Chariho School Parents’ Forum

December 5, 2008

In Westerly Sun

Filed under: 1 — Editor @ 11:49 pm

I had this letter in the Sun and Times.  Sent to the ProJo too, but they haven’t run it yet (they did run THIS today online).

Committee chair set poor standard for conflict of interest

On Nov. 17, I was sworn in to the Hopkinton Town Council. I’m also a member of the Chariho Regional School Committee. On Nov. 18, Bill Day, the outgoing chair of that com­mittee, had me removed from that seat claiming my service on the town council presented a “conflict of inter­est.”
Whether or not the committee has the authority, or even justification, for this action is now a matter for a judge to decide, but for Mr. Day to claim that I have a conflict of interest is the epitome of hypocrisy.

A quick review of the Transparency Train Web site (.


org), which contains every budg­et, payroll, employee contract and check register for each town and school in Rhode Island, shows that Mr. Day’s wife and son both work at Chariho. Furthermore, Mr. Day’s employer also receives compensation from Chariho for his work assisting an individual with special needs working at the school.

Are we to believe that I, who serve on two governing bodies representing identical constituencies, present a conflict of interest, but someone whose entire family is supported by the school does not have a conflict?

As a matter of fact, there are sever­al other committee members with similar conflicts. Indeed, the current chair, Holly Eaves, is going to school right now to become a teacher, and the vice chair, Bob Petit, is related to Chariho’s Director of Administration and Finance.

Since Mr. Day was able to redefine “conflict of interest,” perhaps he has redefined hypocrisy as well.

Bill Felkner Ashaway Bill Felkner has been serving as a representative of Hopkinton on the Chariho Regional School Committee and was elected to the Hopkinton Town Council in November.



There was also a letter from Supt. Ricci in the Chariho 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 bond.  

Things like, Chariho tried to bring back 5th and 6th graders but since we didn’t vote yes for the $99mm bond, there is nothing else they can do (sad that the people teaching our children could only come up with one option).

Or things like when he said the Ashaway roof was not an emergency and a day later kids had to be removed from the classrooms because of leaks.  I used the word, “collapsed” and he said it was inaccurate because nothing actually collapsed – it just leaked (I guess he got me there – I stand corrected).


 I think this audiencewould enjoy looking back to old posts that would dispute his disputes.



  1. What I really do not understand is why Mr. Felkner is hanging out there all by himself, when you, the taxpayers, are not standing behind him. You voice your opinions on this blog, but have you been at a sc meeting and backed him up? You have all had opinions that I know you would like to say to the ‘little man’s’ face sitting at the front of the room…off to the side so he is not the one under direct attack. I could not believe the scene the (so-called) sc chairperson caused when he told a fellow sc member, basically, to ‘shut-up’ because she was trying to explain to the illiterates at the front of the table that they were not treating Mr. Felkner fairly. How dare they speak to any of you like that!! She at least had the courage to know what they were trying to pull and spoke up for what she believed was right and fair. day had the audacity at some point after she said what she could without his constant interruptions, ‘…then we will conduct this meeting in a civilized manner,’ or words to that effect. I could not believe he did not realize that he just gave a perfect example of how an UNcivilized person conducts themselves. If the taxpayers do not come together and support each other and especially show your support for Mr. Felkner, your community is going to self-destruct. I know of several law suits Chariho is fighting right now because of the way the students are forced into the RYSE program and can’t get out. Why not file a class action suit against the theives that have been stealing from you all these years, and don’t leave the RYSE students behind. Get this over with! There has to be an attorney out there, (he shouldn’t be from RI) who would like to make a name for himself and help Mr. Felkner turn this sham back into a school district. Don’t let Chariho become a bad example for your childre; let Chariho School District be something that your children can be proud to be a part of, knowing that their parents were the very people who turned this district on its head and who shook all of the (taxpayer’s) money out of the pockets of the administration who always found it so conveniently available to use at their own discretion, and put it back into the educational system for your chilren’s educational needs and their futures!

    Comment by rinker — December 7, 2008 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  2. While I encourage everyone to attend the next School Committee meeting, for anyone watching meetings since Mr. Felkner was seated we have first hand knowledge of how futile it is to try and influence the committee by speaking out at a meeting.

    Every person who has spoken to protest School Committee or administration behavior is quickly silenced by the bullying of the committee…especially Billy-boob. Perhaps it will change with Ms. Eaves, but to-date, voicing our opinions here is more useful than trying to have a say at a meeting. Since this blog is discussed among School Committee members, we know we are monitored. We can’t be silenced here.

    The only solution is to change the School Committee. Hopefully the defeat of Mr. Pruehs and the additions of Mr Vecchio and Ms. Carney will be a step in the right direction, but as we saw with Mr. Felkner’s treatment, the School Committee is skewed toward accepting Chariho’s failure.

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

  3. Speaking of Chariho’s failure, I posted these in the “Science Scores ar In” thread…I’m not sure if anyone is still following the old posts.

    The National Report Card on Higher Education has been released:

    Comment by RS — December 7, 2008 @ 10:10 pm | Reply

  4. More sobering new for those of us trying to educate our children….

    Comment by RS — December 7, 2008 @ 10:11 pm | Reply

  5. Rinker, it’s an odd situation, for some reason no-one seems to what to be on the SC. All of the current members either ran unopposed or won by write-in (last two elections).

    The 2yr fix is to get people you believe in to run. For now, I’d like to see people influence their town councilors to put pressure on the SC. Granted their don’t have power over the SC, but they have a better bully pulpit than us.

    I hear the tri-town committee is getting started up again and with the state funding situation looking very ugly, there is a possibility that sizable pressure could be coming to the SC.

