WOONSOCKET – The school department and members of the Woonsocket Teachers Guild appear to be coming down to the wire on settlement of a new contract.
The Teachers Guild scheduled separate ratification meetings with its 482 represented teachers and 99 paraprofessionals for late this afternoon but whether they are held as planned could depend on resolution of last-minute issues involving the state Department of Education’s position on Basic Education Plan requirements.
Woonsocket Teachers Guild President Jeff Partington declined to give details of the proposed agreement between the sides beyond general descriptions on Tuesday but indicated the sticking point with the Basic Education Plan was significant and could jeopardize ratification before teachers leave for summer vacation with the end of classes today.
“We are willing to bring the members the financial piece but it is the Rhode Island Department of Education’s interpretation of the Basic Education Plan that is holding things up,” Partington said.
“I am either presenting everything, or nothing,” he added.
The teachers union does not agree with RIDE’s current interpretation of specific areas of the BEP and some movement will be required in that position for things to proceed to a ratification vote, according to Partington.
The end of school today also means many teachers will be leaving for summer commitments, a fact that could affect the rescheduling of the ratification vote, Partington noted.
The sides were reported to already have come to terms on salaries, health care benefits and changes in retirement benefits under negotiation of the finance terms for an agreement spanning five years.
Partington said the agreement, as negotiated, would meet the teacher and paraprofessional compensation and benefit savings the state Budget Commission running local fiscal affairs has been seeking as part of its work to balance the local budget. The teachers would be the first city group to come forward with the requested concessions if the agreement is ratified.
Until the issue over the Department of Education’s interpretation of the BEP cropped up, Partington said, it appeared the agreement was moving forward to a review by the Guild’s membership.
“It is just one small piece that we need changed and if we get that we are all set,” he said.
The city’s attorney on negotiations with its labor groups was reported to be away Tuesday. Members of the School Committee could not be reached for further details on the status of the talks Tuesday evening.