Chariho School Parents’ Forum

November 27, 2009

Four Chariho members accused of collusion

Filed under: Chariho,contract negotiations — Editor @ 6:18 pm

From the Westerly Sun:

 

WOOD RIVER JCT. — A Chariho Regional School Committee member has accused four of his counterparts of violating the state’s Open Meetings Act and conspiring against the district’s solicitor.

The charges, aired publicly Tuesday, center on the school committee’s Aug. 18 executive session meeting, when two attempts were made to hire outside lawyers to represent the district in teacher contract negotiations, following the departure of attorney Sheryl Hanley. While the committee ratified a new, three-year work agreement with the local teachers’ union on Oct. 29, tensions between school board members have run high for months.

William Day, who represents the town of Richmond, charged four others on the committee – Deborah Carney of Charlestown, and George Abbott, Georgia Ure and Richard Vecchio of Hopkinton – of “blatantly” violating the state’s Open Meetings Act by supporting votes that were not on the agenda. The foursome trampled his rights as he sat outside the closed-door session with Committeeman Andrew Polouski of Charlestown, he said.

Both Day and Polouski, along with Committeewoman Terri Serra of Richmond, have spouses or relatives who are employed by the district, and recused themselves from taking part in the negotiation process.

“I had every right to be in there, [and] Mr. Polouski had every right to be in there,” said Day, a staunch Chariho supporter who, at times, has clashed with representatives from Hopkinton. “This district is being accused by certain individuals as being shady, but what the four of you people did was the most disrespectful thing to the citizens of Richmond and Hopkinton, and to me, Mr. Polouski and Terri Serra.”

“I don’t trust you anymore,” he added angrily. “You went behind my back, you went behind Andy’s back and turned around and made motions to hire another lawyer, which was not on the agenda, and which was going to cost the taxpayers of the Chariho district considerably a lot more money than we were paying out.”

Day alleged later that Carney, Abott, Ure and Vecchio hold a “grudge” against District Solicitor Jon Anderson, who penned a legal opinion last fall that led to the ouster of former Hopkinton Committeeman William Felkner – and eventually filled Hanley’s role in the negotiations. He also expressed concern that, with only six or seven committee members present at future closed-door sessions, the four could approve “something that is going to be derogatory to the best interest of this district and the taxpayers.”

“Please don’t do it again,” Day said. “I’m imploring you, don’t do it again. The four of you vote as a bloc. If I believed in conspiracies, my conspiracy theory would be that you sit around and have telephone calls and decide how you’re going to vote.”

Carney, a former Town Council president and a one-time proponent of Charlestown’s withdrawal from Chariho, fired back. (With Hanley’s departure, she said the committee no longer had legal representation in the contract negotiations; the votes were appropriate under an agenda item titled “Teacher Contract Negotiation Update,” she added following Tuesday’s meeting.)

“I take great insult to this innuendo about a voting bloc because the same could be said about others around the table, but I won’t even go there,” Carney said, clearly agitated. “I’m sick and tired of this approach. Enough is enough. You want to file a complaint? File a complaint. But I’m not going to sit here and be attacked and be insulted because, quite frankly, I’ve had it.”

Vecchio agreed, calling the Richmond representative’s charge a “frivolous claim” that would waste district resources.

“You weren’t part of the negotiations, neither was Ms. Serra [or] Mr. Polouski,” he told Day. “You had no say in the matter of bringing in an attorney to negotiate for us…You’re bellyaching about something you had nothing to do with, as far as I’m concerned.”

Chairwoman Holly Eaves of Charlestown said the closed-door session involved mixed conversation on teacher contract negotiations and legal representation, but acknowledged that the whole committee should have been involved in the votes that took place.

“I will admit it was a very difficult and a very gray area, and as chair I was in a very difficult position,” she said. “I would take responsibility as chair of that meeting if an Open Meetings Act violation has occurred.”

“What’s done is done, we are who we are,” Eaves added.

