Chariho School Parents’ Forum

September 12, 2007

Sept 11 committee meeting

Filed under: 5th & 6th grade,bond,Budget,Chariho — Editor @ 8:07 am

Please watch the Chariho School Committee meeting on Cox ch. 18 Wednesday @ 8pm and Friday @ 12 noon.  

I’ll admit I am passionate about what I believe in – I believe the 5th & 6th graders (and even 7th & 8th) should be at the town level, not at the main campus.  I believe bonds are simply an excuse to postpone dealing with contract issues that make it impossible to adequately operate a school.  I also believe there are inefficiencies at Chariho.  I will admit I am aggressive in pursuing what I believe – perhaps I push the envelope, and perhaps at times I am (as accused) “inappropriate” and “rude.”   I’ll accept criticism on those points but I will not lessen my resolve on these issues.   In last nights meeting, besides being told I was rude and inappropriate, I was told I ask too many questions and for now on, my requests for information from Ricci must get board approval.  I was also told that I should become a better “team player.” 

And don’t forget that in a previous meeting, I was told I could not bring up information from my own research (such as RIDE info) unless I sent it to the board first.  As an example, SAT scores were discussed last night.  RI’s SAT scores rank 48th in the nation.  But I wouldn’t be allowed to discuss that because I didn’t send the data to the board ahead of time. 

Not everyone on the board agreed with these new rules, but the majority did.  As you will see by the meeting, it appears that the majority of the board is more interested in what I am doing than in what Chariho is providing to the children.  Some of the conversation had absolutely nothing to do with the kids.

As an example, Terry Serra said, ‘its a shame your wife doesn’t have the confidence in you to fix the school.’  This is in reference to the fact that we will not allow our children to attend the Switch Rd campus in its current condition and atmosphere.  I should not have dignified her insult with a response but it shows the depth they will sink to silence those who don’t agree with them.  And I’m the “rude” one.

Points of interest in the meeting, in chronological order:

Representatives from Richmond, for the umptenth time, told us about the water problem at Richmond.  We finally decided to do something about it.

Kathy Perry, Special Education Director, gave a presentation about the special education services provided at Chariho.  As a total population, Chariho has a low percentage of students receiving special education services.  The RI average is 20.1%, the highest in the nation.  We were told Chariho is at 14%.  Low by RI standards and slightly above the national average (13.3 in 05).  

The Spec Ed student population has dropped from 687 students in 2003-04 to 488 in 06-07, a reduction of 29%.  The Staffing trend over that same period went from 70.8 employees in 03-04 to 65.9 in 06-07, a reduction of 7%.  These staffing figures do not include the social workers, psychologists, etc… supplied by Psychological Centers Inc. which came on board in 2003, of which there are more employees at Psy Centers than the 5 we reduced from our staff – so in essence, we may not have not reduced staff at all – find more details on PC Inc here). 

Andy McQuade defended this lack of reduced staff by saying that every time we loose 2 or 3 kids, regulations on class size and teacher-student ratios would restrict us from reducing staff.  But we are not talking about 2 or 3 kids – we are talking about a reduction of 199 kids.

 This apparent inconsistency between a reduced population with a relatively stagnant staff population was then explained (per Kathy Perry) as being due to a special education population that requires more intensive services (please watch the show for more details).  

The entire Chariho 2003-04 budget was $41,796,839, the 06-07 budget was $49,526,631, an increase of 18.5%.  The contract for Psy Centers Inc has also gone up considerably, from approx $420,000 to $700,000 – see above link.  You can find the budget here for more details on special education expenses.

Next is where it got testy –

During the “District Concerns” most of the board members expressed their displeasure with:   
1) the Sept 3rd post on this website,
2) the disclosure of closed session information (Chariho has a habit of “sealing” info from the public – which was addressed in a previous meeting),
3) my “burdensome” requests for information from the Superintendent (see rule about requests above ), and
4) this website. 

Please watch the show for more details.   

Serra’s quote above pretty well wraps up the vitriol.   But the bottom line is this – watch the meeting and decide for yourself – what is the intent.  Is the intent of this attack to improve the school for the kids or is it simply to silence someone that doesn’t agree with them.   Remember, they didn’t ask for information or research about the issues – they asked that I become a “team player.”

