Chariho School Parents’ Forum

March 12, 2007

From today’s Westerly Sun

Filed under: Chariho,grade spans — Editor @ 9:12 pm

From Superintendent Ricci – I’ll let this sit with you for a while before responding….

“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.

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3 Comments »

  1. 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.

    How about treating us like adults and sharing with us ALL the facts about the building plan? Young people would benefit from seeing an open and honest debate.

    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.

    Understood, but why does the Dept. of Ed. have erroneous numbers? I’d also like to know if the 24.4 figure includes psychologist and social workers? Does it include computer technicians? Does it include financial personnel? Human resources personnel?

    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.

    So is your point that the middle school is better because the lowest writing score occurred at an elementary school? If this is your point, do you suggest moving all students to one centralized site? If not, why not? Do you see any value in keeping younger students in a more intimate and closer to home environment? Why do you feel grade 5 students are at the right age to be mixed with older students?

    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.

    Not reported where? Perhaps “a greater sense of belonging” was the focus because it goes to directly to the overall feeling students have toward their school. “Disruptions” and “getting along” have a very different meaning for young student compared to teenage students. As for teacher satisfaction, I have to say it takes a backseat to the needs of young children.

    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.

    I’d like to see a breakdown by age or grade. The 8th graders may be thrilled being in the middle school and the 5th graders could be devastated. Who’s to tell? Ultimately, it’s nice to know how the students and teachers feel, but the real test is how they perform academically and also what is the long term impact, both socially and academically, of young children being thrust into the world of teenagers? Some kids beg their parents to watch inappropriate movies, but this does not mean that inappropriate movies are okay for children.

    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.

    Were the voters given options? Did the voters specifically reject moving 5th, 6th and perhaps 7th graders back to local schools? Or was there only one proposal on the table?

    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.
    I thought you wanted to have this debate based on “facts”? In my research, Klump compared Middle School to K-8 schools. Chariho has never had K-8 schools, and from what I understand, Chariho parents support K-6 or K-7. Also, in reading Klump’s summary, all positive indications are that K-8 is a better system for children. While she is noncommittal to an extent, it seems clear that if she were forced to choose, K-8 would be her choice. Her summary can be read here – http://www.nwrel.org/nwedu/11-03/research/

    As for Hough, his focus is on K-8 versus 6-8 “elemiddle”. Since Chariho has does not use the 6-8 model, nor the K-8 model, I’m not sure the relevance of his research. Beyond that, as Dr. Thorton notes, both Klump and Hough offer inconclusive research. Certainly there is much research out there on the topic. If one is searching for “facts”, why would we stop at two researchers with inconclusive research? Hough can be read here – http://www.aasa.org/publications/saarticledetail.cfm?ItemNumber=984&snItemNumber=950&tnItemNumber=951

    Both Hough and Klump address educational outcomes of school configuration. Of equal concern to me, and I’m sure to many parents, is the social ramifications of having young students placed the same environment as pubescent students. Teenagers undergoing rapid hormonal changes often times engage in behavior foreign and frightening to prepubescent children. While these changes are normal, they are confusing and challenging for pubescent children, never mind the younger students who are exposed to these behaviors.

    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.

    Since we are committed to the tri-town system, why do we need to build another elementary school in each town? Why not build one elementary school which is geographically located between the four existing elementary schools? In my opinion, the main consideration is proximity to home and distancing prepubescent from pubescent children. This can be accomplished by strategically locating one new elementary school. If the school contains a mix of Hopkinton, Richmond and Charlestown students, so be it. Recent construction has the cost of an elementary school at $10 – $15 million.

    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.

    With 5th and 6th graders being removed from the Chariho complex, I am confident that there will be plenty of space for other needs.

    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.

    I’m not certain why schools have become the place for “comprehensive clinical services”? My view is that schools should be for educating. Social services can find other venues or offer their services at schools during off hours. Wouldn’t your job be easier and your focus better if you could deal with educating students instead of dealing with issues beyond the scope of education?

    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.

    While I can do limited research on the Internet, I am not trained to develop educational plans or building plans. Instead, I expect professionals, such as yourself, to present multiple plans that encompass many possibilities. I have no problem with you voicing your expert opinion, but ultimately, the responsibility rests with parents to determine what they feel is best for their children. In the future, I’d like to see Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. If we do not like any of these plans, I believe it your responsibility as our paid employee to come up with Plan D, Plan E, and Plan F.

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

    We should speak the truth about Chariho wherever that may lead. The purpose is accountability and improvement. We need to elevate our children.

    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’ve started thinking already. I would have preferred an honest approach that offered alternative scenarios rather than trying to force a one-dimensional plan down our collective throats. Too late for that now, but I hope you reconsider your approach in the future.

    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.

    I invite you to participate in public forums that allow for public discourse. I’m sure Mr. Felkner would welcome you here, or perhaps you could start your own Internet question and answer site?

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

    As you probably can tell, I’m ready to talk. I’m sure there are many more of me. As my schedule requires flexibility and I have difficulty committing to a set time, I would love it if you could use the technology of the Internet to communicate with us.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 14, 2007 @ 2:28 am | Reply

  2. […] would agree with Superintendent Ricci’s letter (The Sun, People’s Forum, March 12) that a respectful and calm dialog is beneficial to all our tri-town […]

    Pingback by Hopkinton Town Council Member’s Response to Ricci Letter « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — March 14, 2007 @ 4:57 pm | Reply

  3. […] 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).  […]

    Pingback by My response to Ricci letter « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — March 16, 2007 @ 1:57 pm | Reply


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