Chariho School Parents’ Forum

March 31, 2007

Analysis – Math

Filed under: Uncategorized — Editor @ 11:25 am

New information is on the Analysis-Math page – in the right-hand column.

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March 30, 2007

Is Change on the Way?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Editor @ 8:15 am

March 27, Westerly Sun People’s Forum

I’m compelled to respond to Robert Petit’s and Catherine Stahl’s letters in The Sun’s May 23 People’s Forum, headlined “RYSE students deserve bet­ter than wrongful Columbine compari­son” and “School board member’s letter criticizing Ricci, building plan, and RYSE program was way off base.”


First, Mr. Petit, perhaps inadver­tently, creates a straw man by saying that the RI Department of Education can’t verify with 100 percent certainty how many administrators and coun­selors Chariho employs. Again, this misses the point that the number is irrelevant; the comparison of Chariho to other districts is the measure of effi­ciency.
Mr. Petit has voted for a manage­ment study, which will evaluate all of our labor expenses. I will assume he continues to support this project and his comment was simply a misunder­standing.
I was, however, pleased to read Mr. Petit’s suggestion that the administra­tion may be willing to stop the expan­sion of the middle school and return the money if the bond is approved. 
This shows a real change of heart and a pos­itive reaction to 71 percent of the par­ents surveyed that would prefer to see the 5th-and 6th-grade students returned to the community. I just wish they had made this offer prior to send­ing the paperwork to the State House. It was also encouraging to read that Mr. Petit agrees that K-6 and K­8 grade configurations are best for the kids, but he didn’t seem optimistic that this change could occur.

I disagree. I think it is our duty to rethink our configurations and make changes to promote improved learning and a greater sense of community. In defense of the status quo, Mr. Petit claims that the fifth- and sixth­graders, if polled, would prefer to stay on the main campus. I would assume that the ones hanging out with the older kids would, and the ones intimi­dated by the campus would not. But Mr. Petit overlooks an important point; we don’t leave policy decisions to 10­and 11-year-olds.

Finally, I must respectfully correct Mr. Petit’s and Ms. Stahl’s perception of my comments regarding RYSE. The comments they felt were “offen­sive” came from my expressed concerns over one of the “additional opportuni­ties” reported for RYSE. In 2003, the school board was informed that RYSE could enroll “tuitioned placements from outside the district.” I am still concerned about this program. I apolo­gize if they were offended, but it is my job to look out for potential problems.The only comment I made about the current programs, the Alternative Learning Program and the Clinical Day Program, was that there is infor­mation that suggests they are not cost effective.I have asked for Chariho to provide a profit and loss statement for RYSE, and I am told it is forthcoming, but here is the information I have found so far:

In a 2003 presentation made to the Chariho School Board, expenditures for tuitioned placements were identi­fied as $45,127 per student, and it was estimated that RYSE could perform those services for $35,340.  However, according to the RI Department of Education, RYSE expenditures were actually $53,581 per student, costing the taxpayers an additional $387,964, during the 2004­2005 school year.

It is sincerely regretful if those involved with RYSE have taken this as an insult. It was not my intent, nor am I able to evaluate staff personnel. I do not have the data to make that assess­ment. But the financial information alone may be an indication why all RI school districts, except Chariho, use tuitioned placements.

Mr. Petit said he promised you hon­esty, and I respect that. I hope we all have this commitment. But I promised to make the process transparent as well, and I am willing to take the heat so these issues are made public.

I understand the writers’ motiva­tions. We have many dedicated staff, and several on the Board have family members employed at Chariho. So I can understand why they would take this personally.

I just hope they also understand that there are many other people with very deeply held concerns.

Voters demand superior education at an efficient cost, and the parents want their young children brought back home. Unfortunately, the costs of edu­cation have skyrocketed, and academic achievement is less than hoped. And the parents have been waiting for four years to have their 10- and 11-year­olds brought home. Do not blame them for being skeptical.

So let’s hope that change is indeed coming. However, I still cannot support the bond. Call me skeptical, too.
 

Bill Felkner Ashaway Member, Chariho School Committee

Links for documentation are in the previous letter.

Response from a RYSE parent

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,grade spans,Student Performance — Editor @ 8:06 am

 March 27 Westerly Sun People’s Forum

Residents, officials have every right and reason to question past, future moves by Chariho schools

This is an open letter to Chariho School Committee member Bob Petit, in response to his People’s Forum essay of Friday, March 23: I respectfully disagree with many of your comments. 

