Chariho School Parents’ Forum

September 27, 2008

WS on the last SC meeting

Filed under: 1 — Editor @ 11:10 pm

Not sure why it took so long to be reported – but here is the Westerly Sun report on the last meeting. 

What the reporter didn’t (or couldn’t) tell you is exactly how this came up.  A parent at the St. Pius open house said she was told the ride would be 3 hours if picked up at her home (5:30).  A 2 1/2 hour ride if picked up at the group stop (the town hall).   Other parents made comments and one asked me to speak with the principal.  The principal told me that this has been an issue – Parents do contact Chariho – it hasn’t changed.  

I later called the bus company.  She was not aware of any 5:30 pick ups and said, ‘I don’t think we pick up anyone before 6:00.’  Which confirmed ride times much longer than a Chariho student. 

I got three calls from people but they all were parents who drove their kids to the school – they wouldn’t put the children through the 3-4 hours per day on the bus. 

I contacted Ricci and he said, ‘he was unaware of anyone on the bus for longer than an hour in the district’ – I asked again clarifying it was an “out of district” student. 

So I called the St. Pius principal and told him that I would put the issue on the agenda and if someone wanted to talk about it they could call me but should show up and tell everyone else.  He sent out a notice making this offer.

The reporter also didn’t tell you that there were 2 agenda items – one of a parent who wrote a letter (and it was NOT someone I spoke with) and my agenda item. 

The reporter also twisted the words to suggest I was hiding the fact that my kids went to St. Pius.  Anyone who watched the school meeting knew I was open about it – and they have short ride times so my motivation isn’t self interest.  I did this because my commitment is to education – not Chariho.  And these ride times are insane.  We don’t allow it for the public school students because we recognize the detrimental effects – why would we treat these kids differently?  I just can’t imagine being 5 years old and having to ride on the bus for 2 hours in the morning and again on the way home – even 1 1/2 if using a group stop – its crazy.  No wonder these kids are bouncing off the walls.  But here’s the article anyway.

 

WOOD RIVER JCT. – The Chariho Regional School Commit­tee defeated a proposal that could have been titled “No child left on a long bus ride.”
Nearly 10 parents attended a Chariho Regional School Commit­tee meeting earlier this week to protest their children’s 1½- to 2­hour bus ride to a private school.Under state law, the school district must provide transportation for students living within the tri-town area, whether it is to a public or private school.
Matthew P. Jeffries, of Wood River Junction, said his 8- and 9­year-old children spend at least 1½ hours on a bus to The Compass School in Kingston.
And Hope Valley couple Frank and LuAnn DiPietro told the com­mittee their 9-year-old twins are
required to catch a bus to St. Pius X School in Westerly at 7:15 a.m. – a half-hour earlier than last year and just more than an hour before school starts.
The committee members — some expressing sympathy for the fami­lies’ plight — defeated 2-9 a pro­posal to set a 1-hour limit on bus rides for students living in the Chariho region and attending

school within Washington County.
Instead, it invited the par­ents to meet with a trans­portation manager and the district’s human resources administrator, who were at the meeting.
According to some school officials, that’s what the par­ents should have done first. Chariho’s transportation pol­icy, posted on the district’s Web site, says an appeal to a bus company decision should be directed to the superin­tendent, and then to the school committee — which is ultimately responsible for student transportation under current state law.
“You chose to circumvent our normal policy,” commit­tee Chairman William G. Day of Richmond told Jeffries after he asked if he should read his letter to inform the public of its con­tent. “We know what you wrote and we’re giving you an opportunity to add any­thing to it because we’re not
going to get to any give and take right now.”
Committeeman Andrew McQuaide of Charlestown recommended Jeffries and the parents meet with the school board’s three-person Transportation Subcommit­tee, overseen by Human Resources Administrator Susan Rogers. And Chariho Superintendent Barry J. Ricci said the district’s administration typically solves transportation issues “99 percent of the time.”
“This is what we were told
to do,” LuAnn DiPietro told school officials, referring to a note that “said come to this meeting.”
Committeeman William Felkner of Ashaway then revealed that he invited par­ents to attend the session. He proposed changes to the district’s transportation poli­cy, which he said limits bus rides to one hour for stu­dents attending Chariho schools.
(Rogers later told the com­mittee that the 1-hour limit is not stated in Chariho’s transportation policy, but is “general practice.”) Saying that all students should be treated equally, Felkner told the committee: “In-district kids are never on the bus for more than an hour and we find a way to make it work. These people pay their taxes. … I strongly believe we should set a poli­cy” to limit bus rides for all students transported within Washington County to 1 hour.
Citing financial concerns
and a need for further study, other members shot down his proposal. In addition to Felkner, George Abbott of Hopkinton was the lone sup­porter.
What Felkner didn’t dis­close during the session was that his 5- and 6-year-old children also attend St. Pius. After the meeting, he told a reporter that his children do not have a lengthy bus ride because they’re at one of the last bus stops on the route.
During a recent open house gathering at St. Pius, Felkner said the issue of “transportation came up” among parents. Felkner said he also asked St. Pius’s prin­cipal to refer parents to him if they had concerns with transportation, adding that “more people showed up” at Tuesday’s meeting than he expected.
Devin Baccari, of Hope Valley, said the Chariho administration had been “helpful” when she contacted the district about her 6-year­old
daughter’s bus route. She said it allowed her child to use a different bus stop “but I still have to drive 10 to 15 minutes to take my daughter there.”
She and other parents who spoke before the committee said they favored group bus stops and were willing to drive to one, if it meant their child would have a shorter bus ride.
Before meeting with par­ents in another room, First Student Manager Lillian Benoit told the committee that the company polls par­ents before the start of the school year to ask if they would prefer a group or indi­vidual bus stop.
But the parents showed frustration over the process to determine their child’s bus route, accusing the bus com­pany First Student of being “uncooperative” when they tried to request information or attempt to change their
child’s assigned stop.

