Warwick teachers reach tentative agreement with school committee

(Tim Garcia/WPRI)

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – Members of the Warwick Teachers’ Union and the school committee reached a tentative contract agreement early Thursday morning, after spending hours in a closed-door mediation session.

The session started at 7 p.m. at Warwick City Hall, and ended shortly after midnight.

“The parties are working on the language but conceptually, all of the points, all of the issues have been resolved,” mediator and attorney Vincent Ragosta, Jr. said.

Ragosta didn’t elaborate any further, only saying that an agreement was reached on both educational and financial issues. Class sizes, salary increases and the number of sick days granted to teachers have been major items throughout the process.

Teachers in the city have been working without a contract since August of 2015.

Several schools have been forced to cancel classes in recent weeks due to mass teacher absences. After three schools were forced to cancel classes Monday, a judge issued an order barring union members from participating in a “sickout” or any other work stoppage, saying students stood to be deprived of educational time.

According to Mayor Scott Avedisian, the necessary documentation to execute the tentative agreement will be processed over the next few days. As a result of the deal, the school committee meeting scheduled for Thursday morning was canceled.

“The negotiated agreement has to be submitted to the union for ratification and likewise, the school committee must submit the tentative agreement to its body,” Ragosta explained.

Rhode Island Education Commissioner said:

“We are pleased that the Warwick School Committee and Warwick Teachers Union have come together for the good of their students and the community at large, reaching a tentative agreement that we hope will bring to an end what has been a difficult chapter for Warwick schools. We are eager to see the agreement finalized as quickly as possible so that all parties can continue to do what they do best – prepare Warwick students for their futures.”

Earlier Wednesday, parents took to the streets outside City Hall and the school administration building to show their solidarity with the teachers.

“Hopefully the powers-that-be are sitting up and paying attention,” organizer Kelly Smith told Eyewitness News.

About 100 people attended the two protests.