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.

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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