Chariho School Parents’ Forum

June 13, 2007

Yes vote on referendum

Filed under: 5th & 6th grade,Chariho — Editor @ 7:04 am

Even though the Westerly Sun editor come out against it and Doreen Dolan (who has yet to publicly acknowledge that she is a member of the building committee) wrote a letter in the Sun against it (and we can assume the NEA sent out notices against it) – the people of Hopkinton voted to move forward with bringing the 5th and 6th graders home (186 – 135).

I did not submit anything in the paper.  As a matter of fact, I only posted a reminder on this website the day before.  Apparently, no matter what a few vocal people and well-organized (and well-funded) groups do, the parents of Hopkinton want their kids back.  Congrats!

June 12, 2007

Group home funding

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,RYSE,State-wide — Editor @ 11:27 pm

There is a very interesting post on “level funding” over at one of my favorite blogs, Anchorrising 

Please read the entire post, but here is one statement relevant to the rest of my comments.

Every community that received group home aid in 2007 is having their state education aid reduced by exactly their FY07 group home allocation meaning that, unless all Rhode Island group homes are being shut down (or unless a separate appropriation exists elsewhere in the budget that provides for group-home-related education costs), the legislature’s budget contains true cuts in education funding that go beyond just canceling the hoped-for increases.  

Currently, the State gives the local school an amount of money equivalent to the per-pupil education costs, multiplied by the number of students in the area’s group home(s) (using a formula to compensate for the high number of special education services needed). 

It appears that the funding is being transferred from the State budget to the local budget.  In a way, this makes sense.  A community should take care of it’s own.  But what if kids from Providence are moved to a group home in Richmond?  Now it is Chariho residents who pay the bill. 

This funding shift could go even farther.   If this budget goes through as described in the Anchorrising post, some services for group home kids will still be funded by the State (services such as psychiatric and diabetes treatments).  But what if there was a way to transfer those costs to the school too?  Enter RYSE. 

Image the opportunities a school like RYSE offers.   RYSE can provide education, individual and family services, diabetes treatments, and on and on – no longer on the State’s budget.  Funding responsibility is transferred to the local community. 

If you think this is far fetched, let’s look at a bit of history. 

Some kids make bad choices.  These kids get expelled from school, and with a lack of parenting, end up running the streets.  Because they continue to make bad choices, DCYF is called in to provide an “alternative learning environment.”  This is very expensive so DCYF pushes legislation that restricts the school from expelling the kids. 

This is exactly what happened and now, RI public schools may not expel a child for more than 10 days per year.  These kids are still removed from the school but they are not sent home.  They are sent to other facilities (Forwardview Academy, RYSE, etc..) that provide these alternative-learning services.   

If DCYF was able to shift the burden to the public schools, why can’t HHS, MHRH or whoever operates the group homes? 

This is indeed a slippery slope for not only wards of the state but for all public school kids.  Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that if a child needed any service other than education and basic nursing, the parent found it in the community.   Today, everything from clinical therapy to speech pathology is provided at the school.  

Theoretically, if a parent has the means (money or insurance), they can get services in the community.  But eventually, a parent may even loose the power to make those fundamental purchasing decisions.  Did we see a preview of this with Elaine Morgan?

June 11, 2007

Vote to return 5th & 6th graders

Filed under: 5th & 6th grade,grade spans,Hopkinton — Editor @ 7:02 pm

Tuesday, Hopkinton residents may vote at the Town Hall from 7am to 9pm.   There are 3 issues:

1.  The town budget. 

2. Giving the town the authority to give tax deduction to companies wanting to enter the area, for up to 10 years.

3. Empower the town to investigate bringing the 5th and 6th graders back to the town.  There is no doubt I support this referendum.  The research (linked below) I have seen has convinced me that this change is the better learning environment for our children.  Quite honestly, if the grades are not changed by the time my oldest gets to 5th grade, my family will be looking for a private school.   

Apparently, other parents have similar feelings.  A thorough survey done by Chariho in 2004 showed 71% of residents (average for all towns) want them returned. 

Find more info here, here and here

Please vote on Tuesday – Hopkinton Town Hall, 7am to 9pm.

