Chariho School Parents’ Forum

April 13, 2007

The hits just keep on coming

Filed under: RYSE — Editor @ 9:15 am

From Westerly Sun Peoples’ Forum, April 7.

Success of RYSE, other Chariho programs not measured in dollars

 

As the chairperson of the Chariho Special Education Local Advisory Committee, I felt compelled to respond to comments made by School Committeeman William Felkner, especially those in regard to the RYSE program.

 

Mr. Felkner, the students at Chariho, including all those in the RYSE program, are our children – they have not been imported from some far away place. They live in your neighborhood, my neighbor­hood. They all deserve to be educat­ed with their peers, friends and neighbors.

 

RYSE is an asset to our district. When students do not attend school in their own district they have lower rates of participation in after-school activities and/or sports – often the very things that keep kids in school, or give them incentive to work harder.

 

The LAC takes extreme offense to your comparison of the RYSE pro­gram to Columbine. These students may need more supports to make their way through their education, but to insinuate that any of them is capable of such horrific violence is a scare tactic on your part.

 

RYSE was not proposed as a money-saving measure. I remember when Kathy Blais first suggested such a program, and the sole intent was to bring our students back to the district so they could get their edu­cation close to home, go to school with their friends and participate in the many programs offered by our district. It was merely coincidence that the program saved some money, especially in transportation costs.

 

According to the Chariho School Committee budget for 2007-08, the RYSE program and the ALP will cost $1.78 million. The same budget proj­ects that it would cost $2.35 million if those same students were tuitioned out to other schools and programs.

 

In your comparison of per pupil costs, you cited 2003 projected costs from Chariho and 2004-05 figures from Information Works. You cannot take a projection for one year and compare it to an actual cost from a year later!

 

The main benefit of the RYSE pro­gram is that our district has control over the academic programs for the students. Most of the programs these students were in did not have rigorous academic standards and we had no way of really knowing what academic programs were being taught. If students are going to grad­uate from Chariho, they should be educated in Chariho schools.

 

Why are you so willing to send “these children” out of district, but so very reluctant to send our fifth­graders to the middle school – with the rest of their peers and siblings? The middle school is only a few miles away from each of the elementary schools, and it will be their school for a full four years.

  

The RYSE students who were sent out of district were often bused to South Kingstown, Cranston and even Providence – 15-40 miles away from their peers and siblings. Why should “ these children” endure extremely lengthy bus rides when their own school can provide a better education?

 

Those bus rides are also very cost­ly. If Chariho were to send out the 29 students in RYSE, the district proj­ects that for the 2007-08 year, it would cost $679,822 just for the seven busses needed. The tuitions would total another $1.56 million.

 

Reading financial statements, dry reports and statistics from the RI Department of Education does noth­ing to give a true sense of the Chariho community. Yes, community. It is largely through the schools that I have met many of the friends I have today and hold dear. These schools are the heart and soul of Chariho, where friendships are forged and nurtured; our children develop a sense of self, learn their academics, and find their own way in the world.

 

Schools are not something that can simply be broken down into dol­lars and cents – education is an expense – and the community’s investment in our future – yours and mine.

 Jean Pacillo Chairperson Chariho LAC (This letter was also signed by Yvonne Noel, Kim Wilson and Ann Marie Louzon, members of the Chariho LAC board.)

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7 Comments »

  1. Unbelievable…make no mistake about it…RYSE was purposely implemented in a manner that bypassed the Chariho Act, Mr. Ricci pretty much admitted to it at the Hopkinton Town Council meeting. In my opinion, this was done to avoid allowing voters to determine if RYSE was a good idea for our school and our children. I don’t know who was involved in this manipulation, but to now come before us and claim that RYSE was initiated with the best intent is a bunch of hogwash. Those involved with bringing RYSE to Chariho are sneaky and I don’t trust one of them.

