Chariho School Parents’ Forum

February 29, 2008

Sylvia Thompson presents request to Chariho

Filed under: Budget,Hopkinton — Editor @ 11:46 pm

At the Town Council meeting on Monday, Councilperson Thompson presented a request to the Hopkinton Representatives on the Chariho School Committee for a reduction in the Chariho budget.  Beyond a simple request to “reduce the budget,” Thompson documents a plan.  Using Chariho figures, she proposes a level funded budget.

Her letter and attachments are pasted below. 

The only point I would make, and this is really a side point, is that I do not agree with the claim that Chariho’s $1.5M surplus isn’t that much because its only 3% of the budget. This may be the case in a normal industry where labor is not the dominant cost.  But in the case of a public school, labor is (using statewide figures) 80-90% of costs.  We do know that someone at Chariho (or some form filled out there) tells us that $680,000 is the suggested surplus amount to leave in the budget. 

Also, please see Mrs. Thompson’s request below:

February 24, 2008

To: Hopkinton Town Council & Hopkinton School Committee Representatives

Re: School Committee Budgets

From: Sylvia Thompson

I have been reviewing the Chariho Audits. Attached are 5 exhibits I prepared and a variety of back up data. I would like to explain why I believe the proposed school budget should not require any increase in taxation.

            The School Committee compares proposed budgets to budgets and gives the public a % increase. However, when actual expenses are line up side by side to proposed budgets, it is clear they are off by millions and the percentage varies from 8 to over 10% (Exhibits 2, 3 & 4).

Chariho produces Surplus Deficit reports each month that provide up to date actual revenues and expenses. I reviewed past reports back to 2005. The 6 and 7-month reports do indicate if there is under-estimated revenue and over-estimated expenses. Therefore, the data exists right now, for the School Committee to review the 7-month report and propose a reasonable, fair budget. Additionally, by the time the School Committee finalizes the 08/09 budget in March, they will have 8 months worth of actual revenue and expenses.

As previously stated, School Committees have been adopting and presenting budgets that have required increased and unnecessary taxation due to under-estimating revenues and over-estimating expenses. Exhibit 5 illustrates this for revenue

Examples for expenses are many. In Exhibit 3 and 4, Fixed Charges gets over-estimated by millions. In 06 it was by over $1.2 million or 14% then the School Committee’s next budget proposed it be increased by over $1.96 or 21%. The next year the same pattern occurred.

Also, if the school committee had recommended no increase to the towns for FY06, they still would have had a surplus of over $1 million and a fund balance of $3.5 million. Instead, the year ended with a surplus of $2.699 million and the fund balance grew to over $5 million. Remember, this was the year the taxpayers tried to cut $2 million and the public was told it was impossible due to mandates and contracts.

            In FY07, the School Committee adopted a budget requiring an increase to the towns of $2.37 million. This time the surplus expanded to over $2.9 million and the fund balance grew to $6.85 million.

    

P 2

  

Over a three-year period (FY 05, 06, 07), the tri-town contributions increased by $7 million and the accumulated surpluses allowed the fund balance to grow to almost the same amount.

The FY 05 general fund budget expenses were just over $42.67million. Three budgets later, the School Committee is proposing a 21% ($9 million) higher budget, yet, enrollment has fallen to 1997 levels.

            On the positive side, the School Committee has trimmed approximately $594,000 from the General Fund Budget.

Now, we need them to take the next step. The fund balance should be used to completely offset the capital account. This would flat line the tri-town contribution. Many of us have asked that the fund balance be used to do the district wide repairs. The committee listened and allocated $932,000 but not to zero out the town contributions. Instead, they increased the capital account by $678,000. This is not right.

The taxpayers should not be re-taxed for funds to complete repairs when the School Committee already has the millions to cover the entire amount. The capital reserve funding should not be added to the town contributions.

  

Submitted,

Sylvia Thompson

Attachments:

06-07-chariho-budget-revised-breakdown.doc

 

budget-versus-actual-percent-increase-p3.doc

 

budget-versus-actual-chariho-page-4.doc

 

budget-versus-actual-versus-difference-p3.doc

 

budget-versus-actual-percent-increase-p4.doc

February 28, 2008

Feb 26 meeting

Filed under: contract negotiations,Corruption,Unions — Editor @ 11:05 am

I was not available for the meeting but I understand that this blog and my actions were discussed in a closed session meeting.  Similar to the last meeting, which was over my noted objection.

