Chariho School Parents’ Forum

June 18, 2009

Is this a way around the voters?

Filed under: bond,RYSE,Stimulus — Editor @ 8:44 pm

One of the many projects being developed over at OSPRI is a website containing all the stimulus projects being proposed in RI. It is designed to let taxpayers comment and vote on the merits of the project.

It’s not ready to unveil, but the data is up and I noted the Charhio projects.

You can see the sneak peek here –http://ocean.peteresnyder.com/

You’re welcome to play around with it, but if you click on the left link, “Browse by Submitter” and hit Charhio

There you will  see the $4.4m to build the RYSE school. Which makes me think…

Section 9.5 of the Chariho Act says,

(5)  No action shall be taken with respect to the purchase of land, the construction of buildings and the extension of the scope of functions of the regional school district except upon a majority vote of  voters of the respective member towns as set forth in section 1 hereof.

Will Chariho go to the voters before building the school? What’s the odds that Jon Anderson provides an opinion that states the Act doesn’t apply to federal funds?

June 17, 2009

Budget news

Filed under: bond,Budget — Editor @ 7:41 pm

ProJo has the budget info –

The legislature’s budget plan cuts $55 million in general revenue sharing from cities and towns, a reduction that eliminates the general revenue sharing program.

Isn’t the general revenue sharing program where Charho said we would be getting that 54% reinbursement for the bond? Will they move forward and expect the taxpayers to pay 54% more?

On education, the budget for the coming year largely funds local education at the current level. But it eliminates all state dollars devoted to professional development at local schools, approximately $6.3 million. And the plan also cuts $1.7 million in new money the governor had proposed for charter schools and “mayoral academies.”

Disappointing indeed. I guess the special interest groups (like the NEA) doesn’t put the kids first. Well, not if its to their competition.

January 6, 2009

Sound familiar?

Filed under: bond — Editor @ 12:44 pm

My fiend Paul Jacob is an advocate that travels the country promoting term limits, transparency, voter initiatives, and other good things.  He also writes a column called Common Sense.  This one just came to my inbox.  Does it ring any bells in regard to Chariho’s promotion of the bond?

Get Real, Mr. Rael

Political ads are not much different from normal, commercial ads. Effective advertisements usually make it pretty clear what the hoped-for outcome is.

Buy a widget? Patronize a business? In politics, it’s “Vote for X”… or A, B, or C.

Last political season, in New Mexico’s Bernalillo, Sandoval, and Valencia counties, ads ballyhooed a Rio Metro expansion project. They very clearly concluded by telling voters to “Make a Difference on November 4th,” and offering up a certain website that also promoted voting for the tax increase to expand the transit system.

So why did Lawrence Rael of the political entity responsible for Rio Metro deny the obvious? “We’re not saying ‘vote for the tax’ as an advocacy committee would do,” he explained. “We’re just simply saying, ‘Look, this issue is on the ballot…Here’s what it’s about.’”

Oh, get real, Mr. Rael.

The reason for his reticence? Governments in a republic aren’t supposed to influence voters but be influenced by voters. That’s the point of an election, where our tax dollars ought not be on either side.

Paul Gessing, of the Rio Grande Foundation, wrote in the Albuquerque Journal, “Having advocates for these proposals working on the taxpayer dime obviously tilts the advantage in the direction of higher taxes. But giving the pro-tax side the additional advantage of a significant advertising budget is simply too much, and is truly unfair.”

No wonder government keeps growing, eh?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

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October 13, 2008

Where are the taxpayer groups?

Filed under: bond — Editor @ 11:41 am

Having gotten a few emails and calls asking – “what are we going to do about the bond?”  “We only won by 47 votes – now its cheaper, now only HS, etc, etc…….”  I thought I would post on it.

One frequent question is, “Where is… to fight this for us?”

First answer is to stop asking and do something yourself. Send a letter to the papers, and talk to your friends.