    From the last Richmond TC meeting, their is much concern out there how the SC spends it’s money. The towns are feeling the heat, I hope they share that concern with the SC.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 7, 2008 @ 11:36 pm | Reply

  6. Well said, Curious Resident, however, no one has to say a word. You are there to show Mr. Felkner you support all his efforts in what he is doing for your children. I do not understand the intimidation factor here. You are the ones paying those un-educated frauds to sit there and decide what they will do with your tax dollars, without giving you the respect you deserve! If you have that kind of disposable income to throw away, consider yourself blessed. I do not think the majority of the taxpayers are that fortunate. The purpose of being at the sc meeting is to show Mr. Felkner that you ‘have his back’ and to prove to the sc that Mr. Felkner is not alone in this crusade. Many of the people that comment on this blog are anonymous. It would be the same at the meeting. Your presence will say all there is that needs to be said to Mr. Felkner as well as the school committee. I agree with you that the only solution is to change the sc, yet you are empowering the sc when you said that based on the way they treated Mr. Felkner their attitude is “skewed toward accepting Chariho’s failure”. Don’t let Chariho fail! Do not empower them! Here is an example that may hit home: The next time you write out a check for your quarterly taxes (or however the taxes get paid in your district), instead of writing in the Town of Hopkinton as the payee, write ricci’s name on the check instead, sign it, put a stamp on the envelope, address to the Chariho School District c/o Superintendent Ricci, Switch Rd. Wood River Junction, RI and mail it. They are one in the same. If that doesn’t make you feel nauseated you have a much stronger stomach than a lot of the other tax payers. Mr. Felkner has dedicated himself to making sure you don’t get an ulcer as a result.

    Comment by rinker — December 7, 2008 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

  7. Gene, I appreciate the clarification. It is more convoluted than I understood it to be. I was especially relieved when you mentioned the TC has a “better bully pulpit” than the individual taxpayers. However, I thought it was the Town Council(s) that held the purse strings. Why would the sc have complete control over the tri-town’s budget? I do understand that the sc may become a fire pit soon, given the restrictions on the state’s educational budget, however, wouldn’t it be logical to remove the pit bull who collects a large percentage of the school budget, get control of the union contract negotiations at the TC level, and begin eliminating redundancy in positions at the administration level? Imagine how much the tax payer’s would save if the teachers were not paid for sick days, in addition to their alloted personal days off. Michelle Rhee in Washington D.C. (the Chancellor reforming their school system), said she would prefer to hire an un-certified professional as a teacher instead of a certified teacher. She blames the certification process to be one of the reasons there are so many unqualified, overpaid teachers that are not being held accountable for student performance. I am a proponent in brining back the ‘old math’ that taught students the mechanics first and then the application. I have been in classrooms at Chariho where students are required to take one spelling test per week. It was a routine, based on the text book. However, these students did not know the meaning of the words they were memorizing to pass the spelling test! The teachers were not focused on teaching the students. The only thing these teachers understood was to follow the instructions in the teacher’s manual. If the student failed the test, it was the student’s fault, obviously because the teacher did what the manual told them to do, so it could not possibly be the lack of the teacher not following directions! There is a hugh void in the education of students today, and sorry to say, it started in the classroom. By the way, I do not agree with this “portfolio program” Chariho has in place. That is putting unnecessary pressure on students and the end result is not the student’s original work. I do not understand the purpose. I also do not know how the student benefits from it, or if colleges even it consideration. I have 2 daughters who have gone to URI (one graduated and is now getting her MBA and CPA, and my other daughter is in her second year in the Pharmacy program), and a portfolio was never requested as part of the application process. Why is the time spent putting together a ‘portfolio’ more important than the education of the children?

    Comment by rinker — December 8, 2008 @ 12:51 am | Reply

  8. Portfolios are used to graduate more students. While Rhode Island will begin weighting actual tests scores toward graduation requirements, portfolios provide poorly performing students the opportunity to graduate despite their lack of content knowledge.

    Frankly, I believe there should be standard graduation test in all major subject areas. If you are able to reach proficiency…a very low standard…then you can graduate. Fail to reach proficiency and no High School graduation. As it is now, we’ve watered down the value of a diploma.

    As with most things with public schools these days, weakening graduation standards was done so teachers don’t look bad. I can only wonder how many of our teachers would be able to score proficient?

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 8, 2008 @ 1:29 am | Reply

  9. Below is an excerpt from the links posted by RS. Colleges spend so much time indoctrinating teachers there isn’t enough time to actually teach them the knowledge base they need to do their jobs.

    “If you’re a student who is struggling in algebra class, it’s possible that your teacher might be what’s holding you back. A new study reveals that far too many math teachers don’t know their subject, and, in some instances, might be only a chapter ahead of their students. The study by the Education Trust, a children’s advocacy group in Washington, finds that 22 percent of all math classes in secondary schools are taught by teachers who lack adequate credentials, meaning they don’t have a degree in math or a math teaching certificate. The problem is worse at middle schools and high schools that serve mostly low-income and minority children. Those students are about twice as likely to have math teachers who don’t thoroughly know their subject, according to Richard Ingersoll, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who conducted the study.”

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 8, 2008 @ 1:36 am | Reply

  10. Ref #5: Gene, too bad you hadn’t been paying attention earlier. The Richmond TC has been after the SC for some time to control their budget. In fact, last year it was Henry Oppenheimer that pointed out to the school committee that they we causing the towns to exceed the 5% cap before the towns even got their budget prepared.

    By the way, Gene, watch what happens now that I’ve praised the Richmond TC for some fiscal restraint. I’ve been trying to point this out for the last year but it has fallen upon deaf ears.

    Comment by CharihoParent — December 8, 2008 @ 5:53 am | Reply

  11. REF #8: CR, what you say is the purpose of portfolios is dead wrong. It is NOT used to graduate more students. While I don’t think it stopped anyone from graduating since some of the students presented their portfolios a second time, it also didn’t cause a higher percentage of students to graduate.

    I agree with you that a standard test needs to be given to the students before graduation, the portfolios are a rather weak method in determining a student proficiency. From what I’ve seen throughout this state, many students would have a difficult time measuring up to what we learned when we were in school. Many of them don’t even have the strength in math that is needed just to survive. There’s a lot to be desired from our educational system in this country.