First, I whole-heartedly support the Hopkinton Educational Options Committee. They are trying to gener­ate a course of action to best suit the children, parents, and taxpayers of the town of Hopkinton. Inevitably, their recommendations will be left to the voters to decide, not the adminis­tration and the school committee. They are open-minded volunteers. They represent our town, which includes our children, no matter what propaganda people may throw at them. Also, they are free to think out­side the administration box. My guess is the previous council saw fit to appoint these people because our previous school committee would not listen. 

Until the last week, I did not know a survey had been done asking resi­dents of the three towns what their wishes were. The survey said that all three towns want their fifth- and sixth-graders back in the elementary schools. So why is there resistance to this?

 Shouldn’t the School Committee and the administration work to make these things a reality, since the voters in the survey are speaking for their own children? 

Another observation is that the survey of Feb. 7, 2004, also stated the three towns would like to see the sev­enth- through ninth-graders in the middle school and the 10th- through 12th-graders in the high school. Makes sense to me. Then there would be no need to expand these facilities, only repair them. 

Bob, do you remember when we left Hope Valley School to attend the sev­enth grade at Chariho? Didn’t Hope Valley feel like home to you? It did to me. At Chariho, we had to make new friends because we were lucky if we had more than three kids we knew in class. We had to adjust to the new classroom structures, deal with time changes, crowded lockers, carrying books, and don’t forget the long bus rides home. We went to being with one teacher for six hours a day with specials as an exception, to being with a teacher for 50 minutes a day. 

From my perspective, I was lonely and scared, and my grades suffered that first year. Seventh grade was a nightmare. Yet, we now ask our 10 years olds to start this transition two years before we did. Why? Yes, we adjusted. Many of them will too, but at what cost? What about the stress involved? Shouldn’t we make every effort to make our kids’ lives less stressful?

The year, before our kids entered 5th grade, the 4th grade teachers spent time preparing our kids for the transition. They understood the stress involved. I know the middle school works under a grade-loop configuration, meaning the teachers move up a grade with their kids and then loop back. This helps to form a tighter bond between teacher and child. They understand the stress involved. Furthermore, your letter compelled me to do some of my own research.

There is significant information to suggest it is better for sixth graders, even eighth graders, to be placed in the elementary schools. They men­tion increased student achievement, as well as, fewer behavioral problems for sixth graders when they remain in the elementary setting. So, why are we not pushing to expand our ele­mentary schools?

Also, stop trying to scare the resi­dents of Hope Valley. The Hopkinton Educational Options Committee is for all of Hopkinton. So, isn’t it in our best interest to weigh all our options? Investing $2 million in the 1904 building is one option, isn’t it? I believe it’s an inex­pensive one. That is what the Hopkinton Educational Options Committee is all about. Let them do their appointed job and support them with your every breath. 

As far as the RYSE program goes, I’m all for the students in this pro­gram. I have been touched by it in many ways. But, residents still have a right to ask questions about this program. Why do we need a building that has 9 classrooms and 11 offices for 44 students, which is a drop in enroll­ment? Why the disparity? Mr. Ricci has stated the building would gener­ate revenue. From where? Is this a business venture for the three towns? To fill this massive amount of space, will we be importing children from other communities? Will there be more administrators on the pay­roll to fill these 11 offices? If not, why do we need all this space? I’m sorry to say, the building’s structure and statements made have raised my eye­brow. Also, room by room, what are the district’s plans with the referendum? Where is our money going? What is the process to complete the project? If it is published, where can we find it? Is it on the district’s website? On Cox Channel 18? Is there 24/7 access to this information? And, why does the referendum for the bond issues have to have every­thing lumped together?

It’s time we allowed the voters to choose what we need and don’t need. What are they afraid of? The voters might make the right decision? And Bob, why would we poll the fifth- and sixth-graders currently at the middle school? Let’s be realistic. They are not mature enough to make such decisions. Besides, sending them back would be unrealistic. The research is clear on multiple transi­tions. A gradual change for those cur­rently in the elementary school would be necessary. 

I urge everyone to research the issues. Check out Bill Felkner’s Website, https://cspf.wordpress.com. I did. There are many links that will save you time in your quest. Kudos to Mr. Felkner.

Also, trust the Hopkinton Educational Options Committee and your Town Council. We have many individuals who are working for all of Hopkinton. 

