Chariho School Parents’ Forum

June 24, 2008

K-6 and K-8 on the move

Filed under: grade spans — Editor @ 5:08 pm

Angus Davis, RI Board of Regent member has a blog called Best for Kids.  Here is an interesting post:

The ProJo has an article today on Cranston schools moving to a K-6 grade configuration, allowing the district to operate more efficiently with less staff. The question on whether K-6/7-9 is better than K-5/6-9 or K-8 is an open one. Some studies suggest K-8 has advantages. Nearby, Boston has moved to K-8 schools and Providence has indicated its desire to do so also. Just this week, Education Week published an article about a North Carolina study that found the advantages of K-8 models, yet cautioned whether the move to K-8 is worthwhile. This graph shows some disciplinary benefits for sixth graders in a K-8 setting (click to see bigger version):

The short answer: there is not much definitive data showing Cranston’s new grade configuration to be bad for students, yet there is a lot of financial data to suggest it will save district money, and there’s hope this new configuration may actually have some important benefits for sixth graders. We’ll have to wait and see.

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November 25, 2007

“Middle schoolers do better in K-8 setting”

Filed under: 5th & 6th grade,grade spans — Editor @ 1:03 pm

Just another report supporting the shift away from the Middle School model.

The only disappointing item is that it appears some people still don’t understand that a large part of the success of K-8 is the environment and not the behavior of the staff.

“The report tells us that outcomes are better for kids in K-8s, but it doesn’t tell us why,” Lindsey said. “It doesn’t tell us that the reason kids do better is because they are in a K-8, and we need to look at the practices in K-8s and middle schools to see what we can learn.”

There are many many reasons why it works.  Continuity during puberty, continuity with support, connectedness with community, etc, etc… 

Bottom line is it works.  Let’s do it.

September 20, 2007

The problems with Middle Schools

Filed under: 5th & 6th grade,grade spans — Editor @ 8:09 am

David Mittell pens a good article about the boondoggle called Middle School and why we should return to the K-8 model.

June 11, 2007

Vote to return 5th & 6th graders

Filed under: 5th & 6th grade,grade spans,Hopkinton — Editor @ 7:02 pm

Tuesday, Hopkinton residents may vote at the Town Hall from 7am to 9pm.   There are 3 issues:

1.  The town budget. 

2. Giving the town the authority to give tax deduction to companies wanting to enter the area, for up to 10 years.

3. Empower the town to investigate bringing the 5th and 6th graders back to the town.  There is no doubt I support this referendum.  The research (linked below) I have seen has convinced me that this change is the better learning environment for our children.  Quite honestly, if the grades are not changed by the time my oldest gets to 5th grade, my family will be looking for a private school.   

Apparently, other parents have similar feelings.  A thorough survey done by Chariho in 2004 showed 71% of residents (average for all towns) want them returned. 

Find more info here, here and here

Please vote on Tuesday – Hopkinton Town Hall, 7am to 9pm.

May 23, 2007

RYSE contract discussion

Filed under: 5th & 6th grade,grade spans,RYSE — Editor @ 4:21 pm

The first post on RYSE and the no-bid contract has brought up several question and points.  I would like to post them here for those that don’t normally read the comments section.  I have edited for length and content – the original post and comments are located here.  If you are unfamiliar with the incident I would suggest you read the first post and then come back here for the comment discussion. 

7 Comments »

1.      Unbelievable to say the least! If I’m reading this correctly, South Shore Mental Health Center offered a program tailored to meet the individual needs of each student? Psychological Centers, Inc. offers a one-size fits all approach, and that one size has historically been suited for “serious juvenile offenders”?

Behind this decision is some kinds of quid pro quo…I can’t think of any other reason why the decision would be made to go with the more expensive service with the less flexible approach? Follow the connections and I’m betting you’ll discover why PC Inc. was chosen.Do I see a pattern?

Yes, the pattern is that government rolls over everyone in its insatiable thirst to grow. With growth comes jobs for families and friends, e.g. Mr. Day’s family (wife and son).  

Of course, to accomplish continuing growth, everyone must play along, so back-scratching is the order of the day as everyone involved turns a blind eye. Comment by Curious Resident — May 23, 2007 @ 10:01 am | Edit This

2.

In 2003, PC Inc outlined some “performance measures” such as customer satisfaction reports and tracking how many kids are reintegrated back into the regular school.

But after 3-4 years of operation, they say that 95% of the satisfaction interviews were positive so they don’t use them anymore (but he didn’t keep records so is unable to send them to me).

They also no longer (or never did) track reintegration. 

Kathy Perry has said this is not a performance measurement and the students at RYSE “will need these services for life.” However, in another email she admitted that only 2 of 12 students last year needed to continue mental health services after graduation.

