Chariho School Parents’ Forum

March 24, 2007

Response to my letter in the Westerly Sun

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,grade spans — Editor @ 3:19 pm

Fellow school board member, Robert Petit, has published a letter in Friday’s Westerly Sun disputing my earlier letter.  I have offered to post his letter and link to any documentation that supports the comments made.  He has yet to provide documentation, but if he does I will gladly post them.  He has an unedited version in the “Comments” section below.

“School board member’s letter criticizing Ricci, building plan, and RYSE program was way off base”  

I’m writing in reference to the letter “Superintendent Ricci’s positions miss the mark when it comes to serving Chariho’s towns and residents,” ( People’s Forum, March 16) by Chariho School Committee member William Felkner) I am also on the Chariho School Committee and a representative from the Town of Hopkinton.

 

I was completely floored when I read his submission for a number of reasons.

 

After reading this letter, I also placed some calls to the Rhode Island Department of Education. I was told that the reporting of 74 guidance coun­selors and 51 administrators could not be verified 100 percent by this or any department.

 

I was told that this could have been a clerical error or that a guidance counselor that serves both the middle school and high school could be consid­ered two different positions, although in reality it is only one person. I was also told that, if someone is a certified teacher and has a certification for guidance counselor, that it may be reported as a guidance counselor. They aren’t saying they “did Chariho cor­rectly and everyone else wrong”. Their words were “without doing an actual head count, there is no way to say for sure this information is correct.” If I really thought there were 74 guidance counselors and 51 administrators, I would be doing something about it.

 

The Building Committee is restrict­ed from improving the elementary schools with this bond (period). This bond issue was brought to the School Committee from the tri-town council, a committee made up of town councilors from all three towns. They agreed to promote a bond from $15-$25 million to fix the high school campus.

 

The Building Committee has brought the School Committee a plan; we voted to approve it and to submit the “Necessity of Construction” appli­cation. If we had not voted to do this, instead of getting a 56-percent on new construction and 60 percent on renova­tions, return on our investment, we would get the new amount.

 

This bond does call for an addition of three sixth-grade classrooms at the middle school. If Hopkinton wants the Building Committee to hold off on this addition until they are done deciding if they want to pull their children back, the Building Committee can put this addition at the end of the construction timeline. This construction will be done over a few years. We can always send money back to the towns that we don’t use, but we can’t go to the state afterwards and tell them we need more money.

 You would need to apply for another bond, which would be under the new terms. I truly hope you support this bond. We need to fix our schools and this is a way to start. If this bond goes through, we will free up money to do more work on the elementary schools.

This is the last time we get this return, so now is the time.

 As a taxpayer and School Committee member from Hopkinton, I would like to thank the Town of Charlestown for approving the one­third split for repayment on this bond.

I understand the tax impact may be small, but it shows you are willing to work to achieve a common goal and that is to fix up our schools.

 

Mr. Felkner goes on to talk about the K-6 grade configuration and all of these studies that these people have done to support this model as being the best for our children. Well, I have heard in numerous meetings Barry Ricci agree that this model or at least the K-5 grade model might serve the children better, if we were building a district from scratch. In a perfect world, we could have K-5 or K-6, but we don’t have a perfect world here.

 

What we have is the Chariho Regional School District, and right now we have to work with what we have. We make our decisions based on the information and realities that we have and those decisions are made in the best interests of our children and the taxpayers. I have heard that the Hopkinton Educational Options Committee, along with a few other people in Hopkinton, are talking about bringing the fifth and sixth graders back if they can get the 1904 Ashaway School up to code.

 

Have they informed you that if they were to bring back all the fifth and sixth-graders from both Hope Valley and Ashaway, that the Hope Valley children would have to be transported to the 1904 building and that possibly some of the children in the lower classes would have to be transported to Hope Valley? How does this save the district in transportation costs?

 I wonder how many Hope Valley parents of the fifth- and sixth-graders would like to send their children to the 1904 School building instead of just leaving them at the campus? They still have to travel, so it is not like their children are coming home. Also, if this were to happen, it would mean a K-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-12 grade configuration. Talk about having to go through a transi­tion phase; we would make our chil­dren go through one every two years. 

How would they ever get the feeling of belonging, comfort or stability like this? So Hope Valley fifth- and sixth­graders would have to travel to Ashaway, and Richmond’s fifth- and sixth graders would remain at the middle school. Charlestown would have to do something with its school, all so we can bring our babies home?

 Where are the savings? Where are the benefits? I am willing to say, if you poll the 5th- and 6th- graders currently at the middle school, they wouldn’t want to go back.

As for the RYSE program, to com­pare this school or our children in this school to what happened in Columbine, is, in my opinion being dis­respectful to these children and their families.

