PROVIDENCE – Providence teachers will receive modest pay raises and a one-time, $3,000 payment as part of a new contract that the union is expected to approve Friday evening, according to a copy of the agreement obtained Wednesday by the Globe.
The agreement, which includes a 1.5 percent raise retroactive to 2020, 2 percent raises this year and in 2022, and a 0.5 percent raise on Aug. 31, 2023, is expected to end a heated, year-long standoff between the Providence Teachers Union and Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green.
The state controls Providence schools, and Governor Dan McKee assigned a top aide to negotiate the contract and attempt to heal wounds between the union and the commissioner. State leaders do not believe the City Council needs to ratify the contract, but Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has called for the agreement to be released to the public before Friday’s union vote.
McKee, Infante-Green, and Providence Teachers Union President Maribeth Calabro have declined to comment until the agreement is ratified.
Infante-Green spent much of the year arguing that a transformational union contract was the best way to improve Providence’s struggling school system, but the tentative agreement includes marginal, yet substantive changes to the last deal, which expired Aug. 31, 2020.
Aside from the pay increases and the $3,000 stipend, the agreement will require teachers to participate in four professional development days on top of their 181-day school schedule. It also requires educators to hold parent-teacher conferences and attend up to 10 meetings called by principals each school year.
The agreement would give school principals more flexibility when it comes to hiring teachers, although each school is required to establish a criterion based hiring committee that includes the principal and two teachers who will make recommendations.
The hiring provision is likely to be hailed as a win by McKee and Infante-Green, but it doesn’t make many significant changes to seniority, which is likely to draw criticism from Elorza. The mayor has urged the state to use its power in the school takeover process to dismantle the contract.
Infante-Green and the union spent more than a year negotiating the contract, and both sides said there were times when they came close to reaching an agreement. But talks deteriorated once then-Governor Gina Raimondo was appointed US commerce secretary, and the negotiations ultimately fell apart.
Things hit a low point in the spring when the union called for General Assembly to end the state takeover of Providence schools (no action was taken) and Providence Superintendent Harrison Peters resigned.
McKee opted to remove Infante-Green from the negotiating process, and assigned one of his top aides, Tony Afonso, to finalize an agreement. Within two months, a deal was reached.
While pay and benefits are always a top priority in union contract negotiations, Infante-Green made it clear that she also wanted to see more school-based autonomy in the deal.
The agreement now includes stronger language around lesson planning, including a requirement that teachers with less than three years of experience to submit their less plans to a principal on a regular basis. And any teacher that has a written performance improvement plan will be required to present their lesson plans to principals on a regular basis.
The deal also seeks to crack on the abuse of sick leave, particularly for teachers who regularly take Mondays or Fridays off. A principal who suspects abuse can meet a teacher, and suspected abuse “may require that a medical certificate be provided” to human resources.
Teachers are paid based on their level of seniority, so their pay raises will depend on how long they’ve been with the district. Under the proposed contract, first-year teachers will earn $44,220 a year in the upcoming school year and $45,104 in 2022. A teacher on the 12th step will earn $83,351 this year, and $85,443 next year.
The Providence Teachers Union is expected to vote on the agreement at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet Friday at 5 p.m.