And the reintegration logic is also ludicrous. They (PC Inc) have determined that the students need their services indefinitely and should not be pushed to go back to the regular classrooms. But some of the students go on to college.  So they can handle college but they can’t handle a High School classroom?

Plus there is the fact that in 2006 Chariho has 6 times more complaints filed at RI Dept of Education than Coventry or Exeter and 4 times more than Westerly.

In 2006, Chariho had 12 complaints, hearings and/or mediation.   Westerly had 4, Coventry and Exeter/West Greenwich each had 2. 

In 2005 the numbers were 9 Chariho, E/WG 1, Coventry and Westerly 3.Kathy Perry said these are not RYSE kids but kids in the regular ed that have IEP’s.

But who is in charge of ALL special ed? Kathy Perry

At this point in the meeting, Andrew McQuade called me out of order because now we were discussing Kathy’s job performance, not the RYSE contract.  He was right – I’ll give him credit for quick thinking.  Now I’ll ask you to do some quick thinking.  What was his motivation? 

Comment by Bill Felkner — May 23, 2007 @ 10:16 am | Edit This

3.      It just keeps coming.

Also, the claim has been made that RYSE exists in violation of the Chariho Act. This seems pretty clear to me (but what do I know?). Rather than wasting time looking at all the nonsense that has gone on and continues to go on, maybe the best approach is to get RYSE before the voters and eliminate the problem that way? I have no clue what would be involved, but it seems to me that something needs to be done, or at least clarified, about RYSE being in violation of the Act.

Comment by Curious Resident — May 23, 2007 @ 10:40 am | Edit This

CR,
I have asked the Hopkintown solicitor and the Chariho solicitor to give opinion on the RYSE/Chariho Act issue. I have already asked a contract lawyer friend and it is his opinion a violation occurred, but we will see what the town and school say.

Comment by Bill Felkner — May 23, 2007 @ 11:18 am | Edit This

5.      I’m glad to hear that someone is looking into the issue of the Chariho Act violation.

Do you know if the Chariho Act is a legally binding instrument, or is it a guide for process, which is not legally binding?

I’m going to assume that the Chariho solicitor will take a pass on the question or find that RYSE is compliant. I assume this because I have to believe that RYSE was originally implemented with the knowledge, and maybe approval, of the Chariho solicitor?

That said, hopefully Hopkinton’s solicitor will agree it is a violation. If that should happen, what would be the next steps? Would someone have to file “charges”? Would an outside lawyer need to be brought in? I would be willing to make a small donation to fight the violation should it come to that.

Comment by Curious Resident — May 23, 2007 @ 11:41 am | Edit This

THe Chariho Act is law. You may be right about the school’s solicitor. But if he is unique in his opinion, that is grounds for other problems and he may not want to jeopardize his reputation for this. I already have one legal opinion but I want some from involved solicitors.Legal action would be necessary to rectify the situation unless Chariho acquiesces without such prompting.

Comment by Bill Felkner — May 23, 2007 @ 12:19 pm | Edit This 

7.      The other factor, that might motivate the School Committee and the administration to move in a positive direction towards a vote, is the possible liability of individuals who implemented the RYSE program in violation of the Chariho Act.

If the Act is the law, then I would guess that those responsible for ignoring the Act would be lawbreakers. It would be interesting to find out if the administration or committee members asked the solicitor for an opinion during the time frame when RYSE was being discussed?

Of course, I’m assuming RYSE was discussed, but with this group, anything is possible!If any committee members currently serving were also on the committee when RYSE was implemented, I would be wary, if I were them, to continue to ignore the Chariho Act. While Mr. Ricci was not superintendent when RYSE was brought to Chariho, he was in the administration that violated the Chariho Act, and I would hate to see him further involve himself in actions contrary to the law.

My desire is for the School Committee and the administration to do the right thing and comply with the Chariho Act. While I think the violation of the law was willful for some people (especially smirkers), I would be happy to have the vote we should have had 4 years ago and start fresh from there.

Comment by Curious Resident — May 23, 2007 @ 12:41 pm | Edit This ************** 

Good point and I will stick it in my memory bank.

Yes, PC Inc. is the only provider of MST services in RI, and RYSE insists on MST services (thus the claimed logic for the no-bid contract – no one else meets our newly defined program criteria). 

However, MST certification is not a government certification.  MST is certified by MST Group, LLC., the for-profit company that developed the program.

That being said, the program has been altered for school application because it has never been used in a school before. 

So we have RYSE, the ONLY “24 hour a day/7 days a week” facility providing “mental health services” at a school in RI. 

