Editor's note: This article uses quotes taken from audio clips of the School Committee's Nov. 20 meeting at Mywoonsocket.com's "In Their Own Words" section. You can listen to the entire meeting at thier site.
Instead of standardizing principal contracts as the Budget Commission asked two months ago, the Woonsocket School Committee voted to extend administrators' current terms through June 30, 2013 during their last meeting.
John Ward, City Council president and a member of the Budget Commission, said he's not sure what the reaction of the Budget Commission will be, but, "I doubt it will be favorable."
Ward said the Budget Commission had asked the School Committee to standardize the principal contracts about two months ago.
On Nov. 20 at the McFee School Administration Building, School Committee Member Chris Roberts predicted as much. "I would say with 95 percent certainty, if this were to pass here tonight, that the Budget Commission is going to take it and throw it out the window," Roberts said.
With their deadline to standardize administrator contracts nearing and work on them pending, School Committee Chair Vimala Phongsavanh said the Committee needed more time. So, she said, she proposed a Memorandum of Agreement stating that existing contractual terms and conditions for all principals remain in effect through June 30, 2013 or 30 days following ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement – excepting rollover provisions for principals, which will end.
Roberts argued the move wouldn't do anything. “I don’t think that this accomplishes anything different than just leaving the contracts as they set.” He pointed out the School Committee may not want to extend everyone’s contract. Also, he said, some people affected were not listed in the agreement, and some principals don’t have a contract. “It’s sloppy,” he said.
Roberts said it would be better to wait, hold meetings with the people involved, and then decide on new standardized contracts.
Phongsavanh said the meetings should happen, but couldn't be done within the two weeks left on their deadline to standardize administrator contracts. “I’d actually like to see someone from the Budget Commission sit here and talk with us about what they think should be some of the terms,” she said.
George Nasuti, principal of Bernon Heights School, was in favor of the Memorandum of Agreement. "From our point of view, the memorandum of agreement gives us an opportunity to work on something. The last recommendations to this group were so radically different from the contracts we’ve been working under forever.” He said that while he's not worried about losing his job for cause, “I’m worried about a lifestyle, a career, protecting my family.”
School Committee counsel Richard Ackerman told Phongsavanh the Memorandum of Agreement wasn't necessary to negotiate standardized contracts with the administrators. “You don’t need this to work toward that,” he said.
Roberts offered another reason not to approve the Memorandum. “I don’t think there’s a single school committee member here who can tell me they’ve read all these contracts. I don’t know how you can sign to extend these contracts till 2013 when you haven’t read them.”
The School Committee voted to approve the Memorandum, with Roberts and Anita-McGuire-Forcier voting against it.