Union/administration hope to rekindle mediation

Posted

Superintendent Philip Thornton watched the sick notices trickle in most of the day Thursday and into the early morning hours Friday. He alerted parents and school personnel that, if the trend continued, school may be closed. By 5:45 a.m., with 74 out of Pilgrim’s 140 teachers reporting sick, he knew what he had to do. The department would be unable to fill all the vacant classrooms with substitutes. He sent out a notice that school would be closed for the day.

Across the city at Toll Gate High School, or for that matter any other Warwick school, teachers did not report sick in such numbers. At Toll Gate eight teachers reported sick.

Under school policy, teachers reporting sick the day before or after a holiday or weekend are required to submit a doctor’s note. Those failing to do so will face disciplinary action, although when asked what that would be, Thornton deferred, saying it was a “personnel matter.”

The sick-out wasn’t a complete surprise. According to reports from the Warwick Teachers Union meeting Wednesday afternoon, such an action, along with a strike, had been discussed as a means of protesting the failure of the parties to reach an agreement. The prior contract ended in August 2015.

Thornton doesn’t see how a sick-out at Pilgrim helps reach a settlement.

“The most important thing is to have a teacher in front of the classroom,” he said. “It gains nothing. It hurts the kids.”

As for efforts to resolve the contract impasse, Thornton said the department continues to wait for the decision of Michel Ryan, who conducted interest arbitration over the past year and a half. As arbitration was conducted on aspects of a contract, the parties also engaged in mediation with attorney Vincent Ragosta acting as mediator. At the beginning of this year Mayor Scott Avedisian joined Ragosta in conducting mediation.

Based on “leanings” from the arbitrator, the school committee proposed a contract that would give teachers a 2.5 percent pay increase retroactively for the second year of no contract and raises of 3 percent for each of the following three years. The teachers would have to agree to drop all grievances. The union rejected the offer, maintaining the agreement failed to take into consideration their concerns over class sizes and special education assignments.

Thornton said he has talked with Avedisian and there would be an attempt to bring the sides together prior to the release of the interest arbitration decision.

“We all want a contract. Hours and hours have been committed to this,” he said.

Avedisian released a statement on Friday, saying that the closing of Pilgrim was “extremely disappointing and disheartening.” Avedisian reported that he had been in touch with school committee chairwoman Beth Furtado, who said that the committee was willing and ready to sit back down for another mediation session to hopefully sort out the remaining issues.

“I expect that the Teachers’ Union will also return to the table in a good faith effort to reach an agreement,” Avedisian said in his statement.

Warwick Teachers’ Union president Darlene Netcoh made it clear that the cancellation of Pilgrim was not the result of an organized effort by the union and that there was no vote taken at last week’s meeting on whether or not to engage in a district-wide strike or a sick-out. Netcoh said that many of those who called out sick at Pilgrim were likely suffering from actual illnesses and criticized the air quality and overall health environment of the school.

She said that the goal of the union remains getting back to the negotiating table and hashing out a new collective bargaining agreement once and for all and that if the school administration reached out to meet, the union would show up, too.

“That's all we want, is to be able to sit down and mediate and finish,” Netcoh said on Friday. “There's no reason we should be for three years without a contract...We deserve no less.”

Netcoh said that she hoped for a large turnout at tonight’s school committee meeting and that the newest mediation session would hopefully be scheduled as soon as possible.

As for the 24 teacher assistants working at Pilgrim, Thornton said only a couple reported sick and that the others were given the option of taking a vacation day or working elsewhere in the system.

“People coming to work, we had work for them,” he said.

(With reports from Ethan Hartley)

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CrickeeRaven

"Netcoh said that she hoped for a large turnout at tonight’s school committee meeting and that the newest mediation session would hopefully be scheduled as soon as possible."

