Budget Commission Delays Vote To Recall 54 Teachers

Panel votes to wait for the School Committee's approval before calling educators back.


Following this week's job fair, Superintendent of Woonsocket Schools Giovanna Donoyan told the the department recommends recalling 54 teachers laid off earlier this year during this afternoon's meeting at City Hall. 

Of the remaining 44 teachers, she said, seven will be recalled after obtaining necessary certifications, and another three will be recalled after formal interviews. That leaves 34 teachers on layoff status, she said.

Donoyan said the 34 teachers laid off would save the schools $1.5 million, which would be somewhat offset by about $575,000 in unemployment benefit costs.

Schaefer said he felt the Commission should wait for the School Committee's official approval of the recall before they voted on the matter. The Budget Commission voted to hold a vote on the recall on Monday, after the School Committee's vote.

Following the defeat of the supplemental tax bill, said Budget Commission Member Peder Schaefer, "You do not have the money to pay for these positions?" 

"That's correct," Donoyan said.

That's not the only thing the school department will have trouble paying.

Regarding accounts payable, Donoyan told the Commission she planned to pay the vendors owed smaller amounts first. For vendors such as Durham School Services, which the school department owes more than $900,000, she said the department would work out payment plans.

"The hope is that the vendors will work with us," Ward said after the meeting.

Ward said the schools were looking at a $7 million deficit in the upcoming budget (FY 2013), which would have to be made up with an effort to balance cost savings against legal and contract obligations. He said doing that would require opening all the contracts. "And I mean all the contracts," Ward said. For instance, he said, the schools would have to increase class sizes, which would require altering the part of the teacher contract demanding extra pay for larger class sizes.

After the meeting, Ward said he thought the unions would be willing to negotiate with the Budget Commission to help find the city savings.

Shaefer blamed the state's funding formula for placing the city in the situation. Commission member John Ward said the city had no choice but to deal with things as they were. "The formula sucks, but it's irrelevant," Ward said, "So now I'm going to sit here and I'm going to do what I have to do."

Donoyan also told the Budget Commission that she had found a permanent candidate for school finance director and controller who could start immediately. She said the person, whom she had not yet introduced to the School Committee, had federal and some school experience.

Donoyan said she hoped to allow the finance director/controller to shadow City Finance Director Thomas Bruce one day each week. Bruce nodded his assent. She said the person would also have weekly meetings with the Mayor.

Budget Commission Chairman Bill Sequino said he was uneasy with combining the finance director and controller duties in one position. He also suggested that the person interview with a representative from the Rhode Island Department of Education.

After the meeting, Sequino said the Budget Commission intended to continue to work to straighten out the city's finances, even without the supplemental tax bill. He said that would require some tough choices from everyone in the city.

So far, he said, the Budget Commission has been working to gather enough information to know how to act. "We haven't really started yet," Sequino said.


Joe June 15, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Budget Commission Chairman Sequino said "We haven't really started yet". Don't worry Mr. Sequino, this problem has existed for over a year and our Mayor and Council haven't really started yet. They've been "waiting to see what happens with the Supplemental Tax bill". Mr. Ward said "The formula sucks, but it's irrelevant, so now I'm going to sit here and I'm going to do what I have to do." Finally, reality is setting in for Mr. Ward and he will begin dealing with what's in his control. Better late than never.


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