    I suspect that Ms. Pacillo and her friends do not want us to compare the cost of RYSE from year to year because they’ve significantly increased the students assigned to the RYSE program. Instead of whining about a false comparison of these students to the Columbine perpetrators, why doesn’t LAC inform of us what qualifies a student for RYSE status? How about telling us how many students are in these programs before and after RYSE? How about telling us how Chariho compares with other school systems in the numbers of students placed in these programs?

    If, as they claim, RYSE is an “asset”, why was it started without subjecting the program to citizen approval? If these people believe it is an asset, prove it to us?

    Chariho administration and supporters are full of flowery and emotional rhetoric, but always short on facts and results. Why is that? If RYSE, ALP, TERC and all the other acronyms they throw at us are any good, why not give us some objective data to back up these claims? Don’t try and tug on our emotional heart strings…give us the proof.

    No, I think we are once again being played for fools. I think mainstream students are giving the shaft so that social workers, psychologists and assorted other government leeches can expand their career opportunities. While every other community in Rhode Island recognizes that their school systems are not suited for handling the most troubled students, RYSE employees want us to believe that only they know what is best? Sorry, I’m not buying it. I think it is a lie. I do not believe that only these people care about children and everyone else does not.

    If RYSE is cost efficient and effective, it should be self evident and citizens should be made aware of all the details. If, as I suspect, it is nothing more than an employment vehicle for certain career disciplines, then get rid of it and let our troubled students get the same level of help as all other troubled students in Rhode Island. Stop using our children as shields for adults.

    Comment by Curious Resident — April 13, 2007 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

  2. From an April 2005 article in the Providence Journal by Julia Steiny – “Blais figured that between the costs and her own accountability for results, she’d be better off creating a clinical day program in the district.” and this – “Okay, and here’s the kicker: All that — case workers 24/7, 365 days a year, if need be — and RYSE still saved the district $800,000.”

    So which is it? Ms. Steiny’s reporting that Blais was including the cost factor in bringing RYSE to Chariho, or Ms. Pacillo and LAC’s contention that cost was not a factor? Ms. Steiny’s crowing about a cost savings of $800,000, or Ms Pacillo and LAC’s current rhetoric that saving money was never an objective? Somebody is lying.

    Ms. Steiny’s article is a glowing account of RYSE, but it is an informative read. For instance, in April 2005, she reports this – “But even at an average cost of $45,000 per child, many districts are reluctant to do the work or invest in bringing back the difficult, sometimes chronically wayward children they might have been relieved to get off their hands.” Now I’ve heard numbers bandied about, but all of them substantially higher than $45,000. This was a mere two years ago. Could someone on LAC tell me the percent increase in cost in the last two years?

    Unlike anything I’ve heard from Chariho’s administration or those affiliated with RYSE, Ms. Steiny describes RYSE-type students thusly – “They specialize in working with youth from 10 to 17 years old, who demonstrate aggressive behavior — vandalism, setting fires and fighting — “social rule violation” — running away, truancy, theft and disobedience — substance abuse and psychiatric problems.” So tell us again why we shouldn’t be concerned about our mainstream children? What descriptors would you add for the Columbine perpetrators? Are mass murderers easily identified? Or are dangerous students among the fire-setters, substance abusers, and psychiatric problem students?

    Finally, Ms. Steiny’s also uses emotional rhetoric and broad sweeping statements while offering nothing of substance to back up her claims. For instance, she writes, “…they’re doing a credible job of building capacity to educate otherwise-forgotten kids in their own community where they are much more likely to take root with friends and family and to stay on a good path to a productive future.” Great news! Where’s the data? Have any children left RYSE as adults? Is there a follow up study to see how their adult lives compare to the adult lives of other troubled children? Could we trust the results even if they’ve done the follow up? Honesty and openness don’t seem to go hand and hand with RYSE.