Now we have the ONLY program that utilizes MST services. Aren’t we trendsetters?   

As a matter of fact, we are now developing an autism program and a program for Elementary aged kids (yes, we have 6 kids enrolled at RYSE as young as 6).   

In Supt. Ricci’s defense, I have found him to be competent and “like minded” with fiscal, union and management issues.  That being said, he still only operates at the direction of the board.   

That is why I was/am so disappointed in his letter in the Sun a while back.   It is not his place to have an opinion.  Only through the direction of the board may he advocate a position on policy. 

His letter appeared to be promoting the choice of NOT bringing back the 5th and 6th graders because the research was “inconclusive.”   

But I had already commented to them and here that;  
1)      there is a lot of research suggesting it’s best,
2)      the country is moving in that direction, and
3)      the PARENTS WANT THEIR KIDS BACK (71% voter approval). 

As for “inconclusive,” I noted that Mary Anne Raywid, Hofstra University Professor Emerita and Past president of the Society of Professors of Education, whose name is used for an award that recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the study of education, has said-  “The value of small schools has been confirmed with clarity and a level of confidence rare in the annals of education research.”   

But then Chariho said that moving the 5th and 6th grades back to the elementary was not making small schools, at least not the Elementary Schools (moving from K-4 to K-6). 

“Small School” does in one way imply that the total population is low, and in this light the Elementary would get larger, but then again, the main campus would get smaller. 

But in most research, “small school” means a small number in each grade.  So the 5th and 6th grade levels would (in round numbers) drop from the current level of 280 to 95.    

Either way you look at it, 5th and 6th graders are better served.  They are either moving from a 3800 student campus to a 450 student campus – or they are moving from a 280 class size to a 95 class size. 

If anyone can show me how ANY child is damaged by this arrangement, I’m willing to talk.   

A local parent (Lois Buck) had to point out the Duke study published in Feb 2007 – very current and very large sample – also not what I would call “inconclusive.” 

So the long and short of it is, and I apologize for the overly detailed rant, Supt. Ricci’s letter was
1)      operating at the direction of the board to influence citizen’s towards “not moving the kids” (which they deny) 
2)      Supt Ricci advocated on his own volition, (denied)
3)      Supt. Ricci simply reported on Dr. Thornton’s report as he was given it.   

Do you think that Dr. Thornton’s report was –
1)      accurate and the research is not conclusive enough to move the kids (regardless of what the parents want),
2)      inaccurate due to incompetence or
3)      inaccurate due to the direction of ? 

I presented to Supt Ricci that perhaps Dr. Thornton had a preset expectation of what was expected and reported accordingly.  Dr. Thornton maintains that the research is “inconclusive.”  I don’t think Dr. T. is incompetent. \

So this gets us back to the start of this conversation –  nothing happens without board approval. 

Last night we witnessed (tonight on Cox Ch. 18 @ 8 PM) the approval of a no-bid contract for the service provider of RYSE (PC Inc.).  A student’s parent who used the program was denied the right to speak on the “quality of the services.” 

Who denied this testimony?  Bill Day, chair of the board. 

Why you ask?  Because the Director of Special Ed, Kathy Perry, said the client was wrong. 

But then again, nothing can happen unless the board approves it.  So we signed a no-bid contract,
1)      with an agency that utilizes a system designed for “serious juvenile offenders,”
2)      that has never been used in a school before. 
3)      And does everything “in-house” and subsequently completely funded by taxpayers 

Oh yea, when we did send it out for bid in 2003, the loosing bid was a company that
1)      was in business for 52 years longer than PC Inc.,
2)      located in our community
3)      we had already done business with for 7 years
4)      utilized a community collaboration (rather than soup-to-nuts “in-house” services) that allowed insurance to pay for some services  

But Kathy Perry said that the research supporting the loosing bid wasn’t as good as the research supporting MST (which we have had to alter because our population are not “serious juvenile offenders”).

 Funny, how subjective analysis of research comes up again. 

 Ooops, I almost forgot, the loosing bid was also much less expensive ($276,000 versus $420,000) than this new start up program that is watching our kids. 

The no-bid contract we approved last night (2 opposed, 5 yea, 1 abstention) was for $669,000. 

I know board members read this site.  Please defend your actions.  The only thing I heard in defense was that RYSE has a graduation rate of 92%. 

Is this good?  Who knows, nobody else in RI runs a mental health facility school where you put 5-6 kids in a classroom with a teacher, an assistant, and floating “professionals” and tailor the lessons to the individual.   

This 92% represents 11 of 12 students.  Of course, this 12 does not include the 6 that the court or DCYF took away from us. 

Of those 12, three have enrolled in college (no word yet on how well they will transition from this “unique” school to the cookie cutter world of college).   

