Chariho School Parents’ Forum

March 29, 2008

Thank you for your input

Filed under: 1 — Editor @ 1:37 am

I’ve heard that the Regents have received more emails in the last 24 hours than in the last months combined.  Thank you for being heard.

On an unrelated note – fellow board member Bob Petit has a letter in the ProJo objecting to my actions around the NEA complaint.


March 27, 2008

Let the Regents know what you think!

Filed under: NECAP — Editor @ 11:57 am

Repeating an earlier message – Have you ever wondered how we graduate so many students when only 22% of them can pass math?  It’s because the test really means very little to the graduation requirements and the Regents are trying to fix that.

It important that you let the Regents know what you think.  They want  to increase the testing standards, or at least what weight they give those test when determining graduation.  In my opinion, this is an excellent measure.  PLEASE let them know what you think –

Click hereto send an email to all members of the Regents (on the “To:” line) and include members of the ProJo & WJAR staff covering education on the “CC:” line (feel free to add or remove CC’d folks as you see fit!)

Must be the name

Filed under: merit pay,School Choice — Editor @ 12:00 am

As names go, “Angus” isn’t typical.  Oddly enough, there are two men named Angus you should know about.

Angus Davis is a member of the Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education.  He is asking for input from parents and taxpayers.  I have posted the entire text over at the OSPRI blog, but here is the gist of the issue:

Have you ever wondered how we can graduate 90% of our kids but only 22% of them can pass math?  That’s because the NECAP test scores only account for “less than 10%” of the graduation requirements.  The rest is attendance, portfolio, attitude, etc…

The Regents are trying to increase that to “at least 33%.”  Unfortunately, most of the people they hear from are “special interest groups.”  Please read his message and let them know how you feel on the topic.  It is important that the policy makers know what you want.

The other Angus is Angus McBeath.  Angus McBeath was the Superintendent in Edmonton Alberta. a district with about 80,000 students (too late to dig, but I think RI is about 120k).  He made three changes
1) complete choice – at the start of each year, kids could apply to any school – all money pooled together.
2) allowed schools to individualize (much like the Swedish model) when choice is given, schools tend to personalize. you get science schools, arts, etc…
3) data driven accountability – basically merit pay.

Google his success – “best managed district in North America

With the apparent inertia towards “consolidation” it is more important than ever to ensure individualized control.  If they take our money, at least let us make the buying decisions.

PS. A U.S. Supreme Court case in 2002 ruled that as long as the money goes to a voucher which allows the parent “complete control of the decision” it was ruled that that decision could even be made to a religious based school (because the state had no influence in the decision).

March 26, 2008

Response to the NEA

Filed under: contract negotiations,Unions — Editor @ 9:00 pm

From today’s Westerly Sun:

NEA takes wrong view of pay for performance proposal in Chariho   

Taxpayers should know how politicians spend their money. In this effort, I provide the public with all the appropriate infor­mation available to me as their representative.

The National Education Association (NEA), specifically Carri Barr, presi­dent of the Chariho NEA, is try­ing to convince you that this will result in more money for the unions. 

I appreciate their concerns, but the NEA, more than anyone, should remember how well tax­payers did when the meetings were open to the public. There is no law requiring this secrecy. 

Mrs. Barr and I sat across the negotiations table last year. I wish you were there — here’s what you missed. 

Almost all public union con­tracts give raises based on inputs (education and seniority) and not outputs (job perform­ance). The absolute worst employee makes the same money as anyone else with the same inputs.

So the school com­mittee tried to introduce a per­formance- based pay structure just like the majority of taxpay­ers use. Good work equals good pay. Bad work equals bad pay. But the union said “No.” 

The NEA feared that the administration would allocate raises based on political favors rather than job performance. They presume that those admini­strators would not be held accountable. 

They will. But those same administrators were once union members, so it’s both ironic and not surprising that the NEA fights to keep their current membership from being held accountable for their own job performance. 