    Let’s face it…RYSE is a social service agency being funded within the confines of a school system. Good idea or bad idea, that is what it is. These students could go outside the school system for their psychiatric care. Their parents could pay for it through their insurances or the state could pay for it through the mulititude of social service agencies that already exist. Or, as we’ve done at Chariho, we could bring this social service into our schools and pay for it locally, while also paying taxes to the State and Federal government for redundant services. I think we are suckers and all the feigned outrage in the world doesn’t change the facts.

    Comment by Curious Resident — April 13, 2007 @ 5:02 pm | Reply

  3. CR,
    I have not found that Steiny article. Can you provide a link please?

    And you are not the first to ask the question about the effectiveness of RYSE, or the effectiveness of all of these types of programs. However, the limited research I have been able to find seems to pose the question in a limited way. Do the programs work, and if not, how much more do we need to do to make them work. I have yet to find a study or paper done on the perspective that perhaps they don’t work and we need to try something different – ie. your idea to utilize the families insurance and the community resources (Barbara Capalbo has also proposed similar ideas).

    Regarding the number of students, and if they are increasing. Not by the numbers reported in the budget, however, these numbers don’t reflect all those in RYSE (such as ALP students or those placed there because they have reached the max days of suspension).

    George Abbott made an interesting comment in the last meeting. Mr. Abbott has experience working with DCYF. He informed us that DCYF has been looking to place group homes in our area. Providence is getting fed up with them all being there and they also think that our areas are safer – so they should put the kids here (not acknowledging that perhaps they are unsafe because of the kids – the chicken and egg phenomenon).

    Now look at this from DCYF’s eyes. If you want to place a group home (or 3) in the Chariho area, and you see a clinical service organization that is running at about 50% capacity, wouldn’t you try to fill that capacity (remember, the building is going to be built for 100 yet enrolments are around 50)?

    Comment by Bill Felkner — April 13, 2007 @ 8:19 pm | Reply

  4. Sorry, I should have included the link. I use Ask.com rather than Google. Seems to give me better results. Here’s the link –

    http://www.projo.com/education/content/projo_20050403_edwatch3.2341afc.html

    Well, at least it is good to know that the existence of RYSE doesn’t seem to have resulted in more students being assigned to RYSE. That would have been the worst possible indictment of RYSE.

    What I heard, I think from Ms. Ure, at the Hopkinton Town Council meeting was that RYSE was initially proposed with the idea that portable buildings would be purchased with a lease to own agreement. It was then discovered that owning the building would require voter approval for RYSE as owning the building would make the program permanent and thus it would fall under the Chariho Act and voters would need to approve implementation. When this was discovered, Chariho, with Mr. Ricci as Asst. Super, changed course and decided to just lease the buildings which allowed RYSE to be brought in without voter approval. I could be wrong, but if these are the facts, then RYSE, from the very beginning, was dishonest and afraid of the oucome if taxpayers were given a voice.

    This is unacceptable and this story alone makes RYSE a very questionable program. If a good idea as claimed by those affiliated with RYSE, then why the sneakiness? Why not convince voters of RYSE’s value?

    I think Mr. Abbott is on to something. No one has explained why we need so much space. When asked, Mr. Ricci gives vague answers and as often the case with this guy, pretends to not have a firm grasp on the numbers. In every aspect of Chariho, from headcounts, to budget figures, Mr. Ricci is constantly fumbling with concrete numbers. I imagine this is to keep the record fuzzy so he can’t be held accountable in the future as numbers come to light.

    We should all be very concerned about RYSE. The level of secrecy surrounding the program is scary. As noted by Ms. Steiny, these students engage in anti-social behaviors, and feeling bad for them is nice, but who is looking out for our mainstream students whose needs are pushed aside as we bend over backwards running a social service agency?

    Comment by Curious Resident — April 14, 2007 @ 8:42 am | Reply

  5. Another thing citizens should consider when voting on the upcoming bond, why is Chariho’s administration now telling us that owning the RYSE building makes economic sense? Has it not made sense right along? Or, does it make sense now because a permanent RYSE edifice can be incorporated into the overall bond without having to specifically justify the program’s existence?