Plus we spend $52,000 – $57,000 per student, per year.   

Now let’s look at the bid from 2003 that we rejected. 

That company claims that 56% of the student’s they service end up reintegrating back to the regular classroom. So we know the loosing bid was 35% less than the winning bid (potential savings of $145,000 per year).  And if they reduced the RYSE enrolment by 56%, that would have saved us $1,976,000 since the inception of RYSE. 

Of course, Kathy Perry said, “South Shore never reintegrated any students when they provided services for us.”   

And she said, “RYSE is a special education placement.  The student’s disabilities indicate that they require this type of placement and programming.  For students with these diagnoses, services and treatments will be needed throughout their lives.” 

But according to the reports, only 2 of these 12 are eligible for adult-services after graduation.  So when they were at RYSE they needed $52,000 of taxpayer money for services but once they graduated the services were not needed.  Amazing! 

Did I mention that the staff at RYSE writes the education plan that specifies what services the child will be provided?  And that the staff at RYSE will provide those services? 

You, the voters, are the customer.  Are you happy with your purchase? 

more to come…  

March 30, 2007

Response from a RYSE parent

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,grade spans,Student Performance — Editor @ 8:06 am

 March 27 Westerly Sun People’s Forum

Residents, officials have every right and reason to question past, future moves by Chariho schools

This is an open letter to Chariho School Committee member Bob Petit, in response to his People’s Forum essay of Friday, March 23: I respectfully disagree with many of your comments. 

First, I whole-heartedly support the Hopkinton Educational Options Committee. They are trying to gener­ate a course of action to best suit the children, parents, and taxpayers of the town of Hopkinton. Inevitably, their recommendations will be left to the voters to decide, not the adminis­tration and the school committee. They are open-minded volunteers. They represent our town, which includes our children, no matter what propaganda people may throw at them. Also, they are free to think out­side the administration box. My guess is the previous council saw fit to appoint these people because our previous school committee would not listen. 

Until the last week, I did not know a survey had been done asking resi­dents of the three towns what their wishes were. The survey said that all three towns want their fifth- and sixth-graders back in the elementary schools. So why is there resistance to this?

 Shouldn’t the School Committee and the administration work to make these things a reality, since the voters in the survey are speaking for their own children? 

Another observation is that the survey of Feb. 7, 2004, also stated the three towns would like to see the sev­enth- through ninth-graders in the middle school and the 10th- through 12th-graders in the high school. Makes sense to me. Then there would be no need to expand these facilities, only repair them. 

Bob, do you remember when we left Hope Valley School to attend the sev­enth grade at Chariho? Didn’t Hope Valley feel like home to you? It did to me. At Chariho, we had to make new friends because we were lucky if we had more than three kids we knew in class. We had to adjust to the new classroom structures, deal with time changes, crowded lockers, carrying books, and don’t forget the long bus rides home. We went to being with one teacher for six hours a day with specials as an exception, to being with a teacher for 50 minutes a day. 

From my perspective, I was lonely and scared, and my grades suffered that first year. Seventh grade was a nightmare. Yet, we now ask our 10 years olds to start this transition two years before we did. Why? Yes, we adjusted. Many of them will too, but at what cost? What about the stress involved? Shouldn’t we make every effort to make our kids’ lives less stressful?

The year, before our kids entered 5th grade, the 4th grade teachers spent time preparing our kids for the transition. They understood the stress involved. I know the middle school works under a grade-loop configuration, meaning the teachers move up a grade with their kids and then loop back. This helps to form a tighter bond between teacher and child. They understand the stress involved. Furthermore, your letter compelled me to do some of my own research.

There is significant information to suggest it is better for sixth graders, even eighth graders, to be placed in the elementary schools. They men­tion increased student achievement, as well as, fewer behavioral problems for sixth graders when they remain in the elementary setting. So, why are we not pushing to expand our ele­mentary schools?

Also, stop trying to scare the resi­dents of Hope Valley. The Hopkinton Educational Options Committee is for all of Hopkinton. So, isn’t it in our best interest to weigh all our options? Investing $2 million in the 1904 building is one option, isn’t it? I believe it’s an inex­pensive one. That is what the Hopkinton Educational Options Committee is all about. Let them do their appointed job and support them with your every breath. 

