Budget Commission OKs Posting Curriculum Director, School Department Positions

Thursday vote opposes School Committee decision on deputy superintendent issue.


The Woonsocket Budget Commission voted to allow the School Department to advertise a deputy superintendent position today, a day after the School Committee voted against staffing the position.

This afternoon only Commission members Chairman Bill Sequino, Mayor Leo Fontaine, and Council President John Ward were present, but there were enough members for a quorum. All three voted to approve advertising for the post, along with several others requested by Carolyn Dias, RIDE's chief of fiscal integrity and efficiencies.

Dias told the Budget Commission the school department needed the position to handle curriculum, bringing the district in line with the Common Core Curriculum standards RIDE has set a 2014 deadline to meet. "We need it. It's a priority," Dias said.

"A district this size not having someone coordinating the curriculum across these schools," Dias said, would put the district behind in a country-wide move to adopt common core standards for education.

The position was among 29 Dias asked the Commission to allow the school department to begin recruiting for because some are hard to recruit and some are needed to open school now. "It is getting late. We are moving into August and school will be here before we know it," Dias said.

The Commission voted to approve advertising and recruiting for the positions, with the condition that the deputy superintendent position be re-named as curriculum director and a new job description be written for it.

Last night, the School Committee voted four to one against staffing the position, with Vimala Phongsavanh voting in favor of it, said Committee member Anita McGuire-Forcier.

McGuire-Forcier said Superintendent Giovanna Donoyan has already created a STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, Math) Coordinator to handle curriculum. She questioned why the School Department needed two people working on curriculum.

When asked about her change of heart on the curriculum coordinator's position, "I think a lot of it has to do with perception," Donoyan said. She did not answer when asked again why she had told the School Committee it shouldn't be staffed and then told the Budget Commission it should.

Also during Wednesday night's School Committee meeting, the School Committee voted to reorganize, naming Phonsavah School Committee Chair and Eleanor Nadeau, who has served on the School Department's finance sub-committee, as Vice Chair, McGuire Forcier said. McGuire-Forcier, the former chair, and Chris Roberts were the sole dissenting votes to the change.

McGuire Forcier, who has spoken against the move at School Committee meetings and in a letter to the editor, said she wasn't upset with the vote. "I've been the best chair they've had. I've worked my butt off," McGuire-Forcier said. She said the change won't affect how she serves on the Committee.

