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!



  1. We really didn’t need to have Ms. Dolan admit she is one of the Building Committee members. All one had to do is to read her words. She claimed that if asked if she wants 5th graders back at the elementary school, she would say “yes”, but because the issue is complex, she instead urged voters to vote no. Her letter was so devoid of logic, it was easy to spot her hypocrisy and tell she has an allegiance to people other than the children and taxpayers.

    Ms. Dolan also wrote this – “…the decision was made to have the Hopkinton fifth-graders remain at their local elementary schools, while Charlestown and Richmond fifth-graders went on to the Chariho Middle School…The educational disparity created by this situation was resolved this year after the school committee voted to return Hopkinton fifth-graders to the middle school.”

    It would have been nice if Ms. Dolan had told us what “disparity” she is referring to? I have to assume that she meant one group of 5th graders was receiving a better education than the other? So which group had the advantage Ms. Dolan? If it was the Hopkinton students, why were they advantaged by remaining at an elementary school? Ms. Dolan’s attitude appears to be “if Charlestown and Richmond students must suffer, then so too should Hopkinton students”. Now everything is all even…all 5th and 6th graders can suffer the consequences of being education in an inappropriate environment. Disparity all gone.

    Ms. Dolan’s letter was an embarassment. She is happy to keep her head in the sand and thought it would be useful to share this fact with the electorate. Although I had no plans to support the upcoming bond issue, if I had, Ms. Dolan’s role on the committee probably would have changed my vote. I wouldn’t trust any plan she had a part in developing. Maybe she can now issue a retraction of her letter and seek to regain some measure of credibility?

    Less anyone dismiss the danger of the crowd who favor government over parents, the first vote on this issue received 71% support for separating pre-teen children from teenagers. This time support was only at 58%. Ms. Dolan’s argument may have made no sense, but we have voters who seem to be easily fooled. Stay vigilant.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 13, 2007 @ 10:55 am | Reply

  2. A couple of quick points –

    I assume that the disparity mentioned is the fact that kids at the main campus have access to tennis courts, track, etc…

    As for the drop in % support. This does not surprise me. Only about 20% of the population has a child enrolled in school. We only had 300ish people vote, who primarily came out for the budget, so their mind set is fiscal, not education.

    Add to this, as you noted, that all the press was against it. So a drop from 68% (Hopkinton’s individual support in 2004, 71% was the 3 town average) to 58% is actually a big win.

    Lastly, there are about 100 Chariho employees who live in Hopkinton. You know the word at the water cooler was to vote no. How many of the no votes do you think came from Chariho employees?

    Comment by Bill Felkner — June 13, 2007 @ 11:33 am | Reply

  3. If Ms. Dolan agrees that my pre-teen children don’t have to forced into a teenage enviroment, I’ll agree to take them to the tennis courts on a regular basis. Is there any data on how Hopkinton students performed on testing versus Charlestown and Richmond while each group was locate separately?

    Over on Hopkinton RI Speaks I had actually theorized that with so few citizens voting, I wouldn’t be surprised if an election such as this was heavily influenced by government employee votes. If Chariho has 100 employees who can vote in Hopkinton, I’m betting their turnout is pretty close to 100%.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 13, 2007 @ 12:14 pm | Reply

  4. The 2000 Census lists Hopkinton as having 1,531 students in K – 12.

    The 1990 Census lists Hopkinton as having 1,397 students in K – 12.

    The 2000 enrollment is about 8.8% greater than 1990 enrollment.

    The 1990 census estimated that 7% of students attend private schools.

    So between 1990 to 2000 we have 134 more kids in our schools. K – 6 would account for slightly more then half. So let’s say 75 kids. Seems to me that this would require 4 additional classrooms or two per school. Hardly worthy of the millions we’re told we need to spend to accomodate students.

    If Charlestown and Richmond have similar numbers, then we’re talking about a total of 225 kids in K – 6 and maybe another 180 in 7 – 12.

    As with most things at Chariho, the numbers do not seem to add up. We’re being asked to spend over $20,000,000 for around 400 kids? Obviously the numbers reflect the 10 year period between 1990 and 2000, but our local population doesn’t seem to exploding, so I doubt the number are way off. Am I missing something?