Finally, check out the recent study pIerformed by the prestigious Duke University. It is located at http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/2007/02/sixth_grade.html.”They reference the following research; “Should Sixth Grade Be in Elementary or Middle School? An Analysis of Grade Configuration and Student Behavior.”This report is available at www.pubpol.duke.edu/research/pap ers. 

Lois Buck Hopkinton

March 28, 2007

Questions

Filed under: Research — Editor @ 5:07 pm

There have been a lot of questions today (I need to stop answering the phone).

In the effort to most efficiently disseminate the information, I will be developing sections on this website for some of the frequent topics. 

Over the next few days I will accumulate the information I have on Math Curriculum, the RYSE Program, Student Performance, Budget, Employee Efficiency (this is where we will discuss changes in employee counts at RIDE and NCES) and the Building Committee Plan & Bond.  I’m open to suggestions for others.

You will find this information in the column on the right under “Pages.”

Board Meeting

Filed under: Uncategorized — Editor @ 5:01 pm

The School Board Meeting will be aired tonight on Channel 18 @ 8 pm.

Sunshine Week

Filed under: Uncategorized — Editor @ 12:45 pm

Today I was approached by a resident of Chariho asking for some information.  Information that I have not able to get myself. 

When I got home, I saw a comment posted here also asking how citizens can get information.   Coincedentaly, March 11-17 was Sunshine Week, an initiated by the American Society of Newspaper Editors to promote the importance of open government and freedom of information.

Here is a March 11th article addressing some of these issues.

What you have a right to know and how you can get it

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Associated Press

Here is a guide to understanding the so-called sunshine laws that deal with open government, how you can use them and what to do if you hit obstacles.

The first thing to remember is that you have a right to know.

Government documents — budgets, environmental studies, contracts — are yours to see. The same goes for meetings of elected bodies. If your town board or city council is meeting, you are allowed to sit and listen.

There are exemptions — times when documents or meetings can be closed — such as when it comes to security issues or private employee matters. But for the most part, open government laws guarantee that you’re entitled to know what your government is doing.

Let’s say now that you want a specific piece of information — a town budget or a list of city council members’ salaries, for instance.

The simplest way to get it is to ask for it, which often involves going to the relevant government office and verbally making your request.

If the officials you’re dealing with turn you down, you can politely remind them of your state’s sunshine law and cite its statute number. Sometimes that’s enough to make them more cooperative.

Let’s say officials still say no. Then you can make a formal, written request for what you want: Cite the law, what information you seek and, if your state has a time-limit to answer you, remind your officials that they only have so many days to respond in writing. Make sure to keep copies of or notes on every request you make.

Now if officials still say no, they must give a reason. If you don’t believe those reasons fit the exemptions in the sunshine law, you’ve still got options. But what path you choose depends on the state where you live.

Some states rely, at least in part, on the attorney general’s office to investigate.

Does all this sound intimidating? Don’t worry, there’s help available.

Many states have nongovernmental resources that can help you in composing a request for information. A list of such groups can be found at the Society of Professional Journalists at http://www.spj.org/foicenters.asp.

For details on your state laws, there are other Web sites that are helpful. They include:

• The Freedom of Information Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia at http://foi.missouri.edu/citelist.html

• The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press at http://www.rcfp.org/ogg/index.php

• The Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project at http://www.citizenaccess.org/.

For requests of the federal government, a good resource is the National Security Archive at http://www2.gwu.edu/7/8nsarchiv/nsa/foia.html.

One warning: Fighting for your rights can be costly. Government agencies, whether federal, state or local, may ask you to pay fees to cover the costs of retrieving or copying records. In states where you are left to pursue the case on your own, legal fees can be quite high. Some states allow for the recovery of legal fees if you win, but legal obstacles and precedent often make that difficult.

–> 

Rhode Island resources

Browse helpful sites with information about open government issues.

Read Rhode Island’s Access to Public Access to Public Records Act

Read Rhode Island’s Open Meetings Act, including how to file a grievance against a public body.

The Attorney General’s Guide to Open Government is a practical, how-to guide for citizens and public bodies that includes the judicial decisions, statutes and attorney general findings and advisory opinions relating to the Open Meetings Act and Access to Public Records Act.

The attorney general’s open government/access to public records search allows searches of all attorney general advisories and opinions related to these issues.

The eTown Crier, maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office, is the place where all public bodies in Rhode Island post meeting notices, agendas and minutes.

The Freedom of Information Act Resource Center, run by the U.S. Department of Justice, includes a comprehensive overview of the open-records law that governs federal agencies.