It is also my understanding that the Committee voted to give Mr. Ricci unrestricted access to the attorney.  

This is a result of my complaint that Mr. Ricci used the school solicitor for a personal grievance issue (in other words, the lawyer represented Mr. Ricci and not necessarily the school).  I also tried to copies of the invoices from the attorney but the Committee refused access to those public documents.

February 17, 2008

Just in case you missed the reports

Filed under: contract negotiations,Corruption,Unions — Editor @ 1:14 pm

From the Chariho Times:  “Felkner will not be silenced

The Times got it a little wrong in that the Committee did not vote on the deal.  The reported vote was on a different issue – but if the Committee reported votes as the law dictates, this would not have happened.

From the Westerly Sun:  “Committee unhappy with disclosure of closed door minutes

The Sun got it a little wrong too – I did not disclose minutes.  I disclosed the email from the NEA (teachers’ union) that was part of the negotiations between them and the Chariho solicitor.  Because the Superintendent told the reporter that I was at fault – and refused to provide me evidence of that fault –  I feel I am in within my rights to defend my name.  If I am wrong, I am sure they will do something about it.

February 13, 2008

Feb 12 meeting

Filed under: meeting notice,Unions — Editor @ 10:58 am

The meeting will be aired tonight (channel 18) at 8 and on Friday at 12 noon.  During the public forum I tried to outline the details on the NEA complaint filed at LRB.  It turns out there has been a hearing and the school’s attorney has been in discussions with the NEA – but I have never been contacted nor presented with any information. 

I outlined the numerous attempts  I have made to find out what I did wrong.  I have asked the NEA and they refused.  I have asked the school and they too have refused – up until last night. 

What I tried to show was that the NEA is using your money to  file frivolous claims – but Superintendent Ricci blamed me for this problem.  Neither has given proof to the allegations. 

During the public forum – when we got to the deal offered by the NEA, the school board went into recess because they feel the information is confidential.  Hopefully the camera kept rolling.  Here is an outline of the information presented.  I will post documentation next week (a deadline is occupying my time right now).

September 20, 2007 – Pete Gingras (NEA) leakscomplaint to Chris Keegan @ Westerly Sun (complaint is signed and dated Sept/21/07).

Sept 21 – NEA files complaint with Labor Relations Board (LRB)

Sept 28 – I asked LRB – they said, per NEA’s “request” it be placed in abeyance “pending issues being resolved.”

Sept 28 – I asked Pete Gingras for explanation – he said he had, “no intention to provide disclosures of my proofs.”

Oct 11 – Pete contacts Barry Ricci – he has “concerns” that I would tell the public and that he believes I have “no intent to resolve the issue.” .

Oct 11 – Pete contacts LRB – refuses to give me info – threatens “additional charges.”

SAT IN ABEYANCE FOR 3 MONTHS

Jan 22 –  Terri Serra asks for a disclaimer

Jan 23 –   Letter from SC asking for disclaimer

Jan 31 – Ricci to Westerly Sun – “Felkner’s website may cost district money”

****  Why not NEA cost the district money

Feb 1 – Ricci confirms that NEA has provided information – I still have not seen anything.

Feb 7 –  Ricci refuses to allow me to speak with lawyer saying the case is against the school committee and not me.

Feb 7 – conversation with LRB – Robyn Golden – \ – NEA pulled complaint from abeyance – had a hearing – LRB asked school attorney if I would be present – the attorney never answered LRB.

Feb 12 – NEA offers a deal – sent via email on 2/1/08  – This email was a reply to a previous email but we were not given the other information.

Here it is verbatim – bold items are my comments.