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26 Comments »

  1. The Rag rarely gets it right. Considering the article wasn’t published until days after the meeting, you would hope they’d use the time to actually get close to the truth.

    I’ll say it again, per usual Mr. Felkner is looking out for the folks. Per usual, fools rush in to defend the administation and School Committee.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 28, 2008 @ 10:35 am | Reply

  2. Of course, at this point the administration is in a no win position. I am pretty sure the bus company is required to set up routes to pick everybody near their home (at the home for younger kids, I think), so the only way to shorten rides for everybody is to use more buses, each of which must be purchased or leased, and needs fuel, a driver, and a monitor.

    When that increased cost was publicized, I somehow doubt the school district’s efforts would be praised on this blog.

    Comment by david — September 28, 2008 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

  3. After thinking about it, my desire would be for the district to have a policy which adheres to the same principles for private school children as public school children. The informal policy is to have no child on the bus any longer than 1 hour. I would apply this same criteria to all children, except I would add on the travel time from Chariho to the private school. St. Pius is around 1/2 hour further so no child should be on the bus more than 1 1/2 hours. This would be fair to everyone as Chariho wouldn’t have to take any measure beyond what they offer to public school children.

    As for extra cost, I think parents should be responsible for children getting on and off the bus safely, so you can get rid of monitors as far as I’m concerned. Besides this cost saving measure, we’re back to the School Committee’s irresponsible contract negotiations and other budgeting practices which put our school system costs among the highest in the country. It’s time to put the children before the employees. I won’t be holding my breath.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 28, 2008 @ 5:18 pm | Reply

  4. CR, you’re surely all over the map on placing the blame for this, if there is blame.

    I’m also not sure about the ability to eliminate school bus monitors since that is governed by state law.

    16-21-1. Transportation of public and private school pupils.

    (b) for transportation provided to children enrolled
    in grades kindergarten through five (5) school bus
    monitors, other than the school bus driver, shall
    be required on all school bound and home bound
    routes. Variances to the requirement for a school
    bus monitor may be granted by the commissioner
    of elemcntary and secondary education if he or she
    finds that an alternative plan provides substantially
    equivalent safety for children. For the purposes of
    this section a school bus monitor shall mean any
    person sixteen (16) years of age or older.

    Comment by CharihoParent — September 28, 2008 @ 6:30 pm | Reply

  5. David, you’re right, no matter what the administration it will never win with some of the voters.

    Comment by CharihoParent — September 28, 2008 @ 6:31 pm | Reply

  6. I haven’t assigned any blame. I commended Mr. Felkner for being proactive and bringing the issue to the “unaware” Mr. Ricci and School Committee. They chose to kick the can down the road. Not unusual for them.

    The law you cite gives discretion to a commissioner. She/he may or may not be a reasonable person. If he/she were reasonable, and private school parents agreed to monitor their own children in exchange for more favorable bus routes, then there is nothing in law which wouldn’t allow the commissioner to grant a variance.

    If the commissioner is like me, and trusts the safety of children is better served by parents than by government employers, he might be receptive.

    Not everyone is capable of thinking outside the box, but it can be helpful when trying to problem solve.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 28, 2008 @ 6:49 pm | Reply

  7. CP,
    schools get around the “mandates” all the time by ignoring them or receiving a waiver from GA Committee. Kennedy got us the waiver on the monitors.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — September 28, 2008 @ 9:26 pm | Reply

  8. BF,
    Isn’t the monitor waived on the middle school/high school routes only? And what was the reason the monitors were waived?