James July 27, 2012 at 12:21 AM
I'm a tad confused..The police, fire and public works can all run short at the expense of the tax payer BUT were hiring more people in the place that is sinking the city??? And what happened to the State taking over this school department?? Go away Ward and Fontaine you have sunk this city..there isnt enough chicken dinners in the senior centers to save you
David T July 27, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Hi James, I'm glad you made your comment because it gives me something to respond to. The school department has about 6000 human beings to educate every year, yet the city only pays a small percentage of the cost. The city spent 60 million last year on the "city side" to run the city. It only spent 12.9 million on the school department. A whopping 42 million came from the state to pay the rest of the cost to the schools. And we learned this week that Woonsocket spends less than all the other schools in the entire state per student. So, we are underspending in the schools or as you might say, running short. The schools are running short and have been for years. And I'm not saying the mayor and council have done a great job keeping an eye on things. They haven't. But the problem has been growing for decades. You fill a city with a disproportionate number of affordable housing units and provide homeless services that attract people from all over the state ( and parts of MA) and add to that the nationwide economic recession and bingo, Woonsocket is screwed. And it's not as if Woonsocket isn't trying to invest more to improve the schools. Just look at the new middle schools. Oh, I failed to mention the fact that due to state mandates and special education needs, we have the distinction of spending more, percentage wise, on special education than any other school department in the state. Lastly, if you had a child in public school here you'd feel differently.
la_mouffette July 27, 2012 at 01:51 AM
I agree with you on several things, but there are two points I wanted to reply to, David-- I'm not sure the homeless really play into our financial problem. There aren't many homeless families with kids in the Woon. school system, and they're not really affecting us by consuming lots of services that directly affect the city financially. Most are adults who are being helped, if at all, by charities, and many of whom are barely a sad blip on the city radar, living in tents in the woods or by the river, or sleeping on the baseball fields at night. We definitely provide services that draw people in who affect our financial health --we have too much affordable housing, we provide all kinds of service to the developmentally disabled, mentally ill, recovering addicts, etc., that our neighboring communities ignore, so the burden is unequal-- but the homeless aren't a big part of this equation, financially, unless they stop being homeless. Also, I don't think those middle schools are a good example... they were a ludicrous waste of money that could have been much better invested...not that we even had the money, really. It was yet another bond to add to our debt. But the old middle school had been quite nicely refurbished inside during the 2000's, was FAR better managed than it had been, and our school-age population was/is SHRINKING year by year. It was a foolish time to take out a giant bond to replace a school that could have lasted us several more years, imho.
David T July 27, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Hey la mouffette, Right, the guys in tents with no kids are, not the big problem, at least on paper, though image wise, its another story. We have homeless services and entitlement assistance here that attract people here. They end up living here, many with kids. Then, if they were housed in a family unit as homeless, then moved out of the city, then gave Woonsocket as their last address, guess who pays for that family's education? We do. And if the children were also special needs, we pay for that too, even if they moved out of the city. This has been explained to me in city council and school committee meetings. Having these services most definitely impact the city financially, hard to point to this cost in the budget, but over time it drags the city down. Now, Newport has poverty too, but Newport can absorb the long term costs, we can't. And I mentioned the middle schools because many tax payers here freak out if you suggest they haven't done enough for public education. I thought it was a good thing. It saddens me to hear, as someone who has been here for about 10 years, that even something like a new school is looked upon as another example of mismanagement. Maybe you are mostly critical of the timing of this bond, as you say. Like trying to improve the waste water plant now when we are broke.
la_mouffette July 27, 2012 at 07:29 AM
Right, we pay for it for the remainder of the school year --and we also have people from neighboring communities trying to get into our school system because we provide much better special needs ed. than any of our neighbors. (I follow the various meetings, too!) But the vast maj. of our homeless are singles, not families. And yes, as someone who has been here long term and was able to tour the old middle school the same year they were pushing for TWO new ones to house our (shrinking, not growing) mid. school population, it was mostly the timing that infuriated me. Anyone with one eye open could see it was a bad time to take on millions more in debt for something that was NOT urgently needed. Now we have two new middle schools, too large for our needs, an empty middle school that was very nicely refurbished and running well sitting empty, millions in debt, and, thanks to the shift away from block scheduling and our desperate budget gap, a high school that doesn't even have enough text books for all our students. Two unnecessary new schools....not enough books!? Believe me, I CARE about education, that's part of my anger! Add to this the fact that we demolished WORKING mills and displaced precious, tax-paying businesses in order to build these schools, and yeah....I'd say the new schools are mismanagement. Well-intentioned but not wise at all. And this isn't Monday Morning quarterbacking either, I voted "No" on the bond to do it!
David T July 27, 2012 at 10:25 AM
You ever sleep?
DonQ July 27, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Once again Phongsavanh has shown that she is no more than a trained puppet for Donoyon. She is totally incapable of voting with a brain and common sense. She continues to vote exactly the way Donoyon wants her to vote. I fail to see what the purpose of the budget commission is. First, I don't think they have had a single meeting where all members have been present. Then they let some fool from a state organization who has no concern for the taxpayers of the city convince them that they need to fund 26 positions in the school department - the department that has brought this city to the brink of bankruptcy in the first place. On top of that, we have Ward and Fontaine voting to spend more money that we don't have. It's obvious, with the morons that we have running this city & school department, we will never climb out of the cesspool that has been created.
TM July 27, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Cesspool,aptly described DonQ.Their latest tax hike took away almost an entire months worth of income from my 81 year old mother.She's been in her home for over 60 years,how's that for fairness?
Russell Archambault July 27, 2012 at 11:38 AM