Remember these facts – I have been told that I may not bring up information from my own research unless I forward the information to the board beforehand.  I have been told that I may not ask Ricci questions without board approval.  I have been told by several (not all) members of the board to stop writing letters to the papers (mostly Bill Day, Andrew McQuade, and Andy Polouski).  And of course, I’ve been reminded again about their views of this website.

Andy McQuade also brought up an email I sent Ricci that said, “Have Thornton review the Duke study and give a presentation to the board.”  Andy thought I was being rude not addressing Thornton as Dr. Thornton.  Then Ron Pruhs said he didn’t understand how this had anything to do with arrests.  Obviously, Ron hasn’t read the Duke study.  I explained the connection between class size and behavior problems – even common sense would tell you that when you take a kid from a 300-400 student school and, at the age of 10, place them in a 2600 student school – bad things happen.  

After that “discussion,” I brought up three issues during the “District Concerns” section:

The Providence Journal requested data on Chariho employees (salary, stipends, etc…).  I noted that the data showed we have 136 substitute teachers and I wanted to clarify what “fringe” payments were for (FICA & other normal withholdings, no health ins is provided).  The data for the 775 employees, including the 136 subs, is available here.   Up to this point I was under the impression we only had 550 employees (per RIDE and budget data).  Removing the subs still leaves 640.   Also note – this 640 does not include the personnel we purchase from Psych Centers Inc or other outside services. 

But even if we don’t count them – we now have one employee for every 5.6 students.  When I was a kid the ratio was one employee for every 20+ students.  This is employee to students – NOT – teacher to student ratios.  “Employee” includes management, etc…

Next I brought up the Building Committee flyer discussed in the Sept 3rd post.   This flyer is paid for by school funds.  The total budget for operation of the building committee is $10,000, the estimate for the production and delivery of this flyer exceeds $1000.   Superintendent Ricci said that the flyer does NOT attempt to influence voters on how to vote for the November 6th bond.   The flyer says “Its time to…” at eight seperate points.  But, according to Ricci, this isn’t trying to influence the way you vote on the bond (that would be illegal).  The flyer is posted here (front) and here (back).

I also discussed the arrest records.  During the last meeting, Officer Vaughn reported that we had 108 arrests over the last two years (67 & 41).  Superintendent Ricci provided a list of 38 “student” arrests for 06-07 (26 High School, 3 Middle School, 9 RYSE).  I have received information that shows, over the last two years at the Switch Rd campus, 392 police calls.   137 of these calls were motor vehicle related (they are still called “calls” but I will remove them as they are not traditionally thought of when you say ‘call the police’). 

Of the remaining 255 calls, 150 were in 06-07.  Of those 150 calls, there were 48 arrests.   It was not delineated as to how many were “students.”   So we have 41 arrests last year reported by Officer Vaughn, we have 38 “student arrests” reported by Ricci and we have 48 arrests reported by Richmond.  Furthermore, Vaughn reported that there were 67 arrests the previous year, Chief Driscoll puts the number at 31.  Ricci did not provide 05-06 data.  Why do we continue to get inaccurate information?

This information request is actually a process that started on July 20th.  Here is how the email communication went – When I first asked Ricci to notify me about arrests, he said the request must come from “the board.”

I repeated my original request.  He said he would notify me when a “major” incident occurs.  I repeated my original request.

Next he said he would notify me when a “student” had been arrested in a “school-related” offense.   I repeated my original request. 

Now I am told that I will be notified of any arrest the Superintendent is aware of.   I suggested that the Superintendent should be aware of any arrest at his school.

When this was reviewed in last night’s meeting, Andy McQuade said I did not have the right to ask for that information.  Andy Polouski (and I believe others, but will have to watch the tape) agreed with him.  

This conversation segued to the continued difficulty in obtaining accurate data.  Since my start in November we have been told that 
1) RIDE reported teacher certification numbers are inaccurate for not only Chariho but for all districts (per RIDE & Chariho),
2) Due Process reports (customer complaints) reported for Chariho from the RIDE website are inaccurate, these numbers show we have 3 to 6 times as many customer complaints as do our peers (per RIDE – coincidently, the attorney at RIDE that said our Due Process reports are inaccurate (David Kane) has since left RIDE and is now applying to be the Chariho solicitor),
3) the cost per student at RYSE, as reported by RIDE, is inaccurate (per Chariho), and
4) Insight data is inaccurate (per Chariho).

