Chariho School Parents’ Forum

May 28, 2007

Westerly Sun reports on May 22 meeting

Filed under: RYSE paperwork — Editor @ 7:49 pm

Legality of RYSE program questioned By Brian Quinlan

The Sun Staff

WOOD RIVER JUNC­TION – Chariho Superintendent Barry Ricci has asked the school’s attor­ney for a legal opinion regarding whether the Reaching Youth through Support and Education Program (RYSE) exists in violation of the Chariho Act. School Committee mem­ber William Felkner said he asked Ricci to get a legal opinion on the matter and wants to know whether the RYSE Program – which offers both educational and clinical services to students with mental health needs – is “ an extension of the school” and should have required voter approval.

He pointed to Section 9 (6) of the Chariho Act, which says the district can not “build a building, purchase land or extend the scope of the functions of the school without voter approval.”

 Along with the district’s $26 million building plan, administrators have pro­posed building a 12,000­square- foot building to house the RYSE School. Felkner has also questioned whether the proposed build­ing would also be in viola­tion of the Chariho Act.

Ricci said he hopes to hear back from the school’s attorney within the next week, but defended the merits of the program dur­ing an interview. Administrators, he said, have a responsibility to stay flexible to meet the changing needs of the student body.

“ Our responsibility under federal law is to educate all kids,” Ricci said. “ Whether we send them out of district and pay their tuition or educate students in dis­trict, we still have to edu­cate students. If we offer the services here and can do a superior job, of course we would keep them ( in dis­trict).”

According to data regard­ing the RYSE program pro­vided by Ricci, some 69 stu­dents have been enrolled in the RYSE Program over the last four years, with 21 eventually being moved out of district to get education­al and mental health serv­ices. Further, the data states that the RYSE School has been deemed a high performing school and a Regents Commended School by the Rhode Island Department of Education, and that only five of the 69 students who were enrolled dropped out prior to gradu­ation.

Also, Ricci said that “ a majority” of the parents he speaks with are “ very pleased” with the program.

 “ We have no more com­plaints from this school than we have for any other,” he said.

Felkner said Ricci’s state­ment that the school must stay flexible “may be right.” He added that he is “ not an expert” on the matter.   “ That’s why I’m asking for this opinion,” he said.

Felkner also questioned why a parent of a RYSE student wasn’t allowed to speak at Tuesday night’s Chariho School Committee meeting. During the meet­ing, school committee mem­bers approved a contract for the clinical services provid­ed at the RYSE Program by M i d d l e t o w n – b a s e d Psychological Centers. Ricci said the company has provided clinical services at RYSE for the four years it has been operating and that he is “ very pleased” with the services.

The woman, Felkner said, had a child who was receiving day services at Bradley Hospital and was also receiving mental health services from South Shore Mental Health Center. He said the parent told him her child was “ forced” to move to the RYSE Program to receive clinical and day services. A short time later, the woman’s child had a “ breakdown,” Felkner said.

“ My main concern is just that she wasn’t allowed to speak,” he said.

Ricci, however, said the woman was stopped from speaking because what she was saying didn’t pertain to the agenda item.

“ The conversation was about an agenda item that was related to a renewal of a contract,” Ricci said. “ The conversation with the par­ent was not about that and the chair stopped her from speaking.”

 bquinlan@thewesterly­sun.com

 In other posts, I had reported that the parent was not allowed to speak because Kathy Perry disagreed with her.  What Supt. Ricci says is true (that the parent was stopped because her testimony was not relevant to the agenda item), but when Day said that her testimony would not be allowed, I pointed out that we are voting to sign a contract that will purchase services for the RYSE program, and this parent was going to speak about the quality of those services.  So it seems to me that her testimony is relevant.

So then Day said that Perry did not agree with the parents, so their was a “discrepancy” and she would not be allowed to contiue.  Then I pointed out that if speaking against the services was not allowed, then speaking fondly of the services should not be allowed either (since the same discrepancy exists). 