As far as the RYSE program goes, I’m all for the students in this pro­gram. I have been touched by it in many ways. But, residents still have a right to ask questions about this program. Why do we need a building that has 9 classrooms and 11 offices for 44 students, which is a drop in enroll­ment? Why the disparity? Mr. Ricci has stated the building would gener­ate revenue. From where? Is this a business venture for the three towns? To fill this massive amount of space, will we be importing children from other communities? Will there be more administrators on the pay­roll to fill these 11 offices? If not, why do we need all this space? I’m sorry to say, the building’s structure and statements made have raised my eye­brow. Also, room by room, what are the district’s plans with the referendum? Where is our money going? What is the process to complete the project? If it is published, where can we find it? Is it on the district’s website? On Cox Channel 18? Is there 24/7 access to this information? And, why does the referendum for the bond issues have to have every­thing lumped together?

It’s time we allowed the voters to choose what we need and don’t need. What are they afraid of? The voters might make the right decision? And Bob, why would we poll the fifth- and sixth-graders currently at the middle school? Let’s be realistic. They are not mature enough to make such decisions. Besides, sending them back would be unrealistic. The research is clear on multiple transi­tions. A gradual change for those cur­rently in the elementary school would be necessary. 

I urge everyone to research the issues. Check out Bill Felkner’s Website, https://cspf.wordpress.com. I did. There are many links that will save you time in your quest. Kudos to Mr. Felkner.

Also, trust the Hopkinton Educational Options Committee and your Town Council. We have many individuals who are working for all of Hopkinton. 

Finally, check out the recent study pIerformed by the prestigious Duke University. It is located at http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/2007/02/sixth_grade.html.”They reference the following research; “Should Sixth Grade Be in Elementary or Middle School? An Analysis of Grade Configuration and Student Behavior.”This report is available at www.pubpol.duke.edu/research/pap ers. 

Lois Buck Hopkinton

March 26, 2007

A letter from Hopkinton Town Council Member Barbara Capalbo

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,grade spans,Student Performance — Editor @ 12:58 pm

March 25, Westerly Sun The People’s Forum

“Chariho voters should reject boost in spending until scores follow suit” 

It was very unfortunate that the Chariho School Board meeting of March 13 could not be shown on public television because of a technical problem. 

It was a very vibrant and inform­ative discussion of our abysmal national and state educational scores between the Chariho administrators and all the new and older members of the school board. 

The members of the board were vocal, logical, respectful, passionate and intensely interested in the prob­lem concerning state standards and curriculum which have failed our children so dramatically. 

The TERC program and, specifically, the Math Investigations curriculum needs to be researched honestly and quickly before more students are left without the tools to progress to higher standards, parents are left with no reasonable ability to explain and assist their children with homework, teachers are left stranded with students who cannot be educated to grade level without substantial remedial work, and ultimately with pupils – our children – who cannot compete on a national stage. 

The school administration believes that this is an emotional issue and, therefore, should be discussed rationally and determined or changed in a balanced manner. That is all well and good as long as it is timely, immediate, without haste – and now. 

The citizens of our three towns have the right to be upset and furious – it is our hard-earned money and our children and grandchildren’s futures that are being wasted. We either have among the worst teachers and students in the country – or among the worst curriculum and administration in the country. 

We have highly paid teachers who cannot speak for their charges, cannot be recognized for their common sense, cannot be respected or listened to by this administration and its disaster of a curriculum. 

Mr. Ricci has said this TERC cur­riculum was implemented before his promotion – although, in the prior administration, he was the assistant superintendent responsible for the curriculum.  There should therefore be more than enough information – more than five years’ worth – to substantiate the lower scores, and that should allow Mr. Ricci to make an executive decision to get us on the right track quickly. That’s the CEO’s job – hard choices from a piercing and objective (national, regional and Chamber of Commerce) study.  If he does not feel he can accomplish this, we can help. Chariho’s proposed budget of $50,327,187 for 3,679 students ($13,679 per student) does not seem to beget high performance. 

We fail on all levels. I propose the Chariho district budget be level funded allowing the reduction in expenses per student. It seems spending less increases the ability of students to learn and raises these pupils’ national, regional and state scores. We must follow the lead of Massachusetts, Minnesota or Vermont’s educational standards and curriculum – certainly not Rhode Islands’. 

We have such an embarrassment of riches. Vote “no” on Tuesday, April 10, and demand a level funded school budget until we have a supe­rior education and superior scores. 

Barbara Capalbo Hopkinton Member, Hopkinton Town Council

March 24, 2007

Response to my letter in the Westerly Sun

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,grade spans — Editor @ 3:19 pm

Fellow school board member, Robert Petit, has published a letter in Friday’s Westerly Sun disputing my earlier letter.  I have offered to post his letter and link to any documentation that supports the comments made.  He has yet to provide documentation, but if he does I will gladly post them.  He has an unedited version in the “Comments” section below.