*******************************************

There is a case in NJ going on right now regarding this law.

Open Government: Ideal vs. Real

Here’s the ideal: Public officials who understand that they work for the public — that taxpayers pay the bills and essentially “own” the business. And that those taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent and how their business is being conducted.

That’s the essence of Sunshine Week, a national initiative about the importance of open government, which begins today. And here’s the reality: A six-month-long dispute between The Press of Atlantic City and the Pleasantville Board of Education.

The dispute culminated last week in the board finally handing over transcripts of closed-door meetings concerning the employment of district superintendents — an issue important to both Pleasantville parents and taxpayers statewide. Those Pleasantville school officials were so determined to hide their discussions from the public that Superior Court Judge Steven Perskie had to hold them in contempt of court before they complied.

Even so, the taped record of three of those meetings is mysteriously blank. It shouldn’t be like this. The public shouldn’t have to hire lawyers to drag its own officials into court to get an accounting of public business.

If an individual taxpayer or parent was trying to get this information, rather than The Press, the board undoubtedly would have been able to keep it secret: After all, how many taxpayers are able or willing to conduct a six-month legal battle like this?

Parents in Pleasantville should be particularly angry at the board’s unwillingness to release discussions concerning its superintendents. The district has gone through 10 superintendents since 1999, and test scores are among the worst in the state. Parents need to know what’s going on.  

But all state taxpayers should be outraged as well. As an Abbott district, Pleasantville gets a whopping $65 million in state aid. New Jersey taxpayers have a big interest in making sure decisions in the district are sound and money isn’t being wasted.

The board’s history of dismal audits and its revolving door of superintendents isn’t reassuring. In fact, Pleasantville’s $125,000 buyout of former superintendent Andrew Carrigan was one of the examples cited last year in a State Commission of Investigation report detailing exorbitant spending on school superintendents.

Open government is at the foundation of our democracy and the concept of an informed electorate. In another court decision last week affirming the right of the public to videotape public meetings, the state Supreme Court quoted Patrick Henry, who said “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”

And James Madison: “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”

Wise words to remember during Sunshine Week — and to remind us, as well, that the concept of open government isn’t new. And neither is the determination of some public officials to resist that concept.  

March 27, 2007

Letters defending RYSE

Filed under: Uncategorized — Editor @ 10:58 pm

Board Member Bob Petit’s letter in the Westerly Sun was accompanied by two others.

The first is from Maria Glass.  She has worked at Chariho for 19 years and is or was the NEA-RI Area Vice President and a member of the Political Action Committee for Education (NEARI PACE) Steering Committee

March 25 Westerly Sun 

“School Committee comments about RYSE program show lack of respect” 

When I heard the remarks that were made at the Chariho School Committee meeting of March 13 about the RYSE School and its students, I wondered how I would respond if my students asked me about it. After much thought, I decided that maybe the children are not the only ones who need to hear a response from someone who really knows what we do at RYSE.  

At our school, we are Reaching Youth Through Support and Education, and our students and staff are doing a great job at that. Our students, many of whom have struggled in school are working to improve their grades and themselves.

With the help of the most highly dedicated staff I have ever worked with, the students are actively learning in a program that gives them the opportunity to be educated in an alternative learning environment. They are also learning to become productive members of society irrespective of all whom they may come in contact with. 

To judge these students and their staff without having even been to their school or met them is an injustice to all that we do. To speak in such a manner about children whose parents are actively working to make things better for their children is unacceptable.

Every child has the right to a good public education the students at RYSE are getting just that. The Chariho Regional School District has employed me for the past 19 years. In my years at Chariho, I have never met a child who does not deserve a proper facility to learn in, a good education, or the respect of others.

These students are the future of our community, and it is our responsibility to give them an education and whatever support they may need to succeed. They will learn a lesson from the comments that were made: That’s the lesson that not everyone, including adults who represent our towns, do so with dignity and respect. 

Recently I moved from Richmond after 30 years to the town of Hopkinton, and I hope the elected officials in my new town remember one of my favorite sayings: “I live here, I work here, and I vote here.” 

Marie Glass Richmond  

 

The next is also from a Chariho instructor, Catherine Stahl.

March 24 – Westerly Sun 

“RYSE students deserve better than wrongful Columbine comparison” 

On April 20, 1999, one of our nation’s worst tragedies occurred. 