So we tried to implement a bonus system based on the num­ber of days an employee was absent [this is a huge problem for some.] But again, the NEA said, “No.” They want all employees treated “equally.” 

Here we see the difference between today’s public unions and the competitive system used in most of America: Equity ver­sus Fairness. Is it fair that an employee who works harder and smarter, day after day, is paid less than someone taking the easy road simply because of the day they were hired? No. But the NEA thinks that it is equi­table. 

So the NEA refused all per­formance- based pay. Sub-com­mittee chairman Andy Polouski [former teacher of 34 years] warned of strike and Carri wore a button threatening the same. Because I am only one vote, the negotiations sub-committee backed down. 

Next, we worked on the gold­plated health care. We did get modest co-pays [15 percent] from the employees hired prior to 1997. They represent 38 per­cent of the group and used to pay nothing.

The quid pro quo was an increase in the longevity bonus. Employees with 10 to 14 years of seniority receive a 12.5 per­cent increase in their longevity payment and employees with 15+ years receive a 25 percent increase. 

Employees not yet receiving longevity are still on “step” increases. I refused to vote for any seniority-based payment system, but raises were approved ranging from 3.7 per­cent to 24.3 percent, with an average of 9.5 percent. 

None of these raises are based on job performance. Why do we allow public employees to not be held accountable yet receive raises that average two to three times higher than those in the private market? 

The NEA would have you believe that the school commit­tee is holding the line and repre­senting you well — they just don’t want you to watch them do it. I would argue that if the pub­lic was involved before the con­tract was signed behind closed doors we might not be in this mess. 

Recently, Governor Carcieri proposed that the public be allowed to review public employ­ee contracts before they are rati­fied. This is a wonderful first step. One day, the entire negoti­ations process will be once again public. 

Or maybe the NEA is right — would you rather not know this information? 

William Felkner Ashaway William Felkner is a Hopkinton representative on the Chariho Regional School Committee.

March 22, 2008

Mr. Ricci may have influenced the Chariho Times to fire James Madden

Filed under: Corruption,Ricci,Unions — Editor @ 12:56 pm

In the last meeting packet, a series of emails were included between Mr. Ricci and James Madden, (now former) reporter for the Chariho Times.  Apparently, Mr. Madden was trying to get information from Mr. Ricci regarding the topic I discussed in the public forum.  Mr. Ricci did not give the information.  I subsequently published the info James was requesting.  Mr. Ricci followed with similar info and Mr. Madden responded by saying, “what do you want me to do with this, wipe my ***.”In previous emails Mr. Madden expressed his frustration in getting information from Mr. Ricci on several,,, several occasions.  I will post the emails when I can.

The publisher made the decision.  Her name is Terri Leifeste and her email is   I will be canceling my subscription and will not allow that paper to quote me again.  I know of at least one other elected official that has pledged to do the same. 

While the CT was sometimes the only paper to report what was going on, this cannot be tolerated.  This will be filed away for later as the NEA complaint thickens.  Unions and freedom of speech on blogs and newspapers – those are popular subjects.  It is disappointing that Ms. Leifeste has chosen to bring that paper into what will surely become a national issue.

What next, Hugo Chavez as the new editor? 

[UPDATE] the Friday following Mr. Madden firing, he went into the office to get his things.  He has told me that he saw Carrie Barr at the office.  When quizzed, she said the NEA was looking into doing some advertising there.

[UPDATE]  I sent the following letter to the publisher:

Dear Ms. Leifeste,

As a school committee member at the Chariho Regional School District, I was presented with a series of email between your (now former) reporter, James Madden, and our superintendent, Barry Ricci. I understand that you, as the publisher of the Charho Times, have fired Mr. Madden because of this exchange.

You apparently have no understanding of the issues in our community. The Chariho Times was sometimes the only paper to report what has been happening. Mr. Madden was expressing (albeit crudely) the frustration many of us have been feeling. The District is now on the verge of collapse and your paper has now chosen to close the other eye.

