Chariho School Parents’ Forum

November 17, 2008

That meeting I thought they forgot

Filed under: 1 — Editor @ 11:22 am

Turns out the Westerly Sun did report on the meeting.  I think they missed some important parts, and are mistaken on others, but my apologies for not missing it and thinking they had ignored it.

Student-plan challenge heats up Chariho panel meeting


By Victoria Goff

The Sun Staff

WOOD RIVER JCT. — Members of the Chariho Regional School Committee accused a col­league of “blindsiding” them last week when he referenced an appeal to the R.I. Department of Education over an evaluation for a student’s individualized special education curriculum.
The heated and often personal exchange between school officials arose during an agenda item titled “Discussion of Response to Questions Related to IEP (Individualized Education Plan) Process.” The item referred to the superintendent’s responses to gen­eral questions posed by Committeeman William J. Felk­ner, of Ashaway, in an e-mail.
Felkner challenged Chariho Superintendent Barry J. Ricci’s response to a question on criteria
for an independent evaluation of a student’s individualized education plan. Under federal law, students with disabilities are eligible to have an individualized curriculum that is assessed by the stu­dent’s school. However, a child’s parent may request a second opin­ion, called an Inde­pendent Educational Evaluation (IEE), if the student’s parent dis­agrees with the school’s evaluation.
Felkner said Ricci’s response to his question contradicted informa­tion provided by the special education direc­tor in a letter to a parent, Jim Lennon of Richmond. The letter stated that age and grade equiva­lencies for the child’s assessment could not be included in an inde­pendent
evaluation, as Chariho’s IEE policy states that only stan­dard scores for tests may be cited. But Ricci’s response said that Chariho’s “practice is to use age equivalencies.”
An evaluation cannot reference recommenda­tions for the scope of services for the child, as Chariho’s policy says they should be dis­cussed by a group of school officials and the child’s parent when cre­ating the student’s indi­vidualized plan. The evaluator could be included in talks at the parent’s request.
Dialogue between Felkner and Ricci then revealed Lennon’s dispute with the school district, described to be this: In June 2007, Ricci refused to pay an independent evaluator because
the evaluator included the equiva­lencies and recommendations for the child’s services in his report, contrary to the policy provided to him earlier. The evaluator revised his report to receive payment, but the parent of the student filed a complaint with RIDE on Chariho’s criteria.
The state agency sided with Lennon and Chariho ultimately appealed to the commissioner of RIDE in April. Resolution of the matter is pending.
Lennon said he challenged the district’s refusal to include age and grade equivalents because “none of those scores mean any­thing to me as a parent.”
Felkner accused the administra­tion of using tax dollars to pay for an attorney to fight the parent.
“You have an interesting way to spin things,” Ricci told him.

Felkner was the only one to have a copy of the letter at the meeting, and he was apparently the only commit­tee member to have been in contact with Lennon, as some colleagues said they weren’t aware of the issue.
Committee members accused Felkner of improp­erly bringing the matter before the board, saying it should have been listed as its own agenda item.
Committeeman Andrew McQuaide, of Charlestown, initiated a motion to table the matter. He asked Lennon to provide the com­mittee with documentation so the board could have a “mindful” discussion.
“As [committee chairman William] Day has men­tioned, Mr. Ricci works for this committee,” McQuaide said. “Therefore we are able to supersede any of his deci­sions. But at the same time … I believe that it is benefi­cial for us to have an under­standing of his opinion and your opinion and work col­laboratively to make a prop­er decision.”
Shortly before the discus­sion ended, Ricci told Lennon that he was “using the processes in place for us to resolve conflict.”
“If we don’t happen to agree on something, it does­n’t mean that we’re in bat­tle,” he said. “If RIDE responded more promptly, it would be resolved. And we do have the right of appeal just like you have the right of appeal in this disagree­ment.”
He continued: “You have to understand a certain dynamic here. See, Mr. Felkner asks me a question by e-mail trying to catch me in a mistake or a lie know­ing the background to a question when he could have just referred you to me and we could have talked about it and come up with a solution.”
“Barry, we’ve talked about it for a long time,” Lennon interjected.
The committee is expect­ed to discuss the issue at its meeting on Nov. 18, after it approved to table the mat­ter. Dissenting were Felkner and Committeeman George Abbott, of Hopkinton, who had requested the IEP e­mail to be re-listed on Tuesday’s agenda because Felkner was absent from the prior meeting when the e-mail was initially on the agenda.
Lennon requested to dis­cuss the matter in public session.
Special Education Director Kathleen Perry said in a subsequent inter­view that, among reasons, Chariho opts not to use age and grade equivalencies because they vary. She noted that required stan­dard scores are based on a student’s age.
Ricci said he and Perry, in consultation with the dis­trict’s legal counsel, appealed RIDE’s decision because “we felt like our cri­teria was valid and that they had made an error in their initial judgment.”



  1. This reminds me of my frustration with report cards which don’t include grades. How much has it cost us to prevent this parent (and other parents?) from getting an evaluation they can understand? This appears to be one more trick used by Chariho to keep people in the dark.

    Good for Mr. Felkner for once again being the only School Committee member willing to put a family before the school. There’s a reason why parents like this turn to Mr. Felkner rather than the do-nothings on the committee. Mr. Ricci blatantly lied…right there in black and white for the entire world to see…and morons on the School Committee are only concerned in stopping the discussion.

    The parent has wisely asked for the discussion to continue in open forum. Why do I suspect the School Committee will do its best to hide this latest bit of malfesance behind closed doors and sealed minutes?

    Comment by Curious Resident — November 18, 2008 @ 10:45 am | Reply

  2. Letters regarding this type of behavior by the administration and the SC should be forward to the Attorney’s Generals office and the Department of Education. Enough action by the tri town communities will have them come down and finally try to right this mess. How does this clown get a roll over to another year. NK got rid of James Halley, let this guy go. Not a buy out. He’s worth a tenth of what he’s paid.

    Comment by Ron P — November 18, 2008 @ 7:36 pm | Reply

  3. Notice my suspicions about the School Committee hiding Mr. Ricci’s latest deceit were written yesterday morning prior to the School Committee’s action to remove the one member questioning Mr. Ricci’s behavior. Sure enough they came up with a plan which allowed the person most knowledgable and honest from being present to discuss Mr. Ricci’s antics.

    As usual in these pre-planned events, little Andy and Billy-Bob were front and center. When little Andy was first elected there was conjecture he is very tight with Mr. Ricci. We know Billy-Bob’s head is so far up Mr. Ricci’ butt we see his face when Mr. Ricci yawns. I have little doubt Mr. Ricci remains the puppetmaster pulling the strings. He needed to be fired years ago…tomorrow is a day too late.

    Comment by Curious Resident — November 19, 2008 @ 12:34 pm | Reply

  4. […] on a related note – I’m still getting calls from parents as they fight the system. You recall Jim Lennon’s battle and he did win on merit and in a small way on practice.  But there was another case that you […]

    Pingback by Chariho complaints continue to lead the pack « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — March 18, 2009 @ 10:40 pm | Reply

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