About 300 people packed the North Kingstown High School auditorium for the school committee meeting, many of whom planned to address committee members about their decision to outsource custodians’ jobs to an out-of-state company.
And if you think they were upset at the beginning of the meeting when Dick Welch made a motion to move public comment to the end of the agenda, you should have heard them when the committee closed the meeting without letting the people have their say.
“Shame on you, shame on you,” chanted the crowd, filled with both local residents and union members from around the state.
School committee member Don Boscardin said they adjourned because the crowd was getting too rowdy. Welch declined to comment to RI Future.
Throughout the meeting, members bickered with each other over issues as small as how much toilet paper should be purchased for the next fiscal year.
Committee members Bill Mudge and Melvoid Benson played to the crowd by stalling the meeting with a myriad of mundane questions. School staff and Committee President Kim Page responded by talking down to them and sometimes cutting them short.
Mudge said in an email earlier in the day that the other committee members have frozen he and Benson out of the negotiating process. During the meeting, he threatened to reveal discussions from executive session.
“For the record, I was never advised by phone, e-mail or while I speaking with Mrs. Berglund and/or Mrs. Benson that a negotiations meeting had been convened and was underway in the superintendent’s office between ESP Union officials, Dr. Auger and School Committee Members Mrs. Page, Mr. Ceresi, Mr. Boscardin, and Mrs. Avanzato,” he wrote.
Earlier in the day, the union agreed to return to work on Wednesday, according to Judge Brian Stern, who was hearing a request for an injunction to end the work stoppage. In exchange, the school department agreed to continue working towards a resolution with the union.
The school committee still has some 30 days to nullify its contract with the out-of-state company hired to clean the public schools, though union officials expressed doubt that an agreement could be reached outside of a court decision. There are still some grievances and unfair labor practice complaints that could reverse the decision.