Committee sends non-renewal notices to 39 Burrillville teachers

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BURRILLVILLE – Thirty-nine teachers in the Burrillville School District have received notice that their contracts may not be renewed for the school year starting this fall, a move Supt. Michael Sollitto said was needed to meet state requirements in a difficult budget year.

“By state law we have to notify teachers prior to June 1st if there’s any chance that their position will be consolidated or if, for whatever reason, their contract may be non-renewed,” Sollitto told members of the School Committee at their meeting on Tuesday, April 9. “This year, because we’re under so much budget uncertainty, the list is very long – much longer than any of us would like it to be.”

The precautionary measure of notifying teachers that they may lose their jobs has become an annual part of the budget process every spring in communities across Rhode Island due to the state requirement. Typically, most, if not all of those notified are recalled once a district gains a clearer picture of the year’s fiscal plan – including funding from town and state sources – sometime in May or June.

This year in Burrillville, however, is different, due largely to an anticipated $442,000 reduction in state aid. If the General Assembly approves Gov. Dan McKee’s current proposal, it will be the second consecutive year that Burrillville schools must contend with a large cut in state funding.

The superintendent noted that in a normal budget year, only around 10-15 teachers receive a notice of non-renewal, with one or two positions ultimately consolidated. This year, if all goes as expected, five or six of the 39 Burrillville teachers notified will likely not return in September.

And Sollitto noted that the budget constraints could still get worse. The district has requested additional funding from the town of approximately $715,000, a 2 percent increase from last year’s local allocation.

“What is worrisome is, if we don’t receive our request, we’ll have to look at making additional cuts to the budget,” he said. “Frankly, I don’t know where those cuts would come from. We don’t have much left to cut after losing those positions.”

In addition to the five or six teachers, the district’s current budget plan anticipates cutting the jobs of three or four clerk or teacher assistant positions.

“It will probably be about ten positions that will be eliminated for next year,” Sollitto said.

NRI NOW reported on the Town Council’s reaction to the expected budget shortfall in February, when councilors and state legislators said teachers should make the issue known to the union, and ultimately, the Rhode Island General Assembly.

Local union leaders, in turn, discussed what they said are inequities with the state’s school funding formula with NRI NOW in March, noting the loss is created in part by the diversion of resources to charter schools. The loss in state aid comes amid negotiations of a new contract for teachers, and Burrillville Teacher’s Union President Nick Servidio noted that town public school educators are currently the lowest paid in Rhode Island, at every step.

On March 13, the Town Council passed a joint resolution with the School Committee to withdraw Burrillville from participation in RISE Mayoral Academy, a Woonsocket-based charter school that currently serves around 75 Burrillville students. The resolution is not expected to affect current RISE students or their siblings, but Sollitto told NRI NOW that he believes no new Burrillville students will be allowed to join the charter school this fall, despite the fact that many town families applied during RISE’s open enrollment period in February and March.

Enrollment at RISE is estimated to cost the district around $9,000 per student and has increased annually as the charter school grows. The city-based academy is on track to launch its first 9th grade class in September, with plans to continue growing by one grade level each year.

On Tuesday, the Burrillville School Committee unanimously approved the 39 teacher non-renewal notices.

Sollitto noted that the board will likely rescind most – but not all – of those notices at their meeting in May or June.

“I really wanted to get these notices out earlier rather than later in hopes we can solve the budget challenges and then recall our teachers as soon as possible,” he said.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. We should be focusing on the betterment of the schools, students and teachers who work hard day in and day out. This is our future we are playing around with and quite frankly it’s dangerous. Teachers should have fair and reasonable pay just like any other district in the state. It is time we look into where we would and could make some changes and fix it. Burrillville Teachers are the lowest paid in the State. If the Burrillville Teachers’ Association wants to work with the School Committee and Town Council to fix the salary issues and make Burrillville Schools the best they can be, why not hear us out and make the imperative changes?

  2. Interesting how roughly $40,000 was spent to make the middle school cafeteria look good for a PR moment between replacing ceiling tiles and paying multiple custodians overtime to clean when teachers haven’t had a raise since 2017!! Oh and let’s not forget this rotisserie chicken machine hasn’t had a chicken in it since the day News Channel 10 was there filming Dr. Solitto for this marvelous achievement. The same Dr. Solitto that makes MORE than the state average for administrators! While the teachers are THE LOWEST PAID IN THE STATE. Way to go Burrillville! You’ve definitely got your priorities. The KIDS are not a priority! Looking good is!!!

  3. Burrillville Schools have lost over 30 experienced highly qualified teachers to other districts in the past 2 1/2 years because of low teacher salaries in town. This is bad for our students. With these layoffs, and potential program cuts, teachers will be looking for other employment opportunities in other districts. The problem of losing teachers will only get worse and, again, is bad for our students. Burrillville Teachers are the lowest paid in the State. The Burrillville Teachers’ Association wants to work with the School Committee and Town Council to fix the salary issues and make Burrillville Schools the best they can be.

    Nicholas Servidio, BTA President

    • It’s really unfortunate that we aren’t letting go the teachers who have evidence supporting their bullying tactics of the students as well as discriminatory practices against children who are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. I find it unconscionable, also, that some teachers are not held to the Safe Schools Act the way that the children are—parents wouldn’t be redisctricting their children if some teachers weren’t creating hostile environments for their children and engaging other children to bully their peers.

  4. PRIORITIES PEOPLE

    New field, parking lot, viewing tower, etc.
    More raises getting passed out in the administration offices.
    New roles put in place to tell teachers how to teach instead of actually working with students.
    Burrillville teachers are the lowest paid in the state as well as the bus drivers.
    But yes, let’s cut teachers and teacher assistants… the ones on the front line actually making a difference.
    Make it make sense!

    • I love that you said the admin offices get raises!
      There is certainly an interesting list of raises there. $40,000 of which is a big difference from last year to next year for curriculum director and assistant.

  5. Instead of eliminating teacher and teacher assistant positions, why isn’t the focus on removing administrative positions? If you look at the money allocated to education the majority of the increase of costs has come because of an increase in administrative positions. Positions that quite frankly do not help students or give students additional opportunities. The money used for these administrative positions could be used to not only keep teachers in positions but also provide additional courses (electives) for the students to branch out there knowledge.

  6. Let’s build a new parking lot, turf field, viewing tower and stadium lights at the high school though. Where are the priorities at?

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