“School board member’s letter criticizing Ricci, building plan, and RYSE program was way off base”  

I’m writing in reference to the letter “Superintendent Ricci’s positions miss the mark when it comes to serving Chariho’s towns and residents,” ( People’s Forum, March 16) by Chariho School Committee member William Felkner) I am also on the Chariho School Committee and a representative from the Town of Hopkinton.

 

I was completely floored when I read his submission for a number of reasons.

 

After reading this letter, I also placed some calls to the Rhode Island Department of Education. I was told that the reporting of 74 guidance coun­selors and 51 administrators could not be verified 100 percent by this or any department.

 

I was told that this could have been a clerical error or that a guidance counselor that serves both the middle school and high school could be consid­ered two different positions, although in reality it is only one person. I was also told that, if someone is a certified teacher and has a certification for guidance counselor, that it may be reported as a guidance counselor. They aren’t saying they “did Chariho cor­rectly and everyone else wrong”. Their words were “without doing an actual head count, there is no way to say for sure this information is correct.” If I really thought there were 74 guidance counselors and 51 administrators, I would be doing something about it.

 

The Building Committee is restrict­ed from improving the elementary schools with this bond (period). This bond issue was brought to the School Committee from the tri-town council, a committee made up of town councilors from all three towns. They agreed to promote a bond from $15-$25 million to fix the high school campus.

 

The Building Committee has brought the School Committee a plan; we voted to approve it and to submit the “Necessity of Construction” appli­cation. If we had not voted to do this, instead of getting a 56-percent on new construction and 60 percent on renova­tions, return on our investment, we would get the new amount.

 

This bond does call for an addition of three sixth-grade classrooms at the middle school. If Hopkinton wants the Building Committee to hold off on this addition until they are done deciding if they want to pull their children back, the Building Committee can put this addition at the end of the construction timeline. This construction will be done over a few years. We can always send money back to the towns that we don’t use, but we can’t go to the state afterwards and tell them we need more money.

 You would need to apply for another bond, which would be under the new terms. I truly hope you support this bond. We need to fix our schools and this is a way to start. If this bond goes through, we will free up money to do more work on the elementary schools.

This is the last time we get this return, so now is the time.

 As a taxpayer and School Committee member from Hopkinton, I would like to thank the Town of Charlestown for approving the one­third split for repayment on this bond.

I understand the tax impact may be small, but it shows you are willing to work to achieve a common goal and that is to fix up our schools.

 

Mr. Felkner goes on to talk about the K-6 grade configuration and all of these studies that these people have done to support this model as being the best for our children. Well, I have heard in numerous meetings Barry Ricci agree that this model or at least the K-5 grade model might serve the children better, if we were building a district from scratch. In a perfect world, we could have K-5 or K-6, but we don’t have a perfect world here.

 

What we have is the Chariho Regional School District, and right now we have to work with what we have. We make our decisions based on the information and realities that we have and those decisions are made in the best interests of our children and the taxpayers. I have heard that the Hopkinton Educational Options Committee, along with a few other people in Hopkinton, are talking about bringing the fifth and sixth graders back if they can get the 1904 Ashaway School up to code.

 

Have they informed you that if they were to bring back all the fifth and sixth-graders from both Hope Valley and Ashaway, that the Hope Valley children would have to be transported to the 1904 building and that possibly some of the children in the lower classes would have to be transported to Hope Valley? How does this save the district in transportation costs?

 I wonder how many Hope Valley parents of the fifth- and sixth-graders would like to send their children to the 1904 School building instead of just leaving them at the campus? They still have to travel, so it is not like their children are coming home. Also, if this were to happen, it would mean a K-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-12 grade configuration. Talk about having to go through a transi­tion phase; we would make our chil­dren go through one every two years. 

How would they ever get the feeling of belonging, comfort or stability like this? So Hope Valley fifth- and sixth­graders would have to travel to Ashaway, and Richmond’s fifth- and sixth graders would remain at the middle school. Charlestown would have to do something with its school, all so we can bring our babies home?

 Where are the savings? Where are the benefits? I am willing to say, if you poll the 5th- and 6th- graders currently at the middle school, they wouldn’t want to go back.

As for the RYSE program, to com­pare this school or our children in this school to what happened in Columbine, is, in my opinion being dis­respectful to these children and their families.

 

The RYSE school is open for special­needs students that live in our “dis­trict.” I feel they have just as much right to be educated in this district as any child in our district. It does save us money to keep these children in-dis­trict; a feeling of stability is also pro­vided for them. I believe this would help our children in the long run, to better their education and give a feel­ing of security. Isn’t that what the School Committee is charged to do? Do what is best “for all children”?

 

The doors on this program are not open 24/7 for 365 days. This program runs in accordance with the high and middle school schedules. There is someone on call if a family should have problems and need someone to talk to; families may receive support after school hours. The RYSE program has been open for almost four years now and suddenly it becomes a major problem with having it here? Why?

