Chariho School Parents’ Forum

September 28, 2009

Are “conflicts of interest” still conflicts when you make money off of them?

Filed under: Nov 18 meeting (where I was removed from office) — Editor @ 10:07 am

From the Westerly Sun – h/t Dorothy

Two committees, different entities

IT STANDS TO REASON THAT THE CHARIHO Re­gional School Committee and the Chariho Building Committee are different enti­ties. Beyond the most obvious difference — their names — they have distinct member­ships and roles.

So, it would seem, they are different enti­ties before the law.

Now, it is true that the two committees serve the same public and share many goals, such as turning the tri-town district’s $20.5­million capital projects into reality. But when you move in the realm of public office — or multi-million dollar projects — there’s no such thing as making too certain your legal ground is secure.

In legal matters, both panels turn to Ed­wards, Angell, Palmer and Dodge, a Provi­dence law firm. On a simple level, that makes perfect sense. If the firm is good enough to represent school officials, why not represent school building officials?

That argument faltered when the school committee was told by Attorney Jon M. An­derson that he couldn’t offer a legal opinion on an issue because it regarded another client — the building panel.

[Editor’s Note] – Jon Anderson is the attorney who told the Chariho School committee that I couldn’t serve on both the SC and Town Council because of “conflicts of interest.”

The very idea angered Andrew J. Polouski, a member of the school committee, who said that the primary function of the firm is to serve the elected board, and that the build­ing committee should have hired another firm.

Admittedly, it seems on the face of things that such a relationship might be the most efficient course of action, but in this scenario we’re also talking about a $20 million project and that has to take precedence over poten­tial savings of a fraction of that cost.

We find it odd that the law firm didn’t at least raise the issue of a possible conflict by serving both boards, however remote it might have appeared at the start. Neverthe­less, the local boards have a responsibility for considering potential or perceived con­flicts of interest in this kind of scenario as well.

It’s been tough enough for the school dis­trict to pass a bond in the first place; we hate to see preventable technical dilemmas get in the way of implementing the bond.

While the two panels are certainly on the same side, as School Committee member Ter­ri Serra noted, perhaps this bump in the road can serve as a caution sign to be on the look out for any other potential issues as this exciting project takes shape.

 ___________________________________

 Chariho continues to embarrass itself …

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September 23, 2009

School Choice Workshop

Filed under: Hopkinton,School Choice — Editor @ 9:54 am

Two town council meetings ago we set October 26th as a date for a workshop to discuss a school voucher or tax credit program that would empower parents with consumer choice when selecting a school for their child. I’m putting together a proposal with the guidance of Adam Schaeffer, Ph.D., Policy Analyst Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, and Dick Komer, Senior Attorney at the Institute for Justice.  This is a tremendous step and I hope those interested will send me their input and attend if possible.

September 21, 2009

New Ashaway Principal

Filed under: Ashaway Elementary,Chariho — Editor @ 10:29 pm

Has anyone had an opportunity to meet, talk or work with the new Ashaway principal, Steven Morrone? He came to the town council meeting to talk about a bus issue. He and Bob Petite were there asking for a parking ban during school bus loading and unloading times. Tom Buck has a good handle on the issue and I’m comfortable with his direction on it. But I was more concerned, or curious, about the principal.

My concerns are based on the principal’s experience, or apparent lack of. The principal is on the front lines of interaction between our kids, the teachers and parents, and what little I know of this person from searching the internet and what he wrote us in a letter does not give me a great deal of confidence. 

According to the letter he sent the council, he “taught in Westerly for the past five years in special education and in the classroom. (He) also completed (his) masters degree in administration through Providence College. As part of that program (he) completed a principal internship under Victor Ventura, principal of Springbrook School in Westerly.”

I don’t want to assume that that is the extent of his experience, maybe there is more and he just didn’t mention it. Then again, as young as he is there couldn’t be much more. According to the Westerly Sun he is 28 years old.

Personally, I’m not comfortable with someone so young being in such an important position – a position that requires him to be the facilitator of interactions between children, teachers and parents.  He is younger than 2 of the three.  And he has no experience and very little experience in education at all.  And in this high unemployment you would think we could have found someone with experience. Was this a cost savings move? Does this person posses unseen talents?

The principal also spoke about a new program encouraging “community” he has started. Instead of having the kids go from the bus to the class, he has them go to the  gym so they can build “community.”  I think of community more of helping your neighbor and stuff like that, and whenever a newly educated educator speaks about “community” I fear phrases like “social justice” are soon to follow. But I shouldn’t read too far ahead.

That being said, there are freakishly talented young people who are dedicated at an early age. Maybe he is one of them. I also see he has modeling aspirations. So, I’m not sure what to read on his dedication or capacity. His letter was what I would expect from someone 28 years old.  My first inclination is to be insulted that Ricci would put someone in our schools with so little, strike that – NO, experience in the job. And if his letter is the totality of it, he only has a handful of years in teaching.