    Comment by CharihoParent — December 8, 2008 @ 6:01 am | Reply

  12. Yes Gene. Richmond Town Council has been very stern with Chariho. Supporting every bond and every budget. Oooh…how frugal. They even gave the guy who operates the expensive failing school a vote of confidence. Very forceful bunch over there, LOL. No deaf ears. We’ve heard CP defend the Richmond Town Council. We simply couldn’t believe it. What a joke.

    Portfolios are a statewide graduation scheme. Since Chariho graduates just about anyone with a pulse these days, there isn’t much room to impact their graduation rates.

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 8, 2008 @ 9:01 am | Reply

  13. Right on cue, CR. I suppose there’s nothing better than the Hopkinton TC who was silent on the issue at the Omnibus meeting until it was brought up by the Richmond TC. The vote of confidence issue was brought up by a member of the TC that is no longer on the council, it’s a dead issue, but that’s ok, we know you love to live in the past.

    Portfolios is only one of the statewide graduation schemes. There was a choice of two or three options that the school districts could choose from and I don’t think one was any better of choice than another.

    Comment by CharihoParent — December 8, 2008 @ 9:29 am | Reply

  14. Commenting on Gene’s #5 post. Richmond should really get to work on changing their School Committee representation. Billy-boob is a waste at best…strikes me as corrupt since his entire family lives off Chariho spending. Ms. Serra is a useless blob. Don’t know about Ms. Cole, but she fell in line with the Chariho sycophants at the last meeting.

    The only sure loser we have in Hopkinton is Mr. Petit (who was elected Vice Chairman…big surprise). Mr. Vecchio looks good so far (granted it is a small statistical sample of one meeting). Mr. Abbott isn’t much of a leader, but usually battles for the children and the community when there is someone for him to follow. Mr. Felkner’s efforts speak for themself.

    We could also use help from Charlestown although Ms. Carney might work out well. Mr. Cicchetti wasn’t too bad on educational issues (terrible on financial things) so Ms. Carney might be a wash. Charlestown is difficult because Chariho is so inexpensive for them that they have little motivation to control costs. Ms. Eaves is soon to be a teacher herself and her time on the School Committee has been dedicated to keeping the Chariho golden goose alive. Mr. McQuaide is the worst of a bad lot. Mr. Polouski is a senile, old fool.

    Yes, we need School Committee members committed to improving educational outcomes at a reasonable cost. Yet not all three towns have failed to elect responsible leaders to the School Committee. Hopkinton is doing pretty well. For whatever reason, we’ve been paying more attention to Chariho issues. Maybe it’s as simple as we are poorer so Chariho burdens more of us. Gene, David, and CP regularly participate here from Richmond. I don’t know of any contributors from Charlstowns.

    Hopkinton Town Councilors Mrs. Capalbo and Mr. Buck are often at School Committee meetings. They even speak up to the extent Billy-boob has let them. Mr. Thompson has also been at meetings frequently. Not aware of any councilors from the other towns who frequently attend School Committee meetings? Not saying they have to attend…but it is note-worthy that once again it is Hopkinton leaders showing a willingness to hold Chariho to account.

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 8, 2008 @ 9:31 am | Reply

  15. Omnibus meetings might make you “feel” good, but so far have been nothing but a waste of time. Typical Richmond response…no action but lots of meetings to discuss it all. Richmond’s recipe looks like this…pass every bond…pass every budget…then add whine.

    The vote of confidence may have been proposed by a former Richmond Town Council member, but it was unanamously supported by members still on the council. Brilliant leadership over there…not.

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 8, 2008 @ 9:37 am | Reply

  16. We’ll let Richmond request omnibus meetings. Take a look at the actions of Hopkinton’s Town Council. Can we expect Richmond’s solicitor to weigh in on the disenfranchisement of Hopkinton any time soon? Maybe a vote of confidence for Mr. Felkner?

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 8, 2008 @ 12:59 pm | Reply

  17. RE #7 … Rinker, oddly as it sounds the SC is a complete separate entity from the towns and completely beyond their direct control.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 8, 2008 @ 3:02 pm | Reply

  18. The only control I can see for the Town Council is to allow resources to be directed to places other than Chariho….aka, school choice. Choice would be an incredibly powerful tool should any of the towns wake up and smell the coffee. If one town goes, the others are bound to follow. Chariho will be a new place within five years. I’m betting Chariho might actually figure out how to educate our children once it is faced with the prospects of competition. I have a dream.

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 8, 2008 @ 3:13 pm | Reply

  19. Clearly there are different opinions of what the Richmond TC effect in on Chariho, I can’t say, this particular council seems very cost focused, especially Mr. Oppenheimer.

    Our unfortunate global economic situation may create a lot more attention to things like school funding from people who never had the time or desire to pay attention before. With RI unemployement pushing 10%, it will be hard to find many that are sympathethic with governmental entities that are perceived to not spend their money very well.

    There’s a SC meeting on this coming Saturday to take public input on the next teacher contract, I wonder how many will come.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 8, 2008 @ 3:34 pm | Reply

  20. I will be working on Saturday, otherwise I would be there. I would like to attend to see if this is just the administrations attempt to appear open to the public. I wonder if what transpires at this meeting will have any real affect on the negotiating process. If they want to be open, why not have evey negotiating meeting open??

    Nonbinding meetings don’t really accomplish much more than giving participants a good feeling.

    Did he say “FEEL GOOD”

    Comment by RS — December 8, 2008 @ 4:14 pm | Reply

  21. RS, True about the meeting usually not getting much accomplished, but it is one of the nailsn that has to be pulled out of the box. If no-one complains, the SC gets to say that they had a public forum and everyone supported higher spending …

    There’s at least 4 votes of common sense, convince two more and you’ve got a majority.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 8, 2008 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

  22. better yet, get the necessary votes to get the negotiations conducted in public…of course if the votes were there to push for open negotiations, open negotiations probably wouldn’t be necessary.