Clearly this was published before Tuesday morning's announcement by Netcoh of a no-confidence vote in Thornton and Furtado: https://warwickpost.com/wtu-announces-no-confidence-vote-thornton-furtado/

So the WTU president has again used the Beacon to say one thing while doing another. This was the same person who said the union didn't vote on a sick-out, resulting in the Beacon reporting that the planned move had been "squashed" -- only for it to happen.

Netcoh also seems to be telegraphing the WTU's next stunt, which she says in her statement will be for union members to "let them know" about the vote. It should also be noted that she terms this vote "unanimous" without providing the number of teachers involved or the time and date of the vote.

Admittedly, I am hardly qualified to critique Mr. Howell's journalistic experience; however, after these two incidents, it may be time to review his paper's editorial processes when given information from the WTU.

Tuesday, October 10
knowthetruth4

And the editorial process should also be examined when the school departments tax payer funded PR firm speed out it's one sided, fact lacking venom. Goes both ways.

Tuesday, October 10
CrickeeRaven

This is the second comment board where you've made a false statement, knowthetruth4.

See past comments by the fake "mayor" that similarly had no proof.

Tuesday, October 10
Justanidiot

Newsflash!

They have a mediator!

Sadly, he called in sick.

Wednesday, October 11
CrickeeRaven

There was another sick-out by the WTU today, this time at Vets: https://warwickpost.com/veterans-jr-high-classes-canceled-due-teacher-absences/

It is becoming ever clearer to those who are paying attention that the WTU sought to delay any progress on the contract until students were back in school so that their members could engineer these publicity stunts. It is becoming more and more clear that the WTU does not want a contract as much as it wants some kind of PR "victory" over the school administration.

What they fail to realize is that, whatever happens, Warwick will continue to be known for union strife in the school department -- and that, as one of the parties that could have solved these issues, the WTU will shoulder a significant portion of the blame. Parents will continue to seek private schools, aspiring teachers will look elsewhere or view Warwick as a stepping-stone job, and another generation of Warwick students will be denied a quality education by the adults who claim to serve them.

Wednesday, October 11
Bg9385

Two incorrect statements are presented in this article. A sickout was not discussed at the union meeting last week, and the school district cannot require a teacher to submit a doctor's note before or after a holiday weekend. Fact check before reporting, please.

Wednesday, October 11
CrickeeRaven

Bg9385:

Perhaps you missed this statement from Darlene Netcoh about last week's WTU meeting: “In fact, when someone tried to discuss sick out language, I stifled it,” Netcoh said. https://warwickpost.com/pilgrim-high-school-classes-canceled-today/

Or perhaps you missed the Beacon's prior report of "a prolonged debate between members of the union" about a sick out at last week's WTU meeting. http://warwickonline.com/stories/possible-sick-out-plans-squashed-by-teachers,128216?

Based on these two articles, your statement "A sickout was not discussed at the union meeting last week" is factually incorrect.

Mrs. Netcoh could not stifle a discussion unless someone started one; and the Beacon's indication of a "prolonged debate" shows that the discussion actually went further than someone simply trying to bring up the sick out idea.

For readers who value transparency and full information, here is the former contract: http://district.wpstech.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2017/06/WTUContract2012-2014.pdf

Contrary to Supt. Thornton's quoted words in the article, there is no requirement for teachers to produce doctor's notes before a holiday weekend stated in the expired contract, however, the contract does state that "The School Committee may require a certificate from a physician for an absence or illness." [p. 16]

So, that's one correct and one incorrect statement, Bg9385, not "two incorrect statements."

Your future statements will be considered much more credible if you make the effort to provide information that supports them.

Wednesday, October 11
richardcorrente

For the record:

I was at the School Committee meeting last night (10-10-17).

I confirmed that the Warwick Teachers Union is still willing to negotiate with the Warwick School Committee ANY day, ANY time, ANY where, about ANY topic relative to the teachers contract. I also confirmed that the list of topics that the School Committee REFUSES to negotiate is almost as long as the list of items they WILL talk about. That is why the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab are overwhelmingly supporting THE WARWICK TEACHERS UNION.

