Chariho School Parents’ Forum

May 31, 2008

Sub Committee formed to investigate union contracts

Filed under: contract negotiations — Editor @ 9:40 am

During last Tuesday’s meeting, Holly Eaves created a sub-committee to investigate possible changes to employee contracts – presumably in preparation for the upcoming contract negotiations.

I was not available for the meeting on Tuesday but did tell Holly I was willing to join the committee – after all, investigating contract issues is part of my day job and have I provided such consultation to several people in the State House and Dept of Education (not to mention municipal leaders).

I have not heard from her as to who is on the panel.  If anyone saw the meeting I would be interested in knowing who will be on it.

[UPDATE] George Abbott reports that Holly Eaves will represent Charlestown on the committee and Bob Petit will represent Hopkinton.  No word on who the Richmond representative is.  I suppose this will set the stage for who will be on the negotiations sub committee when the contract comes due.

[UPDATE] Andrew McQuade is the third member and Holly Eaves posted details on the sub-committee:

CLARIFICATION on this topic:

This subcommittee is NOT formed to look at union contracts. We as a school committee, as a whole, will be doing that soon.

The following motion regarding this subcommittee was made and recorded in the minutes of May 13, 2008. I made the following motion to form the subcommittee:

“Motion to place on the agenda the creation of a subcommittee to accomplish the following:

With the budget constraints that exist and that are looming in the future, the subcommittee, keeping in mind the education and safety of our students, should make suggestions for action by the School Committee:

1) Review all contracts to assess duration, timelines. Make recommendations to provide the school committee with appropriate information to make future contract adjustments that would allow the school committee to deal effectively with the future budget.

2) Assess job descriptions and responsibilities to fully understand job scope. The subcommittee should assess gaps and overlaps in duties.

These recommendations should come back to the school committee by October 2008 for discussion in order that the School Committee can act effectively in the upcoming budget process and contract considerations. The goal of this is to empower the school committee to plan necessary changes in light of the financial future we are facing.

Potential Subcommittee names:

Budget and Contract Impact Study Sub-committee Mini-Management Study Sub-committee”

May 30, 2008

House Finance passes bond legislation

Filed under: bond,Budget — Editor @ 5:41 pm

From the people who brought us the $434mm budget deficit comes the decision to move forward with the Chariho bond.

PROVIDENCE — The state House Committee on Finance approved three bills designed to authorize $25 million in bonds for renovations and construction at Chariho’s Switch Road campus Thursday.

“The accreditation is my concern at this time,” said Rep. Peter L. Lewiss, D-Westerly.

The campus risks losing accreditation because of crowded and dilapidated classrooms, according to proponents of a bond.

Those proponents say the bond money will provide a solid financial plan for correcting these issues and forestall action by the regional accrediting association, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

As passed by the finance panel Thursday, the amended bills exclude the specific state reimbursement rates and instead uses more general wording.

The next stop for the bills will be the House floor and later the Senate. Then, if passed by the state General Assembly, the bond will face a referendum at the hands of the voters of Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton. Several previous attempts to approve bonds to make repairs to the Chariho campus have failed during the referendum step, when voters from at least one of the towns have rejected the proposals.

A bond has not passed in all three towns since 1986.

“I expect that representatives from the three town councils will have something to say,” Lewiss said.

The majority of Hopkinton Town Council has not supported even bringing the question of bonding back to the General Assembly and the school district’s voters. The council has previously complained that Hopkinton pays more than its fair share of support for the school district. Both the Charlestown and Richmond town councils have supported bringing the question to voters again.

Hopkinton’s failure to pass the bonds has not only placed the accreditation at risk, but also put $10 million in state matching funds in jeopardy if enabling legislation is not passed by the General Assembly before July 1, say school construction supporters.

If it makes passes the legislature, the referendum presented to voters will be in three parts that require approval by all three of the Chariho towns.

The bond authorizations include $17.8 million for upgrades at the high school and general campus, $4.4 million for a permanent RYSE facility to replace its temporary classrooms, and $2.7 million for repairs and an addition to the middle school.

“We should let the voters decide,” said Lewiss.