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 14, 2007 @ 12:18 am | Reply

  5. Regardless of what the census says, enrollments have been dropping. Especially, starting in the 5th grade. Students end up going to private or home schooled. So enrollment is flat or dropping.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — June 14, 2007 @ 7:58 am | Reply

  6. Obviously the last Census data is from 2000, so even if the numbers are reliable, it’s been 7 years. I’m especially interested in comparing enrollment over the last few decades. The middle school was added since my days at Chariho, and with the middle school factored in, enrollment would have had to exploed in the 90’s to justified additional expansion. I least that how it seems to me.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 14, 2007 @ 9:21 am | Reply

  7. Just a thought. When more kids are being home-schooled and sent to private schools, does this tell us that they are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs? And if so, when the voters decide the course of action, will many of them return?

    Do they ever survey any of these parents to find out why they left?

    Honestly, this would need to be considered when drawing up plans to bring these kids back. Let’s not be caught with no room for expansion.

    Comment by Lois Buck — June 14, 2007 @ 10:50 am | Reply

  8. Bill,

    Does Richmond and Charlestown have a similar lease agreement for their buildings as Hopkinton does with the school district or does the district own them?

    Comment by Lois Buck — June 14, 2007 @ 10:53 am | Reply

  9. 1) Not sure about Richmond or Charlestown. I would assume their arrangement is the same as ours but I really don’t know.

    2) RI, overall, has about the 5th highest percentage of private school kids. I don’t know how it ranks on home schooling, but I do know that the Baptists Church, on a national platform, advocates home schooling. The church in Bradford is a vibrant church and could have some influence.

    Improving the image of the school (through positive reforms) will increase enrollment. But they can only go so high as there are only so many kids.

    If we have (for round numbers) 50 kids per grade (per town), I couldn’t expect that it would go up more than 10-20 percent tops, which is 10 kids. And that would have to be over a matter of years. The key is to stay consistent (same # of 1st graders go on to be the same # of 12th graders). Once you have your Kindergarten #, the rest is easy to plan for.

    If you are running at 100% capacity (say, 25 kids per classroom) and you have 26 kids, you don’t have to build more right away. THe contracts do allow you to go over the max, but they want about $10 per child per day to make up for it.

    In other areas, when a school reaches capacity, there have been some creative solutions lately.

    Lets say you are busting at the seams and need to build extra space for 100 students. Rather than building a new school or expansion, they offer vouchers. So students can go to any other school and the current school will pay the bill (assuming its a private at the same cost as the current school, you only spend 1.3 million versus 5-10 for a new bldg). This has been very effective as there are always a few parents who want to send to a private school but can’t afford it. PLUS- the private school’s often cost less so the current school gets to keep some money.

    But there are a lot of solutions to these problems if we look for them.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — June 14, 2007 @ 10:30 pm | Reply

  10. Hello all!

    My name is Jim LaBrosse and I voted for bringing back 5th and 6th graders to elementary schools. After my vote I thought I should do more than simply vote so I spoke with Bill Felkner about the group that would form to look at the alternatives for our children. He told me about this website and also told me to call the Town Council as they are in charge of putting together the group. Today I left a message for Vinnie Cordone and I stopped at Uncle Buck’s Sugar Shack and had the pleasure of a conversation with Lois Buck. I did not get the chance to speak to Tom, but asked Lois to pass along my willingness to work on this issue.

    I’m not familiar with the political process for being in this group, so please forgive me if I make some missteps. I have a daughter who is completing kindergarten and my wife and I are very concerned about the impact of teenagers on children who are not teenagers. I graduated from Chariho in 1978 and still vividly remember teenage behaviors which I saw on the bus when I was in 7th grade. God forbid my young daughter, or anybody’s young son or daugher, see what I saw back then.

    Anyway, I wanted to introduce myself. I hear that the town wants different people to volunteer, so here I am. Who knows how this will turn out, but if it works out for the town and for me, I would like to hear any ideas that people have? I’ve already seen a bunch of interesting ideas here, and the more, the better. My view is that we should think about possibilities and down the road the voters should decide if the possible should be reality.

    Please feel free to comment here or to email me at

    Comment by Jim LaBrosse — June 18, 2007 @ 3:13 pm | Reply

  11. A new face is good!

    Plenty of ideas have been generated here. Mrs. Buck and Mr. Felkner have noted that the 1904 building has the capacity to absorb many students. In fact, this building alone may be enough to bring back all of Hopkinton’s 5th and 6th graders. I mentioned the possibility of building one elementary school strategically located to draw from all three towns. Since an elementary school could be built for $10 to $12 million, this would be a heck of lot cheaper than the bond proposal. Mrs. Buck pointed out that a district elementary school would solidify Chariho’s control of our young children, so it may not be the way to go. In retrospect, I tend to agree with her, so I’d put my idea further down the list.