Secondly, there really never were any advocacy groups for taxpayers here in Hopkinton, or the overall Chariho area for that matter.  Dorothy Gardner and Georgia Ure did a great deal of work under the Ed Options Committee, as did Georgia and several others years ago that resulted in the large 5 binder report that I doubt the school ever looked at (like the MGT study Sylvia Thompson, Thurman Silks and others have commented on).

There is an Ad Hoc group looking at the 5th and 6th grade issue here in Hopkinton and a similar group looking to withdraw in Charlestown (full disclosure, my wife is on the Hopkinton group).  But none of these are advocacy groups and do not traditionally write commentary for publication (but I suppose there is no reason they couldn’t – Richard Hosp certainly has).

Last year, the Westerly School lost its vote for a bond in large part due to the efforts of RISC – a taxpayer group representing the south shore area. They did this by producing a flyer showing how much money went to teachers and administration and so little actually went to the children.  We posted the flyer at that time.

Look over that flyer and you can’t help but ask why they haven’t done the same for Chariho.  After all, the numbers actually are worse for Chariho. So why would RISC not come out against this bond?

The RISC donor base is Watch Hill and Charlestown. If the Chariho bond is passed, the inequitable tax situation will continue for another 20-30 years so we shouldn’t expect them to be on our side. Indeed, Mrs. Hosp is a RISC board member. The RISC agenda is not to be unexpected, nor is it a bad thing, for Charlestown. Taxpayer groups are largely groups that look out for their own self interests not outside populations – as well they should.

So that doesn’t really leave us many options.  The school will have about $9000 to promote the bond, the unions will do their part, and the only taxpayer group in the area will sit this one out while lobbying the local newspaper on the Charlestown view of the tax situation.

Not a pretty picture – and this is why, even after the documented (see this blog) obstructionist nature of Chariho, they will continue to ignore requests of accountability.

So, to answer all those calls and emails – I will continue here and writing to the papers. But the reality is, you are your only advocacy group.

July 31, 2008

Gearing up for Campus 2010 (part deux)

Filed under: bond,Maintenance — Editor @ 3:42 pm

From the Chariho August email sent by Mr. Ricci:

Focus on Campus 2010

     This past spring, the Chariho School Committee, in a 10-1 vote, approved the submission of legislation authorizing a second vote on the Campus 2010 project.  As a result, votes will be held on November 4th, this time as three separate projects.
     Why?  Quite simply, the needs have not gone away and cannot be solved through the annual operating budget.   The District continues to spend nearly $300,000 per year on lease payments for temporary portable classrooms.  And, there is little disagreement that the High School infrastructure needs significant upgrades and that our high school students need additional learning space.  Related detail can be found in the comprehensive accrediting report from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges at http://www.chariho.k12.ri.us/building_comm/default.htm.
     Become informed!  Visit the Chariho web site at the Building Committee link for more information

I would disagree.  What is should read is, “the needs have not gone away and even though we spend over $14,000 per student (among the highest in the nation), we are unable to manage our finances well enough to keep our building from falling apart.  Yes, I remember the “non-emergency” roof that fell in the classroom.  And yes, enrollment is dropping, but we have so many non-essential services (with union employees) that we are running out of room.”

I would also ask, if spending $300,000 on leases is a bad deal, why did we do it in the first place?  Mr. Day, Mr. Polouski, and Mr. Ricci were all around then, ask them.  Oh yea, because it would take a vote to approve the creation of RYSE if they did that.  So, they were willing to saddle us with a lease payment because they didn’t want to ask for approval to create a new school.

Curiously, earlier in the email he also said this –

Keep your eye on the District website.  We’ll be updating the site with pictures from the many construction projects occurring all over the District.  I promise that our High School students will be quite impressed (and proud) when they return.

June 7, 2008

Representative Representatives

Filed under: bond,Budget — Editor @ 12:06 am

A Representative Democracy,like America (theoretically), should have representatives that represent the constituency (pardon the repetition). 

