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Parties Reach Agreement on Central Falls Teachers' Contract

School District, CFTU, RIDE Conclude Successful Negotiations

Providence, RI - The Central Falls Teachers' Union (of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals), the Central Falls School District, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, and the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) are pleased to announce that the parties have reached agreement on a two-year collective-bargaining agreement.

The membership of the union ratified the contract last week (August 23).

Representatives of RIDE negotiated the contract along with the Central Falls School District under the terms of an order that Governor Chafee issued in April, asking RIDE to assume "immediate and temporary control of the Central Falls School District's finances and related administrative functions," including management of on-going collective bargaining. Richard Licht, the director of the R.I. Department of Administration, was the mediator during the negotiations.

"I am very pleased that the parties in Central Falls have been able to reach agreement on this contract, which will ensure a smooth opening of school in Central Falls," Governor Chafee said. "While we all recognize the need for fiscal restraint during a time of budget shortfalls and declining enrollments, this contract is fair to the teachers of Central Falls and in the best interest of students. I commend the members of the Central Falls Teachers' Union for conducting negotiations that have led to a positive outcome and to a prospect for a successful school year."

"I commend the members of the Central Falls Teachers' Union, under the leadership of president Jane Sessums, for the ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement," said Frank Flynn, President of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. "The adoption of this agreement is a clear indication of the commitment of the teachers and their union to the Central Falls community and its children and families. During these extraordinarily difficult economic times, it is comforting to know that the entire Central Falls educational community can begin the year focusing on providing a quality education for all students without external distractions. I would also like to express my appreciation to R.I. Director of Administration Richard Licht and Deputy Commissioner David Abbott for their efforts in bringing about this settlement."

The centerpiece of the agreement is the creation of District Management Councils that will lead to school-based collaborative decision-making on matters including curriculum, professional development, safety and discipline, learning opportunities, and other site-based issues such as scheduling, faculty meetings, and examination schedules. The District Management Councils will be made up of school administrators, teachers, other staff members, and community members. The contract also eliminates obsolete and redundant contract language, creates more flexibility, and streamlines the relationship between the parties. The parties reached agreement on a substantial number of issues regarding criterion-based hiring and transfer, and they agreed to further discussions regarding the remaining issues.

The contract also recognizes the financial difficulties that the Central Falls School District faces, and the parties have responded accordingly. The contract includes an overhaul of the health-care provisions, including a new health-care plan with employee contributions of up to 20 percent. The contract also includes very modest increases to overall wages over the term of the agreement and it minimizes the increase in structural costs during the term of the agreement.

"This contract agreement shows that management and labor can put aside differences and can work together when they share a commitment to a common goal," said David V. Abbott, Deputy Commissioner of Education and the lead negotiator on behalf of RIDE. "This contract includes significant provisions to ensure that Central Falls will base teacher assignments on student needs and teacher effectiveness. We are pleased that the Central Falls Teachers' Union, through its representative Jim Parisi and union president Jane Sessums, has put student needs first, and we will continue to work together with the teachers of Central Falls to ensure that the students in Central Falls receive a great education. Finally, I want to thank attorney Joe Whelan and Carolyn Dias, the RIDE Chief of Fiscal Integrity and Efficiencies, for their invaluable assistance in these negotiations."

"I am gratified that this contract will put in place District Management Councils and other procedures that will help labor and management to work in partnership, which has long been a goal of the Central Falls School District administration," said Frances Gallo, the Superintendent of the Central Falls School District. "I look forward to participating in another a great year of teaching and learning with the teachers and students in Central Falls."

"I am pleased that we were able to give teachers a stronger voice in the areas of professional development, curriculum, student discipline, and site based issues through the creation of district management councils," said Jane Sessums, President of the Central Falls Teachers' Union. "The economic package, which included major reductions in medical insurance, was lean due to the continued decline in enrollment caused by charter-school expansion and the education-aid formula cuts. These trends are detrimental to the Central Falls School District. My members hope that state leaders address these issues before we return to the bargaining table next year."

The contract is a two-year agreement, retroactive for one year and in effect up to September 2013.

The contract will go before the Central Falls School District Board of Trustees tomorrow (August 28) for approval. The Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, with concurrence of the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, must also approve the contract.

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