Warwick teachers protest against school committee, claiming pay raise will arrive 2 months late

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The Warwick Teachers Union is protesting the city’s school committee meeting Tuesday night because they say the contract the teachers and school officials signed just shy of a month ago isn’t being honored.

While the terms of the contract weren’t disclosed, union president Darlene Netcoh said Tuesday morning that the school committee agreed to start paying teachers a salary increase and retroactive payments come Dec. 21. However, according to Netcoh, the school superintendent, Philip Thornton, is now claiming teachers won’t get that pay increase until February at the soonest.

“Obviously, the superintendent and chairwoman [Bethany Furtado] do not want labor peace, because if they did, they would not be playing games and violating a contract that they signed,” Netcoh said in a statement.

Teachers walked the halls of Warwick Veterans Junior High School prior to the meeting, holding signs that said “Honor Our Contract!” and “How The Grinch Violates Contract.”

In order to process the retroactive pay raise from last year and the raise for this school year, the school department must get the funds authorized from the Warwick City Council as the School Department cannot spend over their approved budget.

Superintendent of Schools Philip Thornton said the initial plans were to have authorization completed in December and the raise processed for the Dec. 21 payroll. But Thornton said the committee is now scheduled to appear in front of Warwick City Council on Jan. 3 and 17.

“Given this schedule, the raise will be processed on the Feb. 1 payroll,” Thornton said. “An apology regarding the delay of the pay raise was communicated to teachers in the district.”

After two years without a contract, the city’s public schools faced widespread teacher absences in October that appeared to constitute “sick-outs,” such that a judge ordered the teachers to halt the practice in the same breath as barring strikes and work stoppages. The union denied any coordinated work action took place and chalked up absences to cold and flu season.

Students lent support to teachers during the conflict, and parents later followed suit. The points of contention in the conflict included sick time and classroom sizes.

Mediation finally arrived October 18, and the committee approved the new contract about a month later.