With all the talk about how our representatives on Smith Hill have embodied the views of Hopkinton, or how they have not accurately done so, I decided to contact them.  I am sure that those who disagree with you are writing or calling them too.  Many of them donate as well.

Quite frankly, I’m shocked any legislator would advocate for a bond.  The tax cap has been put in place to force towns and schools to deal with runaway costs and poor performance.  It is endemic in our state!  Passing a bond is just another one-time fix that will prolong fiscal mismanagement.

RI has a basic problem – we pay high prices for low quality goods and services.  As an example:

RI expenditures are among the highest on infrastructure (48th on capital, 45th on maintenance) but we rank 2nd highest in the percentage of poor road and 53% of our bridges are deficient (the highest % in the nation).

Welfare spending is among the highest but RI has reported that over 50% of those on welfare have been on for more than 5 years and 25% have been on for more than 10 years.  During the last decade the nation lowered poverty by over 8% while RI poverty grew by over 6%.

And I don’t think I need to remind this audience how expensive and ineffective public education is.

Our representatives need to change the way we do business.  We DO NOT need to find more band-aids to cover up the problems.  IF the bond were to pass, what do you think are the odd that Chariho would do anything substantialwith the contracts?

Hopkintonvoted on this bond – and the Town Council has made its point strongly.  Why are some people in Providence not listening to us?  You might want to contact your local rep on the Hill.

Email Representative Brian Kennedy at rep-kennedy@rilin.state.ri.us

Email Senator Kevin Breene at sen-breene@rilin.state.ri.us

June 5, 2008

House approves bond for referendum

Filed under: bond — Editor @ 6:30 pm

The House approved the bond for a referendum vote, as reported by the Providence Journal

The legislation can be found here.  Noticeably absent is any mention of a set reimbursement amount.  It will be interesting to see if Chariho tries to sell it on the claim that “we must do it now to get the state reimbursement” – which the legislation makes clear, is no guarantee.

Also noticeably absent is any mention that we are spending over $12,000 per student and we can’t manage to keep our buildings maintained.  So, if the bond is passed, it will simply be another band-aid on the problem given the Committee more time to procrastinate before doing anything about runaway labor costs (due to excessive contract give-aways). 

Finally, note that there were no “no” votes in the General Assembly.  Lots of non-votes (absentee) but not a one legislator had the courage to vote against it.  Is it any wonder we are nearing a half billion in debt.  Perhaps we should remember this come November.

May 30, 2008

House Finance passes bond legislation

Filed under: bond,Budget — Editor @ 5:41 pm

From the people who brought us the $434mm budget deficit comes the decision to move forward with the Chariho bond.

PROVIDENCE — The state House Committee on Finance approved three bills designed to authorize $25 million in bonds for renovations and construction at Chariho’s Switch Road campus Thursday.

“The accreditation is my concern at this time,” said Rep. Peter L. Lewiss, D-Westerly.

The campus risks losing accreditation because of crowded and dilapidated classrooms, according to proponents of a bond.

Those proponents say the bond money will provide a solid financial plan for correcting these issues and forestall action by the regional accrediting association, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

As passed by the finance panel Thursday, the amended bills exclude the specific state reimbursement rates and instead uses more general wording.

The next stop for the bills will be the House floor and later the Senate. Then, if passed by the state General Assembly, the bond will face a referendum at the hands of the voters of Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton. Several previous attempts to approve bonds to make repairs to the Chariho campus have failed during the referendum step, when voters from at least one of the towns have rejected the proposals.

A bond has not passed in all three towns since 1986.

“I expect that representatives from the three town councils will have something to say,” Lewiss said.

The majority of Hopkinton Town Council has not supported even bringing the question of bonding back to the General Assembly and the school district’s voters. The council has previously complained that Hopkinton pays more than its fair share of support for the school district. Both the Charlestown and Richmond town councils have supported bringing the question to voters again.

Hopkinton’s failure to pass the bonds has not only placed the accreditation at risk, but also put $10 million in state matching funds in jeopardy if enabling legislation is not passed by the General Assembly before July 1, say school construction supporters.