The project was presented to voters initially as a $26 million single question to voters last fall. That measure passed in Charlestown in Richmond, but failed in Hopkinton by 47 votes. The district’s governing document — the Chariho Act — requires that a bond question pass in all three towns.

Rep Lewis claims that he fears the loss of accreditation.  This threat comes from an organization that Chariho almost stopped paying dues to a few years back because it was seen as a farce.  Besides, they claim we will loose accreditation because of poor classroom conditions and overcrowding.  Most of the classroom concerns are being addressed in the current capital plan and enrolments are dropping. 

Why are politicians so short sighted.  They passed S-3050 (the tax cap) to put pressure on school committees so they will address contract issues.  But then when the school committees refuse to deal with the unions and neglected maintenance instead, the politicians bail them out by passing bonds.  Like I said, these are the same people who brought us the $434mm deficit.

School Choice Works

Filed under: School Choice — Editor @ 11:13 am

From the San Diego Union Tribune:

Thanks to grossly dishonest TV ads run by the education establishment, California voters have rejected school choice – innovative programs allowing parents to take their kids out of troubled public schools and either move them to better public schools or provide them with subsidies to attend private schools. The basic, obvious idea that competition would lead poor schools to improve was trumped by a teachers union-led campaign that likened school choice to an assault on students, the very people it would help most.

Now along comes research that makes an empirical case that vouchers work. Princeton University economist Cecilia Elena Rouse and three colleagues took a close look at the results of Florida’s A+ voucher program from 2002-2007, aided by a massive, detailed study of practices at thousands of individual schools.

The program was far from ambitious. The only eligible students were those in schools that got a failing grade twice within four years from state evaluators. The vouchers were for limited sums.

Yet thousands of families took advantage of them. One result, according to Rouse’s report: The schools that were losing students quickly changed their ways and generally improved on test scores – even though they had lost many of their top students to other schools. Why? Because funding in Florida – as in California – is based on average daily attendance. Money (or a threatened loss of it) motivates.

Alas, there’s a depressing twist to this story. At the behest of teachers unions, the A+ voucher program was thrown out by Florida’s notoriously liberal Supreme Court on highly dubious grounds. But before its demise, at least the program yielded hard evidence that vouchers work.

May 29, 2008

More insight from the inside

Filed under: Corruption — Editor @ 1:18 pm

Regular readers of this blog know “Tinkerbell” is a Chariho employee who has previously given us interesting insight on what goes on at the school.  He commented today but it is on an old post and I didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle – so here it is. 

What you don’t realize is that Ricci is the main source of all of these problems!! If you don’t have a leader in a superintendent’s position, then the whole district suffers, no matter how many times Ricci tries to make points by saying things that make you think he has your children’s best interest at heart. Ricci and RYSE are draining your budget dry. Does he really think building a building for RYSE is going to help the students and (ha) the administration in there? Read the Richmond Police log from last summer. You will see who Ricci puts in charge of the students! That principal got a ride to school everyday for the first few months; and now Officer Vaughan is gone. Hm. Makes you wonder.

Take the comments as you will, but it is nice to know there are employees who try to look out for whats best for the school.  Unfortunately, there are far too few Tinkerbells in the world.

May 23, 2008

Tiverton school doesn’t listen to its voters either

Filed under: Budget — Editor @ 9:37 pm

Anchorrising reports on the continuing turmoil in Tiverton where voters rejected the budget.

“Let’s make a stand and tell the state we can’t take it anymore,” said Joe Sousa.

“How about cutting some services,” added Tom Morse. “I don’t care, I would suggest you start talking about cutting.” …

And Roger Bennis, who supported the cuts, said, he cares less about where the cuts are made than that it happen. “I don’t have any specific recommendations. I am looking to send a message.”

Shouting “no,” the voters signaled that they would not approve the final $2 million of the Budget Committee’s proposed $30 million tax levy. …

Joe Sousa asked fellow voters to “send a message upstate” that the town’s taxpayers reject unfunded state mandates, particularly those related to the schools, like the education of special-needs students.

“We can’t afford it any more,” Sousa said.

“The prices we’re paying to send these children to school are outrageous,” he said.

Unfortunately, the Tiverton politicians want to pull a Chariho.