Chariho Times articles

Filed under: RYSE — Editor @ 7:01 pm

Last week (or week before – I’ve been busy), the Chariho Times ran two articles on RYSE.  One of them focused on the legality of RYSE and quoted this website (4 times I think).  Unfortunately, while they attributed the quotes to me, I did not make them.  A visitor to this site posted them.  Hopefully this week’s paper printed a correction.  Regardless, I was pleased that the paper discussed the issue (including the school board’s move to silence a citizen when she spoke out against RYSE).That being said, something originally brought up by George Abbott continues to concern me.  Of course, Bill Day will accuse me of fear mongering and practicing NIMBYism, but I think it is a true concern.George Abbott worked as a social worker and frequently dealt with DCYF.  When he says something about them, I tend to put a lot of confidence in it.  Mr. Abbott said that Warwick and Cranston strongly object to DCYF placing more group homes in their towns.  Furthermore, DCYF has expressed a wish to move troubled youth from the core cities into “safer” areas in South County.  Doesn’t it make sense that if Chariho is the only school with a mental health facility using a treatment model certified for “serious juvenile offenders,” that DCYF might want to utilize those services?UPDATE – The Chariho Times did not print a correction.

Westerly Sun editor misses the point

Filed under: Uncategorized — Editor @ 6:46 pm

Wednesday, May 30th, the Westerly Sun ran an unsigned editorial (presumably from the editor) where it was said that RYSE is necessary and said that people should remember that prior to RYSE we were sending the kids out to a number of other locations and were unable to keep tabs on them.  Personally, this sounds like a competency issue but most importantly, the editor misses the problem associated with this bid issue.  The other service provider who bid on the services was also in the district (not to mention the fact that they were nearly half the cost).Here is the editorial.

RYSE program’s shown it’s an important part of today’s Chariho district

Chariho Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci is right to seek a legal opinion from the school district’s attorney – and may well want to reach out to the state Department of Education – regarding ques­tions now being raised about the RYSE program.

If there are indeed any questions that a proposed new school building to house the “ Reaching Youth though Support and Education” would somehow not be a part of the school district as outlined by the Chariho Act, it’s essential to have any such questions answered well in advance of a vote this fall on a planned $26-million central campus building project.

But let’s hope that none of those “opinions” or other legal issues are allowed to cloud the RYSE program itself. For the fact is, the Chariho RYSE program – recognized by the Department of Education as a “high-performing school” – plays a vital role in edu­cating students who have special needs, or who have not succeeded in a traditional school environment. That is, as Ricci noted, an important part of the district’s responsibility to “educate all kids” within the towns of Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton.

Some of the questions now being raised about the RYSE program focus on its providing clinical services. And that is indeed a key part of the effort. But School Committee members or residents who ques­tion the validity of the current program should remember how the district handled students with such counseling needs and services prior to the RYSE program’s launch four years ago. Then, the dis­trict was sending students out to a wide variety of privately-run spe­cial- needs schools and other facilities – and had a hard time keep­ing tabs on all of their progress, let alone on counseling and trans­portation costs.

The question over whether the RYSE program should have its own building will clearly be a part of the school building plan debate. But the district’s ability to launch and carry out an alterna­tive program such as this shouldn’t even be up for discussion – and cannot be left to the whim of local politics, or tri-town voters.

 The RYSE program is and should be considered an important, per­manent part of the Chariho School District. We can only hope attor­neys, school and town officials agree.

Education Options Committee member speaks out

Filed under: Uncategorized — Editor @ 6:45 pm

Also printed in the Sun on the same day as the editorial was a LTE from Dorothy Gardner.  She brings an interesting question in point #2.  Why would we sign a $420k contract versus a $276k contract?  Do you really believe it was because the $276k contract didn’t provide “research” to support the treatment program?  We have already outlined the fact that PC Inc uses MST, which is designed for “serious juvenile offenders” and as such has changed the treatment model for school kids (thus the research supporting MST does not apply to our population). 

Here is the LTE.

Each of the Chariho School District towns should seek legal review of the RYSE program

RYSE is not shining!