While he has spoken with the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office and a personal attorney about lodging a formal complaint, Day said he doesn’t want to file a grievance that could end up tarnishing the record of the school committee – and his own legacy. He has until Feb. 14, 2010, to file an Open Meetings Act complaint with the AG’s office against the 11-member board.

ckeegan@thewesterlysun.com

[editor’s note] Day thinks he has a legacy?

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 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.

August 25, 2009

RI SAT scores 2nd worst

Filed under: Chariho,test scores — Editor @ 8:43 pm

h/t(2) RS

From the ProJo

SAT scores for the nearly 8,300 Rhode Island high school students — members of the Class of 2009 — who took the college admission test remain fifth lowest out of the six New England states. Rhode Island students scored 498 in reading, 496 in math and 494 in writing, with just 66 percent of students participating.

The highest combined score possible is 2,400 points — 800 per test.

Only Maine — which boasts a 90 percent participation rate — scored lower, with seniors scoring 468 in reading, 467 in math and 455 in writing.

But when Rhode Island’s private school students are not counted, the state’s participation rate drops to just 54 percent, and scores also decline, down to 486 in reading, 487 in math and 482 in writing for public school students. These scores reflect a 3-point improvement in reading and writing and no change in math, compared with 2008.

May 9, 2009

Don’t ask questions – just pay your taxes!

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,Hopkinton — Editor @ 11:05 am

I saw a letter from Bob Petit in the Sun today (may have been an old paper), it was unusually short and of a different writing style than normal, but the point was that we should all be happy with Chariho’s budget and give it a “Yes” vote on Tuesday.

What has Chariho really done?

Chariho’s General Fund budget went from $17,720,106 in 08/09 to $17,590,131 for 09/10 – a decrease of .73% (these figures are Hopkinton’s share only).

Good, a decrease, how did they get there?

As Sylvia and others have often written, Chariho has a habit of over budgeting to the tune of millions per year. They start the year with about $8m in surplus and allocate “reserves” for capital improvements (like the money they set aside to move the water tank at Ashaway – has it been done yet?) and other things that may or may not be used (such as health care self insurance which has caused the budget line item to quadruple since inception).

This year, they have taken $807,525 of Hopkinton taxes (surplus from previous years) and applied it to this year’s budget. So basically, they took the money from us last year and added it to their spending this year.

So, what does that make Chariho’s actual spending increase this year? This means that the $17,590,131 reported above is really $18,397,656 – or an increase of 3.82%.

Bob said, “Let’s remember that the superintendent submitted a budget that called for a decrease in member town contributions.”

What he meant to say is “this year” because the money was taken from us last year. Do they think we are stupid?  

Now let’s compare that to what Hopkinton is doing.

Town revenues are down  – building fees, property tax collections, etc… Hopkinton revenues (for the town, not school) dropped 1.26 percent, or a total of $223,884.

The Hopkinton town budget, as of today, has cut expenses by 2 percent, or $115,709.

So, the town has cut (so far) 2 percent from the operating budget and Chariho has increased theirs by 3.8%.

I urge all of you to vote “No” on Tuesday and send a message to Chariho that we expect them to make the same sacrifices we have.

[UPDATE] I should add that even though we (Hopkinton) have cut 2% from operations and Chariho has shifted fund around to keep the net from them at a .74% reduction, the Town of Hopkinton is still facing a shortfall of about $240,000, which would mean an increase in property taxes (which I won’t vote for). It looks like Chariho expects the towns to make all the cuts. 

I would assume the other towns have made similar cuts. If Chariho cut another $1m each town would probably have enough to NOT RAISE TAXES. And let me make a prediction, next year we will find out that Chariho once again over budgeted well in excess of $1m.  (hint – look at the history of our health care costs – go back and see what it was when we just paid the bill due and see what it is now that we self insure)

Think back to the teacher contract issues in East Providence – didn’ t the teachers cry, “why give us all the cuts?” Well in Chariho they ignore the economy and keep business as usual while we cut to the bone. IMHO this is the key downside to a regional district – they don’t represent US.

April 28, 2009

Chariho teachers’ salary on fast track

Filed under: Chariho,Charlestown,contract negotiations — Editor @ 7:30 pm

h/t CP and Tom himself for sending me this.

