Chariho School Parents’ Forum

November 2, 2008

My letter that the Westerly Sun didn’t think you should see

Filed under: 1 — Editor @ 11:28 pm

I sent this to the Sun on Oct 21st.  Not sure why they didn’t print it.  Not sure why they didn’t report on what happened at the last school committee meeting either.


I was elected to the Chariho School Committee in November 2006, and ever since I’ve been sharing my experiences on an Internet blog ( I have found Chariho resistant to being accountable to the community it serves. Below I have outlined several instances that underscore my frustration:


In January 2007 I evaluated Chariho by comparing its number of employees to those of other districts. I thought we were top-heavy with administration. Chariho’s response was to say the numbers were inaccurate. I, however, consulted Ken Gu at the Department of Education, who verified the accuracy of my figures. According to this year’s report, moreover, we have more employees on the payroll, not less, even though enrollment continues to decline.


In April the Chariho Superintendent said the Ashaway Schoolroof was not an “emergency.”  The very next day it collapsed and classrooms had to be evacuated. In response, two Chariho Committee member filed OSHA charges against the local resident who first exposed the issue because she took pictures of the roof while riding an unauthorized lift.


In May we saw the signing of a no-bid contract for the RYSE program. When a parent tried to share the problems her child was having with the program, the Committee refused to allow her to speak. I then found the RI Due Process Web site which reported Chariho had 3 to 6 times more complaints from parents of students in special education as do the other schools in the area. Chariho again said the numbers were inaccurate. Yet, according to Janet Durfee-Hildago, Policy Coordinator for Education in the Governor’s Office, the numbers came directly from Chariho and this year’s statistics are as equally high.

In July we found out that there were 108 arrests over a two year period on the campus. The Committee response was to make a rule restricting me from the information without Committee approval.


In August, a parent told me that he had to hire an attorney because Chariho forced his child into RYSE. I looked into the legal bills and found that there were so many parents fighting the school that legal fees tripled that year. Chariho’s response was to refuse to give me copies of the invoices.


In September the teacher’s union filed a complaint against me because of comments I posted on the Internet, but Chariho refused to let me speak with the district’s lawyer who was supposed to be defending me. This wasted the town’s money for 7 months before the frivolous complaint was dropped (after Mary Botelle pointed out the error of their ways).


That month also uncovered the fact that about half of all Chariho employees were receiving a raise averaging 10% per year. The Committee has since signed another contract with the same generous compensation.


During contract negotiations, furthermore, Chariho gave the union the right to share the details with their membership before approval.  When I made a motion to let the taxpayers have the same rights, it was denied and hidden in an executive session.


In October, I asked for financial data justifying the school’s claim that RYSE saves us “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” They produced a one-page document that did not even included legal or nursing fees.


In November, it came out that the Chariho Act had not been updated since 1986. It still has not been completed.


In February 2008 it was noted that Chariho carried multi-million dollar surpluses every year, essentially keeping the taxpayers money in a Chariho bank account. Chariho’s response was to create a sub-committee of their own members that declared the surplus appropriate. 


During approval of the last budget we tried to cut staff and were told that it was impossible because of the employee contracts.


In May, we voted not to approve the contracts so that we could fix the problem. We later found that the contracts had already rolled over and we were locked into another two-year cycle.


Turn back one year to February 2007. Ignoring the towns desire to return 5th and 6thgraders to the elementary schools, Chariho closed Ashaway’s 1904 building citing “falling enrollment in the district, especially at the elementary level.” Astonishingly, next month, on November 4th, we will be asked for more money to alleviate “overcrowding” at the elementary level.


One bright point is that after the lunacy of the “New Math” was documented Chariho has begun looking for another math curriculum (hopefully it will be the “old” math).


These are the high points of the last two years on the Chariho School Committee; all the while our children lag their peers in student performance. True, we have some talented and gifted individuals, but statistically, our scores are lower than towns we should beat. In the meantime, enrollment drops and the number of employees and the budget grows.


Recently, a parent said to me, “I agree with everything you are fighting for, but the Chariho building is a mess, we need this bond to fix it.” I told him that we spend $14,206 per year per student and we can’t maintain our buildings. Other schools can do the job far cheaper and better (including special needs students). Then I told him some of the items I described above. If someone was working for you, was expensive, had poor performance, and they acted they way I just described, would you give them more money? I will be voting no on Campus 2010.