    Comment by RS — December 8, 2008 @ 5:21 pm | Reply

  23. Where can I find info on open vs closed negotiations? Any idea what SOP is in RI? NE?

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 8, 2008 @ 6:37 pm | Reply

  24. Hi Gene,
    I’m a Hopkinton resident who attended a public budget workshop before the last budget. Also there were town councilors Tom Buck and Barbara Capalbo. I spent most of the workshop with my hand raised and was never called upon. Tom and Barbara were called upon a couple of times. I wasted an evening. Did’t seem to me they wanted to hear public opinion. The SC spent most of the time discussing the budget among themselves. Not sure why they called it a public workshop? I tried once and won’t try again until the SC proves they really want input from the public. Maybe you’ll have better luck.

    Comment by Jim L. — December 8, 2008 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

  25. There are no rules against open negotiations, but the union vehemently opposes transparency. To-date, union members are kept apprised of negotiations. The taxpayers are kept in the dark until it is too late to have any influence. The meeting on Saturday is a farce. Does the School Committee need us to tell them we are overburdened with taxes? Are they that obtuse…oh, yes, they are. I forgot.

    I’m still waiting to find out why spending for teaching assistants (or teacher’s aides…one of them) went skyrocketing in the last budget. Nobody has given an answer. If they can’t, or won’t, even answer the simplest questions, what hope do we have for them to honestly engage the public?

    In my opinion they will use the public forum to cover their behinds but if someone suggests cutting wages and benefits they will be ignored. Solutions are easy. Getting the School Committee to implement solutions is near impossible. Have fun at the meeting.

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 8, 2008 @ 7:19 pm | Reply

  26. OK, so what happens if lots of people show up at the FDM and vote down the budget?

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 8, 2008 @ 7:38 pm | Reply

  27. Chariho simply takes the towns to court using our money (taxpayers)to “get what is owed them”.

    Comment by RS — December 8, 2008 @ 8:20 pm | Reply

  28. Gene,
    There no longer is a District Financial Meeting. It’s an all day referendum now. The budget was voted down a few years ago and then the SC did some wheeling, dealing and fancy foot work, had a second DFM which then was packed to the gills with about 1500 voters from the 3 towns and the “new” budget was passed. We can only vote down the budget at the ballot box now.

    Comment by CharihoParent — December 8, 2008 @ 10:05 pm | Reply

  29. So just keep putting it up for a vote until it wins … sound familiar?

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 8, 2008 @ 10:08 pm | Reply

  30. It’s worse than described. Three or four years ago Mr. Scott Hirst led an effort to eliminate $2,000,000 from the budget. He was told by the then Chair, Stephanie Brown, that Chariho would not tell the public what budget items are mandated. This is the Stephanie Brown whose husband now sits in jail for scamming Connecticut schools. She was unindicted, but was listed as the agent for the fraudulent company. Anyway, the initial Financial Meeting was overwhelmingly Hopkinton residents. The budget was slashed by around $1,600,000.

    Chariho then began a propaganda campaign threatening academic and athletic programs if the cuts weren’t restored. Sure enough, they got themselves a re-vote…their usual tactic. Most, if not all, the cuts were restored when Charlestown and Richmond voters showed up in droves.

    We now know that the year Hopkinton tried to cut the budget by $2,000,000 Chariho took in an excess of $2,800,000. Got that? Chariho was going to cut academic and sports programs even though they still would have had a surplus that year of $800,000. Mr. Ricci was the Assistant Superintendent during this fleecing of the community.

    Chariho continues their annual multi-million dollar surpluses to this day. We’re not talking about a sitting $2,000,000 surplus…we’re talking about annual surpluses in the millions. The administration will never give this up as the annual surplus provides them with the necessary buffer to hire new (and unnecessary) employees and to richly reward current employees.

    This is the Chariho we entrusted to spend another $20,000,000 or so with the re-voted bond. We are fools I am sorry to say.

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 8, 2008 @ 11:31 pm | Reply

  31. And even if 1 of the towns votes it down, the total vote is the count…

    Comment by RS — December 8, 2008 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

  32. I would like to offer some thoughts on Gene Daniell’s comment #5 and rinkers comment #7. But first off, it is encouraging to see what appears to be a couple of intelligent new voices join what I believe is a growing chorus of those who are paying serious objective attention to Chariho and letting their voices be heard. It’s the only way Chariho is going to get fixed.

    I started writing this posting earlier today when there weren’t so many entries but I was interrupted. I am responding to entry #5 from Gene Daniell and to “rinker” in entry #7. Some of the postings that have arrived in the interem may make this entry redundant. I haven’t had time to read them, so my apologies if that is the case.

    Gene, in comment #5, spoke of “the tri-town committee getting started up again” and that “there is a possibility that sizeable pressure could be coming to the School Committee.” I think he is referring to the periodic joint meetings of the three Town Councils of the Chariho towns, and if that is the case two things come to mind: First, those meeting over the years have pretty much produced platitudes and recitations of grievances between towns, but with essentially no agreements on matters of substance. Second, the Town Councils, even if some of the new Council members have new ideas and/or veteran members have mellowed in their stances, the Town Councils have no legal standing with respect to the District School Committee (except to appoint replacements if a seat becomes vacant between elections). If history is any guide, the Superintendant and the preponnderance of School Committee members are well aware of that fact, and act accordingly. I hope I’m wrong, but Chariho’s rehabilitation is unlikely to come from Town Council pressure. That doesn’t mean it should not be exerted; every little bit helps.

    Rinker, in comment #7, writes ” I thought it was the Town Council(s) that held the purse strings. Why would the School Committee have complete control over the tri-town’s budget?”. I think that is a rhetorical question, and rhetorical questions are not asked to be answered. But I think it indicates a little confusion in rinker’s understanding of the finances of Chariho and the three Towns. I’d like to try to respond to the question.

    In Rhode Island each Town is responsible for the education of its children. Each Town is also responsible for a number of other functions such as highways, land evidence records, raising and collecting local taxes, animal control, local police (except Exeter), and numerous other municipal functions. The Towns generally meet their education obligations by operating a school system. The cost of that school system is part of the Town budget, and the proposed Town budget for each of the three Chariho Towns is approved by the respective Town Councils before it is presented to the electors of the respective Towns for adoption.

