Teacher, WISE contracts approved, manager for new high schools retained

Posted 2/22/24

As a result of action taken Thursday, Warwick Independent School Employees (WISE) have a new 3-year contract; Warwick teachers will similarly have a 3-year contract if the membership approve the …

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Teacher, WISE contracts approved, manager for new high schools retained


As a result of action taken Thursday, Warwick Independent School Employees (WISE) have a new 3-year contract; Warwick teachers will similarly have a 3-year contract if the membership approve the contract hammered out by union leaders and a project manager has been selected to guide the construction of new Pilgrim and Toll Gate High Schools.

All three developments have fueled optimism of good things to come among school committee members and administrators.

WISE, WTU Contracts Approved

The School Committee unanimously approved the WISE contract that is projected to cost an additional $1.8 million over the life of the agreement. Employees are to receive a 2.5 percent pay boost the first year followed by a 3 percent increase in the second and a 2.5 percent increase in the third year. Only sketchy details were released about the teachers contract, as the membership has yet to see or vote on the tentative agreement. Committee chair Shaun Galligan explained Sunday, details are not being released on the basis should the membership turn down the agreement it would be difficult to return to the bargaining table.

In an email, WTU president Darlene Netcoh wrote, “"The schools are closed this week for February vacation, so it will be a few weeks until I can schedule and hold a ratification meeting for the Warwick Teachers' Union (WTU) membership. I will have no comment about the agreement until the WTU membership has a chance to see it and vote on it."

The committee voted 4-1 to approve the teacher contract. The dissenting vote came from Michelle Kirby-Chapman, who said while she approved of most of what was in the contract, language on Open Houses led her to not vote in favor of the contract presented.

“[Attending Open Houses] was really important to the community, and as my little one told me to say, ‘Mommy, kids want to see their parents meet their teachers,’” Kirby-Chapman said. “Because I am voting as a parent, I am saying no.”

Kirby-Chapman said that she is comfortable taking the no vote as “one of five,” suggesting she would not have swung the vote were it closer.

Her vote was not without its criticism following the contract’s passage, though. Michelle Landry, a chemistry teacher at Toll Gate, said that she found it “disturbing” Kirby-Chapman would base her vote off of Open House attendance.

“There’s a myriad of reasons why a teacher may not be able to attend Open House,” Landry said. “I am also a parent, and I need to hire a babysitter to attend Open House at night outside of my workday. Some of my colleagues have second jobs, they coach, they’re [working for credentials], or they might just become ill.”

Committee member David Testa called the agreement a “good deal” for both parties. Unlike the one-year contract extension approved last year, Testa said the agreement addresses language changes to special education which has been a sticking point.

OPM announced, HVAC repairs to commence

Director of Capital Projects Steve Gothberg announced Left Field Project Management as the winning owner-project-managers (OPM) for the construction of Warwick’s two new high schools. The company will follow all aspects of building the new high schools, starting with drafting requests for proposals, RFPs, to build the schools that will advertised. That will be followed by evaluating the bids received and recommending a contractor or contractors (should separate contractors for each of the schools be chosen) to design/build the schools.

School Committee member David Testa, who chairs the School Building Review committee, said Left Field’s references were “stellar,” leading to their selection even though they were not the lowest bidder. “I like the team they’re going to put on, it’s very comprehensive, “ Testa said in an interview Saturday.

“They’re going to do it right and we’re going to do it thoroughly,” Testa said of the high schools. He said the Left Field contract of $5.6 million over the duration of the project is inline with projects of this size.

Chris Spiegel, one of Left Field’s project executives who was in attendance Thursday, said all five of Left Field’s Rhode Island project managers will be assigned to the Warwick high schools project.

“Left Field are high school specialists,” Spiegel said. “We have completed some of the most mission-specific, demanding high schools in New England, including BMC Durfee, Revere High School at $500 million, we’re currently working on South Kingstown’s high school, we’re currently working in North Providence as well, and just across the border in West Warwick, we’re helping them with their Stage 1 and 2.”