After viewing the tape of the last School Committee meeting, I have the following questions and comments regarding the “contract” with Psychological Centers, and consider this to be an open letter to the entire Chariho School Committee.

• Why was the original “Request for Proposals” (RFP) written such that it could not be addressed by a local provider when the program originally started? Not one provider was able to meet all of the requirements.

• Did the writer of this original RFP have previous affiliation with Psychological Centers? Did the writer of the original RFP have experience with a program of this type? What standard criteria were used to develop this origi­nal RFP?

• Why was this provider (Psychological Centers) chosen when it was noted in the original RFP that the provider must provide scientific proof that their program is effective. This could not have been done for this pro­gram originally designed and presented by Psychological Centers, as their pro­gram was specifically tailored for juve­nile offenders, and was not designed for the emotionally troubled or disruptive students who needed placement in an alternative environment.

As a taxpayer, I am concerned that this may be a case not only of an illegal contract, but one which was written and flaunts public requirements for ethical, honest, and transparent bidding for the original contract, since none of the orig­inal applicants were able to meet the requirements of the RFP.

The one chosen (Psychological Centers) was almost twice the cost of the other program, and the program had never been used in this setting.

If the School Committee had adhered to the legal constraints of the Chariho Act, the public could have voted on appropriate guidelines for choosing a vendor, if RYSE were approved. The program director could have been ques­tioned to determine her qualifications to develop such a program, and questions and recommendations to determine and develop a standard program which would encompass private, state and fed­eral funding for programs would have been developed. The entire current pro­prietary “model” used must be evaluat­ed and sent to the voters.

This model appears to be written so as to exclude any other provider from bidding to provide services. The School Committee seems unwilling to evaluate the ramifications of choosing a propri­etary program, and is unwilling or unable to require guidelines for services that are comprehensive, meet the needs of our children, and effectively integrate several models of treatment and super­vision.

The specific intent, goals, objective methods of evaluation for cost and effec­tiveness of this treatment “model” must be developed. These goals and objective methods should be used to evaluate any service provider.

Discussions to determine what type of program the taxpayers wish to support must also be a focus of discussion.

Since the program was never approved, and no real bid was ever used to determine a provider, I believe that this entire program is not only illegal, but the methods used are consistent with a burdensome legal liability for the parties involved in this deceptive, illegal practice of program construction, use of leased buildings in an attempt to cir­cumvent the legal requirements of the Chariho Act.

This process has been used to use tax­payer money to develop a proprietary “no-bid” program for profit company without measurable goals, objectives, and satisfaction ratings.

My next group of comments and ques­tions has to do with the ability of Chariho to hire a “for-profit” vendor (Psychological Centers) which is wholly paid for by the taxpayer, while refusing to allow parents to use their own health insurance and state-funded programs.

The cost to each taxpayer is not only excessive, but requires that a publicly funded school hire a for-profit company exclusively, without a bid!

This company, which uses the mantra “We are the only licensed provider of this model of services in RI,” fails to identify the fact that this for-profit provider is also the agent which pro­vides the license to their employees.

Once again, I ask for investigations into the legality of the RYSE program, the ethical considerations given to developing the program “model,” and the ethical, legal, and appropriate use of this “model” using a treatment plan that was not designed for the stated purpose. Indeed, the program had to be modified after the provider was origi­nally hired to provide the appropriate treatment “model” developed by them.

Finally, I would ask why a publicly funded school program, RYSE, has the right to disallow a parent’s right to use their choice of medical care for their children by using privately funded providers for the psychological and emo­tional treatment for their children. This would seem to be not only a conflict of interest for the school, but a violation of the rights of parents to seek privately funded care for their children, while denying taxpayers the right to expect financial control of public programs.

If we have a director, shouldn’t that director develop, with voter approval, and oversee the structure of the pro­gram rather than buying (at an inflated cost) a wrap around program?

 In that way, various treatment modalities using a mixture of privately paid care, state funded care, federal support if available, and chosen providers could work together to pro­vide the necessary support and treat­ment at less expense in an ethical bid program.

Also, why is the RYSE program being extended, again without taxpayer input? I believe this is another illegal act, fraught with errors, expenses, and unethical hiring without a bid of a for profit provider.