    I have served three terms on the Hopkinton Town Council, and can say from both personal experience and from observation of other Councils, that Councils have not necessarily accepted without change the school budgets that the school committee presents to them. It is the Council’s responsibility to allot to all Town departments appropriate amounts, taking into account both the needs of each department and the limitations on the available money commensurate with a justifiable municipal tax rate. That is what happens when a town has its own school system and a responsible Council. The whole municipal package gets looked at as a whole.

    But after the Chariho District was formed and all the grades K through 12 in all the Chariho District Townswere in the Chariho District, the total educational responsibilities for all three towns required by the State of Rhode Island were (and are) assumed by the Chariho District, and the annual budget for the Chariho District that is presented to the voters of all three Chariho Towns is prepared solely by the Chariho School Committee. None of the Town Councils of the three Chariho District Towns has any authority to change anything in the Chariho District budget prepared by the School Committee. In fact, if all three Town Councils were to unanimously agree to change anything in the Chariho budget prepared by the School Committee, the School Committee would be under lo obligation at all except common civility to even listen to them.

    I’m going on at some length about this to make it as clear as possible that the Chariho Regional School District Committee, by law, is under no obligation to any Town Council to consider any of the competing financial needs of any of the other departments (police, public works, Town Clerks, probate Court, you name it) of any of the three Chariho Towns.

    And it gets worse. The Chariho District budget is voted on by all the electors in the District before any of the three Town municipal budgets are voted on by the electors of the respective Towns. The Chariho budget is paid for by the Towns in accordance with a formula in the Chariho Act that specifies the amount that each Town must pay to the Chariho District for its operation. That formula dates from the early days of the District and results in property owners in Hopkinton and Richmond paying an education tax on their property that is more than twice the rate in terms of $/$1,000 assessed valuation of their property compared to the rate that property owners in Charlestown pay.

    In addition to making the education cost to Hopkinton and Richmond taxpayers more than twice that of Charlestown taxpayers who own property of the same assessed value, it puts severe limitations on the ability of the Hopkinton and Richmond Town Councils to conform to the State imposed cap on municipal budget increases if the school budget increases significantly because the school budget in Hopkinton and Richmond is 70-80% of the municipal budget in those Towns whereas the school budget in Charlestown is only something like 60% of the Charlestown municipal budget.

    Despite all the words above, I still have not directly addressed the question “Why would the School Committee have complete control over the tri-town’s budget?” The answer is that the School Committee would have complete control if not enough of the voters paid attention to what is going on. And sadly enough, that is exactly the situation that has evolved.

    But the appearance of postings by Gene and rinker and some other new contributors is certainly a good sign. Keep up the good work and we really can create a school system that is worthy of the kids we send to it. We owe themnothing less.

    Comment by Thurman Silks — December 9, 2008 @ 12:32 am | Reply

  33. Curious Resident, I have said before that you sound like a well-educated citizen of Hopkinton, and no one can argue about your knowledge of past and current events, so, I respectfully disagree with the comment made by Charihoparent about you living in the past. I prefer to call ‘living in the past’, history, which is how most laws are established, (I believe it is referred to in the legal profession as ‘setting precedent’). Anyone with accurate ‘past’ knowledge is a valuable asset to any organization. However, I get discouraged when I read your comments about the other district’s participation efforts in the budget process. You are right when you say Hopkinton is more concerned about their tax dollars because the demographics differ between each town. That is a very valid point. (I have not been able to keep track on this blog who is from Richmond and who is from Charlestown). But, Hopkinton needs Richmond and Charlestown and you get their backs up with remarks that are not exactly complimentary. Don’t use their past against them. Some of them may not be aware of what you are referring to and take offense at the remark, which can only lead to a further separation of the powers of this school district! I agree, again, 100%, with you about the waste of money on teacher’s aides. However, did you know, rumor has it, that the RYSE ‘teacher’s assistants’ (aka, BMA’s) are paid a pretty substantial salary, and teacher’s aides and assistants are lined up at the door to get the next available vacancy at RYSE, only because of the increase in pay! Now that is a crime! I know of at least (2) BMA’s that were in RYSE as ricci’s little stole pigeons. One of the ‘teacher’s assistants’ became a teacher because of his association with mr. day on the sc, and this person did not have Special Ed certification, nor did he know how to do fractions and the “Director” gave him a position as a high school math teacher! This is type of selection process is the reason for the low scores in math! I have witnessed teacher’s hand out calculators for 3 column, 3 row addition problems! No wonder many local establishments have pictures on cash registers instead of numbers. Again, good point Curious Resident!
    I question if Ms. Eaves has a hugh conflict of interest if she is studying to become a teacher! Does anyone know anything about her background in school district budgets, finances, broken walls, leaking ceilings, too many ‘teachers’ for too few students, too many ambiguous positions for a high school? The problems with RYSE? I always thought the principal handled disciplinary issues, not Deans, or Councilors, or at the extreme Superintendents! I read awhile ago that there was an Assistant Superintendant. Is that true? If so, what are her job duties? I also read that the ‘Finance Director’ is on the sc; I have not read his name in comments on any of these blogs. Exactly what are his responsibilites? Does anyone balance the budget on a monthly basis? Would that not be a function of the “Finance Director”?
    You now have a new chairperson. Does any taxpayer know Ms. Eaves’ prior experience dealing in the capacity of a chairperson’s position on a school committee and if she has prior experience with school district budgets, especially complex budgets such as yours? I think, as a new (elected?, by whom?), sc Chairperson she should provide her resume to the taxpayers, if not only for gaining the confidence of the tri-county constituents, but at least to ALL the sc members. I apologize if she has been respectful enough to write a letter to you introducing herself and attaching a copy of her credentials. That would be seem to be an appropriate gesture; or was she also hand-picked by the person with the big pockets and excels in following directions? Curious Resident, please do not feel I was being derogatory toward you in anyway. With your knowledge, you can approach issues in a productive manner, and bring these towns together! Think of it this way, once they understand Hopkinton is not backing down, I think you will get their attention. Be careful not to steer them away. Knowledge is power and for some peoople, it may be very frustrating waiting for others to catch up!