Next, George Abbott commented on the rumor that a political action committee is being formed to sell the bond to the people of Chariho.  He reminded them to file their paperwork at the Secretary of State office so we can see who is funding this effort.

Finally, MGT provided a itemized proposal for the managment study, just as we had asked.  Unfortunately, the item was not placed on our agenda (not sure why – I assume that was a decision made by Ricci or Bill Day) so we were not allowed to vote on it.  Bob Petit asked that it be placed on the next agenda.

Well, there you go.  That’s what your elected representatives are doing to ensure a good education for our kids.

[UPDATE]  I emailed Ricci this morning just before 8.  I asked, “I just want to verify my understanding of one of the “rules” discussed last night.  Am I correct in my understanding that I may not request information from you without board approval.”    At 3:08 he responded, “I have no such understanding.”

Please, watch the meeting and decide for yourself.

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11 Comments »

  1. Please note that the Mr Ricci and his cohorts are our employees. The SCHOOL COMMITTEE is responsible for the running of the schools in our district, having been voted into that position. It is the responsiblity of these ELECTED officals to run the schools, and communicate their needs to Mr Ricci. Here is the URL so that you may review the Code of Conduct for all.

    http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/statutes/title16/index.htm

    Comment by Georgies Mom — September 12, 2007 @ 6:46 pm | Reply

  2. Hi!
    I could be said to have “sour grapes”.I was by passed earlier this year by the Hopkinton Town Council to appointment to the Chariho School Building Committee.Doreen Dolan was appointed over me by the town council as their last choice.Then I failed in being appointed to the Chariho Regional School Committee vacancy of Lois Russell to Ronald Preuhs,Jr.,.Since I do not know Mr.Preuhs,I can not really comment on him.However I am not impressed yet but what I see.Since he is a registered Republican,it will be interesting if he chooses to run as a Republican in 2008 for the school committee.
    Speaking of Republicans the majority of Chariho Regional School Committee members are either Republicans or Unaffilated.Only Terri Serra is a registered Democrat.Andrew McQuaide,is actually a registered Republican which I find interesting.He was at the last Hopkinton Town Council meeting.Andrew comes from a family with members with long Democratic involvement in Charlestown.
    I spent a few hours last night watching the school committee meeting on Channel#18,local cable access.Saw virtually all of it.
    I cannot comment on Mrs. Dolan’s or Mr.Felkner’s claims as far as she is concerned.
    However I can note that I do remember the letter she sent to me complaining about my signing the petition to get rid of then Supt.John Pini as Chariho Supt.of Schools.Of the 1996-98 Hopkinton Town Council,I served on four of the five of us(Two Cool Moose,One Democrat and One Republican,(Me),signed the petition and one of the Democrats declined to sign.
    On the political front this weekend is a South County Republican Breakfast this Saturday at 8:00 AM at Boucher’s Wood River Inn in Wyoming.If intersted call Ken Mott.I believe his number is 401-539-7658 but check it first.Also Sunday evening at 7:00 PM is the monthly meeting of the Hopkinton Republican Town Committee upstairs at Woodmansee’s Oil in Hope Valley.Ken Mott,is Hopkinton GOP Chair.
    To check on a Bill Day advisory opinion from the Ethics Commission go to http://www.ethics.ri.gov/Advisory_Opinions/2003/2003-065.htm ,.I hope that works.
    Regards,
    Scott Bill Hirst
    Member,Hopkinton Town Council,1996-2004
    (401)377-4643

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — September 13, 2007 @ 5:20 pm | Reply

  3. So let’s get this straight, because Mr. Day can’t vote on issues involving referees or the Athletic Director (see Mr. Hirst’s comments and link), but this same man has relatives working at Chariho and votes all the time on issues of personal and renumerative benefit to them? So he can vote on issues that result in thousands of dollars going to his friends and family, but he can’t vote on issues which might put $40 in his wallet? How ludicrous is that?!?

    I’d like to see Mr. Day ask for an advisory opinion on his familial relationships with Chariho employees. In fact, I’m betting that a good number of committee members have relatives directly benefitting from their generosity with our money. The ones who always get left out of the equation are our children.

    Of course, for the advisory board to issue a taxpayer-friendly opinion, most of the politicians in Rhode Island wouldn’t be able to vote.