Dear Editor,

 

The recent abysmally low voter turnout for the Chariho budget shouldn’t surprise anyone. Ever since the regional “town hall” meeting to approve Chariho budgets was eliminated, voter participation has been minimal. Nor should it surprise anyone that the proposed budget was defeated. The Chariho School Committee has for years failed to control school expenses. Finally voters are waking up and pushing back. Most people in our communities want and support good education but they also want and need prudent and responsible budgets. 

 

salary-scale1

 

This out of control spending starts with teacher salaries and benefits that make up the largest portion of the Chariho expense. Look at the chart above—it’s simple, an individual who was just out of college in 1999 with a teaching degree and hired by Chariho would earn $23,806 for the 1999-2000 school year. If that individual is still teaching at Chariho this year, only 9 school years later, without any further education, their salary would have soared to $70,892—a whopping THREE FOLD increase; absolutely extraordinary in a period of relatively low inflation! That’s just below an average 13% increase per year! How many taxpayers in our three towns can say that they have enjoyed pay increases of that magnitude?

 

The above speaks only to salary. There’s not enough room here to get into the details of Chariho teachers’ health insurance, vacation time, holidays, and pensions provisions that make their entire compensation package even more lucrative. This School Committee and its predecessors have had countless opportunities to reign in these costs but they have repeatedly acquiesced to union demands.

 

The School Committee will often say in response to requests to reduce the budget that their “hands are tied” by contract agreements.  Who’s fooling who? Those contracts were negotiated and approved by the School Committee. The next teachers’ contract is being negotiated right now – Now is when the Chariho School Committee must act and gain real cost reductions, to both salary and benefits, for the new budget.  

 

Let’s hope that the School Committee has gotten the message the voters sent last Tuesday. In this difficult economy the public wants the School Committee to aggressively address school spending. The School Committee needs to have meaningful reductions to the budget –and please don’t try to play the standard game of deleting field trips, sports, and advanced study programs etc. as the first response to that request.  Otherwise, the public will have no other recourse but to give a meaningful NO to the next budget.

 

Thomas Frost   

Charlestown   

 

And before the inevitable flood of emails come, as are always sent when I post anything from or about RISC, let me answer the most common questions.  RISC is a group run by several south county residents, mostly intelligent well meaning retired CEO’s. Yes Tom is on the board of RISC. Yes I used to be. No I am not now – they asked me to leave.  No, RISC and OSPRI are not affiliated. Yes we agree on some things (tax issues). No we don’t agree on everything (LNG development). Yes, they have expressed displeasure with the current performance of our education system. No, they have not (as far as I know) taken a position on school choice. Yes RISC started a transparency project 6 months after OSPRI went online, No I don’t know why they duplicate efforts. Yes I was involved in discussions with them about creating a transparency project before I created OSPRI. No, obviously, things didn’t work out. Yes I had started the concept on this website before that. Do they feel they have an intellectual property right to the idea? you will have to ask them but I have been told no.

Yes I have asked them why they are duplicating efforts.  No, they don’t believe it is a waste of money (we provide budgets, payrolls, contracts, and the check register – they provide budgets, payrolls, contracts and fiscal statements).  No they don’t do RI Votes. Yes RISC has advocated against the Westerly Bond. No they have not advocated against the Chariho bond. Yes they used to be called the RI Shoreline Coalition – but now the State Wide Coalition. Yes most of their donors used to come from Charlestown and Watch Hill but the situation may have changed since they went state wide. Do OSPRI and RISC “get along? I would like to but they are actively working to hurt OSPRI (e.g. once attacked ospri by saying we had a political agenda and inferred that our data would be tainted) and I have received information where a RISC official said they will never promote anything OSPRI does (have you ever seen an OSPRI OpEd in the RISC daily news recap?) and they cut the OSPRI logo off the Tea Party flyer before handing it out. Yes I am as perplexed as you. I think that will answer most questions I normally receive.  I have exhausted all efforts in resolving the issue and don’t feel like answering the emails anymore.  So they are all answered here.