Happy Autumn Warwick teachers.

Happy Autumn everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Wednesday, October 11
Bg9385

CrickeeRaven:

A sickout is illegal per the contract, so to publish it in those terms is reckless. It's called journalistic integrity. This forum has a problem with checking facts before pontificating. As for my information regarding the discussion that took place at the union meeting, it's called a first person account.

Wednesday, October 11
Kammy

"That is why the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab are overwhelmingly supporting THE WARWICK TEACHERS UNION."

When did you speak to all 80,000 taxpayers and where is your spreadsheet that tally's the numbers to back up that statement Richard? Provide documented proof of your comment.

Wednesday, October 11
CrickeeRaven

Bg9385:

Now that you've admitted to attending the WTU meeting last week, maybe you can focus more on getting your colleagues to sign a contract instead of preaching about journalistic integrity. Maybe if you and fellow WTU members were not trying to say so many things -- there was a discussion that got squashed, there was a prolonged debate, there was no discussion -- the information being published would be less confusing.

But that's not really the WTU's intent, is it? No. It's not to provide factual information to the parents. It's to run a PR campaign based on misdirection.

As a result, we get a union that rejects an approved contract [one that the mayor worked on] and then cries that it doesn't have a contract; that says it's for the kids but closes two schools; has 140 of its members call out sick but insists it's not a "sick out," and that claims it's being treated unfairly after two-plus years of digging in its heels.

So, go ahead and keep denying what reasonable and alert readers are seeing for themselves. On this site, at least, you'll find yourself in the same league as the fake "mayor."

Wednesday, October 11
CrickeeRaven

Hello again, Tammy:

I, too, would love to see any proof that the fake "mayor" could offer for his factually incorrect claim of 80,000 taxpayers. As has been pointed out to him before, there are 80,000 residents in Warwick; not all of them are property or vehicle owners; and he, himself, is a poor spokesman for Warwick taxpayers, since his is a proven property and car tax delinquent.

His assertion about support for the WTU is likewise questionable; there were clearly not 80,000 people at the school committee meeting, for one thing. For another, the few vocal union members and parents at one meeting do not represent the entire city, not by a long shot.

But as you and I know, the fake "mayor" has constructed a fantasy for himself and simply refuses to do anything but pathetically try to maintain it.

Wednesday, October 11
Bg9385

CrickeeRaven:

Now you're assuming I'm a WTU member? Now you're blaming the WTU for what is being published? Now you want to assume you know what the WTU wants? You appear to be deciphering an awful lot of information subjectively in an apparent attempt to support your stance. Try to be objective, eh? Have you spoken out against the school committee? Have you attended a school committee meeting? Have you been a part of contract negotiations? Call yourself reasonable and alert all you want. You're coming off cantankerous, spiteful, and uneducated.

Wednesday, October 11
ThatGuyInRI

Oh please.

If the WTU wants the public to believe (support) them then their president needs to stop lying.

Saying the isn't a sick out because "no vote was taken" is garbage. Are we supposed to believe that 2/3 of the faculty of one building calling out sick on the same day is a coincidence? Or that they're just all sick...but the kids are fine?

If anything is going to get resolved, stop lying. You will never gain our support by believing we're stupid Netcoh.

"

Wednesday, October 11
CrickeeRaven

Bg9385:

You poor thing. You claimed "first person" knowledge of the WTU meeting and then are crying when you're called on it.

To answer one of your questions, yes, I am blaming the WTU for the quotes their leadership gave the media.

"You appear to be deciphering an awful lot of information subjectively in an apparent attempt to support your stance."

Yes, Bg9835, I am backing up my assertions with proof and documentation. Try it some time.

Wednesday, October 11
Justanidiot

One of two things is happening with the union. First, if they are acting as a union and the sickouts are tacitly being condoned by the union as a whole, that is illegal. Second, if the sickouts are wildcat maneuvers that the union has no control over, that means that there is no cohesive unit and the union is starting to fall apart.