Many of you have seen the tape, please tell me what you saw.  It is entirely possible that I am remembering it wrong.

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7 Comments »

  1. I’d like to know what happened with the 21 who were moved out of the district for educational and mental health services. 21 of 69, is this number correct? 30% left? During the four years a total of 69 children have been enrolled and of these 69, 21 left. Just restating this because these numbers boggle my mind. Was the district unable to give them the needed services or was it something else? Let’s survey the 21. Did they like the MST approach?

    Comment by Lois Buck — May 29, 2007 @ 7:01 am | Reply

  2. And to reiterate, according to MST’s own website, the average duration for Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is 4 months. Sounds to me like MST should be a small component of the Special Education program…not the whole thing and certainly not 4 years or more of MST.

    Comment by Curious Resident — May 29, 2007 @ 8:22 am | Reply

  3. Good morning Lois and CR,

    I am sure that on occasion, there are students in our three town community that need very elaborate services. For instance, severe depression or autism would need more thorough services than we could ever hope to provide at Chariho. These students would be sent to Bradley or Groden Center or another hospital/school program quite understandably.

    That does not negate CR’s comment or address the possible/probable discomfort parents may have with the RYSE program or the MST approach and their children. If the parents do not speak up for their children and complain or demand answers from the administration, nothing will be done.

    Comment by BarbaraC — May 29, 2007 @ 9:08 am | Reply

  4. I remain very curious as to why MST’s website claims the average duration of MST treatment is 4 months while we seem to be paying for it over a child’s entire time in our school system?

    Comment by Curious Resident — May 29, 2007 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

  5. Mr. Felkner, as to the “discrepancy” between Ms. Perry and Ms. Morgan, you remember correctly. The people speaking in favor of RYSE and PC Inc. were allowed to speak. The person offering a different perspective was silenced by Mr. Day.

    I don’t agree that any of the speakers deviated from the agenda in speaking about the positive and negative of the program being voted on. This seems so simple, and Mr. Ricci’s defense of shutting off Ms. Morgan is reprehensible. Is he telling us that the PC Inc.’s ability to perform is not relevant to their contract? If so, why did we have to sit through Mr. Block’s and Ms. Perry’s dog and pony show?

    As usual, The Westerly Sun failed to ask tough and reasonable questions. The Sun seems to be continually in favor of government over individuals and that comes through loud and clear in its reporting. The incident with Ms. Morgan was a travesty and everyone associated with silencing this poor woman should be ashamed of themselves…I’m sure they are not.

    Comment by Curious Resident — May 29, 2007 @ 2:27 pm | Reply

  6. Hi Barbara,

    You may be right about parents speaking out. And I agree that they should, but in defense of them, look what happened to Ms. Morgan. She tried to speak out and was silenced. This will only turn others away from speaking out. Shame on the school committee.

    Comment by Lois Buck — May 29, 2007 @ 9:23 pm | Reply

  7. Hi Lois,

    Any citizen from any town can speak without being silenced at a Public Forum portion of a meeting (unless they were uncivil). The problem trying to speak during an agenda item is that it must pertain to that agenda item and the board or commission can determine if your comments are acceptable.

    I also believe that Mrs. Morgan’s information was on topic, but I’m not making that decision, the School Board did. There are so few citizens in attendance from any town that it really is unfortunate that they can silence the few that are present for any reason. It certainly is not encouraging to the public, nor does it teach procedure. The comments at a Public Forum do not have to become an agenda item as suggested to Mrs. Morgan by the school board. And once they have passed another three year contract (as they have done) – who cares?

    Parents who speak out may indeed fear retaliation for their children in the school system (this may not be true, but where there’s smoke there is often fire), but grandparents, middle-aged persons whose children are no longer in the school system are available to watch and listen and speak out to protect others. If you want Public oversight – the Public must be present. They’re not.

    Comment by BarbaraC — May 31, 2007 @ 7:30 am | Reply


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