    Comment by CharihoParent — September 29, 2008 @ 4:42 am | Reply

  9. Hi!
    As you may have seen in The Westerly Sun, Ron Preuhs has entered the race for the lone vacancy this year his own. He filed his paperwork in June and did not file the required signatures. He said at the time he was confused by the dates?
    On the ballot in Hopkinton will be Richard Vecchio, an anti-bond person versus Mr. Preuhs, a pro bonds person. Historically I don’t recall any write-in winning locally with the exception of those elected with vacancies on the ballot. Just being listed on the ballot essentially guarantees you votes and a win if you run unopposed per the names listed on the ballot itself.
    It appears the only write-ins elected to the Chariho School Committee this year will be the open seat of Giancarlo Chichetti in Charlestown, no one filed for and one of the two seats Richmond has up this year. Deb Jennings is not running for her seat and Bill Day is the only one to file for the two seats Richmond has up this year.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — September 29, 2008 @ 10:56 am | Reply

  10. Not sure. We have had discussion since then but mostly on expansion or continuation of current plan. I know some schools have gone to installing cameras under the bus in place of the monitor but I dont think we went that path.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — September 29, 2008 @ 10:59 am | Reply

  11. Mr. Preuhs has been a major disappointment. I understand he is a Republican. Apparently he is not a fiscally conservative Republican.

    Should Mr. Abbott and/or Mr. Felkner win a seat on the Town Council, I urge them to appoint School Committee replacements who will follow in their footstep and continue to challenge the failing status quo at Chariho. Mr. Petit and Mr. Preuhs have been horrible representatives for Hopknton families. They don’t need any more help in excusing Chariho’s failure to educate our children at a reasonable cost.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 29, 2008 @ 11:58 am | Reply

  12. SBH-
    Is all you ever talk about is your stupid election? NOBODY CARES!!!!!!

    Comment by what — September 29, 2008 @ 8:40 pm | Reply

  13. and by the way…..im writing in georgia ure for school committee

    Comment by what — September 29, 2008 @ 8:40 pm | Reply

  14. The monitor law requires them in any bus with kids fifth grade or younger. In Chariho that meant every bus for many years, since fifth graders are at the middle school.

    I do believe that the monitors have been waived for the middle/high school buses, but you’re not going to get them waived on buses with really young children (heck, the Monsignore/Prout bus, at least half full of high schoolers, has a monitor, because there are kindergarteners and other young children on the bus).

    Comment by david — September 29, 2008 @ 9:51 pm | Reply

  15. I was completely unaware of the controversy surrounding the travel time/bus schedule. We live in Charlestown, and our child is just beginning 4th grade at St Pius. She, too, will have a very long bus ride. I hesitate to write publicly, however, about the misinformation I was given by the bus company in what I immediately sensed as an effor to dissuade me from using the public transportation. But my instincts I see now were right on. I have no choice but to put my daughter on the bus by 7AM for 1 1/2 bus ride because I leave for work in another part of the state at that time- many taxpayers probably see that as something “we deserve” for not choosing the local public school.

    Comment by St Pius parent — September 29, 2008 @ 10:53 pm | Reply

  16. Sorry to hear he bus company gave you “misinformation”. Not all taxpayers believe your child deserves an extended bus ride in retaliation for your family choosing private school. I believe every family should have real choice to pick the school they (parents) determine to be best.

    As to the bus monitor issue, the law cited by CP clearly states the commissioner for elementary and secondary education can grant a variance if the alternative provides “substantially equivalent” safety. I believe parents monitoring their children getting on and off the bus exceeds the monitoring any paid government employee could give. Of course, that’s just me….some people would rather have Mr. Petit in charge of their children’s safety and education.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 30, 2008 @ 1:22 am | Reply

  17. CR, the purpose of the bus monitors is not only to get the students on and off the buses safely, the bus monitors are also suppose to keep a watchful eye for the safety of the students while the bus is on route to the school. David reported exactly what I have heard as far as bus monitors go for Chariho and why they were waived.

    Comment by CharihoParent — September 30, 2008 @ 2:23 am | Reply

  18. to st pius parent — what sort of “misinformation” were you given? This is very different from my experience — We get a form requesting bus service every year, we mail it back, we get the schedule in early August.

    On the other hand, the bus company changed hands in the past year, and although the local management people are the same maybe the new company is less approachable and less helpful than in past years?