If it is the second case, Mr. Thornton and the School Committee should stand firm and let the union destroy itself and get the district back on course of teaching kids hows to rite gud.

Wednesday, October 11
Bg9385

Raven:

You keep saying I need to back myself with proof and documentation. You've openly questioned the editorial process of the paper you keep quoting. So which is it? Are you trusting what's being published, or are you questioning it? Or does it just depend on whether or not it fits your agend?

Wednesday, October 11
Kammy

If you are wondering why so many citizens are calling the WTU liars today, maybe you should recall that one of the union members got up and stated in September "...Be careful what you wish for. If you reduce this to raw power, you aren’t going to like it. You don’t have the power – we do, whenever we decide to flex it. You cannot run this district without us. You can’t replace us all. We can shut down the district any day we want.” Mike Pierce - WTU member. Both days have been a sick out and planned.

To continue in this all out war is not helping WTU, the WSC, the students, the parents, the teachers or the taxpayers. The all or nothing mentality does not work. Neither side SHOULD walk away with all their demands met. That isn't contract negotiation. This is an adversarial approach that is detrimental to everyone involved. Please, both sides, come together and close this chapter.

Wednesday, October 11
CrickeeRaven

Bg9385:

Stop "just asking questions" and put proof up, or don't. Also, information changes over time; this website posted a story citing an unnamed union source as saying WTU had "squashed" a rumored sick-out plan at the meeting you claimed to attend, the afternoon before the Pilgrim closure. Obviously, that "squashed" part didn't happen.

So, you're saying the reporting is to blame for repeating the union's words that turned out to be contradictory. For someone who entered this comment board with statements about journalistic integrity, you have rather a narrow view of what that is.

... Or are you saying that did happen, that the union actually DID squash the sick-out plan? Because I have the BEST mayoral candidate to show you.

Wednesday, October 11
Justanidiot

Kammy

You are right, this is a war. The first side to blink will lose bigly. You can start to see some crumbling on the union's foundation. Plus, Mr. Thornton was hired specifically to break the union and the administration only have to keep four people in agreement (Mr. Thornton and three of the committee) whereas the union has to corral all their cats.

But who loses the bigliest? The students. Even if they learn their letters and numbers, colleges will take note of where they went to school and it can make or break an application.

Wednesday, October 11
allent

There's a case working thru the supreme court addressing forced union dues for public sector unions which will more than likey end forced dues. This will cause irreparable harm to public sector unions. Unfortunately, the vote isn't until next summer. Meanwhile we must suffer at the hands of the voracious eaters of taxpayer money.

Wednesday, October 11
Bg9385

Raven:

Keep skirting around your inconsistencies and admit you're only seeking information that fits your agenda. As for faculty coincidentally calling out sick on the same day, it cannot and will not be called a sickout. A sanctioned sickout is illegal.

As for the reporting, I never said it shouldn't be trusted. You yourself said when it comes to information from the WTU, the paper needs to review its editorial processes, yet you continue to use quotes from the WTU that are used throughout the paper. I find it curious that you question the paper out one side of your mouth, but quote the paper out the other side.

Wednesday, October 11
CrickeeRaven

Bg9385:

Wow, you just can't understand this, can you? The Beacon published words said by the WTU in the afternoon before it did a contradictory thing the next morning -- in TWO cases.

Given that background, the Beacon staff should probably consider more carefully how they publish information provided to them by the WTU.

Here, let me repeat that bit, just so you don't lose it: information provided to them by the WTU.

And remember: The night before the WTU did something else: shutdown a school in the first case, and announce a no-confidence vote in the other.

You were the one calling for a "fact check." ^ There are the facts. ^

... Or are you saying you just imagined yourself at that WTU meeting where no one said the evil words "sick out" so you could accuse the Beacon of poor reporting? Just as you imagine yourself a journalist, too!

