This time mayor OK with school contracts

Posted 7/19/22


Approximately 400 teachers and school administrators gathered in Cranston East’s auditorium Monday night for the City Council finance committee meeting concerning the …

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This time mayor OK with school contracts



Approximately 400 teachers and school administrators gathered in Cranston East’s auditorium Monday night for the City Council finance committee meeting concerning the ratification of two school contracts. On July 7, the city’s administration sent out a press release asking finance committee members to send the contracts back to the School Committee for further discussions and reductions. Finance committee members unanimously approved the contracts which will go before the full City Council on July 25.

On July 7, Hopkins said the contracts were out of line with today’s economic climate and that they couldn’t keep piling raises on top of raises. In the press release, he said one of several major concerns was that teachers were locking into a three-year contract at annual increases for senior teachers of 3 percent, 1 percent and 1.5 percent -- or a total of 5.5 percent; the cumulative three year impact based on the school figures would be over $16 million. Additionally, he voiced concern over the $2,000 ratification bonus for all teachers and for senior teachers’ longevity increases of $750 each. Following the release, council members received calls from teachers and relatives of teachers. Due to the expected number of individuals attending the monthly finance meeting, the meeting (scheduled for July 11) was moved to July 18.

The two contracts included the School Committee’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Cranston Teachers’ Alliance, Local 1704, AFT Paraprofessionals Unit and the School Committee’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Cranston Teachers’ Alliance Local 1704, ATF.

Joseph Balducci, Chief Financial Officer for Cranston Public Schools, presented the finance committee with reasoning for how the contracts came to be.

Balducci said salary increases for the 2022-2023 year were negotiated at $2.1 million. The district spread the funds by giving Steps 1 through 11 teachers a 0.5 percent contractual raise and those on the top step a three percent raise. He added that the district also looked at the restructuring of step differentials. CPS, like most districts, has 10-12 steps for employees to go through.

“Each of those step movements equate to a raise in salary,” said Balducci.

He said the district restructured step movements so they would be around 6.1 percent, which allowed the district to give those on the top step a bigger raise since there are no more step increases at the top.

The teachers’ contract included a ratification bonus and gave individuals $2,000 which is funded through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) 3 monies.

Balducci said the teachers’ contract has longevity built into it and has been in the contract for the last 20 years. Beginning in a teacher’s 20th year, an individual receives longevity payment. That amount increases at 25 years and again at 30; each is increased by $750.

In the contract there was also an elimination of the professional development stipend. In the prior contract, the district required eight hours minimum of professional development for each teacher.

“Those hours were spent outside of a normal day,” Balducci said, adding that these hours will be worked into two school days.

The district then shifted the $301,000 from professional development to fund longevity.

Balducci said in the contract’s second year, there would be a one percent salary increase for Steps 1 through 12. In the third year, there would be a 1.5 percent increase across the board.

Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse said both contracts contained modest wage increases and updated contractual language that provided the district with greater flexibility. She added that Cranston led the state in the return to full time in-person learning – saying that would not have been possible without the exemplary work of school employees.

Nota-Masse referenced the pandemic and the hardships teachers have endured the past two and a half years and how the effects will be felt in the classroom for years to come.

She said CPS must remain competitive and invest in its staff members. Over the past several years, she has seen younger teachers leave for more competitive districts. Nota-Masse said before the negotiations, CPS ranked 20 out of 34 school districts in terms of competitive salary. She said the ratifications to the contracts should bring the district to the top half.

“To keep staff is increasingly difficult,” said Nota-Masse.

When she first started as a teacher, there was a large sub pool and individuals would have to substitute for a while before finding a teaching position. Now, there is such a shortage in the sub pool that if the district has a talented student teacher, they will offer the individual a job before they graduate.

Following Nota-Masse’s comments were 30 seconds of clapping and cheering from the East auditorium crowd.

All nine council members expressed their approval of the contracts following Nota-Masse’s comments. School Committee Chair Dan Wall said he couldn’t be more pleased with how supportive people were of this contract.

“A week ago, there was a lot of talk, a lot of social media and even press releases that made me doubt if we would get to this moment at this time,” said Wall.

Even though all the council members expressed their approval for the two contracts, Union President Elizabeth Larkin said she was still angry that the teachers had to go through this.

“You don’t send something like this out unless you really want to start a war,” said Larkin about Hopkins’ press release.

She added that negative tweets and social media comments caused a lot of stress and anxiety when teachers deserve peace, respect and appreciation. She inquired about a press release retraction.

Chief of Staff Anthony Moretti said over the past week Hopkins had constructive discussions with Nota-Masse and Wall. He said they narrowed the contract’s concerns and gained good input through those discussions.

After listening to Balducci, Wall and the superintendent, and given their assurances that the schools can afford the contract and reopeners within their current budget, Moretti said the mayor could support the ratifications of these two agreements. He added that the Hopkins supports the school department and gave them $1.5 million extra in funding and this year gave them an extra $1 million.

“Communication alone between committee, council and mayor resolves problems,” said Michael Traficante, Citywide School Committee member. “This meeting should have never happened. It happened because of a lack of communication.”

Council members shared their thoughts on the contracts.

“This contract I feel is something that should be applauded and admired – particularly for the fact that the school budget your department has run a ship that has not run in a deficit,” said councilwoman Jessica Marino. “I don’t understand why there needs to be controversy with this contract.”

She said it was a modest increase.

“I reviewed the contract, and I agree,” said councilman Matthew Reilly. “I don’t know why this controversy or why we even had to go down that road.

Compared to other contracts the council has looked at, Reilly said this agreement was fair to the teachers. He mentioned that he did have concerns about reopeners in future years, but that is something the unions, School Committee and City Council can work out at that time.

On Tuesday, Chair of the finance committee Robert Ferri said he was honored to run Monday night’s meeting and was pleased that everyone realized that the contract was fair for the teachers and Cranston residents.

“It was a very productive meeting and I am happy that everyone came to an agreement at the end. We need to work like this more often. I want to thank the superintendent, Liz Larkin and Mr. Balducci for all their hard work,” said Ferri.

Councilwoman Nicole Renzulli said Tuesday that she didn’t appreciate the contract ratification being used as a tool in an election season – saying that education of her children and all children is not political.

“I never needed anyone to urge me to vote one way or another on this matter,” said Renzulli. “I did my homework and I always ask a lot of questions. The answers I received made me confident that we can compensate our hardworking teachers and paraprofessionals fairly, while also staying within our means for the taxpayers. I’m comfortable supporting this contract for those reasons and those reasons alone, and I’m glad we could come together to get this done.”

The two school contracts will now go to the City Council on July 25.

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