All that being said, I think Tom did a good job on this and agree. That’s why I continue to promote good policy regardless of who develops it.

March 30, 2009

Chariho budget info

Filed under: Budget,Chariho — Editor @ 8:55 pm

Sylvia Thompson asked me to post this budget info – its very informative. I can’t help but wonder if having actual expenses when they develop the budget could have avoided some of these multi-million dollar discrepancies.  But that would assume it wasn’t intentional.

Undesignated fund balance info

Taxing for more than they need

[UPDATE]

There was an error on the Hopkinton State Aid page – corrected page HERE

June 29, 2008

Chariho’s costs per student on the rise (RYSE?)

Filed under: Chariho,RYSE — Editor @ 12:46 pm

Last year we reported that RYSE costs per student were $57k and Chariho told us that number was inaccurate but failed to provided a complete cost analysis.  The Westerly Sun now tells us that the number is $67k per student.  Lets also not forget that RYSE admits that only 8 percent of its students are at grade level with math (this means that they can score a 62.5% or better on the test) but we graduate 100 percent of them.  

For Chariho, the report also shows a per-pupil cost by school. In 2006-07, In$ite calculated $67,837 for each of the 48 students enrolled in the $3.26-million Reaching Youth through Support and Education School, a clinical day school and alternative learning program that the district implemented in 2003.

The overall average per pupil spening is also up. 

Expenditures for instructional support, operations, leadership and other commitments – includ­ing capital projects – put the cost at $14,203 per district pupil for 2006-07. Chariho provided the previous fiscal year’s figures for 3,716 students to the Rhode Island Department of Education in February for the state’s In$ite report, an analysis of school dis­trict expenditures 

 

According to RIDE, all funding sources are included, such as fed­eral and state grants and state education aid. To determine a per­pupil cost, In$ite divided Chariho’s $52.78 million in total expenditures by its district-wide enrollment.

 

The bulk of instructional costs are classified as “face-to-face teaching” to describe money spent for teachers, substitutes and instructional paraprofessionals. The remainder of the $7,311­instructional price tag is for class­room materials.

 

From there, the per-student cost increased another $2,547 for pupil, teacher and program sup­port. Expenditures are tallied for student resources such as counsel­ing and library services, as well as curriculum development for teachers. Therapists, psycholo­gists and social workers are among services for program sup­port.

 

Operations costs tack on anoth­er $2,327 per district pupil. Those include transportation, food and safety services, along with facility costs and business expenditures, such as data processing

 

The report calculated $1,123 for “other commitments,” listed as contingencies, capital expenses, legal obligations (which had no cost listed) and out-of-district obli­gations, such as charter schools, retiree benefits and community service operations.\
And taxpayers pay $896 per district pupil for “leadershop” costs fo fund district administrators, the school committee and legal counsel.

 

The Sun goes on to say we aren’t that expensive compared to other RI regional districts.  As Barbara Capalbo once said, ‘Being the top of the swamp is nothing to be proud of.’ 

September 12, 2007

Sept 11 committee meeting

Filed under: 5th & 6th grade,bond,Budget,Chariho — Editor @ 8:07 am

Please watch the Chariho School Committee meeting on Cox ch. 18 Wednesday @ 8pm and Friday @ 12 noon.  

I’ll admit I am passionate about what I believe in – I believe the 5th & 6th graders (and even 7th & 8th) should be at the town level, not at the main campus.  I believe bonds are simply an excuse to postpone dealing with contract issues that make it impossible to adequately operate a school.  I also believe there are inefficiencies at Chariho.  I will admit I am aggressive in pursuing what I believe – perhaps I push the envelope, and perhaps at times I am (as accused) “inappropriate” and “rude.”   I’ll accept criticism on those points but I will not lessen my resolve on these issues.   In last nights meeting, besides being told I was rude and inappropriate, I was told I ask too many questions and for now on, my requests for information from Ricci must get board approval.  I was also told that I should become a better “team player.” 