Seriously, you've GOT TO meet this mayoral candidate.

Wednesday, October 11
Bg9385

I love watching you get riled up over a townie newspaper message board. Keep it up, Raven. I actually never called for a fact check. I asked you a fairly simple question, but you even spun that to make it seem like you were proving a point.

I would, however, check your facts about the WTU shutting a school down. Some faculty called out sick. The superintendent shut the school down, saying he had no choice ;)

Wednesday, October 11
Thecaptain

Did anyone notice that the fake mayor remains silent and is unable to present any facts, whether contract related or otherwise? Did anyone notice how the fake mayor neither condones nor vilifies the sick out ? Did anyone notice that the fake mayor went to the meeting yet sat silent and did not offer a word at the podium? Did anyone notice how pathetic the fake mayor is?

Wednesday, October 11
CrickeeRaven

Wow, Bg9385:

Getting right to the lie-and-attack phase, I see. Here, let me take you back to your first comment on this page. It included this: "Fact check before reporting, please."

Now, your latest comment: "I actually never called for a fact check."

And it's adorable, really: the superintendent shut down the schools. Bravo, you forgot that several dozen union teachers all called out -- what's the word? oh, yeah -- sick. So you would have preferred 90 substitutes at Pilgrim last Friday? Heck of a commitment to educational standards. Seems to be about level with your journalism standards.

I'm not joking, you should talk with that mayoral candidate. He doesn't think much of this website, either, and yet curiously he just keeps coming back.

Wednesday, October 11
richardcorrente

Dear commenters,

I think we all are getting off track.

Darlene Netcoh stated it best when she said "That's all we want, is to be able to sit down and mediate and finish,' "There's no reason we should be three years without a contract...We deserve no less."

Is there any intelligent, reasonable person that disagrees with that statement? I don't.

Happy Autumn everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Wednesday, October 11
Thecaptain

First of all Rick, you are neither intelligent or reasonable, so lets set the record straight. I for one feel that the school committee should dig their heels in, spend 1/2 a million and go to court to nullify the pre conditions of the past contract, then start firing people. Next, the notion of the teachers demanding 3% compound raises for the past 2 years when they worked to rule, screwed the students, no filed trips, no after school help, no parent teacher meetings etc. is unconscionable. Any school committee member that agrees to that should be run out of town. 15.9 % raises for teachers who produce some of the lowest grades in the country, and you support that. That in itself Mr. Fake Mayor, is exactly why you lost your home, could not pay your taxes, and destroyed your credit. It is not financially sound to enter into such a contract but you lack the basic financial skills to comprehend that. But you wouldn't understand that because in fact, how can I say this, you're and idiot.

Wednesday, October 11
CrickeeRaven

Hello again Thecaptain:

I likewise find it curious that the fake "mayor" would talk about getting off-track when he, himself, has a documented record of commenting about the teacher contract on honor roll articles. It's especially entertaining when such a comment follows his regurgitation of already-disproven talking points and bullying of other commenters.

Along with your request for one comment in support of his behavior, I'd add a request for one factual detail to support his comments about the union's stance. I found this interesting document online -- it's a school department recap of the contract situation through last October: https://sites.google.com/a/warwickschools.org/teacherscontractinformation/#TOC-Rhode-Island-State-Labor-Relations-Board-Ruling

It hasn't been updated since then, so the court rejection of the NLRB ruling is not included. But it explains in very specific detail what the school committee initially offered vs. what the union was seeking.

So, for instance, when a union rep tells you the teachers will be "losing" sick days by going from 90 to 18, wait to see if they also note that the WSC offer would allow them to collect TDI after 18 days out sick, create a "sick bank" to cover longer absences, and roll over unused sick days, up to 90 days total. Or when they talk about electronic grading, see if they also explain that electronic grading was suspended in April for elementary schools, and that the WTU actually agreed to language governing electronic grading but won't formally approve it until the whole contract is approved by both sides.

