Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 03-14-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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Page 14 of 39

NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET | VALLEY BREEZE | MARCH 14-20, 2019 WOONSOCKET / SENIORS 15 standoff between teachers and city administrators over a proposed pay raise that has kept members of the Woonsocket Teachers' Guild (WTG) without a contract since last year. Members voted to go into work- to-rule status last September after negotiations between the two sides fell apart shortly before the start of the school year. Attempts to return to the table have yielded few results, and the issue is now stretching into its seventh month. For city residents, the situation has been frustrating as negotiations con- tinue behind closed doors. But for students at Woonsocket schools, it's been a day-to-day reality as they try to navigate the tricky waters of work- to-rule, a negotiation tactic during which teachers work only to the letter of their contract. Isabel Rosario, a junior at WHS, said one of the biggest changes for students has been getting access to teachers. Under work-to-rule, teach- ers refrain from the volunteer hours and unpaid commitments typical of the job, arriving at 8 a.m. and leaving at 2:15 p.m. sharp. For students, that means teachers who previously made themselves available in person or by email for extra help after school are rarely available and instead try to fit student requests in during the school day. "If you fall back, you're going to stay back until the teacher has time to get to your class and your work," she said. Rosario serves as secretary of the junior class and is in the process of planning this year's junior prom. Under the current policy, she said, class officers haven't been able to arrange a meeting after school with their class adviser and instead have all their interaction over email. Students also spoke of a "chaotic" school atmosphere where teachers, left with fewer hours to do work out- side the school day, attempt to grade papers in hallways during their free periods. Abigail Buote, a junior, said she feels she has less opportunity to learn, but recognizes students have no control over the situation. "It's kind of hard to deal with because we're not given the extra help that we could have been given, but at the same time there's not much we could have done because we're the students," she said. The situation also affects after- school activities, with only those for which teachers receive a stipend – as opposed to working on a volunteer basis – continuing as before. While some activities, including band and sports, are unaffected by the policy, others, such as theater, have felt the impact of this year's changes. Yanice Gonzalez and Jared Bessette, mem- bers of the theater program, said that in past years, Jen Maiello, the school's longtime theater and dance teacher, held up to three after-school rehearsals per week with students in the final weeks before their April show. However, her stipend only pays for one of those rehearsals, leav- ing students only one day each week to rehearse with their teacher for an upcoming production of "In the Heights." "Work-to-rule has cut our rehearsal schedule to less than half what we had previous years," explained Bessette. With their teacher only available once per week, students have impro- vised, getting help from alumni and continuing to rehearse on their own. For students, the situation has thrown into sharp relief the amount of extra hours teachers normally put in on their own time. Gonzalez and other students said they think the situation has been hard on teachers as well, noting their commitment to students and the difficulty of balancing the situation with their request for a pay raise. "I feel like most people don't understand what the teachers' job is. Without them, we wouldn't be where we are now," she said. Lynne Beaudry, treasurer of the Woonsocket Middle School PTO and parent of a 7th-grader, said work- to-rule has also affected the middle school, where the atmosphere is also tense and teachers are less likely to be available after school. She said she feels frustrated by both sides of the debate as a parent and taxpayer but also a friend who sees the difficulty of the situation for teachers she knows. "It's been interesting. I feel for the teachers, I just feel that something needs to be taken care of. Somebody needs to give somewhere, and it's just not happening," she said. Beaudry, who had two older chil- dren attend Woonsocket Middle School, said she's noticed a growing change in the school over the past several years as parents become less involved and teachers turn over at faster rates. Jeffrey Partington, presi- dent of the WTG, blames the high teacher turnover on lower pay and smaller numbers of support staff such as social workers, guidance counsel- ors and mental health professionals compared with other districts. The problem, he said, has gotten worse since the start of the contract debate, with