And don’t forget that in a previous meeting, I was told I could not bring up information from my own research (such as RIDE info) unless I sent it to the board first.  As an example, SAT scores were discussed last night.  RI’s SAT scores rank 48th in the nation.  But I wouldn’t be allowed to discuss that because I didn’t send the data to the board ahead of time. 

Not everyone on the board agreed with these new rules, but the majority did.  As you will see by the meeting, it appears that the majority of the board is more interested in what I am doing than in what Chariho is providing to the children.  Some of the conversation had absolutely nothing to do with the kids.

As an example, Terry Serra said, ‘its a shame your wife doesn’t have the confidence in you to fix the school.’  This is in reference to the fact that we will not allow our children to attend the Switch Rd campus in its current condition and atmosphere.  I should not have dignified her insult with a response but it shows the depth they will sink to silence those who don’t agree with them.  And I’m the “rude” one.

Points of interest in the meeting, in chronological order:

Representatives from Richmond, for the umptenth time, told us about the water problem at Richmond.  We finally decided to do something about it.

Kathy Perry, Special Education Director, gave a presentation about the special education services provided at Chariho.  As a total population, Chariho has a low percentage of students receiving special education services.  The RI average is 20.1%, the highest in the nation.  We were told Chariho is at 14%.  Low by RI standards and slightly above the national average (13.3 in 05).  

The Spec Ed student population has dropped from 687 students in 2003-04 to 488 in 06-07, a reduction of 29%.  The Staffing trend over that same period went from 70.8 employees in 03-04 to 65.9 in 06-07, a reduction of 7%.  These staffing figures do not include the social workers, psychologists, etc… supplied by Psychological Centers Inc. which came on board in 2003, of which there are more employees at Psy Centers than the 5 we reduced from our staff – so in essence, we may not have not reduced staff at all – find more details on PC Inc here). 

Andy McQuade defended this lack of reduced staff by saying that every time we loose 2 or 3 kids, regulations on class size and teacher-student ratios would restrict us from reducing staff.  But we are not talking about 2 or 3 kids – we are talking about a reduction of 199 kids.

 This apparent inconsistency between a reduced population with a relatively stagnant staff population was then explained (per Kathy Perry) as being due to a special education population that requires more intensive services (please watch the show for more details).  

The entire Chariho 2003-04 budget was $41,796,839, the 06-07 budget was $49,526,631, an increase of 18.5%.  The contract for Psy Centers Inc has also gone up considerably, from approx $420,000 to $700,000 – see above link.  You can find the budget here for more details on special education expenses.

Next is where it got testy –

During the “District Concerns” most of the board members expressed their displeasure with:   
1) the Sept 3rd post on this website,
2) the disclosure of closed session information (Chariho has a habit of “sealing” info from the public – which was addressed in a previous meeting),
3) my “burdensome” requests for information from the Superintendent (see rule about requests above ), and
4) this website. 

Please watch the show for more details.   

Serra’s quote above pretty well wraps up the vitriol.   But the bottom line is this – watch the meeting and decide for yourself – what is the intent.  Is the intent of this attack to improve the school for the kids or is it simply to silence someone that doesn’t agree with them.   Remember, they didn’t ask for information or research about the issues – they asked that I become a “team player.”

Remember these facts – I have been told that I may not bring up information from my own research unless I forward the information to the board beforehand.  I have been told that I may not ask Ricci questions without board approval.  I have been told by several (not all) members of the board to stop writing letters to the papers (mostly Bill Day, Andrew McQuade, and Andy Polouski).  And of course, I’ve been reminded again about their views of this website.

Andy McQuade also brought up an email I sent Ricci that said, “Have Thornton review the Duke study and give a presentation to the board.”  Andy thought I was being rude not addressing Thornton as Dr. Thornton.  Then Ron Pruhs said he didn’t understand how this had anything to do with arrests.  Obviously, Ron hasn’t read the Duke study.  I explained the connection between class size and behavior problems – even common sense would tell you that when you take a kid from a 300-400 student school and, at the age of 10, place them in a 2600 student school – bad things happen.  