    Mr. Felkner, I do not know how you do it? You somehow put up with these losers and still seem to keep your sanity. If a majority of committee members had your attention to detail and your concern for our children, then your wife could have “confidence” in a Chariho education.

    Mr. Polouski has been bending over to the teachers for years. He’s gotten so good at it, bending over for the administration is easy. He, and others, are too darn lazy to take the time to do the job they were elected to do. They are angry because you do their homework for them, and they are embarassed by their own ignorance. They’d rather you shut up and join their team. What they don’t tell you is that they are a team of losers who put children at risk in order to appease the administration and the union.

    As for the flyer, Mr. Ricci is a fool if he truly believes it does not advocate a yes vote on the bond. If this is illegal, he should be arrested. Do you think we can get $1000 to publish our own flyer asking voters if it is time to stop wasting money on inefficient administration and poor education?

    Mr. McQuaide’s inability to do simple math shouldn’t surprise anyone…didn’t he recently graduate from Chariho? Early on it was said he was Mr. Ricci’s puppet, and I can almost see the strings.

    The members upset about this public board have every opportunity to post here and express their perspective. Instead of whining about what is discussed here, they should participate. Mr. Felkner puts it all out on the line. The rest hide behind closed doors and choreographed meetings. They should be ashamed, but are too idiotic to get it. Fortunately for them, not enough voters pay attention and they keep getting elected; mess up our children; and steal money from our families.

    Mr. Felkner, my wife thinks you should practice jumping through hoops of fire, because that is what you are probably going to be asked to do next. The majority of the committee is clearly seeking to silence you. I’d like to think there is a law against their nonsense. Other than their friends and family in the school, we’d all be better off (most of all our kids) if they all were forced to resign in disgrace.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 13, 2007 @ 8:51 pm | Reply

  4. […] taxdollars at work Filed under: bond — Bill Felkner @ 10:43 pm In a previous post, I mentioned a flyer that is being handed out in schools, sent home with kids, and will be mailed […]

    Pingback by Your taxdollars at work « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — September 14, 2007 @ 12:00 am | Reply

  5. Hi!
    It must be remembered that a government body does send out informative publications on referenda like the Rhode Island Secretary of State does on state wide ballot issues with taxpayer dollars.If you notice it explains the vote but always appears benign as far as the advocating or rejection of an ballot question.I do not have and I think it is important the Chariho Regional School District inform the voters on a question with taxpayer dollars.However it should be benign neither advocating passage or rejection of a proposal.
    The advocacy of referendum approval or defeat should be paid by PACS,Individuals, or Political or Other Organizations with their NAME AND OTHER REQUIRED INFORMATION PROMINENTLY AND NOTICEABLY DISPLAYED IN ADVERTISING.
    It is my understanding although I would like it verfified Doreen Dolan and the spouse of a RYSE employee is involved in a PAC or group possibly called CURE to advocate the Chariho School Bond approval.That should be confirmed or denied.I will be interested in the opinion of Hopkinton Town Solicitor Patricia Buckley,Esq., if she thinks the RYSE matter violates the Chariho Act.I realize the district maintains it is NOT a violation.
    It will be interesting to see the political manuevering on the Chariho Bond on the upcoming vote and that is published and what we will hear on the grapevine.
    From a political perspective it will be interesting how much of their political capital the three Chariho area Town Councils put on the line in this referendum vote,who will be the players behind organized efforts in the community including the six political town committees of the three towns,three each from Republican and Democratic parties.
    The Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee seem to have a large contigent of education related members whether former or current school district employees on it including last time I knew building committee chair Greg Kenney and his wife retired Chariho teacher “Bev” Kenney,our Hopkinton Town Council Vice President.I believe Linda Perra,a former Town Council President;former Chariho School Committee member,and Ashaway School Principal is still on that committee?I believe former Chariho School Committee Chair Stephanie Brown may still be a committee member but I need to check that out.
    You can’t judge a person by who they are related and that does not mean they necessarily agree politically, but you may not know Andrew McQuaide is the nephew of Charlestown Town Council Member James Mageau.McQuaide has been listed as a Republican and of course Mr.Mageau is a Democrat.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — September 14, 2007 @ 3:27 pm | Reply

  6. I have no problem with the town informing voters of the upcoming bond vote, but the flyer reprrinted here is clearly advocating for voter approval. Benign information is one thing, but the flyer was malignant.

