Chariho School Parents’ Forum

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.



  1. As I would expect, excellent summation and expansion of your first letter. I personally felt your first letter was clear and concise, but based on the response of some, parts of it were misunderstood and/or misrepresented.

    I continue to wonder why Chariho is spending money on pschologists and psychological services? In the 2007 budget, we are spending nearly $1,000,000 in psychological services. This does not include the administration’s time dealing with pyschological issues or any other indirect costs I’m sure are part and parcel of dealing with psychological issues in school.

    If my child has emotional problems, I am lucky enough to have health insurance that covers these expenses. The government and communities also provide psychological services at reduced costs, and sometimes no cost. Why would we need redundant services in our schools where the mission should be education?

    Emotional problems are best dealt with outside the school environment. In fact, if my child was in need of these types of services, I would want to be the one determining who is best suited to care for my child, not the school. Psychology is a social science, it’s inexact and subject to change every time a new theory is introduced. A psychologist that works well with one child could cause extreme damage to another child. I always believe that parents should be the ones making these kind of decision for their children. If having a school pschologist is mandated, then I suggest our community, children, and parents are best served by offering the bare minimum.

    The Chariho administration seems committed to housing RYSE. I’d scrutinize any cost comparison they provide for costs that may be hidden in their effort to keep this program at Chariho. I did not realize that Chariho is the only Rhode Island school offering this type of program on site. This is very telling and I would like to hear an explanation of why it is right for Chariho, but apparently wrong for every other community in the state?

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 30, 2007 @ 7:11 pm | Reply

  2. Barbara Capalbo has made similar comments. Her point was that outside services are easier to continue once the student graduates. Plus it gets the community involved with our children.

    Your point that the family already has insurance is excellent. That point is why this forum is so valuable. No one else thought of that very very logical point. Why spend Chariho money on services when there is already a funding source available?

    Comment by Bill Felkner — March 31, 2007 @ 9:31 am | Reply

  3. Mr. Felkner, you allude to it in your recent letter, and a former school committee member recently made a similar observation to me, apparently some of our elected representatives have familial connections with school employees.

    I am not suggesting that this is an unacceptable conflict of interest, but it is worthy of consideration when elected officials vote on issues that directly impact their families. In the spirit of transparency, could you ask your colleagues on the board if they are willing to share any family connections they have in the schools?

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 31, 2007 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

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