If it makes passes the legislature, the referendum presented to voters will be in three parts that require approval by all three of the Chariho towns.

The bond authorizations include $17.8 million for upgrades at the high school and general campus, $4.4 million for a permanent RYSE facility to replace its temporary classrooms, and $2.7 million for repairs and an addition to the middle school.

“We should let the voters decide,” said Lewiss.

The project was presented to voters initially as a $26 million single question to voters last fall. That measure passed in Charlestown in Richmond, but failed in Hopkinton by 47 votes. The district’s governing document — the Chariho Act — requires that a bond question pass in all three towns.

Rep Lewis claims that he fears the loss of accreditation.  This threat comes from an organization that Chariho almost stopped paying dues to a few years back because it was seen as a farce.  Besides, they claim we will loose accreditation because of poor classroom conditions and overcrowding.  Most of the classroom concerns are being addressed in the current capital plan and enrolments are dropping. 

Why are politicians so short sighted.  They passed S-3050 (the tax cap) to put pressure on school committees so they will address contract issues.  But then when the school committees refuse to deal with the unions and neglected maintenance instead, the politicians bail them out by passing bonds.  Like I said, these are the same people who brought us the $434mm deficit.

May 19, 2008

Westerly Sun reports on the un-approved admin contracts

Filed under: bond — Editor @ 1:47 pm

It seems that when the Committee voted not to approve the contracts, that didn’t really mean anything.   At least according to Chariho.  This all came about when we tried to work on the budget.  Committee member Petite suggested positions tocut and we were continually told that we couldn’t do that because we were locked into the contracts.   You can fire them but we would still need to pay them until the contract expired (2 or 3 year contracts).  Even if the budget required a cut, we would still have to pay.

So we asked that the contracts be aligned so that we could cut positions when budget discussion was on – but Ricci sent us a memo saying that Brian Stanley wouldn’t do it because of the conflict of interest (his contract is among those discussed).  Ricci also said that if we did that our employees would not feel “secure.”  I responded that that is exactly the idea.  We live in a performance based world and they should be only as secure as their job performance would dictate. 

But they refused – and if what Ricci says is accurate, we lose.  Nothing can be done about the contracts because the employees wont do it and the contracts automatically re-up. 

Now before you start with the “who do they work for” talk – lets remember that it is an 11 member board.  They will continue to do what the majority wants.  Just follow this issue as an example – the Committee asked to change the contracts but it didn’t happen and I’ll wager that it won’t happen.  My guess.

And they wonder why the parents have become so disenfranchised with the school.  Here is the WS article:

WOOD RIVER JCT. — Contracts for 11 Chariho Regional School District administrators have been extended through June 30, 2010 without approval from the school committee.
Approval of the two-year contracts failed in a tie, 5-5 vote Tuesday. Chairman William G. Day of Richmond, Holly Eaves of Charlestown, Terri Serra of Richmond, Ronald Preuhs of Hopkinton and Andrew McQuaide of Charlestown voted to approve the work agreements, while William Felkner of Hopkinton, George Abbott of Hopkinton, Giancarlo Cicchetti of Charlestown, Andrew J. Polouski of Charlestown and Robert Petit of Hopkinton voted against them.
Deborah Jennings of Richmond was absent.
Despite the committee’s vote, a provision in the con­tracts allows the work agreements to automatical­ly renew for one year “if either party does not notify the other, in writing, (by) May 1, of its intent to allow the term to expire at the end of the then current term.”
The contracts were first included in the committee’s April 22 consent agenda under “personnel actions.” At that meeting, the com­mittee voted 8-3 to table the contracts for the non-union employees. Day, Felkner and Petit voted against the motion made by McQuaide.
McQuaide said when he made the motion, he didn’t realize the contracts would automatically “roll over” by the time the committee reconsidered it earlier this week.
“The idea behind tabling was the fact that we were given a significant amount of contracts, and at least personally, I wasn’t able to understand the full com­plexities of these contracts as well as their financial implications,” McQuaide said.
Chariho Superintendent Barry J. Ricci said this week that it was a “routine matter” to put the contracts on the committee’s agenda when they are ready for annual renewal.
McQuaide said the com­mittee typically considers the contracts after comple­tion of the coming year’s district budget (which includes any salary increas­es for administrators) “because if the budget isn’t approved, then those con­tracts would be up in the air anyway.”
He added that he has spo­ken with the superintend­ent about having “the con­tracts in front of us, but not taking any action on them” when the committee is working on the budget.
“It’s a matter of reforming the way the school commit­tee does business so it’s the most efficient, and yet allows us to really make mindful and understanding decisions,” McQuaide said.
Felkner said when the committee was assessing the budget earlier this year “we tried to make some changes. Do we need this position, that position? Well, we can’t do anything anyway because we’re in a two-year contract.”
“How are we supposed to react to something that happens in the budget if our hands are tied with the con­tract?” he asked.
Despite the expired dead­line, Eaves said she consid­ered Tuesday’s vote to be “symbolic” when she approved the contracts.
“By taking the vote, I think we would have been showing the support of our administration,” she said.
Similarly, McQuaide said, “I think that it had been indicated to us that there was a concern [about per­formance] and we had to address that concern, which is why I voted in favor.”
Others didn’t convey the same meaning of the vote.
“Basically my under­standing is that the con­tract kind of rolled over anyway,” Petit said. “… The vote the other night kind of didn’t mean a whole lot.”
District administrators, mostly principals, waited about four hours until the committee voted at its ses­sion Tuesday. Several declined to comment after the decision.
Petit said he didn’t have an issue with the adminis­trators’ performances, adding they “are all doing a great job.” However, “there are things that we need to sit down and look at and discuss,” he noted.
Along with other commit­tee members, Petit said they would like to assess “staggering” the adminis-t­rators’ contracts, so not all would be evaluated at the same time. By doing so, he said, the rollover could be eliminated.
“Again, it’s in no way in my eyes to eliminate a posi­tion right now, but it does give us flexibility with stag­gering contracts,” Petit said.
The committee had requested Brian Stanley, director of Administration and Finance, to evaluate staggering the contracts, but Ricci told the committee in a memo that it would be a conflict of interest because one of the pacts is for Stanley, according to Donna Sieczkiewicz, Chariho’s administrative assistant.
Felkner, however, said he would prefer contracts to be eliminated.
“It’s a performance-based world and our kids would benefit greatly from a com­petitive market for schools,” he said.
Eaves submitted a request this week to create a subcommittee that would examine contract issues, as well as administration staffing. The committee is expected to consider the request at its next meeting. “I really want us to take a look at the big picture and see what we need to do or not to do,” she said.
Petit said the subcommit­tee could also bring trans­parency to such topics.
“I think it brings a lot of information to light for school committee members to have a great understand­ing of contracts and bids,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, the com­mittee unanimously approved two other con­tracts, for Chariho Middle School Vice Principal Gregory Zenion — who serves as the middle school’s interim principal — and Career and Technical Center Director Elizabeth Sinwell. Those contracts, which require Zenion and Sinwell to contribute 15­percent co-pays for health and dental insurance, were listed separately and approved as consent agenda items.
Contracts for the other administrators, who were hired prior to Zenion and Sinwell, outline a phase-in for insurance co-pays, with a 10-percent contribution during the next fiscal year.
vgoff@thewesterlysun.com

 

May 8, 2008

WV is anti-kid too

Filed under: bond — Editor @ 2:03 pm

Turns out this blogging for your school thing is catching on.  And when people come out for sensible fiscal management in other states (i.e. are opposed to bonds), they too are called anti-children.

Does this sound familiar?

…let the accusations begin. If you criticize the creatively named “Greatest Needs” bond proposal you shall be labeled anti-children and anti-education. If you apply a sense of analysis to the individual line items that are included you will be told that the committee met for months to produce this final product and you should have been at the meetings.

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