By Meg O’Neil
NEWPORT – Former Rogers High School Principal Patricia DiCenso has filed a suit against the Newport School Department with the Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training, seeking to be compensated for 72 unused vacation days that she accrued during her six years at Rogers.
DiCenso abruptly resigned from her position in October 2011 when she was hired as chief school performance officer in Pawtucket, a move that put her at the same level as an assistant superintendent.
In November, attorneys representing DiCenso sent a letter the Newport School Committee and City Council requesting that she be paid a total of $35,417.60 for unused vacation days plus the remaining amount of her final paycheck – in the amount of $4,157.34.
A hearing between DiCenso and school administrators took place on Thursday, June 28 at the Division of Workforce Regulation and Safety in Cranston. Superintendent John H. Ambrogi said that no decision was made at the hearing, and that the school department is currently awaiting a final outcome. “The next step is for the attorneys to file written arguments instead of oral arguments, and we’ll go from there,” he said Tuesday.
A letter from school department attorney Neil Galvin dated April 30 to Chief Labor Standards Examiner Helen Gage states that DiCenso continues to “misconstrue the law” in terms of the contract that she signed.
During the time that DiCenso was employed by the Newport school system, she worked under seven different contracts. In refusing to pay the vacation days, the school department is arguing that with each new contract, the provisions in previous agreements became null and void.
According to Galvin, the first contract DiCenso worked under limited accrued vacation days to 50, with the second contract reducing the amount to 40 days. The third and fourth contract limited the amount to 30 days. The two most recent contracts limited vacation days to 25, but also required that DiCenso be in the system for 10 years before being entitled to the limited accrued vacation days.
DiCenso became principal of Rogers in July 2005, falling short of that 10-year requirement.
“It is the terms and conditions of the last contract that DiCenso was working under that apply in this case," Galvin argued. "Those terms and conditions do not entitle [her] to the payment she is seeking. [She] seeks to refer only to certain provisions of her contract and ignore any limiting provisions. This should not be permitted.”
However, in a letter from her attorney, DiCenso “vehemently denies” ever receiving that agreement.
DiCenso is also seeking "full compensation" of her final paycheck. In the letter to the City Council, attorney Jeffrey Sawa argued that her final bi-weekly paycheck should have compensated her for the two weeks she worked between Oct. 22 – Nov. 4, 2011, and should have equaled $4,162.31. However, a paycheck she received on Nov. 10 was for $4.97.
Galvin submitted a schedule of all payment dates since DiCenso began working for the district in 2005 which showed that she had received a payment of $4,162.31 on Oct. 28.
Another attorney for DiCenso, Michael Jacobs, called the payment dates provided by the school department “self-serving” and “highly misleading.”
Newport-Now.com will have updated information when a decision is reached.