 

The Building Committee has pro­posed a new building to replace trail­ers that we rent; this building is the same exact size as the trailers there now, with a 100-student capacity. The building is not bigger to bring in chil­dren from out-of-district; this cannot be done unless approved by the School Committee.

 

The administration cannot just bring in other children. We also use this building for students excluded for disciplinary reasons; we don’t have to send these children out of district. We can’t expel a child anymore. The most you can suspend them is for 10 days and then you must either let them back into your school or send them out of district at our expense of tuition and transportation, so the building and space is getting utilized.

 

I just want to say to Hopkinton tax­payers that we have constantly been thrown out there with what I feel is misrepresentation. If you have a ques­tion, concern or comment contact your school committee representative or Barry Ricci. We are here to serve you.

 

When I ran for school committee I made a promise to the voters that I would do my best to hold the administration accountable for their spending, that I would be honest and open to the taxpayers, and I am standing by that promise. I feel that Mr. Felkner’s letter was an attack on Barry Ricci, the administration and the School Committee. We have worked hard to get a Necessity of Construction Application in to save this district money.

 

I feel that, for being a new School Committee, we have done well for the children, the schools and for our towns. I will be the first to stand and say that we have work to do, but there will always be work to do and we will do our best to give our children the best possible education at the best pos­sible cost.

 

I promised you honesty and this is what you are getting. I have done my homework and given you some things to think about, I hope. I just ask that the silent majority start to take a stand and voice your opinions.

 

Don’t let the vocal minority be the ones that continue to cast a shadow over us, Hopkinton.

Robert Petit is a Hopkinton resident and a member of the Chariho School Committee.

March 16, 2007

My response to Ricci letter

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,grade spans,RYSE,Student Performance — Editor @ 1:57 pm

From the Westerly Sun (citations linked within document)

“Absent facts from school debate” 

Superintendent Ricci is correct that the debate over the Chariho building plan should be based on facts so I would like to present some information that was absent from his letter (March 12). 

Mr. Ricci claims that the U.S. Department of Education “erroneously reported” the number of administrators and guidance counselors.  When this issue first surfaced I asked him to contact them and correct any errors.  He said that they didn’t respond to him so I contacted them.  The person who reviewed the teacher certifications replied and he maintains a count of 51 administrators and 74 guidance councilors. 

However, the numbers are really beside the point.  Efficiency is determined not by counting administrators but by comparing Chariho’s administrator-to-student ratio to other districts.  But the school has been opposed to this evaluation.  Their reluctance presumes that the Department of Education evaluated every other district correctly while Chariho was done incorrectly.  If the same instrument measures everyone, isn’t a comparison relevant? 

Next he points out that the Building Committee is restricted from improving the elementary schools.  But that doesn’t mean they should disregard 71% of parents surveyed who want their 5th and 6th graders brought home.  By expanding the Middle School, they are ignoring the parents. 

Mr. Ricci then defends this action by repeating statements made during a presentation by Assistant Superintendent Phil Thornton, which claimed that research on the benefits of the K-6 model were “inconclusive.”   

Within the studies, but not in the formal presentation, was the following information:  Schools containing both elementary and middle-school grades may be most appropriate for meeting the educational and social needs of young adolescents.”  And, “results indicate that in all subject areas the performance of sixth-grade students at (K-6) schools was better than the performance of sixth-grade students from (K-4 or K-5) schools.”  I wonder why these weren’t mentioned. [Website Editor’s Note: More information on K-6 and K-8 models can be found here]

 But remember, Mr. Ricci’s assistant made that presentation.  Mary Anne Raywid, Hofstra University Professor Emerita and Past President of the Society of Professors of Education, has said, “The value of small schools has been confirmed with clarity and a level of confidence rare in the annals of education research.”  So whom do you believe? 

Next he claims that repairs to the elementary schools “will not allow the return of students in grades five to six to the towns.”  Where there’s a will there’s a way. 

Hopkinton could easily bring grades five and six home by using the schoolhouse that Chariho abandoned last June.  It is true that Charlestown would need space but if we are spending $371 per square foot for the Middle School expansion, does it matter if its in Richmond or Charlestown? 

Once those students have left the main campus that leaves plenty of room for the Richmond children.  Remember, the main campus is in Richmond and while they pay for only 38% of the budget, they get 100% of the buildings when we leave.   

Next Mr. Ricci defends the RYSE program, a facility offering “twenty four hour a day/seven day a week mental health services” for student “from other districts” with “serious mental and emotional health issues.” 