 

The RYSE school is open for special­needs students that live in our “dis­trict.” I feel they have just as much right to be educated in this district as any child in our district. It does save us money to keep these children in-dis­trict; a feeling of stability is also pro­vided for them. I believe this would help our children in the long run, to better their education and give a feel­ing of security. Isn’t that what the School Committee is charged to do? Do what is best “for all children”?

 

The doors on this program are not open 24/7 for 365 days. This program runs in accordance with the high and middle school schedules. There is someone on call if a family should have problems and need someone to talk to; families may receive support after school hours. The RYSE program has been open for almost four years now and suddenly it becomes a major problem with having it here? Why?

 

The Building Committee has pro­posed a new building to replace trail­ers that we rent; this building is the same exact size as the trailers there now, with a 100-student capacity. The building is not bigger to bring in chil­dren from out-of-district; this cannot be done unless approved by the School Committee.

 

The administration cannot just bring in other children. We also use this building for students excluded for disciplinary reasons; we don’t have to send these children out of district. We can’t expel a child anymore. The most you can suspend them is for 10 days and then you must either let them back into your school or send them out of district at our expense of tuition and transportation, so the building and space is getting utilized.

 

I just want to say to Hopkinton tax­payers that we have constantly been thrown out there with what I feel is misrepresentation. If you have a ques­tion, concern or comment contact your school committee representative or Barry Ricci. We are here to serve you.

 

When I ran for school committee I made a promise to the voters that I would do my best to hold the administration accountable for their spending, that I would be honest and open to the taxpayers, and I am standing by that promise. I feel that Mr. Felkner’s letter was an attack on Barry Ricci, the administration and the School Committee. We have worked hard to get a Necessity of Construction Application in to save this district money.

 

I feel that, for being a new School Committee, we have done well for the children, the schools and for our towns. I will be the first to stand and say that we have work to do, but there will always be work to do and we will do our best to give our children the best possible education at the best pos­sible cost.

 

I promised you honesty and this is what you are getting. I have done my homework and given you some things to think about, I hope. I just ask that the silent majority start to take a stand and voice your opinions.

 

Don’t let the vocal minority be the ones that continue to cast a shadow over us, Hopkinton.

Robert Petit is a Hopkinton resident and a member of the Chariho School Committee.

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5 Comments »

  1. Unedited version from Bob Petite –
    In reference to the article “Superintendent Ricci’s positions miss the mark when it comes to serving Chariho’s towns and residents.

    I am also on the Chariho School Committee and a representative from the Town of Hopkinton. I want to say I was completely floored when I read this article for a number of reasons. After reading this letter, I also placed some calls to the Rhode Island Department of Education. I was told that the reporting of 74 guidance counselors and 51 administrators could not be verified 100% by this or any department. I was told that this could have been a clerical error or that a guidance counselor that serves both the Middle School and High School could be considered 2 different positions, although in reality it is only 1 person. I was also told that if someone is a certified teacher and has a certification for guidance counselor, that it may be reported as a guidance counselor. This report is over 2 years old now. Long and short of it all is that “they aren’t saying they did Chariho correctly and everyone else wrong,” but that they may have made mistakes throughout the state. Their words were “with out doing an actual head count there is no way to say for sure this information is correct.” If I REALLY thought there were 74 guidance counselors and 51 administrators, I would be doing something about it. We have been given information by the Administration on what the counts are and I believe the Administration over the State.
    The Building Committee is restricted from improving the elementary schools with this bond (period). This bond issue was brought to the School Committee from the tri-town council, a committee made up of town councilors from all 3 towns. They agreed to promote a bond from $15- $ 25 million dollars to fix the HIGH SCHOOL CAMPUS. The Building Committee has brought the School Committee a plan; we voted to approve it and to submit the Necessity of Construction Application. If we had not voted to do this, t instead of getting a 56% ( on new construction) and 60% ( renovations) return on our investment, we would get the new amount. WE still don’t know how much of a cut that would be as the state hasn’t released it yet, but I have heard that it could be in the mid 20’s.This bond does call for an addition of, three 6th grade classrooms at the Middle School. IF Hopkinton wants the Building Committee to hold off on this addition until they are done deciding if they want to pull their children ( by the way that aren’t babies) back, the Building Committee can put this addition at the end of the construction timeline. This construction will be done over a few years. We can always send money back to the towns that we don’t use, but we can’t go to the state afterwards and tell them we need more money. You would need to apply for another bond, which would be under the new terms. I truly hope you support this bond. We need to fix our schools and this is a way to start. IF this bond goes through, we will free up money to do more work on the elementary schools. This is the last time we get this return, so now is the time. As a taxpayer and School Committee member from Hopkinton I would like to thank the Town of Charlestown for approving the 1/3 split for repayment on this bond. I understand the tax impact may be small but it shows you are willing to work to achieve a common goal and that is to fix up our schools Thank you again.

