By TESSA ROY A total of 31 teachers were laid off at the School Committee meeting Tuesday night, but the administration says they could be recalled to their jobs depending on approval of the school budget. Superintendent Philip Thornton released a
A total of 31 teachers were laid off at the School Committee meeting Tuesday night, but the administration says they could be recalled to their jobs depending on approval of the school budget.
Superintendent Philip Thornton released a statement on the layoffs Wednesday morning, saying schools are required due to statutory regulations to notify certified teachers of potential layoffs on or before June 1 of each year and noted that the procedure is part of an annual process related to the approval of a school budget for the coming fiscal year.
“Following this annual procedure, the Warwick School Committee laid off 31 teachers at Tuesday’s School Committee meeting. Once a budget is approved by the City Council, we will have an official approved budget from which to work with,” he said. “At that time, we will know our funding levels for the 2017-2018 school year and make the appropriate staffing decisions.”
Thornton and Human Resources Director Katherine Duncanson explained in a phone call Wednesday that the layoffs are contingent upon the budget but also retirements or resignations. The two said they could begin recalling teachers as soon as they know the level of funding they have available.
Thornton’s statement also noted “since the Warwick School Department has been level funded or reduced in funding in recent years, we have to be fiscally responsible and plan for that possibility again.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Warwick Teachers Union President Darlene Netcoh and Warwick Community Outreach Educational Committee Co-Chair Nathan Cornell questioned why teachers rather than administrators were laid off.
“In consolidation, it’s only logical that if you consolidate teachers, you would also consolidate administrators,” Cornell reasoned. “Meanwhile, we’ve seen exactly the opposite these last few years. So one way to save money would [be] to consolidate some administrators, plus they make more.”
Netcoh said the 31 layoffs would eliminate reading specialists and all of elementary guidance.
“It’s time to up the programs in reading, not lower them…Stop using teachers as pawns. Use your administrators as pawns,” she said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Toll Gate English teacher Therese Bozigian said this was her third consecutive layoff from Warwick Public Schools and second under the current administration. She criticized the school department’s “rationale” of “budget uncertainty” as a reason for the layoffs. She described how “despite budget uncertainties,” her classroom has been visited by the head of technology to identify a spot for a new promethean board as well as by co-teaching consultants who observed her and her co-teacher’s academic strategies.
“Despite the current budget uncertainties, it seems that the only component that the school department is not able to afford in the classroom where I teach is me, the classroom teacher,” she said.
As for why administrators were not laid off, Thornton said in Wednesday’s call that a consultant did a reorganization of the district administration structure last year, which the School Committee voted on, and that he believes the department is “properly staffed” at the administration level. He noted that many of those jobs remain regardless of fluctuation in enrollment, such as the federal grant writer.
The School Committee approved a budget of $167 million last month. It requests an additional $4.8 million from the city, a 4 percent increase from last year. The budget request will be heard before the City Council on May 26 at 5 p.m.
In other business, Building and Grounds Director Steven Gothberg said mold testing at Warwick Vets would be conducted this Saturday morning. In addition, the state Department of Education’s review of Warwick’s special education program is expected for release shortly.