Within the current contract, addition­al services to other students will be pro­vided without a bid or full description of the services and methods of evaluation of those services. I have not seen any plan, no evaluation tools for any of the programs, and certainly no RFP for these or any of the other services pro­vided.

I would hope that each Chariho town would seek legal review of the RYSE program, methods of awarding con­tracts, and the legality of all of the pro­grams and contracts awarded for this program.

 Dorothy Gardiner Hope Valley

Chariho solicitor supports legality of RYSE

Filed under: RYSE paperwork — Editor @ 6:43 pm

In response to a request I made a few weeks ago, the Chariho solicitor, John Earle, gave his opinion on the creation of RYSE and the Chariho Act (read this letter for details).  In short- it is Mr. Earle’s opinion that since the school is required to provide education, creating the RYSE program is not outside the “scope of the function” of the school. 

There was no mention of the fact that RYSE now supplies “24 hour a day/ 7 days a week” “mental health services.”  Not only do we treat students, we also provide treatment for the family as this is part of our new treatment model (Kathy Perry also noted that these additional services for family members has resulted in more Medicaid reimbursement than we received when we sent the kids out to places like South Shore).  As a matter of fact, according to PC Inc, we now supply diabetes treatments.  But according to this legal opinion, all this is under the authority of Chariho to supply “educational needs.”

 Here is the letter.

June 7, 2007

The inaccuracy of NCES numbers

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,Student Performance — Editor @ 11:15 pm

For those of you who have been reading this site since it’s inception, you will know that when I started on the board, the logical first step for me was to evaluate how we stacked up against our peers.  Simple comparisons – how our academic achievement compares to our peers and how our costs compare to our peers.

Student performance is determined by the NECAP scores and has been reported on before.  While we continue to tout our “high performing” schools, the test scores cannot be ignored.  We are the lowest performing school (compared to our peers) in a low performing state, in a country that no longer leads the world.

I also tried to evaluate labor costs by comparing Chariho to the most efficient in the state and country.  Unfortunately, the Chariho administration has told me that the employee numbers reported by the RI Department of Education are “inaccurate.” 

From the June 6 Providence Journal –

“Give Schools the tools to trim waste”

THE U.S. CHAMBER of Commerce “Leaders and Laggards” report is, to quote The Journal, “the umpteenth warning that Rhode Island is failing its students and undermining its economic prospects” (“More F’s for Rhode Island,” editorial, March 7). Clearly, we have serious problems, but the question is what do we do about it.

Simply put, schools produce a product (graduates), and it’s the charge of the local school board to produce the best product possible at the lowest possible price.

Without the pressures of competition to ensure efficiency and effectiveness, public schools must employ an active strategy of comparative analysis. The No Child Left Behind Act was designed to provide guidance regarding the quality of the product, but what about the costs?

Comparing schools by their labor costs, compartmentalized by employee function, and compensating for student performance, demographics and economic factors, can help the public and school decision-makers identify inefficiencies. That is, assuming you can get accurate data.

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) uses the Teacher Certification System to tabulate the types and numbers of employees at every Rhode Island public school. This information is sent to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), located within the U.S. Department of Education, and compiled for every public school in the country.

School employees are divided into eight categories: teachers, instructional aides, coordinators, guidance counselors, library/media specialists and supports, district administrators and supports, school administrators and supports, and student support services and other supports.

Can you imagine how beneficial this information could be? You could compare your district with the best in the country, and set your goals accordingly. But in a recent school-board meeting I learned that this simple yet powerful comparison is impossible.

During my time as a school-board member, every analysis I have tried to complete has been labeled an “apples-to-oranges” comparison.

For example, the NCES reports that the Chariho District has 74 guidance counselors but the administration contends that the number is only 10. But if you move the remaining 64 employees to the support category, the analysis is still useless because some schools include secretaries in their support category (which we categorize as administrators).

The Chariho administration has investigated the Teacher Certification System and found social workers and psychologists listed as administrators, found single employees counted three times and even identified employees on the lists who had “retired, transferred or resigned.”