************************

Andrew [school solicitor] if the School Committee chair (whose wife and son are employees at the school – thus NEA members) is willing to agree;

1)      Felkner, via his blog, has never been authorized to speak on behalf of the Committee:

2)      The Committee requested a disclaimer, to be placed on his bog, at it January 2008 meeting; [note that he asked in past tense that the SC do something in the past – which Terri Serra did]

3)      The Committee agrees to bargain only through chosen representatives of the Association

4)      Felkener is a Giants fan 

We’d be willing to withdraw.

One of the above items is a throwaway.

Pete Gingras

*********************************

 If #4 isn’t a better example of what the NEA thinks about spending your money – I don’t know what is.  This is a game to them.  They force union members to pay dues – dues financed by taxes.  And they use that money to play these games.  The NEA has all the power and control of our schools – we must take it back.  Public sector employees should be treated the same as private sector employees – no better, no worse.

February 10, 2008

NEA to the taxpayers, “**** You!”

Filed under: 1,contract negotiations,transparency,Unions — Editor @ 1:37 pm

pat-crowley-bird.jpg

First of all, I apologize for the crud title and picture – but it is important to know who we are dealing with.

Meet Pat Crowley – the $84,000 per year Assistant Executive Director of the RI affiliate of the National Education Association – and Pat is also the Lincoln Democrat Party chairman.  Here you see him with bull horn in hand telling RI taxpayers what he thinks of them at the recent Tiverton teacher contract negotiation.

Crowley and the NEA published in the Westerly Sun recently, trying to tell us that RI’s welfare system is just fine and we should continue business as usual.  First you may ask why is an organization that represents public school employees lobbying for the welfare industry.  For that answer you should know that the SIEU (another union) is very hard at work trying to unionize welfare workers, including day care providers.  And who could forget the connection between the NEA and the AFL-CIO.  Frank Montanaro is the President of the AFL-CIO and also the Chairman of the Board for Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).  Could that be the reason that most teacher contracts in RI are REQUIRED to only provide BCBS insurance for teachers?  Chariho even gives a bonus to employees if they use that carrier. 

Anyway, now that we know why the unions are working together – lets get to the real facts.  Here is my response to the NEA’s letter:

“Mr. Crowley’s ‘facts’ bear close scrutiny”
(my suggested title was, “The NEA – a bad example for our children”)
Westerly Sun, February 10, 2008

I tend not to respond to misguided rhetoric such as those provided by Pat Crowley, the Assistant Executive Director of the RI affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA), but his latest attempt to con parents and taxpayers provides too much opportunity to show what the NEA has become (Peoples’ Forum, Governor unfair in comments about families in the welfare system, February 8, 2008).   

Mr. Crowley represents the teachers and employees of our public schools.  The dubious nature of his “facts” have been exposed before (Providence Journal, Justin Katz: Correcting NEA guy’s ‘facts’, February 6, 2008) and now the National Education Association is attempting to counsel us on Governor Carieri’s proposed welfare reforms. 

First they claim that RI is not a welfare magnet and cite data from the Department of Humans Services (DHS) to convince us that people are not moving to RI for our welfare benefits.  Can we trust this data? 

In 2006, Governor Carcieri changed welfare eligibility so that people exhausting 5 years of welfare in other states could no longer come to RI and receive another 5 years of benefits (or more). 

In response to this change, Heidi Collins, from the Poverty Institute located at Rhode Island College, lobbyied the DHS to implement an investigative system called the Declarative Method.  This means that when a welfare recipient applies for benefits, and we want to find out if they came from another state, we rely solely on the applicant for that information.  

This method of gathering information made possible Rhode Island’s first baby of 2008 – the third child to a 19 year old girl whose boyfriend was an illegal immigrant (Providence Journal, Celebrity father now facing deportation, January 7, 2008).  Do you think this arrangement was accurately declared?   

The Declarative Method also makes it possible for people like Rosa Gonzalez to conceal a drug dealing operation that was managed completely by welfare recipients.  The social workers asked Rosa and her management team about their income and assets, but they all forgot to mention things like the Porsche SUV, Harley Davidsons and other “luxury vehicles” that they owned (Providence Journal, Luxury Wheels while on welfare, July 13, 2007).  Somehow our welfare system is empowering fraud and the special interest groups play the enabler. 