    I don’t appreciate paying for propaganda which is then used to extract more money out of my pocket. If a government body advocating for a particular outcome is illegal, then the law was definitely broken in the case of this flyer. You’d have to be a complete ignoramus not to see this. Maybe they’ll be more arrests at the Chariho campus during the next committee meeting?

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 14, 2007 @ 6:52 pm | Reply

  7. Would someone please clarify for me what “Potential Litigation” really means other then seeking to hide information from taxpayers/parents? “Potential Litigation” could mean something as benign as a new paint color…(after all someone MIGHT sue), the development of the RYSE program (an illegal expansion/new program against the CHARIHO act), the dragging in of buildings under cover of night to create this new program, and any and all issues Mr. Ricci wishes to hide from us all. That would include the 108 or so arrests, the students who may or may not bring weapons to school, and any number of assorted issues that should be a matter of public record. Isn’t there a law which prevents secret meetings to prevent dissemination of information to taxpayers? If we don’t know about the problems, how can we demand and expect action to correct them? Recognition of a problem is the first step to prevention. Recognition of a problem may also be the first step for parents to counsel their children regarding personal safety, and providing information to encourage them to report issues to the parents and teachers.

    Comment by Georgies Mom — September 14, 2007 @ 8:33 pm | Reply

  8. Someone posted RI meeting laws a while ago. I read through some of it and if my memory serves, even closed meetings are supposed to publish minutes once the issue is resolved.
    There should be no discussions of any issues that should be discussed in a public forum, and we are supposed to be told what topics will be discussed in a closed meeting.

    I didn’t see the meeting, but I’m betting they didn’t announce they’d be attacking Mr. Felkner for communicating information to the public? From what I’ve seen and heard, this school committee has violated open meeting laws frequently. I’d ask Mr. McQuaide, but he might tell me “2 or 3” times which could actually mean 199 times.

    Georgies Mom has hit upon a tactic used by this administration and this school committee to hide their actions and viewpoints. These cowards have no problem kissing Mr. Ricci’s butt in the darkness of a closed meeting, but watch them sit on their hands as Mr. Felkner’s knowledge of issues makes them look like uninformed buffoons. They don’t have a clue, and when someone with a clue is willing to educate them, they try to shut him down.

    Let’s be honest, Mr. Day and Mr. Polouski probably just want to get home. They like being on TV, but they are not ready for prime time. Sometimes I’m not even sure that their actions are venal. They could just be two tired old men?

    Maybe we could rotate school committee meetings and start every other one at 6:00 AM? I notice as I get older that early mornings are much easier than late nights.

    Mr. McQuaide is a kid. He acts like a kid and he thinks like a kid. He also graduated from Chariho, which means his ability to think might not be as fully developed as another kid his age who went to a performing high school. Now we are told by Mr. Hirst that Mr. McQuaide is related to an infamous Charlestown politician who has his own problems with running legal meetings, so perhaps the acorn didn’t fall too far from the tree?

    The school committee is a farce, and attempts to silence Mr. Felkner are yet one more example of their unwillingness to represent taxpayers. These people run unopposed and they are put up by school employees looking to enhance their pay and their lifestyles.

    Sadly, we allow this to happen and when the rare person such as Mr. Felkner comes along and tries to fight for us and our children, he often finds himself fighting alone. Shoot, Mr. Felkner would need his own private solicitor to deal with illegal acts of Chariho. Pitiful…I hope the children are sleeping!

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 14, 2007 @ 10:20 pm | Reply

  9. […] emails in question Filed under: Sept 11 meeting — Bill Felkner @ 10:32 am During the Sept 11 meeting, a chain of emails was used as evidence of my “inappropriate” requests for […]

    Pingback by The emails in question « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — September 14, 2007 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

  10. We may not always agree with the ACLU, but certainly they are reviewing some of the problems in RI. See this report (09/2007) here:
    http://www.riaclu.org/documents/2007APRAReportfinal_000.pdf

    Comment by Georgies Mom — September 17, 2007 @ 4:57 pm | Reply

  11. […] I have already said that the meeting involved a few board members trying to stop me from writing in the paper.  I […]

    Pingback by “Sealed” versus “Closed” « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — September 21, 2007 @ 11:56 pm | Reply


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