This was the day that two Columbine high school students decided to take the lives of 13 peers and ultimately their own.  Most of us can remember where we were and what we were doing when this happened. We were glued to our televisions in the weeks that followed searching for answers to why this happened and wondering if it could happen in our community.  

We have come up with some answers to our questions, but many questions still remain. One thing that we can all agree on however, is that this was a terrible tragedy orchestrated by two disturbed and misdirected teenagers. This should not have happened. 

This being said, I resent William Felkner’s ( People’s Forum March 16) comments about The RYSE School, which is part of Chariho Regional School District.  In his letter, Mr. Felkner makes reference to Columbine, stating that, “In today’s world of Columbine and other acts of school vio­lence, is placing this facility (RYSE) near our children a good idea?” 

I can only assume that Mr. Felkner is hoping that the readers will make the assumption that RYSE is full of students that have the potential to commit such an unspeakable act. This is simply untrue! In fact, this could not be further from the truth. 

How do I know this? I have been a special education teacher in The RYSE Alternative Learning Program – previously Greenview Academy – for the past five years, and I know the students very well.  

These are not students who are secretly planning the demise of their school. Nor are they students that are frequently participating in acts of violence against others. On the contrary, these are students who are doing normal teenage things: going to school, getting their driver’s licenses, hanging out with their friends and trying to make their way into the adult world. These are also students who are planning careers, preparing for their futures and graduating from high school. 

However, these students just learn a little differently or face more emotional issues than their peers.

For these reasons, some of them need more support to get them through their high school years but this does not make them violent. It certainly does not make them worthy of being compared to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. 

I can only hope that my students do not realize that someone is publicly comparing them to Klebold and Harris. They have worked so hard to respect themselves and do not need this type of criticism from members of the community. This reference does not have a place in a financial debate.

It is putting yet another inappropriate label on these students/members of our community. I appreciate Mr. Felkner’s passion toward the debate over Chariho’s building plan, but I challenge him to stick to the statistics without making accusations about the students.

I feel that his reference to Columbine is a scare tactic to sway the opinion of voters against a program about which he does not seem to have all the facts. The voters of Chariho need to realize that RYSE is an excellent program for the non-traditional learner, and Mr. Ricci has worked hard to see that students who need this type of environ­ment are not left behind.

However, like everything in life, there is a price tag attached to this type of individualized education. I for one. feel that the students are worth it. If they were not worth this basic right, I would not have spent my teaching career working with this population. 

Catherine Stahl Westerly special education teacher, RYSE ALP   

March 26, 2007

March 27th School Board Meeting

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,Student Performance,Unions — Editor @ 6:38 pm

Members of the School Board have informed me that the agenda I posted was not a public document.  So I have removed it.  I appologize if it caused anyone discomfort.

[update] I spoke with the AG’s office – it is NOT a violation to post meeting agendas – the school board (Ricci, Day, Polouski) lied – or they are ignorant of the law (but that didn’t stop them from saying they knew). 

Here is the email I sent to the press –

Dear Sirs:

In the March 27th Chariho School Board Meeting (7 PM @ Middle School Library), the Superintendent will give a report on “Misinformation in the media.”

 

The following items will be discussed; all are in reaction to my letter in the Westerly Sun (pasted below).  Comments in italics within the numbered outline are mine.  Only items 1 and 3b have accompanying documentation.

 

  1. NCES report – There is a discrepancy between the number of administrators and counselors reported by the Department of Education and how many Chariho claims to employ.  This is important as any management study comparing Chariho to other districts will need accurate information.   Included in the packet is an email from RIDE stating that mistakes were made and will be corrected, it is dated 3/19.
  2. Grade Configuration Research Summarized by Dr. Thornton (No Small School Research Presented) – In my letter in the Westerly Sun, I expressed concerns that Chariho has not been forthcoming with research supporting K-6 and K-8 grade configurations. 
  3. RYSE Program –
    1. School Capacity/Room Usage/Planned Size
    2. Cost Comparisons – Included in the packet is a one-page document entitled “Projected Expenses.”  I have requested P&Ls from the previous years but they have not yet been made available.
    3. Out-of-District Students
  4. Town Council Resolutions/Overcrowding
    1. Create Space
    2. Eliminate Trailers
    3. Improve Campus
    4. $15-$25M Bond
  5. Ownership of District Buildings

 

Scheduled for Executive Session is “Character of Superintendent.”  Quote: “Given Bill Felkner’s concerns about my character and integrity (as detailed in his letter to the Westerly Sun), this item is on the agenda at my (Superintendent Ricci) request.  It will provide Bill and other members of the Committee an opportunity to comment in an appropriate forum.”