Bill Felkner is a Hopkinton representative on the Chariho Regional School Committee and running for the Hopkinton Town Council


After reading this, its quite appropriate that the last meeting would go the way it did.  Ricci sends me an email saying one thing and Kathy Perry and a parent tell me another.  And the beat goes on…



  1. More evidence The Rag is in the back pocket of Chariho. Let’s hope Hopkinton voters once again see through the charade.

    Comment by Curious Resident — November 2, 2008 @ 11:45 pm | Reply

  2. From the “Old Lady riding that lift”…it is interesting that CHARIHO protests rather then fixes, casts blame on others when caught, and seeks retribution on those like Mr. Flekner who expose their untruths.

    CHARIHO will tell you that the state numbers “are not right”, but publish those figures from the state they may agree with such as the 2010 paper. Are the numbers only right sometimes? Were the numbers right now, but wrong earlier? How can anyone know?

    CHARIHO will state that they are “transparent” in their workings, but decline to give pertinent information, so that any adult can review and understand information.

    Don’t give this gang of many ANY MORE of your tax dollar until they can maintain building, educate children, and provide hones answers to question. We pay almost the most and educate the least! Until we get more education for our children, bettter upkeep for our building, accountability, keep your money IN YOUR POCKET!

    Comment by Dorothy Gardiner — November 3, 2008 @ 11:41 am | Reply

  3. Just another example of my prior post on how it is easier to deflect the facts than pony up to responsibility and accountability. I’ve said it many times before, if the numbers(budget,contracts,student rankings,etc)are in line with similar expenditures elsewhere(private and public sector), then what is the entire Chariho system and the NEA so afraid of with the issue of transparency and accountability?? If they don’t have the tools and funding they need, then come to the taxpayers, parents, and lawmakers and lets get what you need to properly do the job. My concerns are not only about how to cut the budgets at Chariho, but “Do the taxpayers get a days work for a days pay??” I am not against paying more in taxes if it gives me an educational system that produces students who are the envy of the free world. If the system I pay into produces lower tier students, then I am only willing to pay lower tier costs. As I see it in Chariho, we pay a very, very fair price and get only 1/3 proficiency. Who here is willing to pay for 30 gallons of gas and get only 10 gallons delivered out of the pump?? If this were to happen, heads would be rolling and the world would be turned on its side, but when it happens in the educational system and to one’s own children, anyone who dares bring up the issues becomes the point of focus and attacked. I can undrstand why the administraion and unions would launch the attack, but why taxpayers, and especially parents would go along with this I do not understand.
    Maybe the old axiom we are a product of our environment is true, Chariho preaches what a great job it is doing, and those who are part of that system believe it and beging to preach the same, so eventually everybody believes it to be true, and attacks anyone who might think otherwise.

    Comment by RS — November 3, 2008 @ 12:32 pm | Reply

  4. Hi!
    Question: Was the letter not printed by The Sun also sent to Chariho Times?

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — November 3, 2008 @ 12:44 pm | Reply

  5. Mr. Felkner, I don’t drink your Koolaid (not in the bag for you). But it is eerily silent when it comes to responses from the bag’persons’ who can’t or won’t respond from the district. You’ve opened up the windows and opened the doors to the smell of chariho. I’m embarrassed to have to say that I once walked through the doors.

    Comment by charlestowncharlie — November 3, 2008 @ 9:23 pm | Reply

  6. In the last few days we’ve seen a Richmond resident thank Hopkinton for rejecting the bonds. Now a person from Charlestown is acknowledging the “smells” emanating from Chariho. The bond re-vote will tell if Hopkinton remains resolute despite the propaganda which has been flying fast and furious.

    Mr. Felkner has tried like heck to change the culture at Chariho. The list of unresolved issues he highlights in his letter is further proof that Chariho needs to fix itself before we hand off millions more to an incompetent administration. I would be thrilled to see Richmond and Charlestown voters finally understand the efforts to thwart the bonds is for the children. All our children have been ill-served by the School Committee and administration. For the sake of the children we must once again say enough is enough. Will Richmond or Charlestown finally see the light? We’ll know by Wednesday.

    Comment by Curious Resident — November 3, 2008 @ 9:39 pm | Reply

  7. […] Times but its not online.  If someone has the text I would be happy to post.  He disputes  claims I made in the letter prior to the […]

    Pingback by In Westerly Sun « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — December 5, 2008 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

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