If we included the dead, I would think we were looking at the voter registration rolls.

On March 27, the Chariho School Board was presented with an e-mail from Edward Giroux, the director of the Office of Network and Information Systems at RIDE, that said, “It’s obvious that the information is incorrect.” According to Chariho Regional School District Superintendent Barry Ricci, RIDE has also said that it has “no faith that the reports for any of the districts are accurate.”

This op-ed is a plea to RIDE: Please give us some numbers to work with! Clearly define what is included in each category and make sure everyone follows the rules. It’s the only way we can evaluate our schools.

If you calculate Rhode Island’s overall grade in the “Leaders and Laggards” report, we have a grade-point average of 0.9, the absolute lowest in the nation! We can’t go any lower in performance and we can’t spend any more money. It’s time for us to identify our inefficiencies.

As a board member I’m frustrated, as a taxpayer I’m angry, and as a parent I’m scared. I don’t know how much money RIDE spends accumulating this information but I assume it’s in the millions. Either give us what we paid for or give us a refund so we can hire someone who will do the job right.

Bill Felkner is a member of the Chariho School Board.

Academic Achievement – an overview

Filed under: Chariho,National,State-wide,Student Performance — Editor @ 11:03 pm

** This post was made on April 8th but I have updated it with the new info **

In the big picture, student performance in America has dropped precipitously from it’s once lofty perch as the best in the world.  We are now at #18 of the 24 top industrialized nations.

On a national level, Rhode Island ranks somewhere between #32 and #41 in student performance (depending on grade and subject).  And when you factor in poverty, cost of education and infrastructure, RI received a 0.9 GPA on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Leaders and Laggards” report on education, the lowest GPA in the nation.

Now lets take it to a local level.  How does Chariho compare to our neighbors?

Below are the 2006 NECAP test results for several of our demographic and geographic peers (North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Coventry, Exeter/West Greenwich and Westerly).

Here is Chariho’s Grade 8 District Results Report

 chariho-g8.jpg

Notice the percentage of students who score in the top quartile (Level 4 “proficient with distinction”) and bottom quartile (Level 1 “substantially below proficient”).  Now lets compare those numbers to our neighbors.

North Kingstown

nk-8.jpg

South Kingstown

sk-8.jpg

Westerly

w-8.jpg

Exeter/West Greenwich

ewg-8.jpg

Coventry

cov-8.jpg

Notice that for students who score in the highest quartile (“proficient with distinction”), there are 15 comparisons to Chariho (5 schools and 3 disciplines – reading, math and writing).  In 14 of 15 comparisons, Chariho has the lowest percentage of students in the top performing group.  We beat Coventry in one category.

When you look at the lowest quartile (“substantially below proficient”), in all 15 comparison, Chariho has a larger percentage of it’s students who fall into this under-performing category. 

So, overall for our 8th graders, we ranked last in 29 of 30 comparisons and tied for last in 1.

Now lets look at Grade 3 comparisons.  Here are the Chariho results.

chariho-3.jpg

North Kingstown

nk-3.jpg

South Kingstown

sk-3.jpg

Westerly

w-3.jpg

Exeter/West Greenwich

ewg-3.jpg

Coventry

cov-3.jpg

In 20 comparisons (5 schools, 2 subjects, high and low performers) Chariho was the worst performer in 17 of the 20.  We did manage to beat Exeter/West Greenwich in 2 measures and tied them in 1.

This first graph compares Chariho to our peers on the percentage of 8th graders who scored in the top 25% of the proficiency rating (“proficient with distinction”).

This graph compares Chariho to our peers on the percentage of 8th grade students who score in the bottom 25% of the proficiency rating (“substaintially below proficient”).

So lets review, America is ranked 18th in the industrialized world (depending on subject and study).  Rhode Island ranks between 32 and 41 in the nation.  And Chariho ranks last in our demographic and geographic peers.  So where does that put our students in a globally competitive market?

RYSE the rest of the documents

Filed under: Uncategorized — Editor @ 11:02 pm

In the 5 posts below, I have uploaded the other documents provided by Chariho in support of voting for the no-bid contract. 

I will post a recap on the original post when I return.

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