Warwick Teachers’ Union votes ‘no confidence’ on 2 school officials

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – The Warwick Teachers’ Union on Tuesday issued a unanimous vote of “no confidence” in  School Superintendent Philip Thornton and School Committee Chair Bethany Furtado.

Union president Darlene Netcoh said the vote signifies that teachers in the city have waited long enough for Thornton and Furtado to “do their jobs.”

“Because Furtado has allowed Thornton to do whatever he wants, he has, among other actions, caused a disastrous secondary school consolidation,” Netcoh said. “Eliminated programs, such as Reading Recovery and elementary guidance and violated contract language that would have ensured the appropriate placement of special education students and special education teachers in classes.”

While Thornton has eliminated teachers and classroom space for students, Netcoh said he has provided luxurious accommodations for his administration in the newly renovated Gorton Administration Building.

“Furtado has allowed Thornton, who costs the district close to a quarter of a million dollars, to create numerous administration positions, such as a Chief Academic Officer position at a cost of $181,000, to do his job,” Netcoh said.

According to Netcoh, Furtado and Thornton have now spent more than a half-million dollars on law firms, and Furtado allowed Thornton to budget $100,000 for a public relations firm to promote their agenda.

“If Furtado did the job Warwick elected her to do and Thornton did the job the WSC hired him to do, they would have no need for a public relations firm,” Netcoh added. “Warwick teachers hope that their vote of ‘no confidence’ will encourage Furtado and Thornton to reverse course and act in the best interest of the students in Warwick and restore education in Warwick to the level of excellence it enjoyed before Thornton’s arrival.”

Thornton said in response to Netcoh that he is solely focused on bettering Warwick schools.

“Every decision is made based on the best interests of the students, including a contract with the Warwick Teacher’s Union,” Thornton said.

Furtado said at the School Committee meeting on Tuesday night that it is wrong to accuse her of allowing Thornton to do anything.

“I’m one of five, so to say I’m allowing the superintendent to run willy nilly over the district is completely false,” Furtado said.

Warwick teachers spoke at the meeting, justifying their reasons for the “no confidence” vote.

“He said there are no violations of the contract at Pilgrim,” one teacher said. “This is why there’s a ‘no confidence’ vote, because I have a class that does violate the contract.”

Netcoh said the teachers’ union announced their vote at the School Committee meeting.

This vote comes after 91 teachers and staff members called out sick on Oct. 6 at Pilgrim High School, causing the superintendent to cancel school. The “sick out” was in response to the ongoing contract negotiations and grievances against the school committee.