TM I did ask nadeau what was going to happen this year with already spending this years budget money to catch up to last years bills.replied, will finally have to have a supplement tax bill. its coming no getting out of it. Remember there no fairness about any of this. Point : We have to educate kids with special needs, I dont mind that to a point, but to educate a kid who cant speak cant cant feed ones self cant do anything for ones self, not even go to the bathroom, and spend 100,00.00 per year educating, somethings wrong with that picture. there has to be something better to help that child, but not on the taxpayer. Politically correct to publicly state what i just did, I dont beat around the bush. So to anyone that will have a smart remark about mine. Save it.
DonQ July 27, 2012 at 11:50 AM
russell, Your point(s) is/are well taken. In general something has to be done to reduce the special needs, welfare, and illegal population that has been shoved down the collective throats of Woonsocket taxpayers. Our City "Leaders" (that's a joke) have shown over and over again that they are incapable of doing anything. It's obvious that they are only concerned about the pensions they are going to receive and have no concern or intent to do anything to improve this city. Our state reps should be pushing at the state level to force the state and federal government to reduce the burden that has been forced on Woonsocket, allowing the surrounding communities to shirk their responsibility.
Novan for Life July 27, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Hey DONQ did you read the article or bother to read david t post about our school department. NO typical just spouting off negative stuff about a small part of the problem need i remind you $200 million pension liability that hasn't been paid, $86 mil for the schools so there is why we are in this mess and nothing more
Russell Archambault July 27, 2012 at 02:02 PM
DON Q Im pretty sure there are a few illegals that ive noticed,single men only, but the interesting thing is that they are working among their own culture. They seem to be taking care of their own. Dont think any young illegals could attend school. Would be interesting to know.
DonQ July 27, 2012 at 02:03 PM
robert_lamarre jr Your blind love affair with the WED, Donoyan, and Phongsavanh is well known. As a non taxpayer, you don't have the least bit of concern about the mismanagement of tax dollars. Regardless of how much money these incompetents insist on wasting, you stand up and cheer for them. Quite honestly, as far as I am concerned your cheering has absolutely no credibility with me.
David T July 27, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Concerned conservative What the # are you talking? What subject change, how was anything I said liberal vs conservative? Why go there in the first place? Are you just getting you kicks here flaming posts or do you want to be part of a thoughtful discussion? Go back to bed!
Novan for Life July 27, 2012 at 04:57 PM
In many categories, Woonsocket was at or below the average. The city spends $7,434 per pupil each year on instruction, well below both the statewide average of $8,255 and the "urban ring" average of $8,370. The urban ring includes the communities of Cranston, Warwick, West Warwick, East Providence, North Providence, Newport and Johnston. For business operations, Woonsocket spends $1,989 per pupil compared to $2,410 statewide. The department also spends only $115 per pupil on instructional materials while the statewide average is $206 and the urban ring average is $140. THERE ARE THE FACTS ABOUT YOUR CITY FAILING IT'S CHILDREN IN EDUCATION
Still Hope July 27, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Instead of "each year" you should note which year you are referencing since we have major fluctuations between budgets. Also, let me add that a large portion of the funding goes to needs based programs like the disproportionate number of Special Ed students. This results in even more discrepancy between per pupil spending for regular schooling. Suddenly, Mount St Charles doesn't look so bad at $10,000/yr.
Novan for Life July 28, 2012 at 01:11 PM
it's from the valley breeze's sandra phanuef
John July 29, 2012 at 02:37 AM
What you fail to mention or just don't know is that the old middle school would have cost up to 10 million just to bring it up to fire code. The new middle schools cost 80 million but we got 80 percent reimbursement from the state, 64 million!! If we didn't break ground for the new schools when we did the reimbursement rate dropped to 60 percent the following year. The old middle school was overcrowded and over capacity by 700 students, it was the largest population in any middle school in New England. If we didn't build them when we did it would have been a much greater burden in the very near future.
John July 29, 2012 at 02:52 AM
I was at the school committee meeting this week and was digusted with Vimala. She organizes the backstabbing of McGuire-Forcier so she can be chair of the committee and then has no clue how to run the meeting. You would think that being on the committee for 3 years and with aspirations to be chair she would have payed attention to how the meetings are run. McGuire-Forcier took the high road and even offered the new union puppet chair some guidance.
David T July 29, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Hi John Regrettably I wasn’t at the SC meeting. What happened was very harsh. My hope was, despite the fiasco of the last year, that members remained as is (was) to see if they could redeem themselves and have one year where things got better. This in spite my feelings about the school committee as a whole for the last few years, which has been, well, disgusted fits. I do feel bad for Anita on one hand because as a person I like her and it was clear she cared. And on the other hand, Anita also struggled with running meetings at times and I often would cringe while watching the meetings. Then again, all of them, were in way over their heads, running a highly complicated, 60-70 million dollar department with little to no experience (or oversight from the city). The problem here has always been finding qualified people willing to be on the SC, and we just lost one. (Does Anita stay on now as a regular member?) Now Vimala, she has also been a disappointment through this crisis. There are things about her I like, but she often zigs when I think she will zag. I know you are not happy about this, probably more so than me, but could you explain how Vimila is a "union puppet"? To me she seems to be marching to the beat of a different drummer, completely on her own and does come off as clueless, but is she following the directives of someone else, like a puppet?
John July 30, 2012 at 12:19 PM
David, Anita will stay on as a regular member. As for Vimala, I call her a union puppet because when Chris Roberts introduced a motion to send a letter to the retired union members in hopes to have a discussion on benefits Vimala would not hear it. She refused to even discuss it. At the last election Vimala also had teachers giving their students extra credit for going to the polls and holding her signs and even going door to door for her. She owes the union for her election. Vimala, Jon Donlon and Eleanor Nadeau will do whatever the union asks of them. Pay attention when it comes to contract negotiations or other union matters and see how they vote. You'll be surprised how obvious it is.
Steve July 31, 2012 at 02:27 PM
A major increase compared to other districts' spending, however, was shown in the area of special education. Woonsocket spends a whooping 29 percent of its budget on special education, compared with the 22 percent spent statewide. With an additional 2 percent dedicated to career and technical education, that leaves only around 59 percent of the district budget for general education. Statewide, 66 percent on average is dedicated to general education.


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