Chariho School Parents’ Forum

September 19, 2007

Thurman Silks and the Land of Oz

Filed under: bond — Editor @ 7:54 am

Thurman Silks had an entertaining LTE in the Sun yesterday and in the ProJo today

He makes the point that while contributions from the three towns may be based on 1/3-1/3-1/3, the impact on the homeowner is very different.  Richmond’s contribution will be 39 cents per 1000, Hopkinton will be 32 cents / 1000 and Charlestown will be 12 cents /1000.



  1. Here’s the letter that is referred to. While the format may be unusual, the numbers are right. It’s true that the costs for the bond issue will be divided equally between the towns. But the costs for both District operation and the costs of bonds for taxpayers whose property is assessed at the same value differs a lot, depending where in the district it is located.

    The Wizard of Oz is a movie beloved to generations of kids who are now of all ages. Here’s a segment that was left on the cutting-room floor.

    The schoolgirl, Dorothy; the Straw Man, the Tin Man and the Lion are walking down the yellow brick road talking about the Land of Oz school system. Oz is a small place without many Ozians so they have only one school District serving the three villages of Ocean View, Twinetown and Northland.

    It seems that for the last few years there had been several referenda on bond issues to refurbish and expand the school system facilities, but none had been passed. This was nothing new; the villages have been squabbling amongst themselves for years over a variety of issues, but with the passage of time the need for resolution has become urgent.

    Dorothy, a schoolgirl who lives in a consolidated school district in Kansas when she’s not in Oz asked “What’s the problem?”. Everybody responded at once with a different answer in a loud voice, so obviously nobody was listening to anybody.

    Dorothy, wise beyond her years, smiled and said “It’s about money, isn’t it?”. Indignant cries rang out in protest, saying largely that we are just doing this for the kids. When the hub-bub finally died down, Dorothy started asking some questions.

    It turned out that the Tin Man, the Straw Man and the Lion all lived in houses (or in the Lion’s case, a cave) valued at 7000 Ozbucks. But when she asked how much each payed in taxes for school operation the Lion and the Tin Man each payed about twice what the Straw Man paid. When she remarked that that seemed unfair to pay different prices for the same service she got puzzled looks. “It’s been that way for years” they all said.

    Dorothy moved on and asked about the latest referendum and how were those costs for each of them. Surprisingly, it got worse. The Lion and the Tin Man would each have to pay about three times as much as the Straw Man for twenty years to pay off the bonds for the proposed refurbishment and expansion of the school facilities.

    Dorothy couldn’t hide her astonishment. “You all live in the same school district and get the same school services, and your properties all have the same value, but the Straw Man pays half as much for operation of the schools and one third as much for expansion and refurbishment of the school infrastructure as the Lion and the Tin Man. How can that be?”.

    The Straw Man gave her the explanation. “It’s simple. I live in the Ocean View section of the district, the Lion lives in theTwinetown section and the Tin Man lives in the Northland section. Years ago we all used to pay about the same. We’ve kept the same payment rules we had fifty years ago, and the result is what you see. I’m very happy with it.”.

    It was then that Dorothy spoke those famous words to her dog that are usually misquoted. What she actually said was “We’re not in Kansas any more Toto, or even in the United States. Only in Oz could school district financing like this even be imagined. Lets go sraighten out the Wizard and then hurry back to the land of the free and the fair.”.

    Of course all that happened in the 1930’s, well before the Chariho Regional School District was formed. Maybe some Ozians managed to hitch a ride on the swirling winds that brought Dorothy back to Kansas and they ended up here.