If you had bothered to investigate the situation, you would have found that Mr. Madden was trying to determine why Mr. Ricci called for an executive session to discuss a hearing held at the Labor Relations Board between the National Education Association (teachers’ union) and the Chariho School District.

The complaint named me specifically and my writing on my blog ( – clearly a grievance issue and open to the public if desired by the named party (which it was). The Labor Relations Board asked if I would be present at the hearing but the Chariho lawyer did not respond. The Chariho Superintendent, Mr. Ricci, said he wasn’t asked by the lawyer. Do you think the people deserver to know how the NEA and Chariho are playing games (using tax dollars) to silence my free speech?

The NEA complaint surrounding this issue will not turn out well for them. And now you have included your paper as an accomplice with those attempts to restrict free speech. You should be ashamed and be held responsible.

I am disappointed in your decision and our community will suffer from the resulting lack of information. I can no longer support your paper. Please cancel my subscription immediately and place me on your “do not call” list. I will not speak with your reporters. I would respectfully request that the people in the cc take notice of this action. I would be happy to provide further details and documentation

.Bill Felkner PS. Mr. Madden went back to your offices on the Friday following his firing and saw Carrie Barr, Chariho NEA representative. When queried, she said that the NEA was looking to do some advertising at the Chariho Times. You do not have enough ad space to pay for the damage you have done to your paper our community.

[UPDATE]  Hopkinton Town Council member Tom Buck has notified me that he called the publisher and editor expressing similar thoughts.

March 20, 2008

From today’s ProJo

Filed under: contract negotiations,transparency,Unions — Editor @ 3:05 pm

“The right to know is a top priority” 

The Providence Journal recently reported on a “statement” read into the Chariho School Committee minutes by member Bob Petit denouncing me for sharing “confidential” information with the public (Felkner’s Web blog ruffles feathers, March 13).  The Committee decides what is hidden in executive sessions and I’m sorry if what I am about to share offends them, but there is more that you should know.


This all started when the NEA accused me of illegally interfering with the contract negotiation process by saying something to someone via a post on my blog (Chariho School Parents’ Forum,  When I asked for the evidence, the NEA flatly refused to provide me with any details. 


Four months later I learned that the NEA had requested a hearing with the Labor Relations Board (LRB).  I was not notified.  The interim Chariho solicitor, Andrew Henneous, and the Chariho Superintendent, Barry Ricci, were notified.  The LRB asked Mr. Henneous if I would be present at the hearing.  He didn’t respond. 


I asked Superintendent Ricci if he was aware of the LRB’s request and he said the lawyer never told him.  However, the board chairman, Bill Day, was notified. 


This is indeed an odd situation.  First it is odd that Bill Day, whose wife and son are both NEA members at Chariho, would be involved.  Secondly, and more perplexing, is the fact that the lawyer is an interim solicitor who is vying for the permanent job.  The superintendent has repeatedly recommended that the Committee hire him – even after the revelation of this communication breakdown.  Would you hire a lawyer that kept information from you?


But all this was hidden in executive session and seven of the eleven Committee members who voted to approve the “statement” chastise me for sharing it with you.  It’s your money, do you agree with them?

 Bill Felkner, Hopkinton representative on the Chariho Regional School Committee. 

March 17, 2008

Providence Journal reports on NEA complaint

Filed under: contract negotiations,Unions — Editor @ 11:08 pm

The ProJo reported on the NEA complaint and Bob Petit’s reading of the statement.

But some of his fellow School Committee members — including Robert Petit — took exception to his deportment and postings.

Last September the district’s support personnel union, which was in the midst of contract negotiations, filed a grievance against the School Committee that alleged an unfair labor practice and cited Felkner by name.

The committee has discussed the grievance behind closed doors.

But Felkner, who has talked about the issue in public and released a copy of a proposed settlement sent by the union by e-mail, says the discussions were about his blog and his actions and, therefore, amounted to a grievance against him, which he requested to have heard in public.