Or when they talk about layoffs, which had been restricted to 20 before the contract expired and the district closed three schools, do they also mention that the school administration identified 64 potential layoffs before eligible teachers retirements and other moves reduced the actual number to 22? Will they admit that the legal cost of fighting the consolidation-related layoffs at the NLRB and losing in Superior Court might not have been worth it? Will they explain how their taxpayer funded union dues paid toward this legal dispute compare to the amount that the WTU president keeps blaming the school administration for spending in defending it?

I think you would agree that these are not the actions of a group seeking resolution to the contract dispute or looking to hold the entire agreement open to negotiation as the fake "mayor" claims.

Wednesday, October 11
Thecaptain

Agreed, or should we just stipulate for the record GREED! No contract will ever be good enough.

Wednesday, October 11
PaulHuff

CrickeeRaven,

Thanks for the link you posted. For all the whining the teachers do about how they really don’t get 90 sick days it’s interesting that 18 days, TDI, and a sick day bank isn’t enough for them.

And I wasn’t aware that Warwick is the only school district that “weighs” students based upon IEP’s.

Very interesting.

Thursday, October 12
CrickeeRaven

Hello again PaulHuff:

Glad to provide the information. It's very instructive to go back and read what the school committee was putting on the table, and how some fairly simple information has been clouded by all the heated rhetoric.

You bring up a perfect example with the weighting of special ed students. As the link explains, the school committee wanted to bring Warwick into line with the rest of the districts in Rhode Island and not weight students, and the union resisted that move.

What eventually happened was, the district realigned classrooms that led to an overload of special ed students in some classrooms, with some that having a regular ed teacher alone with 25+ students including several with IEPs. This is objective fact, it's not union spin.

Arguably, the school department could not have taken these steps if the union had agreed to a contract that eliminated weighting and ensured appropriate staffing levels. Because when they talk about "serving the kids," it's having enough skilled teachers in the classroom that ultimately determines how well they're educated, not some cold calculation about how many kids a special ed student represents. That's what weighting is, after all: It's a way to say, "This student has an IEP so he counts for two kids."

Here was a perfect chance for the WTU to capitalize on something that most reasonable people would agree about: Kids deserve the right number of teachers for their needs to help them succeed.

But no, instead we get pickets at City Hall, PR stunts like the no-confidence vote and sick-outs-that-aren't-really-sick-outs, and sweeping statements instead of critical details.

Opportunity wasted.

Take a look at this, as another example. It's the WTU newsletter from April, 2017: http://warwickteachersunion.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/04-2017-NEWSLETTER.pdf

That's the most recent version available at the WTU website. Read specifically the note under "Interest Arbitration," where WTU president Netcoh writes: "After the school committee and superintendent have wasted over a year’s worth of time and an exorbitant amount of taxpayers’ money, the question that one must ask is, “Are they going to be willing to accept the arbitrator’s ruling?” If not, the question becomes, “Why?”

I'm sure you'll agree that's a stridently political statement, one that's become a favorite talking point of Mrs. Netcoh in the last few months. More to the point, it's a statement that does nothing to resolve any issue that the WTU claims it wants to fix.

The quote above is another example of the WTU trying to misdirect people: The union is spending taxpayer funded union dues to initiate NLRB and court cases, but they conveniently don't mention that, so it's disingenuous to make an issue of the taxpayer funded school committee spending money to defend them.

Again, most reasonable people can agree that "wasting" tax money is bad, and the WTU could have used that as a basis for actual agreement. But, again, no, instead they keep spending money in ultimately futile attempts to fight the last contract instead of signing a new one.

Thursday, October 12
Kammy

Thank you CrickeeRaven for your last comment on the actual facts of the contract, arbitration and the "other side" of the dialogue. I think the WTU has severely underestimated the intellect of the general population of Warwick.

Friday, October 13