    Mr Felkner goes on to talk about the K-6 grade configuration and all of these studies that these people have done to support this model as being the best for our children. Well, I have heard in numerous meetings Barry Ricci agree that this model or at least the K-5th grade model might serve the children better, if we were building the district from scratch. But I look at it this way. In a perfect world we could have K-5th or 6th but we don’t have a perfect world here. What we have is the Chariho School District and right now we have to do with what we have to work with what we have. We make our decisions based on the information and realities that we have and those decisions are made in the best interests of our children and the tax payers. I have heard that the Hopkinton Educational Options Committee, along with a few other vocal people in Hopkinton, are talking about bringing the 5th and 6th graders back if they can get the 1904 Ashaway School up to code. Have they informed you that if they were to bring back all the 5th and 6th graders from both Hope Valley and Ashaway, that the Hope Valley children would have to be transported to the 1904 building and that possibly some of the children in the lower classes would have to be transported to Hope Valley? How does this save the district in transportation costs? And I wonder how many Hope Valley parents of the 5th and 6th graders would like to send their children to the 1904 bldg. instead of just leaving them at the campus? They still have to travel, so it is not like their children are coming home. Also, if this were to happen, it would mean a K-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-12 grade configuration. I wonder what Mary Anne Raywid, Hofstra University professor, would think of that? Talk about having to go through a transition phase; we would make our children go through one every two years. How would they ever get the feeling of belonging, comfort or stability like this? So Hope Valley 5th and 6th graders would have to travel to Ashaway, and Richmond 5th and 6th graders would remain at the Middle School. Charlestown would have to do something with their school, even though they aren’t complaining, all so we can bring our babies home? Where are the savings? Where are the benefits? I haven’t found any yet have you? I am willing to say, if you poll the 5th and 6th graders currently at the Middle School they wouldn’t want to go back.
    As for the RYSE program to compare this school or our children in this school to what happened in Columbine, is in my opinion being disrespectful to these children and their families. I couldn’t believe that anyone in our District would say something like this, let alone in the paper. What happened in Columbine and other school systems throughout our country is a tragedy. IT also wasn’t at the hands of a special needs child. Columbine, and most if not all of the other tragedies, were done by children that everyone thought had nothing wrong. These are the comments you would hear: This child seemed happy and doing well, I didn’t see this coming, etc. You make a comment like this, but you have also said that if Hopkinton pulls out their children, then it would open room to put the RYSE program in the Middle School. So, is it ok if Richmond and Charlestown have their children in this so called danger zone, as long as Hopkinton doesn’t?
    The RYSE School is open for special needs children that live in our “DISTRCT.” I feel they have just as much right to be educated in this District as any child in our District. It does save us money to keep these children in-district; a feeling of stability is also provided for them. I believe this would help our children in the long run, to better their education and give a feeling of security. Isn’t that what the School Committee is charged to do? Do what is best “FOR ALL CHILDREN’? The doors on this program are not open 24/7 365 days. This program runs in accordance with the High and Middles School schedules. THERE is someone on call if a family should have problems and need some one to talk to; families may receive support after school hours. The RYSE program has been open for almost 4 years now and suddenly it becomes a major problem with having it here? Why? The Building Committee has proposed a new building to replace trailers that we rent; this building is the same EXACT size as the trailers there now, with a 100 student capacity. And NO, the building is not bigger to bring in children from out-of- district; this cannot be done unless approved by the School Committee. The administration CANNOT just bring in other children. We can also use this building for students excluded for disciplinary reasons; we don’t have to send these children out of district. We can’t expel a child anymore. The most you can suspend them is for ten days and then you must either let them back into your school or send them out of district at our expense of tuition and transportation, so the building and space is getting utilized.
    I just want to say to Hopkinton tax payers that we have constantly been thrown out there with what I feel is misrepresentation from a few vocal people in our town and most of the time they are giving you false information. If you have a question, concern or comment contact your School Committee representative or Barry Ricci. We are here to serve you. Hopkinton has an Educational Options Committee, what is their purpose? I don’t see anything being done about education and what options have they given us. Where are the meetings? Where are the minutes to these meetings? Are they posted? All I ever hear them doing is putting down the Administration, School Committee and the education process. I have to make my decisions on what I have in front of me. I challenge you to do something good with this Committee and figure out what it would cost the tax payers to do it your way, be honest and up front with everything and stop speaking for the town and let them decide.
    When I ran for School committee I made a promise to the voters that I would do my best to hold the administration accountable for their spending, that I would be honest and open to the tax payers. Well I feel that Mr. Felkner’s letter was an attack on Barry Ricci, the administration and the School Committee. The Administration and School Committee has proposed to you a budget increase of 3.06%, the smallest increase in well over a DECADE. We have worked hard to get a Necessity of Construction Application into the state to save this district money. I feel for being a new School Committee we have done well for the children, school and for our towns. I will be the first to stand and say that we have work to do, but there will always be work to do and we will do our best to give our children the best possible education at the best possible cost. I promised you honesty and this is what you are getting. Some may like it, some may not. I didn’t want to just respond to this letter without first looking into these issues, so I have done my homework and given you some things to think about I hope. I just ask that the silent majority start to take a stand and voice your opinions. Don’t let the vocal minority be the ones that continue to cast a shadow over us, Hopkinton.