There is more to this story…

March 13, 2008

Follow up on “its nearly impossible to fire an incompetent public employee”

Filed under: contract negotiations,Unions — Editor @ 2:35 pm

From Teacher Union Facts we find these statistics for RI

In Rhode Island, after 3 years, public school teachers receive what’s commonly called “tenure,” a special employment protection that teachers unions defend. As the below federal statistics indicate, tenured teachers (as opposed to less-senior “probationary” teachers) are practically impossible to fire.

teacher firing rate
probationary teacher firing rate
private school teacher firing rate (national)

March 12, 2008

Transparency in contract negotiations (cont.)

Filed under: contract negotiations,executive sessions,transparency — Editor @ 10:25 pm

I was emailed recently asking about my motion to release the ESP contract before it was ratified.  The motion was made at the November 27th meeting in exec session (you will also notice more discussion of this blog which was somehow listed as “litigation” – but I digress). 

Some of the minor chit chat centered on why it would be ok to release the information.  The majority of the Committee didn’t want to release it because, essentially, they promised the union that they wouldn’t.  But they also acknowledged that the NEA had broken that agreement.  Plus, everyone now knows that there is no law requiring closed meetings for negotiations.  It is an agreement made between the Union and the Committee.  So you have to ask yourself, why would they make that agreement and why would they honor it when they acknowledged that the union had already broken it.  

I have admitted that when we started I thought it was law, but as soon as I learned it was not, I would not support it (we voted for it at each meeting – it could have been changed at any time).  So why would they still want to hide it even after they learned its not necessary?

Governor Caricieri made a similar proposal recently and placed it as an Article in the budget. 

“The debate yesterday largely centered on Carcieri’s push to shed light on the collective bargaining process, which is generally conducted behind closed doors between union representatives and municipal or school department leaders.”

“This budget article will improve transparency of budget decisions in local cities and towns, while giving people a voice in the decision-making process by requiring a public hearing,” the governor’s spokesman, Jeff Neal, said. “If approved, it would enable the citizens of local communities to express their support for, concerns about or opposition to collective bargaining contracts being agreed to by municipalities.”

Of course, the unions have the expected response:

“I’m halfway decent at reading tea leaves and I’m pretty clear that this budget article is about putting pressure on public officials not to give decent, in my view, pay raises and benefits to public sector workers,” said James Parisi, a lobbyist for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. “It’s built on a couple false assumptions — that the employer doesn’t know what they’re doing and they’re getting hoodwinked by unions…. Public perception and the chatter out there aside, it’s just not true and you need to know it’s not true.”

Did I mention that the last teacher’s union contract at Chariho had average step raises of 10.3% and the latest support personnel contract step raises average 9.5%?   Do you get double digit raises just for making it from one year to the next (besides, we all know how you can’t hardly fire an incompetent public employee)?

But maybe the unions are right.  Maybe the school committees do know what they are doing.  Maybe they intended on treating the public sector employees with double digit raises and gold-plated benefits. 

This is a very simple issue – transparency.  We are spending your money.  You should have a say in the process.  Ask your Chariho representative why they voted to keep the information from you.  Don’t buy the “we made a promise” line – ask them why they made the promise in the first place and then ask them to promise to represent you next time.

School Committee votes to make a statement

Filed under: Corruption,executive sessions,transparency — Editor @ 10:41 am

The following statement (file linked below) was read into  the record by Bob Petit last night and the majority of the Committee voted to accept.   There was a discussion for a while.  Normally, the Committee gets to speak and then the public.  But Holly Eaves made a (now famous – or infamous) “move to motion question” which killed discussion – blocking out Barbara Capalbo from speaking.   Which is a shame considering they accused me of not working for the kids – I said I was working for my constituents and their children.  It might have been helpful for the Hopkinton councilor to speak considering she too represents them, but for some reason Holly didn’t think it was necessary.  And, of course, the majority of the Committee agreed.


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