That’s why I’m asking if anyone has had contact or interaction yet. Let us know.

September 13, 2009

Chariho contract

Filed under: contract negotiations — Editor @ 9:27 am

This article is from the Sun. Below that you will find a link to videos from the Tiverton School Committee discussing open negotiations. Wouldn’t that be nice…

 

WOOD RIVER JCT. — Contract talks between the Chariho Regional School Committee and the district’s teachers’ union is expected to resume this week.

Private negotiations for a new, three-year pact are scheduled for Tuesday. The parties last met on Sept. 3.

A three-person negotiation team has represented the school board since talks began in January, but other board members began participating at the last meeting. The issues now at hand “require a full school committee focus,” said School Committee Chairwoman Holly M. Eaves.

“It’s getting down to the more difficult stuff,” she added. The current contract with NEA Chariho — the local arm of the National Education Association that represents 341 full-time certified employees — expired on Aug. 31. The union has opted not to strike or “work-to-rule,” when teachers do not participate in extra-curricular activities like tutoring.

Jeanette Woolley, Chariho’s NEA representative, did not return a phone message by press time.

September 9, 2009

Fire Tax

Filed under: 1 — Editor @ 7:53 pm

I’ve gotten some comments about the Ashaway fire district tax. I was as surprised as the next guy. My bill went from about $170 last year to $270 this year. Maybe the next time someone wants to spend tax dollars we should make sure they know the costs involved. I just thought I would start this post for people to comment on it.

September 4, 2009

Great show on FOX

Filed under: 1 — Editor @ 6:02 pm

There is a great show on FOX tonight at 8 and midnight – Tucker Carlson – Do you know what is in your kid’s textbook.

Try to catch it.

September 2, 2009

Shhhh! Nobody is watching so maybe they won’t notice

Filed under: Chariho,contract negotiations,transparency — Editor @ 8:33 pm

I should say, “Shhh! We won’t let anybody watch so maybe they won’t notice.” What I’m referencing is the Chariho teachers contract. It expired Aug 31 but I don’t recall seeing anything in the paper during the entire process. One would assume that since it’s overdue, maybe the school committee is pushing the envelope and the union isn’t buying. But we can only guess…

Having spent time on both governing bodies, I can tell you that the process of deciding how far to push the envelope is a matter of power.

In the town council our choice was to use the town manager and council person to negotiate the contract and find a reasonable middle ground, which has not impact on the budget, or spend money for legal help.  And in the case of police and fire, they have binding arbitration so at best you will be ordered a middle ground resolution (although more and more legalminds are suggesting that binding arbitration is unconstitutional). So the POWER goes to the union because they have plenty of lawyers on staff and love long expensive battles.

But at the school we had the fear of strike – POWER of intimidation. Andy Polouski carried the union’s water during the negotiations I was involved in and told the committee that (paraphrased), ‘if we push they will strike, then the food service strikes and the parents will complain because they won’t know what to do with their kids when they can’t go to school.’

In the town example, the union had the power of money, and in the school example the union had the power of intimidation (manifest in parent complaints). Both of these could be remedied with transparency.

I tried to make the case to the HTC that if we were transparent with the process we might find the people would support and want us to fight harder. Tom et. al., did well getting rid of longevity, but I still think more could have been done especially with the pensions – an issue that was mostly resolved until Bill DeLibero made a last day change.   To a woman, or man, most on the HTC agree that we treat the public sector employees better than private sector employees, but we can only change it in small steps – otherwise it would require legal help ($$$). My thought was that if we were willing to let the voters decide if we want to spend $2m to purchase open space (the bond) then we could ask the same people if they want to spend half a mil to fight the contract (and binding arbitration).

In the case of the school, transparency would let the public give input to the school committee members if they did or did not want them to push the envelope – and if they would be willing to stand behind the school if the teachers went on strike. Transparency also lets the people know the truth – that teachers, police, etc., are willing to strike to hold onto their double digit raises and gold plated pension while you, the ones paying the bill, must settle for much less. At least make them own it publicly.

But for now, we are on the outside looking in (through a blacked out window).  If anyone has heard anything in the news that I may have missed please let us know.

September 1, 2009

brainwashing starts young

Filed under: government intervention — Editor @ 6:41 pm

If you haven’t heard, Obama is planning on speaking with ALL kids K – 12 on September 8th. After reading the linked items, I think this is a little creepy. 

I got the following notice today:

I’ve been further informed on the September 8th Presidential speech to ALL our Children
 
In the YouTube video, President Obama tells this child, “Yea, I get bullied and people say a lot of bad things about me.”  See President Obama – interviewed by a child
 
Please download the attached I took directly off the US Department of Education website. or click to view what I printed of their site if it is no longer available.  This includes the letter to all Principals – not even through the school boards as far as I can tell, and includes the “suggested” classroom asignments from the Federal Government.
 
_______________
You might consider keeping your kids home that day.