Next, Mr. Crowley (representing another special interest group) tells us about the amazing accomplishments of our welfare program – how we reduced the welfare roles by 11 percent in a year and by 43 percent over a longer period.  Aren’t you impressed? 

What they neglected to tell you was that when we compare Rhode Island’s performance to the other states, we see that RI consistently ranks near the bottom.  By saying RI reduced the welfare roles by 43 percent but omitting the fact that the national average is closer to 60 percent and some states have achieved rates approaching 80 percent, the NEA is playing the same game as Rosa Gonzalez. 

The question to ask is why do welfare programs in other states result in populations that are self sufficient when the welfare program in Rhode Island results in a population that cannot take care of it’s own children?  In RI, childhood poverty grew by 26.6% between the 1990 and 2000 census, the absolute worst trend in the nation. 

Rhode Island provides a disservice to the poor by not supporting them with a proven welfare system and Mr. Crowley is doing the once-proud profession of teaching a disservice by playing the role of a propagandist.   

I didn’t want to respond to this nonsense, but what he said is not as important as who is saying it.  Mr. Crowley represents those educating our children.  What example does union management set for its membership?  Would you accept this kind of data manipulation when reporting student achievement?   

To distort and manipulate data for political gain is the mechanism of corruption.  And knowing that tax-funded salaries are levied for union dues to pay for this type of political activity – well that’s beyond acceptable.  The NEA should be ashamed of itself and honest people who pay union dues should be outraged. 

One of the duties in my “day job” is to research welfare programs and as such I am not hesitant to say that Mr. Crowley’s adoration of RI’s welfare program was an incomplete representation of the facts, at best.  I also research education policy and am a member of the Chariho Regional School Committee and in those roles I can also speak to the nature and motives of the present day teacher’s union.  His actions do not surprise me.  Who could forget his one finger salute to the taxpayers of Tiverton during their contract negotiations. 

If there is one good thing that could come from this NEA letter it is this:  I have tried to get all public contract negotiations into the public eye – but I have failed.  The majority of the school committee will not even release all of the meeting minutes.  Perhaps, now that everyone can see what has become of the National Education Association, my fellow committee members will join me in insisting that the public be allowed to watch when we negotiate away their money.  Or will they continue to protect the NEA from public scrutiny? 

William Felkner is the President of the Rhode Island Association of Scholars, President and Fellow on Education and Welfare Policy at the Ocean State Policy Research Institute and is also a member of the Chariho Regional School Committee representing Hopkinton 

*************************************************************

So, now you know the tactics and agenda of the NEA – for readers of this blog, this will come as no surprise.  Who could forget our own local NEA rep, Pete Gingras.  He posts crude comments on this website and has also filed a “slap” complaint with the Labor Relations Board about this blog.  And, of course, Ricci falls right into line by telling a reporter that I will be costing the school a lot of money.  Did Ricci acknowledge that it is the NEA who is causing the school to spend money on legal fees – they were the ones that filed the complaint and refused to submit evidence.  Is Ricci working to help the union or did he misspeak and will he publicly apologize for this error?

Transparency at Chariho

Filed under: transparency — Editor @ 1:12 pm

There is a discussion going on in the comments section of another post about the Open Meeting Act.   Chariho has a history of hiding things in executive sessions. (remember Hirst vs Chariho where the AG’s office ruled Chariho had violated OMA).  It might be a good time to review a previous post with more information – such as a court case that spells out the extent executive session votes should be announced:

PR 06-16 Parks v. Cumberland School Committee

 and it suffices that the Personnel Sub-Committee’s agenda violated the OMA by failing to provide an adequate statement specifying the nature of the business to be discussed. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-6(b). 