    Comment by Thurman Silks — September 20, 2007 @ 10:39 am | Reply

  2. Hi!
    Whether you agree with Thurm Silks he brings to the table decades of experience in local affairs.He is not one dimensional.
    Mr.Silks is a former Hopkinton Town Council President,former Chairman Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee,was on the Governor’s Justice Commission or another title,is a Hopkinton Zoning Board Member currently, and former Chariho School Committee Member.This is just part of his community service which extends back to the 1960s’.He came to Hopkinton in the late 1950s’.In addition his children are Chariho graduates and his grandchildren attend local schools also.
    At the town council meeting last Monday night in Hopkinton I brought up about the publication that the building committee is putting out.I think the publication should simply states the facts of the building issue and let private sources, privately funded, advocating the approval or defeat of this proposal.I also brought up about the RYSE situation.I do believe our Hopkinton Town Solicitor should give her opinion whether the RYSE issue is legal.I realize the legal counsel for the school district thinks it is.I am not prepared to debate this issue.
    Bill Felkner,BTW, will be on “A Lively Experiment” on PBS,Channel #8, a week from today at 7:00 PM, on our local Cox Cable and repeated also on Noon the following Sunday and other times,I recall?
    The Chariho Times ,The Westerly Sun ,and The Providence Journal ,should be consulted on Chariho news.The Chariho Times had a Felkner story in it today and ran a photo I took of Bill and his family recently.It also ran a story on the CURE group the pro building committee PAC whose leaders include Christine Anderson of Hopkinton and Greg Avedesian of Charlestown.Greg is a former Chariho School Committee Member and former Charlestown Town Council Member.I don’t know if he still does but Greg took his children out of Chariho Schools and sent them to St.Pius X School.A choice which I respect.But it is certainly notable when one touts the local school system but then takes their children out and sends them to a private parochial school.
    Last month at the Washington County Fair the Chariho FFA took first place in the landscape exhibit and I passed on some photos to one of the agriculture teachers there.
    Scott Bill Hirst
    Member,Hopkinton Town Council,1996-2004

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — September 20, 2007 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

  3. Thank you for directing us to the Chariho Times article Mr. Hirst.

    I notice that they refer to the bond vote with favorable language; “improve and renovate”. I think the proper descriptor of the bond vote would be to “expand and repair”. Considering expansion indefinitely dooms 5th and 6th graders to an inappropriate educational environment, “improve” is not a word I would choose if I were writing an unbiased news report.

    The general tone of the article seemed to be slanted. Unlike Ms. Armental’s reporting in ProJo, I came away from this article with a sense that the reporter favors the secrecy under which the school committee and administration now operates.

    The article reports that Mr. Ricci provided details for 38 arrests at the Sept. 11 meeting. Is this information available to the public?

    The article also claims that Ms. Serra is concerned that the arrest information is being used to “cast a negative shadow” on Chariho. How dopey is this? She is more worried about bad publicity than she is about informing parents of criminal behavior at Chariho. It would be funny if it weren’t so darned pathetic.

    According to the Chariho Times, Mr. Polouski was upset when Mr. Felkner divulged information about criticism he received in a closed meeting. The criticism was levied against Mr. Felkner for writing a letter to The Sun which contradicted a letter previously written by Mr. Ricci.

    I’m surprised the Chariho Times writer didn’t ask Mr. Polouski if this was an appropriate discussion for a closed meeting. Why can’t the public be aware that Mr. Polouski isn’t happy when Mr. Felkner expresses his opinion? This illegal use of executive sessions seems more newsworthy to me. The suppression of one’s First Amendment rights seems right up the alley of a newspaper.

    I am highly amused by Mr. Day’s comments on the posters who comment here. The old fool tries to dismiss this website as Mr. Felkner and three regular posters (I know I’m one…who are the other two?). If Mr. Day really believes this website is not read, why is he so upset about what is said here? His angst about this site tells us the real story. The truth scares the heck out of him, even if only three of us hear it.

    I truly wish all these committee members and administrators would stop complaining about what is discussed here, and instead join us and explain their positions and perspectives.

    Shoot, even a union rep in the middle of contract negotiations came here and commented (assuming he is who he claims). He wasn’t civil or very erudite, but at least he participated.

    Hey, if any of you school committee members visiting here join the conversation with the public, I promise not to call you “dopey” or “old fools”, but if you continue to avoid public conversations, then I’ll continue to call it as I see it. If identifying yourself is too scary, I’m even okay with that (I’m a little nervous myself). I want to hear what you have to say even if I don’t know who is saying it.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 21, 2007 @ 1:11 am | Reply