    Comment by david — September 30, 2008 @ 5:28 am | Reply

  19. I seem to recall the monitor law being enacted in repsonse to a child somewhere being run over by a bus after getting off the bus? I dnn’t know where the parents were when the tragedy happened nor do I know if the bus driver was held criminally responsible, but in predictable fashion the politicians saw a child’s death as an excellent chance to earn politicial points. The cost to Rhode Island families? Millions. As an added bonus, Rhode Island politicians were able to make hundreds addtional people beholden to the government for their paycheck…dependable government union voters.

    A child’s biggest risk on a bus is most likely a traffic accident. Do they have seatbelts on school busses these days? How about airbags? Or we need a monitor for every child ready to throw their body in front of each child in the event of an accident?

    If the citation is accurate, tha law copied by CP clearly offers the opportunity for a variance on monitors. David thinks there would be public displeasure with the added expense of providing private school children with the same timely bus service as public school children receive. I offered up the elimination of monitors as a possible way to keep offset costs.

    CP indicates he agrees with David on why monitors for the older children were waived. What was the reason?

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 30, 2008 @ 9:16 am | Reply

  20. Funny, when I was a child riding on a bus to school, we had no monitors, and we never had any problems either. I suppose it was the social responsibility, and respect for others we were taught as children that made this possible. Once again, let the government make decisions for us (bussing process) and look at the great success it has become. I will settle for teaching kids the proper etiquette and social behavior, and let the lawmakers worry about something more important than creating laws for bussing babysitters, of course I’m sure the socialist, more government crowd will disagree.

    Comment by RS — September 30, 2008 @ 9:51 am | Reply

  21. You’ve got it RS. Socialists are skilled at creating fear resulting in people accepting even greater government intusion into individual lives. Think about it…giving parental control to Mr. Petit, Mr. Day, Mr. Ricci etal. rather than demanding parents be responsible for their children. I can only wonder how we ever got here.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 30, 2008 @ 1:28 pm | Reply

  22. Hi!
    The press has the responsibility to report the news fairly and accurately.They are free to use editorial pages for their philosophical/editorial beliefs.
    It is fair to note officials tie-in to an issue whether they have a close family member involved in it or not.
    I do not know the legal issues involved. While transportation may be provided the level of buses no doubt are influenced by both budget and legal constraints.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — September 30, 2008 @ 7:34 pm | Reply

  23. The “press” has no responibilities. There are no laws or formal rules. They can do as they please and so they do. Like all businesses, the one sure thing is they need to remain economically viable to survive.

    I’m happy to see the old media slowly dying off, but they do not go gently into the night. Reporting is heavily biased. Even when a news report is written objectively, the media naturally advances its agenda by picking and choosing what is newsworthy.

    The internet will even the playing field if it does not become regulated. We all have the opportunity to choose our own sources of news we can trust. The NY Times was once the most trusted news outlet in the country. Now they compete with the Daily Kos for readers.

    I expect my chlld’s generation to never have the annoyance of ink-stained fingers. I welcome the day when daily newspapers lose their immense influence. They’ve abused the power for too long.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 30, 2008 @ 7:51 pm | Reply

  24. Hi!
    Curious Resident, legally the print media has no obligation to be unbiased or esentially so. The broadcast media has some requirements of fair play. It is interesting how many local people that are involved don’t get one or more of the local papers:Westerly Sun, Chariho Times, and South County edition of The Providence Journal. I realize the South County Independent does cover Charlestown somewhat.
    As a question to regular bloggers here and you don’t have to participate, how many of you get one or more of these four papers. Our household gets all but the South County Independent.
    You are free to write “Letters to The Editor” which can be published if you think something relevant needs to be said. The Providence Journal usually restricts number of letters printed in a time span but might wave that. That paper has local and statewide letters pages.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — October 1, 2008 @ 5:08 pm | Reply

  25. I subscribe to no daily newspapers. ProJo is completely accessible on the internet. The Rag and Chariho Times less so, but usually headline stories make it on the internet. Giving either of them my money would be akin to the Building Committee using my money to promote greater spending at Chariho. I can’t see giving my money to newspapers which promote more government and less individual liberty.

    With all the information available for free, I don’t know why anyone would spend hard earned money on print. Old habits die hard.

    Comment by Curious Resident — October 1, 2008 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

  26. Hi All,
    I attended a meeting tonight for parents of St. Pius student. The meeting was for brainstorming ideas to reduce time on the bus. The meeting was very productive and should go a long way to improving bus times. Thank you to Bill F. for bringing this matter to the attention of Chariho. Thank you to Chariho for working with parents. I won’t bore you with the details but it looks like there are ways to shorten the time on the bus.

    Comment by Jim L. — October 16, 2008 @ 7:32 pm | Reply


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