880 A.2d 784; Tanner v. The Town Council of East Greenwich 

we hold that the requirement that a public body provide supplemental notice, including a “statement specifying the nature of the business to be discussed,” obligates that public body to provide fair notice to the public under the circumstances, or such notice based on the totality of the circumstances as would fairly inform the public of the nature of the business to be discussed or acted upon. Although we recognize that this standard is somewhat flexible and we decline to provide specific guidelines or “magic words,” such an approach accounts for the range and assortment of meetings, votes, and actions covered under the OMA, and the realities of local government, while also safeguarding the public’s interest in knowing and observing the workings of its governmental bodies.(fn15) 

 I also believe Chariho has a history of putting things into executive session when they don’t belong there such as when Superintendent Ricci called an executive session because he thought my letter in the Sun “challenged his integrity.”  (by the way, did you know that Ricci consulted with the school’s solicitor before this meeting – does the solicitor work for the Committee or for Ricci?)  The OMA says:

§ 42-46-4  Closed meetings. (a)….No public body shall discuss in closed session any public matter which does not fall within the citations to § 42-46-5(a) referred to by the public body in voting to close the meeting, even if these discussions could otherwise be closed to the public under this chapter.

And § 42-46-5 (a) says:

SECTION 42-46-5   § 42-46-5  … (a) A public body may hold a meeting closed to the public pursuant to § 42-46-4 for one or more of the following purposes:   (1) Any discussions of the job performance, character, or physical or mental health of a person or persons provided that such person or persons affected shall have been notified in advance in writing and advised that they may require that the discussion be held at an open meeting.   Failure to provide such notification shall render any action taken against the person or persons affected null and void. Before going into a closed meeting pursuant to this subsection, the public body shall state for the record that any persons to be discussed have been so notified and this statement shall be noted in the minutes of the meeting.   (2) Sessions pertaining to collective bargaining or litigation, or work sessions pertaining to collective bargaining or litigation.

   (3) Discussion regarding the matter of security including, but not limited to, the deployment of security personnel or devices.

   (4) Any investigative proceedings regarding allegations of misconduct, either civil or criminal.

   (5) Any discussions or considerations related to the acquisition or lease of real property for public purposes, or of the disposition of publicly held property wherein advanced public information would be detrimental to the interest of the public.

   (6) Any discussions related to or concerning a prospective business or industry locating in the state of Rhode Island when an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the interest of the public.

   (7) A matter related to the question of the investment of public funds where the premature disclosure would adversely affect the public interest. Public funds shall include any investment plan or matter related thereto, including, but not limited to, state lottery plans for new promotions.

   (8) Any executive sessions of a local school committee exclusively for the purposes: (i) of conducting student disciplinary hearings; or (ii) of reviewing other matters which relate to the privacy of students and their records, including all hearings of the various juvenile hearing boards of any municipality; provided, however, that any affected student shall have been notified in advance in writing and advised that he or she may require that the discussion be held in an open meeting.

   Failure to provide such notification shall render any action taken against the student or students affected null and void. Before going into a closed meeting pursuant to this subsection, the public body shall state for the record that any students to be discussed have been so notified and this statement shall be noted in the minutes of the meeting.

   (9) Any hearings on, or discussions of, a grievance filed pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.

   (10) Any discussion of the personal finances of a prospective donor to a library.

Of course, Mr. Ricci said I “challenged his integrity” so he was using reason #1 for the session.  However, page 23 of the AG’s Guide to Open Government in RI 5th Edition says, “However, such affected person(s) have no right to request that the discussion be held in closed session.”

 

And we must remember exactly what the agenda said:

“Given Bill Felkner’s concerns about my character and integrity [as detailed in his letter to the Westerly Sun], this item is on the agenda at my [Superintendent Ricci] request.  It will provide Bill and other members of the Committee an opportunity to comment in an appropriate forum.” 

So there is no doubt who called this meeting and this is evidence of another OMA violation.

 

Giancarlo Giccetti read this rule to the school board during the meeting – but they ignored him and held the closed session anyway.  Bill Day, Andy Polouski, Andy McQuade, Terry Serra and others have no problem ignoring the law so that they can hide information from you.

 

So check out the old post here and brush up on the law.  And you might want to pay attention at this Tuesday’s meeting – a similar situation might occur (aired on Ch 18 @ 8:00PM on Wednesday and 12 noon on Friday).