  4. Hi!
    I can understand wanting to conceal one’s identity on this discussion group.I do not prefer to.As you may know I am a bachelor and have no children in the system.My situation is different.While I can understand people desire to conceal their indentities letting people know who you are helps.But I can I understand while business people,parents, and some others feel they need to remain anonymous.
    Frankly here is the chance for Chariho School Committee members to post THEIR opinions.But some of them would appear not to be up to debating ideas with Bill Felkner.I do not believe that would necessarily constitute an illegal meeting under the open meetings law especially if the majority does not participate.
    EVERY member of the Chariho School Committee has responsibility for their performance in office.The big question is now in the suceeding weeks is this:
    Q.To what extent has the current Chariho School Committee participated in and approved of the brochure to be sent to Chariho School District voters?Do they think the publication financed by taxpayer dollars was BENIGN and NOT ADVOCATING PASSAGE OF THE BOND? Also are they going to contribute to the CURE PAC?This PAC and its efforts would seem the appropriate forum to do political advocacy work not the taxpayer sponsored mailing.
    Every member of the Chariho School Committee could come up with their own web site or respond or comment on this one.Politicians frequently do.The role of a school committee member is a POLITICAL ONE, NOT A PROFESSIONAL ONE.
    As an aside check out the town statistics on the Rhode Island Kids Count web site ,.There are DIFFERENCES among the three Chariho towns and with other cities and towns in Rhode Island!

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — September 21, 2007 @ 10:08 am | Reply

  5. The brochure produced with Chariho funds was not approved by the board – at least not in any meeting I attended and I have only missed one (which was some time ago). To my knowledge, the Building Committee, chaired by Greg Kenney, solely directs it.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — September 21, 2007 @ 11:40 am | Reply

  6. Hi!
    Question was the school building committee allowed to do a brochure and have it published without school committee approval?
    It needs to be remembered that these committee members for the building proposal were either selected by the member Town Councils or School Committee and not elected but appointed to the buidling committee.
    Mr.Kenney and at least some others on the committee should know the proper protocol on these things.Although in fairness this certainly cannot be the first building brochure that could be called advocacy based paid for by taxpayer dollars.
    The economy an outside factor of the proposal itself may impact the vote.A number of people have real financial pressures.The mortgage crisis exists even in Chariho!

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — September 21, 2007 @ 3:31 pm | Reply

  7. Scott, to answer your question about the flyer(brochure) – the building committee has a $10,000 budget. They can use it as they see fit. They (the bldg comm) feels that the flyer is an information piece – not an advocacy piece. They are the ones who have made the decision to use tax dollars in this way.

    But the reality is, even if someone were to try and do something about it, nothing would be resolved until after the vote.

    That being said, please don’t take that as a reason not to pursue it.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — September 21, 2007 @ 4:00 pm | Reply

  8. How anyone could read the building committee’s flyer and not instantly recognize it as promoting the Chariho bond is beyond me? In fact, if anyone were to try and tell me the flyer unobjectively presents the facts, I would know they are a bald-faced liar. As Mr. Hirst pointed out, we all know what a presentation of the facts look like when we read statewide referendum questions. This flyer begs us to support the bond.

    I hope this turns around and bites the bond proponents in the butt. Perhaps if voters sitting on the fence get a look at this flyer, they will question the integrity of the building committee and wonder what other games they are playing with our tax money? If the building committee can so blatantly violate the public trust with its flyer, why should we trust what they propose to us for Chariho?

    I didn’t need any more reasons to reject the Chariho bond, but for those still not sure, consider the flyer a testament to the dishonest approach of the building committee.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 21, 2007 @ 4:43 pm | Reply

  9. Hi!
    There are positive things to say about our students and schools.In some areas obviously there are legitimate concerns.
    There is an old saying “There is a time and place for something” or words to that affect.
    The time is literally weeks before the vote to explain the bond.This is certainly time to explain the bond.In printed material paid for by taxpayers as benignly as possible it should state the facts of the building proposal.Interest groups like CURE who advocates the passage should through funds they generate from private sources advocate passage.Any group pro or con on this issue is free to advocate the position it chooses but should be done with private funds.
    At this point it will be interesting how much political capital/effort town council members and the political town committees will do in the upcoming referendum.Instinctly it is virtually certain the Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee will endorse it as they did the last building proposal.A number of educators and school committee or school activists have been involved with that committee.

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — September 24, 2007 @ 9:32 am | Reply

  10. Why do elected politicians in Hopkinton continuously defy the will of the voters?

    Hopkinton voters keep telling these people we are fed up with Chariho delivering poor results while costing us a fortune…we are ignored.

    We reject bonds which go well above and beyond meeting our local educational needs…we are ignored.

    There seems to be a disconnect between our Town Council and the voters. Why do we tolerate their total disregard for our wishes?

    Parents told Chariho and our towns back in 1999 that we wanted 5th and 6th graders in elementary schools…we are ignored.