    Comment by rinker — December 9, 2008 @ 2:01 am | Reply

  34. I’m going to let you in on a little secret rinker. Don’t tell anyone, okay?

    A blog with no participation is air. Nothing more. Mr. Felkner does a wonderful job keeping us informed, but it’s not always enough to maintain interest. For lack of a better word I’ll call what I do “juice”. Without juice a blog can become air. Visit the Richmond blog for a good example. The most participation the Richmond blog had was when there was controversy over a Town Clerk race. That was juice but it fizzled. I try to keep the juice flowing here.

    I expect to be despised by those constantly apologizing and excusing Chariho’s failures. I’m not nice to them. I’m pretty confident that my lack of niceness provides juice. The apologists comes here to drink the juice. They are afraid to post anything…they can’t really justify their positions. They are used to being in the driver’s seat. Here we are all on equal terms. The space is ours to say what we want. No gavels…no police escorting us out. Billy-boob, Ricci and the rest get away with their shennanigans because they control the communication flow. They hate this site because Mr. Felkner has created a forum beyond their ability to control.

    Mr. Petit illustrates the fear of Chariho apologists. He tried for a time to defend Chariho’s failures. He told a bunch of lies but stopped posting when he realized this wasn’t a meeting run by his friends. Here you say something nonsensical or illogical there’s a good chance someone is going to call you to account. Mr. Petit is not up to the challenge. I give him credit for trying. The rest of the cowards hide behind their School Committee and procedural rules like I hide behind my anonymity.

    I’ll leave niceness to Mrs. Buck, Mrs. Capalbo (where’d she go?) and others. Compared to me everybody else is reasonable…measured. I’m the resident big mouthed jerk. I like it that way and feel I’m doing a service whether recognized or not.

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 9, 2008 @ 2:57 am | Reply

  35. I fail to see how someone “studying to become a teacher” has a conflict of interest. As far as I know, Holly Eaves is not a member of the union at this time, she’s not holding any teaching positions. We don’t even know what grade level she’s aiming at or where she will choose to teach. I’d like to know how it’s a conflict of interest.

    Rinker apparently doesn’t follow the school committee very much otherwise he/she would know that Holly Eaves isn’t just starting out on the school committee. He/she would also know that the position of chair is rotate amongst the 3 towns with a new chair being elected every two years. Since it was Charlestown’s time for seat, what choices were there, Young Andy who has no clue other than being another of Barry Ricci’s puppet, Andy P., another puppet of Barry Ricci and who can’t complete a sentence without an “uh uh uh” in it, Deb Carney who was newly elected or Holly Eaves who is studying to become a teacher but does have some experience on the school committee. I’d pick Holly Eaves for the chairperson. He/she would also know that the Finance Director (Brian Stanley) is NOT on the school committee but is present at the meetings for financial questions and as another of Barry Ricci’s “yes” men. The link he has to the school committee is that Bob Petit is his cousin.

    Also, what experience does any member of the school committee have with being a chairperson until they are elected by the members to that position? Most, if not all, (perhaps Bill Felkner is the exception), members of the school committee have had little if any experience with crafting budgets or being involved with union negotiations. But then again, may times town/city councilors have very little experience dealing with the very same issues. I’m very adamant about Chariho hiring an outside negotiator when it comes to dealing with union contacts. One reason is that it cuts down on the possibility of a conflict of interest for any of the school committee memebers such as Bill Day or Andy Polouski.

    Comment by CharihoParent — December 9, 2008 @ 8:45 am | Reply

  36. Hey Rinker, I understand your thinking, I started reading here a month or so ago … the reality is that Chariho defies logic, so anything that you think as making sense doesn’t apply here. Consider the following conflict of interest on the current SC:

    Day … Wife & son work for the district, the company he works for is a contractor of the district.

    Petit … Cousin is the Finance Director

    Polouski … Former teacher of the district, presumably benefits from the contracts, at minimum it’s easy to infer where his loyalties lay. Reportedly he was thrown off the negotiating committee for sharing inside info with the union.

    Eaves … Studying to be a teacher, why does this matter, well consider that she will want to get a job eventually teaching, presumably in RI, maybe in Chariho. Her actions on the SC will be known to all, NEARI, future co-workers, etc. Frankly, if I were going to be a teacher, I wouldn’t want to be on the SC, just too many downsides.

    Rinker, you make a good point about qualifications, I would offer that town councilors usually cut their teeth on town boards/commissions to learn the ropes. Two of the new Richmond TC members served on the RIchmond EDC, another was a regular TC attendee, two are business owners; of the existing one is a finance prof and one is a bank VP. Even if you take qualifications with a grain of salt from time to time, one has to nod their head and feel that these folks have credentials that make you feel more comfortable. Most always TC races are competitive, contrast that with the SC races …

    People know very little about the members, none of them had competition; considering they control a sizable percent of the town budget, you would think the town’s power structures would care more.

    The reason I think the TC’s are critical to influence is that they do have a great deal of town influence, getting folks to run for office, supporting candidates, etc.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the SC was appointed by the TCs, where the members served at the pleasure of the TC! Then there would be accountability. I still can’t fathom that the SC has effectively no checks and balances.