 

Pasted after my letter below is Mr. Ricci’s article.  The perceived attacks on his “character and integrity” would be defined by his reluctance to inform the public that Dr. Thornton’s presentation did include evidence supporting K-6 and K-8 grade configurations.

 

I have also challenged Mr. Ricci’s claim that RYSE is cost effective.  Information from Chariho and RIDE suggest otherwise.

 

Another issue to consider regarding RYSE is the following:  According to the Special Education Director, Kathy Perry, RYSE is a completely independent school and recognized as such by RIDE.  The appropriateness of developing RYSE without voter approval should also be investigated.  According to Section 9(6) of the Chariho Act, Chariho may not create an “extension of the scope of function” without voter approval.

 

Bill Felkner’s letter in March 16 Westerly Sun

“Absent facts from school debate” Superintendent Ricci is correct that the debate over the Chariho building plan should be based on facts so I would like to present some information that was absent from his letter (March 12). Mr. Ricci claims that the U.S. Department of Education “erroneously reported” the number of administrators and guidance counselors.  When this issue first surfaced I asked him to contact them and correct any errors.  He said that they didn’t respond to him so I contacted them.  The person who reviewed the teacher certifications replied and he maintains a count of 51 administrators and 74 guidance councilorsHowever, the numbers are really beside the point.  Efficiency is determined not by counting administrators but by comparing Chariho’s administrator-to-student ratio to other districts.  But the school has been opposed to this evaluation.  Their reluctance presumes that the Department of Education evaluated every other district correctly while Chariho was done incorrectly.  If the same instrument measures everyone, isn’t a comparison relevant? Next he points out that the Building Committee is restricted from improving the elementary schools.  But that doesn’t mean they should disregard 71% of parents surveyed who want their 5th and 6th graders brought home.  By expanding the Middle School, they are ignoring the parents. Mr. Ricci then defends this action by repeating statements made during a presentation by Assistant Superintendent Phil Thornton, which claimed that research on the benefits of the K-6 model were “inconclusive.”   Within the studies, but not in the formal presentation, was the following information:  “Schools containing both elementary and middle-school grades may be most appropriate for meeting the educational and social needs of young adolescents.”  And, “results indicate that in all subject areas the performance of sixth-grade students at (K-6) schools was better than the performance of sixth-grade students from (K-4 or K-5) schools.”  I wonder why these weren’t mentioned.  But remember, Mr. Ricci’s assistant made that presentation.  Mary Anne Raywid, Hofstra University Professor Emerita and Past President of the Society of Professors of Education, has said, “The value of small schools has been confirmed with clarity and a level of confidence rare in the annals of education research.”  So whom do you believe?  Next he claims that repairs to the elementary schools “will not allow the return of students in grades five to six to the towns.”  Where there’s a will there’s a way.  Hopkinton could easily bring grades five and six home by using the schoolhouse that Chariho abandoned last June.  It is true that Charlestown would need space but if we are spending $371 per square foot for the Middle School expansion, does it matter if its in Richmond or Charlestown?  Once those students have left the main campus that leaves plenty of room for the Richmond children.  Remember, the main campus is in Richmond and while they pay for only 38% of the budget, they get 100% of the buildings when we leave.    Next Mr. Ricci defends the RYSE program, a facility offering “twenty four hour a day/seven day a week mental health services” for student “from other districts” with “serious mental and emotional health issues.”  In today’s world of Columbine and other acts of school violence, is placing this facility near our children a good idea?   Clearly they expect a large influx of troubled youth from outside the district because our enrolment is dwindling yet they are planning a building with a 100-student capacity, nearly 250% more than current enrolment Mr. Ricci also said that RYSE costs us “far less than if these students were placed elsewhere.”  Really?   In 2003 a presentation was made by the administration stating that we spent $45,127 per student sending them out of district.  They claimed that RYSE could meet those needs for $35,340.  But according to Information Works our 2004-2005 RYSE per pupil costs were $53,561.    There are things that need to be done at Chariho, but RYSE and the Middle School expansion are not among them.  And with a capacity of 4088 and a dwindling enrolment of 3679, soliciting support from the town councils to solve the “overcrowding problem” was an exaggeration.     So let’s focus on creating the school that parents want and what research suggests is best for the children.  Let’s stop debating and just do our job.  Bill Felkner
Hopkinton representative on the Chariho School Board
Citations and parent comments welcome at www.cspf.worpress.com
  

March 12 letter from Barry Ricci in Westerly Sun (this letter is a reaction to an earlier piece by myself and Dorothy Gardiner, I can provide those if requested).