When the town meeting does reconvene, Mr. Cotta said Thursday, the budget committee could recommend more than one budget, for example the original one recommended at last night’s meeting and another reflecting $2 million in cuts. Parliamentary requirements would have to be met, he said.”We can present more than one budget as long as we have the same or more than the number in attendance when we do as were present when the original vote was taken,” he said. The quorum present at the time (approximately 9 p.m.) the vote was taken last night is thought to be close to what it was (437 voters) when the meeting was called to order at 7:20 p.m. The total vote on the motion was 406 voting, with 151 yeas and 255 nays.Mr. Cotta said people he knows of who voted on the prevailing side could move to reconsider, and thus bring the recommended measure back again that was rejected last night.

May 22, 2008

Goldwater Institute: I’ll take what Florida’s having

Filed under: School Choice — Editor @ 8:33 pm

In a series of recent articles and research pieces, Dr. Matthew Ladner, Vice President for Policy Research at the Goldwater Institute, takes a closer look at education reform in Florida and how the Sunshine State is raising student achievement and rapidly closing the achievement gap. Founded in 1988, the Goldwater Institute is an Arizona-based “non-profit research organization developing policy solutions that foster economic and educational freedom.”  

  • “Jeb Bush was elected Governor of Florida in 1998, and implemented a tough reform program of rigorous academic standards and parental choice. Florida is the only state to do more than Arizona to expand parental choice in education in recent years, and unlike Arizona , its testing program has not been watered down.”

 

  • “In 1998, a stunning 47 percent of Florida fourth graders were on this dismal track, scoring ‘below basic’ on the NAEP reading test. In 2007, 70 percent of Florida fourth graders scored basic or above on reading. The percentage of Florida children failing to master basic literacy dropped by 36 percent in less than 10 years – a remarkable achievement.”

 

  • “ Florida ’s Hispanic students overtook all Arizona students by 2002. This isn’t a fluke. Florida ’s Hispanic students outscore all Arizona students in fourth grade math and eighth grade reading as well. At current rates, Florida ’s African American students will tie the Arizona average for all students by next year.”

 

  • “Scores of Florida ’s Hispanic students have soared in recent years. Florida ’s Hispanic students now have the second highest reading scores in the nation, African Americans score fourth highest.”

 

  • “ Florida ’s reform record provides hope to a nation struggling to improve education and to close racial achievement gaps. Given the proper incentives, public schools can improve. Disadvantaged children can learn at levels previously thought reserved for the privileged.”

Reviewing test scores and analyzing data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Dr. Ladner compared student success in Florida and Arizona . Here are a few of his observations:  

May 21, 2008

Thurman Silks LTE in the Westerly Sun

Filed under: Tax — Editor @ 11:09 pm

The Editor
The Westerly Sun

Sir:
The front page story in the Westerly Sun on Sunday, May 18th headlined “Charlestown pressuring Hopkinton to pay for school improvements” reported the comments of Charlestown politicians and a lawyer keeping up the relentless chant about Hopkinton’s unwillingness to spend money on Chariho.

Your readers would have a better perspective of the decades-long controversy over Chariho funding if they were aware of the basic source of disagreement between the Chariho towns. This has been going on for a long time.

In 1998 the property tax rate for the Chariho District in Charlestown was $8.51 per $1000 assessed valuation for Chariho alone, in Hopkinton it was $13.67 and in Richmond it was $15.44.

That meant that for a $200,000 property, a home owner in Charlestown paid $1702 in taxes for Chariho alone, a Hopkinton homeowner paid $2734, and a Richmond homeowner paid $3088.

Fast forward to 2008. The rate in Charlestown had dropped to $4.81 per $1000 assessed valuation for Chariho alone, Hopkinton was $11.95 and Richmond was $12.75.

That meant that the $200,000 property in Charlestown now pays $970 for Chariho, Hopkinton pays $2390 and Richmond pays $2550.

The good news is that the tax rate went down for everybody. The bad news is that in 1998 both Hopkinton and Richmond property owners paid more than 160% of what Charlestown property owners paid for property of the same value, but in 2008 both Richmond and Hopkinton property owners pay at least 246% of what the Charlestown taxpayer pays. It’s getting worse!