Spiegel also said that Left Field has had prior experience working with Saccoccio & Associates Architects and Saam Architecture, the firms that will be working on Toll Gate and Pilgrim, respectively.

Director of Facilities and Operations Kevin Oliver also put in a change order for $80,000 to fix the HVAC system at Warwick Veterans Middle School.

Vets science teacher Pauline Pinto, who spoke at the meeting, sent a survey out earlier this week to teachers at Vets about their issues with the HVAC system. Seventy-five percent of respondents could not adjust the thermostat in their room, and 56% said that they were still having HVAC issues, according to Pinto.

“I’m hopeful that we can truly address the issue, and I think the biggest takeaway is there has to be oversight,” Pinto said. “Transparency is key, and it makes people have faith that the issue is being addressed.”

Oliver said he would forward Pinto’s survey to Delta Mechanical, who will be making repairs to the system. The repairs as of now will cost $190,000 in total, though Oliver said that he could not be sure if the cost would rise more.

Repairs, according to Oliver, will largely be taking place during February vacation, as Delta Mechanical will need control of the entire building to make the repairs.

2024-25 school calendar tabled

The committee voted to table approval on the final 2024-25 school calendar following discussion on times for professional development dates.

Superintendent Lynn Dambruch presented the council with two options for the upcoming school year- one which gives students the day before Thanksgiving off and ends the school year on June 20 and one which doesn’t and ends the school year on June 18.

Suggested edits to the calendar came from WTU president Darlene Netcoh, who requested that the planned professional development day in February be moved to March in order to better space out days off.

“Right now, there are no days off in March, and that will make it a very long month for everyone,” Netcoh said.

School Committee Chair Galligan made a similar request of Netcoh’s, saying that the professional development day in May should be moved to March due to the planned date being only nine days after the end of April break.

Dambruch said she doesn’t have any issues with moving a professional development day to March. Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Lisa Schultz said that she would be fine with that as well, though she requested that the new professional development dates be on the same days of the week as the originally planned ones.

Testa said that he hopes students will have as many snow days as possible before having to switch to distance-learning days.

“Going forward, we should let parents know that in the event of school cancellation, whether it’s snow days, how many days we intend to use for traditional snow days where the kids just go out and play in the snow,” Testa said. “Distance learning should be learning of last resort, and if there’s a little time at the end of the school year, let the kids have a traditional snow day. Distance learning doesn’t work.”

The 2024-25 school calendar will be revisited next month.

Other meeting developments

The committee attracted criticism from a couple of members of the public for not including the 2024 Rhode Island Student Survey in this month’s agenda.

The survey, which is anonymous and asks students in middle and high schools questions related to substance abuse, bullying and mental health, was brought up during the last meeting and was tabled in a 3-2 vote then, with Galligan, Vice Chair Leah Hazelwood and Kirby-Chapman voicing concerns about releasing the survey without first showing parents questions in it.

Jeremy Langill, one of the residents speaking about the survey, said that it was important that the survey gets out to get help to student groups that need it.

“There are very practical, real-world implications here for this survey- what it is, what it does, and how it helps us resource the most vulnerable youth, so that they can get what they need to get” Langill said. “If there’s a process issue, let’s take care of the process issue.”

Additionally, the Committee reappointed Patti Cousineau as Director of Elementary Education, Schultz as Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Tim Kane as Director of the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center, and Candace Caluori, Toby Gibbons, Brian Dillon, Frank Galligan, Andrew Longo, Gary McCoombs, Frederick Schweizer, and Daniel Smith as principals of Toll Gate and Pilgrim high schools and Robertson, Warwick Neck, Greenwood, Hoxsie, Cedar Hill and Scott elementary schools. All of those reappointed were given three-year contracts.

Galligan recused himself from the vote, jokingly mentioning that his brother Frank was a “former roommate” of his.

The next School Committee meeting will be held Tuesday, March 12.

teachers, WISE, contracts


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