor Dumbness gave to that concept when he openly refused to pay property taxes for almost 4 years, yet still had his garbage picked up.

Wednesday, July 19