It strikes me as the height of hypocrisy to accuse taxpayers who are already paying at more than twice the Charlestown rate for the schools of not paying for improvements. They already are, and have been for years. They just aren’t being credited for it.

There is one weird aspect to all this. Richmond taxpayers are being treated even more unfairly than Hopkinton taxpayers. But the Richmond Town Council has joined with Charlestown in attacking Hopkinton. Do Richmond taxpayers realize that equalized school taxes would save their Town more than $2 million for their school costs annually? Does their Council?

Respectfully,

Thurman Silks
Hopkinton City

 

May 19, 2008

Westerly Sun reports on the un-approved admin contracts

Filed under: bond — Editor @ 1:47 pm

It seems that when the Committee voted not to approve the contracts, that didn’t really mean anything.   At least according to Chariho.  This all came about when we tried to work on the budget.  Committee member Petite suggested positions tocut and we were continually told that we couldn’t do that because we were locked into the contracts.   You can fire them but we would still need to pay them until the contract expired (2 or 3 year contracts).  Even if the budget required a cut, we would still have to pay.

So we asked that the contracts be aligned so that we could cut positions when budget discussion was on – but Ricci sent us a memo saying that Brian Stanley wouldn’t do it because of the conflict of interest (his contract is among those discussed).  Ricci also said that if we did that our employees would not feel “secure.”  I responded that that is exactly the idea.  We live in a performance based world and they should be only as secure as their job performance would dictate. 

But they refused – and if what Ricci says is accurate, we lose.  Nothing can be done about the contracts because the employees wont do it and the contracts automatically re-up. 

Now before you start with the “who do they work for” talk – lets remember that it is an 11 member board.  They will continue to do what the majority wants.  Just follow this issue as an example – the Committee asked to change the contracts but it didn’t happen and I’ll wager that it won’t happen.  My guess.

And they wonder why the parents have become so disenfranchised with the school.  Here is the WS article:

WOOD RIVER JCT. — Contracts for 11 Chariho Regional School District administrators have been extended through June 30, 2010 without approval from the school committee.
Approval of the two-year contracts failed in a tie, 5-5 vote Tuesday. Chairman William G. Day of Richmond, Holly Eaves of Charlestown, Terri Serra of Richmond, Ronald Preuhs of Hopkinton and Andrew McQuaide of Charlestown voted to approve the work agreements, while William Felkner of Hopkinton, George Abbott of Hopkinton, Giancarlo Cicchetti of Charlestown, Andrew J. Polouski of Charlestown and Robert Petit of Hopkinton voted against them.
Deborah Jennings of Richmond was absent.
Despite the committee’s vote, a provision in the con­tracts allows the work agreements to automatical­ly renew for one year “if either party does not notify the other, in writing, (by) May 1, of its intent to allow the term to expire at the end of the then current term.”
The contracts were first included in the committee’s April 22 consent agenda under “personnel actions.” At that meeting, the com­mittee voted 8-3 to table the contracts for the non-union employees. Day, Felkner and Petit voted against the motion made by McQuaide.
McQuaide said when he made the motion, he didn’t realize the contracts would automatically “roll over” by the time the committee reconsidered it earlier this week.
“The idea behind tabling was the fact that we were given a significant amount of contracts, and at least personally, I wasn’t able to understand the full com­plexities of these contracts as well as their financial implications,” McQuaide said.
Chariho Superintendent Barry J. Ricci said this week that it was a “routine matter” to put the contracts on the committee’s agenda when they are ready for annual renewal.
McQuaide said the com­mittee typically considers the contracts after comple­tion of the coming year’s district budget (which includes any salary increas­es for administrators) “because if the budget isn’t approved, then those con­tracts would be up in the air anyway.”
He added that he has spo­ken with the superintend­ent about having “the con­tracts in front of us, but not taking any action on them” when the committee is working on the budget.
“It’s a matter of reforming the way the school commit­tee does business so it’s the most efficient, and yet allows us to really make mindful and understanding decisions,” McQuaide said.
Felkner said when the committee was assessing the budget earlier this year “we tried to make some changes. Do we need this position, that position? Well, we can’t do anything anyway because we’re in a two-year contract.”
“How are we supposed to react to something that happens in the budget if our hands are tied with the con­tract?” he asked.
Despite the expired dead­line, Eaves said she consid­ered Tuesday’s vote to be “symbolic” when she approved the contracts.
“By taking the vote, I think we would have been showing the support of our administration,” she said.
Similarly, McQuaide said, “I think that it had been indicated to us that there was a concern [about per­formance] and we had to address that concern, which is why I voted in favor.”
Others didn’t convey the same meaning of the vote.
“Basically my under­standing is that the con­tract kind of rolled over anyway,” Petit said. “… The vote the other night kind of didn’t mean a whole lot.”
District administrators, mostly principals, waited about four hours until the committee voted at its ses­sion Tuesday. Several declined to comment after the decision.
Petit said he didn’t have an issue with the adminis­trators’ performances, adding they “are all doing a great job.” However, “there are things that we need to sit down and look at and discuss,” he noted.
Along with other commit­tee members, Petit said they would like to assess “staggering” the adminis-t­rators’ contracts, so not all would be evaluated at the same time. By doing so, he said, the rollover could be eliminated.
“Again, it’s in no way in my eyes to eliminate a posi­tion right now, but it does give us flexibility with stag­gering contracts,” Petit said.
The committee had requested Brian Stanley, director of Administration and Finance, to evaluate staggering the contracts, but Ricci told the committee in a memo that it would be a conflict of interest because one of the pacts is for Stanley, according to Donna Sieczkiewicz, Chariho’s administrative assistant.
Felkner, however, said he would prefer contracts to be eliminated.
“It’s a performance-based world and our kids would benefit greatly from a com­petitive market for schools,” he said.
Eaves submitted a request this week to create a subcommittee that would examine contract issues, as well as administration staffing. The committee is expected to consider the request at its next meeting. “I really want us to take a look at the big picture and see what we need to do or not to do,” she said.
Petit said the subcommit­tee could also bring trans­parency to such topics.
“I think it brings a lot of information to light for school committee members to have a great understand­ing of contracts and bids,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, the com­mittee unanimously approved two other con­tracts, for Chariho Middle School Vice Principal Gregory Zenion — who serves as the middle school’s interim principal — and Career and Technical Center Director Elizabeth Sinwell. Those contracts, which require Zenion and Sinwell to contribute 15­percent co-pays for health and dental insurance, were listed separately and approved as consent agenda items.
Contracts for the other administrators, who were hired prior to Zenion and Sinwell, outline a phase-in for insurance co-pays, with a 10-percent contribution during the next fiscal year.
vgoff@thewesterlysun.com

 

Florida Dems getting it on school choice

Filed under: School Choice — Editor @ 1:23 pm

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Democrats for Choice

 

When Florida passed a law in 2001 creating the Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program for underprivileged students, all but one Democrat in the state legislature voted against it.  Earlier this month, lawmakers extended the program – this time with the help of a full third of Democrats in the Legislature, including 13 of 25 members of the state’s black caucus and every member of the Hispanic caucus.  What changed?

 

Our guess is that low-income parents in Florida have gotten a taste of the same school choice privileges that middle- and upper-income families have always enjoyed.  And they’ve found they like this new educational freedom.  Under the scholarship program, which is means-tested, companies get a 100% tax credit for donations to state-approved nonprofits that provide private-school vouchers for low-income families.

 

The program already serves some 20,000 students.  The expansion will allow it to assist an additional 6,000.  It’s no surprise that poor families would embrace educational options, given that their government-assigned scholars are clearly failing our children.  The high school graduation rate for black students in Florida is 45% overall, 38% for black males.  The 52% graduation rate for Hispanics is also nothing to brag about.

 

What’s encouraging is that these parents have managed to convey their pro-choice sentiments to their representatives, who are responding even though voucher programs infuriate powerful liberal special interest groups like the teachers unions. Given that 70% of the program participants are black or Hispanic, you’d think Democrats would be taking the lead on a measure that mostly benefits their traditional constituency.  Apparently they needed a little prodding, but we’re glad to see they did the right thing.

 

May 13, 2008

Good news for math?

Filed under: Math — Editor @ 3:35 pm

There is an update over at the “Analysis Math” page.  Asst. Superintendent provided some information regarding Dr. Quirk’s concerns.

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