    Personally, I am very concerned about cost. Beyond the obvious problem of having 5th and 6th graders forced into an inappropriate environment, I would hate to see the status quo remain because voters are only offered options with a large price tag. I believe Hopkinton voters will reject any proposal which is not narrowly focused on alternatives to having young student mixed with teenage students. In other words, limit ideas to what the voters support and don’t go off on tangents like expanding the educational scope of the elementary schools. We don’t need another RYSE fiasco in Hopkinton!

    While there may have to be initial extra cost to reorganization of grades, Chariho administration has proven themselves to be fiscally irresponsible, so bringing 5th and 6th graders back to Hopkinton could, and maybe even should, save us money in the longer term. Hopkinton residents seem less likely to throw away money on education than Charlestown and Richmond voters, so anything we can do to limit Chariho’s spending habits must be a positive thing.

    I appreciate open government where information is readily available. Unfortunately, most of our local officials can’t or won’t keep us informed. Mr. Felkner has done an excellent job here, and hopefully the effort to bring 5th and 6th graders back will be conducted in lots of sunlight. The more of us thinking about this important issue, the more likely we will have success.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 20, 2007 @ 9:32 am | Reply

  12. Here’s the latest.

    I have communicated with Barbara Capalbo, Vinnie Cordone, Bob Petit and Bill Felkner. All are supportive of the effort. Barbara and Tom Buck will likely be directly involved with generating options. They are considering an ad hoc approach as it will allow for greater flexibility.

    No commitments have been made regarding non-elected representatives in the group. They all listened to me and were receptive to my perspectives. The make-up of the group will be discussed at the next town council meeting and I should hear more after the meeting.

    Comment by Jim LaBrosse — June 21, 2007 @ 9:38 pm | Reply

  13. Chariho has once again shown their colors as they negotiated a compromise for Hopkinton to take back responsibility for the Ashaway School 1904 building. I guess Hopkinton had no choice as suing Chariho would be the same as suing yourself, but it would have been nice to see Chariho make a good faith decision to live up to their original agreement and give us the building back in good shape. A Chariho Times article on the agreement can be read here:

    Perhaps Chariho did us a favor? Maybe with Hopkinton controlling the 1904 building we will have better options for bringing back our 5th and 6th graders? Wouldn’t it be great if Chariho’s bad behavior opened the door for us to shrink their empire?

    Chariho’s administration have been bad actors in their relationship with the towns, parents, and children they are supposed to serve. The administration constantly demonstrates that self-interest comes before community interests. I hope this issue comes back to bite them in the butt. One can always dream!

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 22, 2007 @ 1:40 pm | Reply

  14. Curious, you are probably right. It may be a blessing. I’m glad you understand my point about committing to a tritown elementary school. That’s not to say that that should not be an option, probably the last option, for the Chariho District or for Hopkinton. In the end, the voters will have their say.

    What matters to me is we get these kids back in the elementary school, and we do it in the most inexpensive way. Since Chariho seems unwilling to listen, I guess we’re going to have to do things ourselves.

    I do have a concern, I think the 5th/6th grade vote is going to seal the fate of the upcoming 26 million bond vote, especially from Hopkinton’s perspective. A guess tells me that this is why they were adamently against Hopkinton’s non-binding vote.

    As a district, are’nt we suppose to work together as a whole to benefit the district as a whole?

    Now consider the disrepair of the satellite elementary schools, the closing of the 1904 building, and the apparent need of the individual towns to step in to repair their own facilities, what will the town or towns choose? What would you choose? For Hopkinton, our wallets are already stretched. Doesn’t it make sense that if we end up choosing to spend money outside of the district, that we would choose to fix our own buildings over the 26 mil. vote to improve and maintain the Chariho campus?

    Sadly, Chariho may have sealed their fate long before the 1904 building agreement was formed. Their fate may have been sealed when they refused to maintain our buildings. Therefore, if this building referendum fails, they will have themselves to blame.

    Another thought, does it seem right or fair that we should repair and make additions to our structures and still contribute our share to the other non-Hopkinton elementary schools for maintenance and capital improvements? We seem to have little choice. Or do we?
    What do you think?

    So, is it a blessing?….. I hope so.

    Comment by Lois Buck — June 22, 2007 @ 11:35 pm | Reply

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