 

“Let’s just have a factual, open debate about the Chariho building project”

I have a proposal.

 

Let the debate about Chariho’s building plan be one based on facts. And, let’s be sure that the debate the adults are about to have is a good example for those young people about whom we all care.

 

Let me begin by correcting some erroneous information that has been recently reported.

 

Chariho does not have 57 administrators and 74 guidance counselors. The U.S. Department of Education has erroneously reported this information. Chariho has 24.4 administrators, three of whom are secretary-like. The middle school, high school and Career and Technical Center are staffed with a total of 10 guidance counselors; there are no guidance counselors at the elementary level.

 

State assessment percentages for the elementary, middle, and high school levels have been compared, concluding that scores decline after grade four. Many of the scores reported were actually index scores, not percentages. One of the elementary schools cited actually scored lowest in writing of all Chariho schools, including the Middle School. This information is available at

 

http:// www. ridoe. net.

 

The Information Works! survey does report that students at the elementary schools feel a greater sense of belonging than those at the secondary levels. I wonder why information about students getting along, student disruptions, and teacher satisfaction were not reported.

 

In these categories, more positive results were reported by participants at the middle level. And, remember that the middle school results are a compilation of all students in grades five through eight. This information is available at www. infoworks.ride.uri. edu.

 

Voters at a Regional School District Meeting approved a charge to the Building Committee that limited the scope of the project to the Chariho campus. Last August and September, the member town councils supported such a concept. The Building Committee can not consider repairs to the elementary schools as part of this project.

 

A recent presentation to the School Committee by Assistant Superintendent Phil Thornton on grade configuration revealed that the research was inconclusive.

 

Klump (2006) reported that there were “…limited amounts of rigorous research.” Hough (2005) summarized that there was “precious little empirical evidence…to guide policy makers.” The research does, however, discourage frequent transitions between schools.

 

 

Our middle school was built for students in grades five through eight. AK4, 5-8, 9-12 model seems to make sense for Chariho, given our existing buildings. Chariho administrators have not advocated for a different grade structure than the one that currently exists. Repairs to the elementary schools will not allow the return of students in grades five and six to the towns. New schools will most likely need to be built in at least two of the towns, maybe three. Voters did not approve expenditures for schools that would have returned grade five to the towns when the last bond was presented.

 

The clinical component of The RYSE School serves students at all levels that were formerly placed in expensive outof- district placements. The need for such a school would certainly exist even if students in grades five and six were educated in elementary schools.

 

In these out-placements, the district had no control over the quality of the services being provided. With these students on the Chariho campus, integration is possible while comprehensive clinical (social/emotional) services are being provided to students and their families in school, at home, and in the community at a cost that is far less than if these students were placed elsewhere. Other school districts are now considering similar programs. These Chariho students are well-served by The RYSE School.

 

The world is not perfect, neither is Chariho. If any of the member towns has a better plan for the education of their children, that town has every right to develop such a plan, and a responsibility to present the details of that plan to the public.

 

But, let’s do so without maligning Chariho. This serves no purpose, other than to elevate one at the expense of the other.

 

There will be much said in the coming months about Chariho’s building proposal, Campus 2010. The Building Committee will conduct a public information campaign so that all will have the opportunity to become fully informed. And then, the voters will be entrusted to make a thoughtful decision. Regardless of the outcome, we will move on.

 

I invite any citizen to schedule a time to meet with me about any of these, or other issues. The conversation will be respectful and factual.

 

As I’ve said many times, my best learning has occurred in conversations with those who wish us to be better.

 Barry J. Ricci is Superintendent of Schools for the Chariho Regional School District.

A Math Warning from the Past

Filed under: Chariho,State-wide,Student Performance — Editor @ 2:27 pm

The current debate over Chariho’s math curriculum is not “new or news.”  The following letter was published in the Providence Journal in 2000.  h/t Curious Resident

Making Education Fun, Creative – And Impossible

The Providence Journal, Sep 23, 2000
Op-ed by Stephen M. Hollister

I would like to comment on the Sept. 17 article by Julia Steiny in the Education & Employment section (“Math comes alive in Clayville“).