    Thank You
    Robert Petit
    Town of Hopkinton School Committee Member
    b_petit@hotmail.com

    Comment by cspf — March 24, 2007 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

  2. If Mr. Petit wants to be honest, he should start by acknowledging that all money used to fund schools comes from the pockets of taxpayers. Whether it comes from federal, state, or local taxes, it comes from our pockets. To pretend otherwise is to try and pull the wool over our eyes.

    As for the configuration of the Chariho School system and the claim that we are unable to isolate pre-teen children from hormonally charged teenagers seems to be another piece of disinformation. The tri-towns offered K-6 education for many years, and I do not believe that student population for the K-6 level has grown beyond the capacity of the elementary schools, especially when the 1904 building is included.

    If I am wrong, then I again call for bond money to be spent on a new elementary school geographically located between all the existing elementary schools. The new elementary school does not have to draw from one town, but can draw from all three towns if that makes sense. Since Chariho is one system, I don’t care if there is integration of elementary students from each town. The main concern is separating pre-teen students from teenage students.

    As for Hope Valley youths being bused to the 1904 building, it is not complicated, simply take the Hope Valley students who live closest to Ashaway. I know parents who live in Hope Valley, and it is only a difference of minutes between traveling to Hope Valley or Ashaway.

    Sorry Mr. Petit, but I will not accept a bond simply because it will be partially funded from my left pocket rather than my right. We need to make decision based on what best serves our children without bankrupting parents and other taxpayers. Based on what I’ve learned about the TERC curriculum, the school committee and the Chariho administration is very relunctant to admit mistakes and change direction. The same applies to this misguided bond. I will not support any more money to the Chariho complex until we come up with a way to bring young children back to the smaller and more suitable elementary schools. I will continue to discuss this issue with every voter I know, and urge them to reject this bond.

    Oh, and one last statement about honesty, I believe that Mr. Petit is being dishonest in claiming that the budget increase is only 3.06%. If he were honest, he would tell us how much budget items have increased, because if I’m not mistaken, the school is applying a surplus from last year and the 3.06% increase is a bogus figure. In fact, a surplus means that last year’s budget was higher than need be, then they increase the budget against that budget, apply the surplus, and voila, a very big increase becomes a small increase. The manipulation of budget figures is dishonest and those misleading taxpayers should be ashamed.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 24, 2007 @ 11:11 pm | Reply

  3. To highlight the dishonesty of the so-called 3.06% budget increase, here are some rough calculations if the budget was not offset by the surplus.

    2006 – 2007 Budget = $46,835,000 – 1,200,000 overcharge (also known as surplus)

    ACTUAL 2006 – 2007 Expenses = 45,635,000

    2007 – 2008 Budget = $48,269,000 + 1,200,000 overcharge + 300,000 interest income

    ACTUAL 2007 – 2008 Expense = $49,769,000

    ACTUAL INCREASE IN SCHOOL FUNDING = 9.06%

    Now, I’m not accountant, but I’m also not a fool. My number may not be exactly correct, but they are closer than the purposely misrepresented 3.06% figure.

    The actual increase in school spending is as simple as comparing what we spent last year versus what we spend this year. I have no problem with surpluses. I’d rather the school have a surplus than wasting the money to get rid of it. BUT, stop manipulating budgets to deliver a dishonest message! Report the increase in spending. That is the number that tells taxpayers how well the school is controlling spending. A 9.06% increase in spending is ridiculous and far above the increase most of us can afford in our own household spending.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 24, 2007 @ 11:40 pm | Reply

  4. THANK YOU MR. PETIT
    It’s nice to know someone is working FOR chariho, rather than against.
    Keep up the excelent work, one can only hope that Scott Bill Hurst’ call for a recall provision of school committee members passes, so we can consider getting rid of a paticular member.
    Hopkinton Educational Options committee does nothing more than support the opinion of the two people who are on it, they are in the minority in this town. Its about time they either get something done, or have something get done to them (removal from the committe by town council).

    [website editor’s note] This is a fraudulent post. See 2/25 headline on main page.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 25, 2007 @ 2:57 pm | Reply

  5. […] defending RYSE Filed under: — cspf @ 10:58 pm Board Member Bob Petit’s letter in the Westerly Sun was accompanied by two […]

    Pingback by Letters defending RYSE « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — March 27, 2007 @ 10:58 pm | Reply


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