teachers leaving at a rate of about one per week in January. "People are going to start voting with their feet because they can't make enough money and other dis- tricts can pay them better. That's just a disservice to these other students who are left behind," he said. In recent weeks, the union has turned its attention to lobbying for an increase in educa- tion funding on both the local and state levels, with the cur- rent funding, accord- ing to Partington, unable to support either the needs of students or their own demands. Last month, the School Committee met with the City Council to offer an update on the union's latest demand, but received no commitment of a budget increase in return, according to School Committee Chairman Paul Bourget, a negotiating team member. Meanwhile, the state's projected aid contribution dropped even lower than expected, placing further strain on a department where the local bud- get has not changed since it received a 25 percent local increase in 2013. "There's no one else that we can ask, we as a School Committee have done that," said Bourget. "If the union wants to bang on the state's door, they can do that." Partington is hop- ing the state contri- bution will increase before budget num- bers are finalized in June and placed responsibility on the city's General Assembly delegation to lobby on the city's behalf. He expects updated state bud- get projections to come out in April, at which point the WTG plans to put the city's best offer to a vote by mem- bers. If the membership is not happy with the offer, he said, he doesn't know what the outcome will be. "Have we reached tipping point yet? I don't think so, but I think we're getting there," he said. Meanwhile, spring concert and show season is in full swing in the schools, where students continue with their activities despite the political standoff playing out around them. Rosario and others are looking for- ward to junior prom, even if the cur- rent planning confusion means she and other students have had to step up beyond what was expected of them in years past. "We're just trying to keep it togeth- er," she said. STANDOFF From Page One Kennedy Manor Club lists events, winners WOONSOCKET – Kennedy Manor Social Club announces the following events. A Board of Tenant Affairs meet- ing will be held Thursday, March 21, at Parkview Manor. The speak- er will be Glen Dusablon from the Veterans Memorial Museum. A driving course will be held at the Senior Citizens Center on Friday, March 29, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Celebrating March birthdays are Armand Doiron,Ray Lachapelle, Linda Leblanc, Pat Larose, Sandra Davis, Nadine Cudjo, Helen Bonnar. Split-the-pot winners at the March 5 meeting were Ray Lachapelle, Caroline McMahon, Nadine Cudjo, Betsy Peloquin, Marie Darveau, Annette Wolfe, Stella Lacasse, Ken Demarest and Denise Leveillee. Meadows will hold bingo March 25 NORTH SMITHFIELD – The Meadows Association will hold Monday Bingo on March 25. Doors open at 11 a.m. and bingo begins at noon. The cost is $20 for everything needed to play and extra specials will be sold. Snacks can be purchased and coffee is free. Call Connie for a reservation at 401-597-0417. Bingo is also held every Thursday night. Doors open at 5 p.m. and games begin at 6 p.m. A Foxwoods trip will be held Tuesday, April 16. Celebrating March birthdays are Fran Furnell, Terry Pouliot, Milford Morin, Yvonne Hart, Rose Monti and Laura Crotear. Muriel St. Louis was welcomed as a new member. The next association meeting will be held Monday, April 1. Waterview Association will meet March 25 WOONSOCKET – The Waterview Association will meet Monday, March 25, at 6 p.m. Split-the-pot winners at the Feb. 25 meeting were Estelle Richardson, Helen Edmonson, Rena Ethier and Claudette Gravel. SENIOR NEWS PARTINGTON BOURGET S STANLEY TREE Since 1986 • Professional High Quality Service At Reasonable Rates • Licensed Arborists • Serving RI & Nearby Mass. • Our Team Of Professionals Is Fully Equipped To Handle Your Job In A Safe Efficient Manner N. Smithfield, Office Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Affordable Solutions for Your Tree Problems Fully Insured Free Estimates 401-765-4677 Tree Removal Pruning Cabling Brush Mowing Stump Grinding Crane Service Plant Health Care Spraying/Fertilization TREE REMOVAL EXPERTS Peter J. HoPkins ~ Attorney At LAw ~ DUI/refUsAL • CrImInAL Defense trAffIC VIoLAtIons • JUVenILe CrImes PersonAL InJUry • ProbAte • DIVorCe Admitted to the Practice of Law in Rhode Island and Massachusetts Retired Police Prosecution Officer CALL 401-356-1043 191 Social St., Suite 280, Woonsocket, RI Rhode Island does not have a procedure for certificate or recognition of specialization by lawyers. DRL Carpet 27 Veterans Way • Woonsocket, RI 401-765-2830 SHOP OUR SHOWROOM! 3 Room Special $775.00 Berber or Plush Carpet Based on 360 sq. ft. Additional charges may apply. Carpet Cleaning CARPET BINDING • LUXURY VINYL FLOORING • LAMINATE FLOORING OR SHOP AT HOME!

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