    Also, if as suggested, the Chariho Act requires voter approval before expanding the scope of the Chariho school system, wouldn’t we still have to have voter approval to permanently implement RYSE? Has this been discussed? Will there be a vote on RYSE?

    Consider that right now we lease the buildings for RYSE. Once we have a permanent structure, we are basically stuck with the program regardless of future problems…be it budgetary limitations or unacceptable and dangerous incidences. Now, if we should choose, we can quickly elminate RYSE and all the salaried positions dependent on RYSE. Once RYSE is permanently housed, ridding ourselves of the program becomes a huge problem. Maybe it is worth the little extra cost to keep the flexibility of leased buildings?

    Comment by Curious Resident — April 14, 2007 @ 10:15 am | Reply

  6. Another thing citizens should consider when voting on the upcoming bond, why is Chariho’s administration now telling us that owning the RYSE building makes economic sense? Has it not made sense right along? Or is it all about timing? Does it make sense now because a permanent RYSE edifice can be incorporated into the overall bond without having to specifically justify the program’s existence?

    Also, if as suggested, the Chariho Act requires voter approval before expanding the scope of the Chariho school system, wouldn’t we still have to have voter approval to permanently implement RYSE? Has this been discussed? Will there be a vote on RYSE?

    Consider that right now we lease the buildings for RYSE. Once we have a permanent structure, we are basically stuck with the program regardless of future problems…be it budgetary limitations or unacceptable and dangerous incidences. Now, if we should choose, we can quickly elminate RYSE and all the salaried positions dependent on RYSE. Once RYSE is permanently housed, ridding ourselves of the program becomes a huge problem. Maybe it is worth the little extra cost to keep the flexibility of leased buildings?

    I’d like to know the nature of interaction between RYSE, Chariho’s administration, and state official associated with DCYF and other social service organizations? I wonder if situations, such as Mr. Abbott mentioned, have been discussed? If Mr. Abbott’s scenario occurs, wouldn’t it be nice to say to the state, “Sure, you can force troubled children upon our community, but we are eliminating RYSE and these children may live here in group homes, but they will be sent back to you for social services”? I suggest we leave RYSE in temporary status.

    Comment by Curious Resident — April 14, 2007 @ 10:23 am | Reply

  7. If we are to believe the numbers expressed in this letter — 1.78 million to run the clinical and ALP program at Chariho proposed for the 2007-2008 year — this will be $33,580 per student which includes 53 total students (my last information from the Hopkinton council meeting or 4-2-07). Not included is the $218,000 lease of buildings, electricity, heat, water, etc., or administrative costs (applying for the Medicaid reimbursements and HR services for the employees), or nurse services (these are under the normal budget). The Insight report from the state of Rhode Island Department of Education says $57,000 per student, but that is incorrect (School Board meeting of 4-10-07). The fact that this extension of our educational scope is illegal by the Chariho Act doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

    The 4 million dollar building proposed is for 100 students. This includes 10 – 10 student classrooms, 9 offices, several time out rooms (they are often full with only 53 students), maintenance rooms? or cafeteria areas?–No one has seen this architectural plan. DCYF’s master plan incorporates group homes in the different rural or suburban communities of Rhode Island to help 8 to 10 children per home to grow up in a better environment. Mr. Abbott (who has worked for DCYF for decades) is to be believed when he says these children would definately be RYSE students. If each of our three communities got one home each, 24 to 30 students will be our responsibility.

    I would agree that group homes are better environments for most of these children from Providence, Pawtucket or Central Falls. Social services and psychological services will be part of these homes. But this scenario needs to be addressed and faced quite openly — the RYSE educational program will become a money pit. We are 10% of the state land mass, but we are rural and not wealthy enough to assist Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls with their problems – especially when they are fully funded and we are not even close.

    Comment by BarbaraC — April 15, 2007 @ 7:31 pm | Reply


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