    Sadly, it looks like the best chance at making a change is too prepare for the 2010 election when 7 seats are up.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 9, 2008 @ 9:55 am | Reply

  37. You are right. I am just facinated by the community interest and concerns expressed here. I did not realize Richmond had its own blog. Pardon my ignorance of the sc structuring. The learning curve tends to be getting longer the more I learn. I do not mean to pollute or impose with my questions and opinions from an outsiders point of view. I stand corrected. My only comment about Holly Eaves was expressed because someone has asked so many comments ago, “Who elected her?”, and I probably took it out of context. The nepotism that is prevalent at Chariho, let me to the “conflict of interest” statement. It would seem to me that Chariho would be an obvious preference for her. My apologies. In addition, I have an MBA and, in only my perspective, it would seem logical for the person in charge to be well versed in the financial aspect of the institution he/she is running. It is jusst my opinion, but I would want the person controlling my tax dollars to have some proven knowledge / experience in dealing with a large population of people’s money. I would be curious to know what her priorities are on prorating tax dollars to the corresponing expenses on Income and Expense Statements for the school district. You probably all know that information, but just in case you did not, I mention in an attempt to initiate brainstorming, if not on this blog, then at individual levels. In a way, that is my approach to providing ‘juice’, if you will. I will just step aside, keep my comments to myself, and continue to read your comments, discretely.

    Comment by rinker — December 9, 2008 @ 10:11 am | Reply

  38. Rinker, hell no, you need to ask lots of questions and put lots of comments out there. There isn’t a good place to read about Chariho, I tried the other day by reading the Chariho Act, thought there was a FDM, only to be pointed out that this was changed several years ago.

    If a ground swell is going to happen, the seeds have to be grown here.

    If you think that you are surprised by reading here, try going to a SC meeting. I’m also a business professional, so to hear the finance director tell the Hopkinton TC Pres that they can’t (or won’t) provide budget vs actual data at sufficient detail to analyze, blew my mind. We’re talking about a $50MM entity.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 9, 2008 @ 10:40 am | Reply

  39. Ms. Carney has been politically involved for years. She’s a known commodity and would be far superiror to Ms. Eaves as the Chair. Who knows, if the court overturns votes occurring without Mr. Felkner’s participation, maybe they’ll be another chance to vote for the Chair?

    Is anyone besides CP naive enough to think a future teacher and union member doesn’t have an obvious coflict? A few years ago a teacher friend of mine spoke up at a town meeting in Rhode Island about the need for decreasing the local tax burden. Immediately following the meeting this teacher was approached by his union president and told that he either shut up or the union would see to it his career in education was as miserable as possible. The union has the power to make good on the threat. My friend is now silent and employed.

    Ms. Eaves has already shown her colors. She’s been on the side of those delivering inferior education at great expense. Even if she weren’t soon to be a teacher, she’s proven she can’t be trusted to lead Chariho. She may look better and sound nicer than Billy-boob, but in the end, her vote is the same as his nearly every sngle time. Ms. Eaves already does the union’s bidding. They probably can’t wait to give her a job.

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 9, 2008 @ 11:14 am | Reply

  40. CR, how do any of us know that she even plans to teach at the elementary, middle school or high school level? We simply don’t know. Do we know that she’s planning on teaching at Chariho? No, we don’t.

    Comment by CharihoParent — December 9, 2008 @ 11:17 am | Reply

  41. Gene,
    Doesn’t it amaze you that the school district won’t and refuses to do that? They come up with excuses on top of excuses to not show us budgeted vs. actual. If you look at the budget preparation for each of the towns which have smaller budgets in comparison, they all do it. There is no valid reason why they can’t break it down for the voters. None at all!

    Comment by CharihoParent — December 9, 2008 @ 11:20 am | Reply

  42. Hey rinker, be a newbie, uninformed person, or whatever title you want to use or not use. Don’t let any “old timers” tell you you are wrong or intimidate you in any way……think about it…..the “old timers” are the ones who dropped the ball and left “us” with the trainwreck(Chariho), if you are labled new(haven’t been following along) then the problems are yours to solve because those before you haven’t solved very much now have they?? I would rather put money on a new person who is trying to learn and step up than those who have been here all along and done what……???

    Along with having financial experience in dealing with the school issues, it would be very helpful to have some expertise in union business, and educational protocols, a manager who has never dealt with unions might be a great manager, but tie their hands with labor laws, contractual language, etc and the stellar manager might be out of their element. This is why a committee of multiple people is a good way to handle these affairs, but the members of the committee must be willing to pull the cart in the same direction and have the same end goal. Obviously the elected members of the SC are more interested in themselves than the biggest bang for our buck in educating our children. I wonder how many of the SC members have children in school….anyone know??

    Comment by RS — December 9, 2008 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  43. Here’s what I know and guess.

    Mr. Day has an adult child in the school…working.
    Mr. Polouski is too old, but was a teacher at Chariho.
    Mr. Abbott is older so probably not.
    Mr. Felkner had to put his children in private school to protect them.
    Ms. Serra has commented on her children so probably does.
    Mr. Petit has mentioned his child(ren). Maybe even in a special program, but not sure.
    Mr. McQuaide is still a child himself. I heard he has a sibling in RYSE or special ed.
    Ms. Carney I couldn’t guess.
    Ms. Cole I couldn’t guess.
    Mr. Vecchio I couldn’t guess.
    Ms. Eaves I couldn’t guess.

    No one should be scared away from this blog. I notice a drop off in the participation of those in politics or connected to politics. Probably afraid to say something which will bite them in the behind at a later date. I almost understand this reluctance to be public, although it doesn’t seem to bother Mr. Felkner. For anyone else, please participate to your heart’s content. We do go after each other, but so what? Even posters who are wrong most of the time have moments of clarity. The Chariho apologists have their meetings and their power. We have this…not as high profile but it seems to have some influence.