After that “discussion,” I brought up three issues during the “District Concerns” section:

The Providence Journal requested data on Chariho employees (salary, stipends, etc…).  I noted that the data showed we have 136 substitute teachers and I wanted to clarify what “fringe” payments were for (FICA & other normal withholdings, no health ins is provided).  The data for the 775 employees, including the 136 subs, is available here.   Up to this point I was under the impression we only had 550 employees (per RIDE and budget data).  Removing the subs still leaves 640.   Also note – this 640 does not include the personnel we purchase from Psych Centers Inc or other outside services. 

But even if we don’t count them – we now have one employee for every 5.6 students.  When I was a kid the ratio was one employee for every 20+ students.  This is employee to students – NOT – teacher to student ratios.  “Employee” includes management, etc…

Next I brought up the Building Committee flyer discussed in the Sept 3rd post.   This flyer is paid for by school funds.  The total budget for operation of the building committee is $10,000, the estimate for the production and delivery of this flyer exceeds $1000.   Superintendent Ricci said that the flyer does NOT attempt to influence voters on how to vote for the November 6th bond.   The flyer says “Its time to…” at eight seperate points.  But, according to Ricci, this isn’t trying to influence the way you vote on the bond (that would be illegal).  The flyer is posted here (front) and here (back).

I also discussed the arrest records.  During the last meeting, Officer Vaughn reported that we had 108 arrests over the last two years (67 & 41).  Superintendent Ricci provided a list of 38 “student” arrests for 06-07 (26 High School, 3 Middle School, 9 RYSE).  I have received information that shows, over the last two years at the Switch Rd campus, 392 police calls.   137 of these calls were motor vehicle related (they are still called “calls” but I will remove them as they are not traditionally thought of when you say ‘call the police’). 

Of the remaining 255 calls, 150 were in 06-07.  Of those 150 calls, there were 48 arrests.   It was not delineated as to how many were “students.”   So we have 41 arrests last year reported by Officer Vaughn, we have 38 “student arrests” reported by Ricci and we have 48 arrests reported by Richmond.  Furthermore, Vaughn reported that there were 67 arrests the previous year, Chief Driscoll puts the number at 31.  Ricci did not provide 05-06 data.  Why do we continue to get inaccurate information?

This information request is actually a process that started on July 20th.  Here is how the email communication went – When I first asked Ricci to notify me about arrests, he said the request must come from “the board.”

I repeated my original request.  He said he would notify me when a “major” incident occurs.  I repeated my original request.

Next he said he would notify me when a “student” had been arrested in a “school-related” offense.   I repeated my original request. 

Now I am told that I will be notified of any arrest the Superintendent is aware of.   I suggested that the Superintendent should be aware of any arrest at his school.

When this was reviewed in last night’s meeting, Andy McQuade said I did not have the right to ask for that information.  Andy Polouski (and I believe others, but will have to watch the tape) agreed with him.  

This conversation segued to the continued difficulty in obtaining accurate data.  Since my start in November we have been told that 
1) RIDE reported teacher certification numbers are inaccurate for not only Chariho but for all districts (per RIDE & Chariho),
2) Due Process reports (customer complaints) reported for Chariho from the RIDE website are inaccurate, these numbers show we have 3 to 6 times as many customer complaints as do our peers (per RIDE – coincidently, the attorney at RIDE that said our Due Process reports are inaccurate (David Kane) has since left RIDE and is now applying to be the Chariho solicitor),
3) the cost per student at RYSE, as reported by RIDE, is inaccurate (per Chariho), and
4) Insight data is inaccurate (per Chariho).

Next, George Abbott commented on the rumor that a political action committee is being formed to sell the bond to the people of Chariho.  He reminded them to file their paperwork at the Secretary of State office so we can see who is funding this effort.

Finally, MGT provided a itemized proposal for the managment study, just as we had asked.  Unfortunately, the item was not placed on our agenda (not sure why – I assume that was a decision made by Ricci or Bill Day) so we were not allowed to vote on it.  Bob Petit asked that it be placed on the next agenda.

Well, there you go.  That’s what your elected representatives are doing to ensure a good education for our kids.