    We’ve told them again this past year, yet many on the Town Council support a bond that guarantees 5th and 6th graders will remain in an inappropriate educational environment…we are ignored.

    I can understand why Chariho’s School Committee acts as if they are unaccountable to voters…members seldom face election opposition, but Hopkinton Town Council does seem to have competitive races where the politicians should be held accountable for their actions. Perhaps it is because voters stupidly support a party rather than positions on local matters?

    I don’t know the answer, but I’m tired of the will of the people being ignored.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 24, 2007 @ 1:21 pm | Reply

  11. Maybe Richmond will see the light and want to get out… but they will probably insist that they keep the infrastructure…
    Charlestown had their chance, but they know a great deal when they see it…

    HOPKINTON needs the CHUTZPAH to get out of there!! WE CAN DO MUCH BETTER FOR LESS MONEY!!
    WAKE UP!!

    Comment by teethbrush — October 1, 2007 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

  12. WELL, I sure would like to see the “Little Kids” in the 5th and 6th grade back at home. They grow up all too fast in the middle and upper school environment they have been placed in.

    When it comes to meetings of the CHARIHO School Board, it would seem that any and all excuses they can concoct to misinform, prevent the sharing of information regarding school structure, facilities, problems, etc. are all too often deemed “pending” or “probable” litigation. Well, I wish I could “Litigate” myself! I am sick of having all negative reports buried, all plots to enlarge, add, and change the structure and offerings of the school system, and anything else they want to do without the taxpayers knowing. Don’t we get it? Mr Ricci is our employee! The schools are suposed to be RUN by the school committee, with professional ADVICE from Mr. Ricci! Mr Ricci, for some reason unknown to me has been put in the position of the “boss”, without input from the taxpayer. What a joke! It is not “all about kids, all the time”, it is about lets keep our job, and make it as easy as possible. I vote for a taxpayer REVOLT!

    Comment by Georgies Mom — October 3, 2007 @ 5:36 pm | Reply

  13. I give Mr. Ricci credit for routinely being able to manipulate the majority of the school committee. If you watch him regularly, he is uninformed if it suits his purpose, and yet seems to know everything when that suits his needs.

    Case and point is the Management Study. He piped up about the credibility of the company conducting the Management Study. Taking their cue from him, many members then went on the attack.

    The guy picks his spots and is a Jim Henson in-training manipulating all his muppet characters. See Mr. Day’s mouth move? Look at Mr. Ricci’s hands…they’ll be moving too.

    I’m not sure how we change the dynamic, but Mr. Ricci shouldn’t be calling the shots. He’s our employee.

    Comment by Curious Resident — October 3, 2007 @ 10:28 pm | Reply

  14. BRAVO, Curious Resident. I will repeat for all: Mr. Ricci is OUR EMPLOYEE! While we are also talking about the bond issue, I would like to know the following:
    How much will insurance cost to “repair, renovate, and build”? Understand that there is about 6 feet of fuel oil under the Middle School. This a slowly moving tide dependent on the flow underground. There are unusable water sources on the property which are contaminated.
    Since I do not know of any mortgage insurer which would allow a HOMEOWNER to build on a “Brownfield”, which is just what this parcel is in some areas, how does the building committee plan to obtain building insurance and liability insurance? This will be needed in case they strike this “Brownfield” and further pollute/contaminate any additional water supplies in the area. Will we have to be in a self insured “pool” and be liable for ourselves and others if disaster strikes? How much will THAT cost?
    Since no one was even sure of where the remaining (potable) water supply was located, can this motley crew be trusted to carefully plan, construct and build, renovate and move various buildings? Recall, the original plans had to be redrawn, the library placed in another area, and other plans changed when they realized WHERE the well was situated on the property. (I guess no one looked before the plans were drawn up)
    Finally, with a declining school enrollment, should we even THINK of building new buildings? When you consider that even with the healthy amount spent each year on maintenance and custodial staff, without direction, supervision and leadership in these areas any new building built will be in poor repair within 10 years.
    Curious minds want to know.

    Comment by Georgies Mom — October 5, 2007 @ 11:46 am | Reply

  15. […] sent to the school.  If your town had 40% of the kids, you paid 40% of the costs.  As noted by Thurman Silks, this worked out fairly evenly long ago but it has grown […]

    Pingback by The Chariho Act « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — October 30, 2007 @ 10:04 pm | Reply

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