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School Committee formally approves East Providence layoff list

Needed to be done correctly prior to June 1 deadline

By Mike Rego
Posted 5/29/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence School Committee, during a special virtual session held late Friday afternoon, May 29, formally affirmed the layoff recommendations of Superintendent …

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School Committee formally approves East Providence layoff list

Needed to be done correctly prior to June 1 deadline

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence School Committee, during a special virtual session held late Friday afternoon, May 29, formally affirmed the layoff recommendations of Superintendent Kathryn Crowley, something that needed to be done by law and contractually by June 1.

The superintendent and members of the committee clarified Friday’s meeting was necessary because their previous forum on the subject held Tuesday, May 26, was not posted correctly publicly. Nearly all of the items discussed Friday were the same as from three nights prior, but the district’s legal counsel still urged the parties to gather again to make sure they were abiding by open meeting laws.

The only change was in the number of teachers being furloughed, down from 34 to 33. A total of 31 supervisory aides were laid off as were five administrative assistants, each as was discussed May 26. From last Tuesday as well, two open positions among the custodial department will not be filled at the moment. Also, as was said before, several teachers being laid off will likely be recalled regardless once multi-subject certified instructors choose what discipline they intend to teach in the fall.

All votes taken Friday, similar to Tuesday, were by a 4-1 tally. Committee members Charlie Tsonos, Jessica Beauchaine, Joel Monteiro and Karen Oliveira voted in the affirmative while Tony Ferreira was opposed.

The need to formalize the layoff notices, stated May 26 by Superintendent Crowley and reiterated May 29 by Committee member Oliveira, were to abide by legalities as well as the district’s contract with its unions, including the teachers’ bargaining unit, the East Providence Education Association.

The Rhode Island Chapter of the National Education Association, the country-wide union of teachers, opposed an extension of the layoff notification deadline from June 1 to July 1, though the EPEA supported the move. Gov. Gina Raimondo also did not issue an executive order extending the period, leaving districts around the state to continue with their normal procedure.

However, as Mrs. Oliveira noted in her at times stinging remarks, especially towards some on social media, nothing about the current situation, with the COVID-19 pandemic serving as a backdrop, is as usual.

The superintendent told the committee Tuesday state officials issued guidance to she and her peers that they should work off the premise of a “worst case” scenario in terms of funding. She said East Providence could see a drop as much as 10 percent, or about $3.5 million, in state aid for the 2020-21 term.

Before the votes were taken Friday, Mrs. Oliveira said not only have 100,000 lives been lost to COVID-19 across the country, but the impact of the economic virus has “shattered” school and municipal budgets nation-wide.

“We were told to prepare for the worst,” Mrs. Oliveira added. “If we don’t do this now, we don’t know what will happen…My belief is politicians in Rhode Island and elsewhere are trying like crazy to make sure this doesn’t happen, but I see this as an insurance policy…If we vote no, it would be reckless and irresponsible to put the city in that kind of jeopardy.”

Superintendent Crowley and Mrs. Beauchaine reminded their cohorts East Providence, because its fiscal year is not aligned with the state’s July-June calendar, actually has more time to react to any financial impacts presented to districts following the General Assembly’s actions on the FY20-21 budget. The fiscal year for the city and district is November 1-October 31.

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