February 6, 2008

ESP contract negotiations online

Filed under: 1,contract negotiations — Editor @ 10:12 pm

Not all of the negotiation information is available – I have posted what is on the right column – “ESP contract negotiations

February 1, 2008

NEA complaint continued (part 2)

Filed under: transparency,Unions — Editor @ 5:27 pm

From the Chariho Times:

  Felkner’s comments will cost school district   

By JAMES MADDEN  WOOD RIVER JCT. – Information provided by Chariho School Committee member Bill Felkner on his website “Chariho School Parents’ Forum” may cost the Chariho School District hundreds of dollars in legal fees.  

“It will cost the school district,” said Chariho School Superintendent Barry Ricci at last week’s School Committee meeting.   

Last September, Peter Gingras – the lead negotiator of Chariho’s 164-member support-personnel union – filed a complaint with the Rhode Island State Labor Relation Board against the Chariho School Committee. Gingras – who works for the National Education Association/Rhode Island (NEA) – alleged that Felkner illegally negotiated with the union, on an individual basis, by posting information on his website on the union’s previous pay raises and benefits. 

Contract negotiations between the school committee and union came to a conclusion two months ago when a new deal was struck between the two parties.  Gingras’ complaint states that, “On or about Sept. 17, 2007, and on dates thereafter, an agent of the Chariho Regional School District has purposely attempted to communicate directly with bargaining unit members directly represented by the union. The purpose of these communications was to discourage union membership and is tantamount to a refusal to bargain with the certified representative of the union.” 

After the complaint was filed, the labor relations board put the complaint in abeyance, but Ricci said the complaint is going to be heard by the labor relations board.  As a result, the School Committee voted 5-2-1 to ask Felkner – who was not at the school committee meeting – to put a disclaimer on his website indicating that his personal views are not representative of the school committee as a whole.  

Richmond School Committee member Terri Serra made the motion and said, “I heard there was a disclaimer on this website. I have not been able to find it.” Charlestown School Committee member Giancarlo Cicchetti said, “I don’t think that as a School Committee we have any power over Mr. Felkner… We can’t instruct him to do anything.”   

Ricci said the school district will have to pay its solicitor $135 per hour to represent the school district in this matter. He said the case could last a day, or weeks.  Felkner said Gingras is required to explain how the posting of information on his website was equivalent to negotiating directly with the union.

Felkner said Gingras hasn’t yet explained this to the school committee or the labor relations board.  “I still haven’t been notified as to what the complaint is,” Felkner said. 

Consequently, Felkner said that it’s unnecessary for the school district to litigate until Gingras comes forward with a specific complaint.   

Ricci said, “I believe he [Gingras] has given partial explanation,” to the labor relations board.    

In other business: Bond The school committee again supported a revote of the $26 million Chariho bond to renovate and improve the Switch Road campus.  The school committee specified that they would support either a two-way or three-way split bond.    

Chariho Act     The school committee voted for the tri-town solicitors to review the newly drafted Chariho Act.  “This has been an incredibly complicated process taking into account 22 years of amendments and changes,” said Ricci.  Let unresolved at the meeting was who will pay the legal fees for the town solicitors to review the act?  The school district is hoping it’s going to be the towns.   Splitting the Bond Ricci indicated that the Chariho Building Committee, who were the architects behind the recent Chariho bond building plans, are going to have a say in how the bond is split, if that happens. 

 Chariho School Committee Chairman Bill Day also said, “I think the school committee should be involved in how this bond will be broken down.”

[UPDATE] Mr. Ricci has informed me that Mr. Gingras has presented some information to the LRB but I still have not seen anything.  I’ll make sure to share it when I get it.  It is odd that the complaint was placed in abeyance so as to allow us time to resolve the problem, but Mr. Gingras would not tell me what he objected to, so we couldn’t work on anything.  When I asked for the information – he refused to provide it.

For the record (and Mr. Ricci knows this) I told them that I believe this is a frivolous complaint just to give the board a reason to keep me off the negotiations committee.  Knowingly or not, Mr. Ricci appears to be playing into it.  Of course, compared to what the NEA assistant directors do, I’m a kitten.  Our friends at Anchorrising have all that and more.

 PS>  Regarding Mrs. Serra’s concerns – over on the right column – where it says “What is the Chariho School Parents’ Forum” is a disclaimer that has been up since Dec 1, 2006.  I’m sorry she was unable to figure out where that was.