[UPDATE]  I emailed Ricci this morning just before 8.  I asked, “I just want to verify my understanding of one of the “rules” discussed last night.  Am I correct in my understanding that I may not request information from you without board approval.”    At 3:08 he responded, “I have no such understanding.”

Please, watch the meeting and decide for yourself.

September 3, 2007

Welcome back to school

Filed under: 5th & 6th grade,bond,Budget,Chariho — Editor @ 9:57 am

And welcome back to the school trying to take more of your money with a bond because they can’t manage their finances.

If you, like me, attended any of the opening day orientation meetings, you would have been presented with a fancy flyer entitled, “It’s Time.”  This slick propaganda piece correctly tells us “it’s time” to fix many of our problems.  Unfortunately, it has the solutions and revenue source all wrong. 

I’ll provide more details in the months to come, but here is the gist of the flyer.

“It’s Time” to remove temporary buildings used for RYSE and purchase permanent structures (and, theoretically, save us money).

First, let us not forget that we started with temporary buildings so Chariho didn’t have to take a vote to start the RYSE program (a very clever way to evade voter approval, and questionably legal).  And, by placing this on a bond, if it were to be approved, they could use this as the ‘voter approval’ for a program that has not been proven effective or cost efficient.  Very clever indeed.

Secondly, it says, “It’s Time” to upgrade the Middle School. 

Of course, once again Chariho has ignored the wishes of the parents.  The MGT study in 1999 made it clear that the parents wanted 5th and6th graders at the elementary/town level.  (Remember, this is the study Andy Polouski incorrectly described as a “sham” in the last meeting – he also got just about everything else wrong when discussing this topic).  A survey done in 2003 said the very same thing (>70% of those surveyed want the children brought back home).  The School Committee tried to do the survey again, but Superintendent Ricci acknowledged that this is indeed what the parents want (gosh, after 8 years, do you think they may actually do it?  Trust me – not without a big push).

Finally, the flyer says, “It’s Time” to make much needed repairs to the High School. 

 I can’t argue that the HS needs work.  But anyone with a passing knowledge of business economics knows you don’t run to the bank (or the taxpayers in this case) every time you need to repair your facilities.  

I have a better idea.  I say “It’s Time” we took control of our runaway budget and start operating with some common sense. 

No longer will the people tolerate 1 employee for every 6.7 students (it was only 1 short generation ago that the ratio was 1 employee for every 20 students).

No longer will the people tolerate pensions, healthcare, sick days and contracted time off that far exceeds that of the private market.

No longer will the people tolerate 10.7% raises for half the teachers with ABSOLUTELY NO requirement for achievement (did you know that even the teachers we want to fire due to their incompetence get the same raises as our best and brightest).

No longer will the people tolerate the nations highest per pupil expenditures on teacher compensation accompanied by academic performance that ranks in the bottom 10.

No longer will the people tolerate this behavior.  When the people vote “NO” on the bond in November it will mark the beginning of change at Chariho.  We will tolerate nothing less.

PS.  At a cook-out yesterday, a parent asked me why I had not written in the papers during the referenda vote for the 5th and 6th graders.  They also asked me if it had anything to do with the Executive Session hearing when Superintendent Ricci accused me of attacking his integrity with a previous letter to the editor.

After discerning where this person got the info from a closed session hearing, I assured them that the hearing didn’t do anything other than strengthen my resolve.

I didn’t write during the referenda because I didn’t need to.  Even though the Westerly Sun came out against the vote (how much $ does Chariho spend at the Sun?) and even though someone name Doreen Dolan came out against the vote (she also neglected to tell the people that she is on the building committee and her family owns a company in the construction biz – wink, wink) and even though Union officials were shooting out emails to everyone on their list, I didn’t need to speak out against them because no matter how much propaganda they throw at you, you know what’s best for your kids.

On a related note – the Duke Study on grade configuration (see “5th & 6th grade” link on right) will be discussed in an upcoming board meeting.  Read the study and watch Chariho try to spin it.  It should be entertaining.  Then ask yourself this – “why does Chariho continue to deny what I want for my kids? And, whose interests are they serving?”  

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