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 9, 2008 @ 12:27 pm | Reply

  44. To build on 43:

    Ms. Eaves has at least a daughter in Chariho
    Ms. Cole has three children in Chariho

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 9, 2008 @ 1:02 pm | Reply

  45. RE #41 … One of my most significant issues with Chariho is this effort to avoid transparency. I’m sure there are many items that reasonable people will disagree on, but when you throw a cloak of secrecy over the whole thing, who’s to say, it just smells.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 9, 2008 @ 1:06 pm | Reply

  46. RE: 40

    CP, I tend to side with CR on this one. While it’s not as obvious conflict as the others, the education world is highly connected, it’s very strong union. I don’t see how she can do anything but take the union’s position … she will want to get a job. How does a fiscally responsible SC member challenge the admin or union???? She may well be a good intentioned person, but the potential personal ramifications are daunting. I don’t think it matters which grade level or which RI school district she may ultimately work for, or CT for that matter, there’s no secrets in the NEA.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 9, 2008 @ 1:15 pm | Reply

  47. Who actually hires teachers though, is it the principal, the superintendent, the board of reagents….????

    Comment by RS — December 9, 2008 @ 1:44 pm | Reply

  48. I assume the superintendent is the only one with hire/fire execution authority. But who knows where the influencers are. Can’t imagine the super interviews all the teacher hires, maybe though.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 9, 2008 @ 2:21 pm | Reply

  49. So that answers the conflict question in regards to a SC member desiring to become a teacher. Even if you were searching outside the district you are a SC member in, having the support and recommendation of a Superintendent could only help in my view, unless you were against the policies of said superintendent.

    Comment by RS — December 9, 2008 @ 2:30 pm | Reply

  50. Well then folks, probably 75 to 85 percent of this state has a conflict of interest somewhere considering how many government employees and positions that there are in this state. I don’t buy the arguement of Holly Eaves currently have a conflict of interest. That one I’ll totally disagree on until she would become a teacher in the Chariho School District. Heck, she could end up teaching at a Charter School or a private school for all that any one on her knows.

    Comment by CharihoParent — December 9, 2008 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

  51. ….and you are probably right CP….maybe this is a reflection on the current condition of our state…..too many conflicts of interest and good ole boy shinanigans.

    So you think that Ricci would hire BF if he was pursuing a teacher position???? You don’t have to answer, we all know……but if I asked about Holly Eaves, you couldn’t honestly answer either way…see my point.

    Comment by RS — December 9, 2008 @ 3:15 pm | Reply

  52. I’m not sure that Ms. Eaves has a traditional conflict of interest in as much is that there isn’t a lot of room for upsides, but lots of downsides. Hard to make many people like you, but easy to make enemies. As I said before, if I wanted to be a teacher, then I wouldn’t want to be on a SC.

    I would agree with CP in concept, there’s many other conflicts that are more important.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 9, 2008 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

  53. She only needs 1 person to like her to gain, and thats the one with the power to offer you a job. The rest of the folks are nothings…so you appease the 1. You can p’off every person in the county and it won’t matter if you are in favor with the person who has the power to hire you. I agree it’s not worth any effort, but you can’t defend the possibilities. Remember, the SC used the “possibility” that BF “might” have a conflict to remove him from the committee. So if the SC doesn’t agree with Holly Eaves, will they use the possibility of conflict to roust her next???
    So one must ask, if the possibility exist for a member to be voted out, will this affect their will when it comes to the issues.
    We know some of the members have the fortitude and will to fight, but does she??

    Comment by RS — December 9, 2008 @ 3:45 pm | Reply

  54. In the efforts of full disclosure, my wife is in the NEA. But through transparency, the taxpayer can see motives. When I publish the fact that the average STARTING salary for teachers in Rhode Island is $38,632, or $50,222.21 when calculated on a full-year equivalency and that the average raise for teachers during the first 10 years of employment is 10.85%, I don’t think people would accuse me of lobbying for more benefits to teachers (unless its reverse psychology).

    My point was that it is hypocritical to say that I have a conflict of interest (representing the exact same constituency for both seats) but others can stay on the Committee while they have other conflicts. I’m not saying remove them, I’m saying don’t remove me.

    If Holly Eaves gets that average raise down to 3% (like other “professionals”) no one will complain if she gets a job as the Chariho Superintendent.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — December 9, 2008 @ 3:47 pm | Reply

  55. That’s the huge “If” though. I’m saying we can’t, as of this moment, say that Holly Eaves has conflict of interest either. While many go to school with the intent of becoming a teacher, they often don’t even actually become a teacher.

    The biggest conflict of interest, in my opinion, is Bill Day and yet he’s allowed to remain on the SC.

    Comment by CharihoParent — December 9, 2008 @ 4:18 pm | Reply

  56. If Ms. Eaves had no conflict, or the potential for conflict, she still has her record and public comments. She has shown no incilination to improve educational outcomes or reduce spending. She’s a charter member of the hide and seek crowd. While it certainly could be for self-serving reasons, it may also be because she’s an idiot. Whatever the reason, the end results are the same…she’s a Chariho apologist and part of the problem.

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 9, 2008 @ 4:43 pm | Reply

  57. CR, while I hardly know Holly Eaves, your calling her an idiot, and you dare to accuse me of name calling, is totally uncalled for. It sure is easy to label someone an idiot when hiding behind an anonymous name.

    Comment by CharihoParent — December 9, 2008 @ 6:59 pm | Reply

  58. …and its easy to call someone out when also hiding behind an anonymous name…..amusing…..

    Don’t attack me, this is my sense of humor…

    Comment by RS — December 9, 2008 @ 7:16 pm | Reply

  59. She is either an idiot or she is self serving…I gave options. Why else would she vote the way she does? She is also a public figure and as such I am entitlted by the 1st Amendment to call her anything I’d like.

    I’ve never accused anyone of name calling. No need for an accusation when the facts are there for all to see. Doesn’t bother me a whit to be called names. You’ve never heard me complain about it. I kind of like it. As for me, I call people names sometimes. Never denied and could care less if anyone likes it or not.

    Some people are “feelings” types. Very sensitive about things like names. They’ll let a School Committee destroy their children’s education without a whimper, but call someone an idiot and they are outraged. It’s all about the “feelings” even if it makes absolutely no sense. I’m not into coddling little babies who cry about names while children’s lives are ruined. I call it as I see it.

    If Ms. Eaves changes her stripes and leads efforts to turn Chariho into a school providing superior education at a reasonable cost, I’ll reassess my opinions. So far she’s done nothing but contribute to the failing….for her own purposes or because she’s an idiot…who knows for sure?

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 9, 2008 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

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