She discussed the use of a new method of teaching math, called “Investigations,” by Clayville Elementary School in Scituate. Investigations is one of the new ways of teaching mathematics that changes the role of the teacher to that of facilitator. It also eliminates the tedious rote memorization of basic facts — “drill and kill.”

I think that this is such a good idea that it should be applied to other difficult tasks, like learning to play the piano. Just think, no more tedious scales to practice and you can figure out for yourself how to hold your hands and position your fingers.

You know, there is more than one way to solve a problem. Everyone should decide what works best for himself or herself.

You would also have groups of two or more taking lessons at the same time.

The teacher would pass out the music and the students would decide on the best approach to keeping time and to playing the notes. They would make an oral and written presentation about their solution and be critiqued by other student groups. The students would have portfolios to keep track of their best work.

Of course, the students would have to be able to play the music, but there would be no more nerve-wracking recitals. Instead, the students would tape their best attempt at the music at home and then make oral presentations to the parents and then play their tapes.

Grading could be done using a rubric that takes into account all aspects: attitude, problem solving, oral and written presentation, and, oh yes, playing. Playing the piano should not be something for just the elite few who can adapt to the traditional approach to teaching piano. If piano teaching and learning is fun and creative, then there will be more people in the world who can say; “I like the piano!”

If this sounds ludicrous to you, then you should worry about what schools are foisting on your children in the name of improved math education. With very little oversight and very few (self-serving) studies being done, schools are using your children as guinea pigs for these new educational theories.

These changes are not trivial. They constitute a complete reversal in their approach to teaching: student-group centered, rather than teacher centered, and a top-down approach to teaching material, rather than a bottom-up approach that focuses on fundamental, basic skills. At the very least, this is a high risk change to teaching and you have no choice in the matter.

These programs may increase the number of students who say that they like math, but they will decrease the number of students who will be prepared to tackle the difficulties of algebra, trigonometry, and calculus.

STEPHEN M. HOLLISTER
Jamestown

A letter from Hopkinton Town Council Member Barbara Capalbo

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,grade spans,Student Performance — Editor @ 12:58 pm

March 25, Westerly Sun The People’s Forum

“Chariho voters should reject boost in spending until scores follow suit” 

It was very unfortunate that the Chariho School Board meeting of March 13 could not be shown on public television because of a technical problem. 

It was a very vibrant and inform­ative discussion of our abysmal national and state educational scores between the Chariho administrators and all the new and older members of the school board. 

The members of the board were vocal, logical, respectful, passionate and intensely interested in the prob­lem concerning state standards and curriculum which have failed our children so dramatically. 

The TERC program and, specifically, the Math Investigations curriculum needs to be researched honestly and quickly before more students are left without the tools to progress to higher standards, parents are left with no reasonable ability to explain and assist their children with homework, teachers are left stranded with students who cannot be educated to grade level without substantial remedial work, and ultimately with pupils – our children – who cannot compete on a national stage. 

The school administration believes that this is an emotional issue and, therefore, should be discussed rationally and determined or changed in a balanced manner. That is all well and good as long as it is timely, immediate, without haste – and now. 

The citizens of our three towns have the right to be upset and furious – it is our hard-earned money and our children and grandchildren’s futures that are being wasted. We either have among the worst teachers and students in the country – or among the worst curriculum and administration in the country. 

We have highly paid teachers who cannot speak for their charges, cannot be recognized for their common sense, cannot be respected or listened to by this administration and its disaster of a curriculum. 

Mr. Ricci has said this TERC cur­riculum was implemented before his promotion – although, in the prior administration, he was the assistant superintendent responsible for the curriculum.  There should therefore be more than enough information – more than five years’ worth – to substantiate the lower scores, and that should allow Mr. Ricci to make an executive decision to get us on the right track quickly. That’s the CEO’s job – hard choices from a piercing and objective (national, regional and Chamber of Commerce) study.  If he does not feel he can accomplish this, we can help. Chariho’s proposed budget of $50,327,187 for 3,679 students ($13,679 per student) does not seem to beget high performance. 

We fail on all levels. I propose the Chariho district budget be level funded allowing the reduction in expenses per student. It seems spending less increases the ability of students to learn and raises these pupils’ national, regional and state scores. We must follow the lead of Massachusetts, Minnesota or Vermont’s educational standards and curriculum – certainly not Rhode Islands’. 

We have such an embarrassment of riches. Vote “no” on Tuesday, April 10, and demand a level funded school budget until we have a supe­rior education and superior scores. 

Barbara Capalbo Hopkinton Member, Hopkinton Town Council

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