In today’s world of Columbine and other acts of school violence, is placing this facility near our children a good idea?  Clearly they expect a large influx of troubled youth from outside the district because our enrolment is dwindling yet they are planning a building with a 100-student capacity, nearly 250% more than current enrolment. 

Mr. Ricci also said that RYSE costs us “far less than if these students were placed elsewhere.”  Really?  In 2003 a presentation was made by the administration stating that we spent $45,127 per student sending them out of district.  They claimed that RYSE could meet those needs for $35,340.  But according to Information Works our 2004-2005 RYSE per pupil costs were $53,561.   

There are things that need to be done at Chariho, but RYSE and the Middle School expansion are not among them.  And with a capacity of 4088 and a dwindling enrolment of 3679, soliciting support from the town councils to solve the “overcrowding problem” was an exaggeration.    

So let’s focus on creating the school that parents want and what research suggests is best for the children.  Let’s stop debating and just do our job. 

Bill Felkner
Hopkinton representative on the Chariho School Board
Citations and parent comments welcome at http://www.cspf.worpress.com

March 12, 2007

From today’s Westerly Sun

Filed under: Chariho,grade spans — Editor @ 9:12 pm

From Superintendent Ricci – I’ll let this sit with you for a while before responding….

“Let’s just have a factual, open debate about the Chariho building project”

I have a proposal.

Let the debate about Chariho’s building plan be one based on facts. And, let’s be sure that the debate the adults are about to have is a good example for those young people about whom we all care.

Let me begin by correcting some erroneous information that has been recently reported.

Chariho does not have 57 administrators and 74 guidance counselors. The U.S. Department of Education has erroneously reported this information. Chariho has 24.4 administrators, three of whom are secretary-like. The middle school, high school and Career and Technical Center are staffed with a total of 10 guidance counselors; there are no guidance counselors at the elementary level.

State assessment percentages for the elementary, middle, and high school levels have been compared, concluding that scores decline after grade four. Many of the scores reported were actually index scores, not percentages. One of the elementary schools cited actually scored lowest in writing of all Chariho schools, including the Middle School. This information is available at

http:// www. ridoe. net.

The Information Works! survey does report that students at the elementary schools feel a greater sense of belonging than those at the secondary levels. I wonder why information about students getting along, student disruptions, and teacher satisfaction were not reported.

In these categories, more positive results were reported by participants at the middle level. And, remember that the middle school results are a compilation of all students in grades five through eight. This information is available at www. infoworks.ride.uri. edu.

Voters at a Regional School District Meeting approved a charge to the Building Committee that limited the scope of the project to the Chariho campus. Last August and September, the member town councils supported such a concept. The Building Committee can not consider repairs to the elementary schools as part of this project.

A recent presentation to the School Committee by Assistant Superintendent Phil Thornton on grade configuration revealed that the research was inconclusive.

Klump (2006) reported that there were “…limited amounts of rigorous research.” Hough (2005) summarized that there was “precious little empirical evidence…to guide policy makers.” The research does, however, discourage frequent transitions between schools.

Our middle school was built for students in grades five through eight. AK4, 5-8, 9-12 model seems to make sense for Chariho, given our existing buildings. Chariho administrators have not advocated for a different grade structure than the one that currently exists. Repairs to the elementary schools will not allow the return of students in grades five and six to the towns. New schools will most likely need to be built in at least two of the towns, maybe three. Voters did not approve expenditures for schools that would have returned grade five to the towns when the last bond was presented.

The clinical component of The RYSE School serves students at all levels that were formerly placed in expensive outof- district placements. The need for such a school would certainly exist even if students in grades five and six were educated in elementary schools.

In these out-placements, the district had no control over the quality of the services being provided. With these students on the Chariho campus, integration is possible while comprehensive clinical (social/emotional) services are being provided to students and their families in school, at home, and in the community at a cost that is far less than if these students were placed elsewhere. Other school districts are now considering similar programs. These Chariho students are well-served by The RYSE School.

The world is not perfect, neither is Chariho. If any of the member towns has a better plan for the education of their children, that town has every right to develop such a plan, and a responsibility to present the details of that plan to the public.

But, let’s do so without maligning Chariho. This serves no purpose, other than to elevate one at the expense of the other.

There will be much said in the coming months about Chariho’s building proposal, Campus 2010. The Building Committee will conduct a public information campaign so that all will have the opportunity to become fully informed. And then, the voters will be entrusted to make a thoughtful decision. Regardless of the outcome, we will move on.

I invite any citizen to schedule a time to meet with me about any of these, or other issues. The conversation will be respectful and factual.

As I’ve said many times, my best learning has occurred in conversations with those who wish us to be better.

Barry J. Ricci is Superintendent of Schools for the Chariho Regional School District.

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