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Budget Commission Tells Lawyers To Hold School Committee Appeal Of Funding Suit Dismissal

Panel questions Superintendent on timing of bus contract notice.

Woonsocket's Budget Commission voted today to tell the School Committee's lawyers to hold off on an appeal of the dismissal of their suit against the state for a more equitable funding formula.

The suit, Woonsocket School Committee, et al v. The Honorable Lincoln Chafee, et al, alleges the General Assembly has failed to provide adequate funding to meet obligations they've mandated during the last 15 years.

In July, Superior Court Associate Justice Netti C. Vogel upheld the constitutionality of the state funding formula in the decision without taking on the question of the fairness of state aid distribution to urban communities, stating it is not the court's place to intervene in General Assembly actions.

Chairman Bill Sequino suggested that they postpone discussion of the appeal to a later date to give them more time to review the matter.

In that case, "It might be prudent to have the attorneys not move forward with the appeal," said Budget Commission Legal Counsel Ed Alves, since it hasn't been approved by the Budget Commission yet.

The Commission voted to tell the attorneys to attend their next meeting to discuss the appeal but not move ahead with it. 

The Commission also rejected a contract with Durham School Services to continue providing bus service to the district on a pre-payment basis. Sequino and other members of the Commission objected to the pre-payment clause, noting their previous bills with the company have been paid.

Instead, the Commission voted to exercise the School Department's option under the existing $1.5 million contract to extend it for one year.

School Department Facilities Director Peter Fontaine said he would discuss the decision with Durham officials. Supt. Giovanna Donoyan said the contract has to be settled in time for school to start by Aug. 28.

Commission member Dina Dutremble noted the contract asked for approval 30 days in advance of the school year's start. "We're already 30 days behind and we're just getting this today," Dutremble said.

"When did the School Committee act (to approve the pre-pay contract)?" Commission member Leo Fontaine asked.

"June 18," Donoyan said.

Fontaine took issue with the School Committee's action to approve the contract without notifying the Budget Commission. He said it seemed the Committee felt it was OK to approve spending, "But basically takes a pass on addressing the financial side of it."

"The School Committee acted on this in June," said Comission member Peder Schaefer, so why was the Commission just seeing it in July?

"A lot of things happened," said Donoyan, including a long scramble to get the school department's budget straightened out. "I'm really sorry that we didn't get this to you."

Fontaine suggested that the Budget Commission should get copies of the School Department's agenda so they can be on the lookout for new surprises. David Eaton, advisor to the Budget Commission, said the Commission already shares minutes with the School Committee, but he could arrange to get the agendas too. "Because you're right," he said.

Fontaine said the Budget Commission would have to actively check on the School Committee now, since they were obviously not bothering to make motions during their meetings to apprise the Budget Commission of important developments.

Novan for Life August 17, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Well Vimala great job you and your two idiots have done it again, forcing the superintendent to have to answer for your screw ups. PS Vimala if you don't know what you are doing remove yourself ASAP
David T August 17, 2012 at 02:03 AM
From now on (and shame on you mayor) all school committee meetings should be monitored by someone from city hall. Or how about this, the agenda and minutes need to be sent to the city and commission AND if the SC fails to submit these, someone from city hall needs to go after the needed info. So I say, in addition to shame on the school committee, shame on the mayor. This attitude that its okay to not pay direct attention to the school committee and its meetings was a big part of the problem.
Rene M. Lafayette August 17, 2012 at 07:00 AM
During the recent Charter Review Commission's consideration of various amendments to Woonsocket's Home Rule Charter, I had proposed that the Mayor serve as concurrently as chair of the School Committee, this works in other communities in Massachusetts. Unfortunately it was not adopted. This is still a valid consideration for the future.
DonQ August 17, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Is anyone the least bit surprised that Phongsavanh, Nadeau, and Donlon have struck again. Did they even bother looking at the contract with Durham before approving it? Of course not, that would have meant dealing with finances and Phongsavanh has already proven time and again she doesn't care about finances. And then, there is Donoyon submitting details of the contract more than a month after the School Idiots (committee) signed it because there have just been so many things going on. It looks to me like she was hoping she could slide it under the Budget Committee's noses at the last minute in hopes they would just rubber stamp it without reviewing it. The School Idiots and Donyon needs to go. They have absolutely no concern about trying to control spending of taxpayer dollars.
Novan for Life August 17, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Thank you David at least someone on here has knowledge of what's going on
DonQ August 17, 2012 at 02:55 PM
WED Cheerleader, you have changed your name but not your blind support of the incompetent Donoyon. Are you really so blind that you think she presented the contract to the budget committee because she wanted to? She is required to present any contractual agreements to the Budget Committee and they have the final say. Donoyon presented the school bus contract at the last minute hoping she could "sneak" it through. Time to wake up and remove your rose colored glasses.
Novan for Life August 17, 2012 at 03:53 PM
No DonQ thats your twisted opinion of the WED, I'm tired of arguing with you like a 2 year old so i'm going to post my opinion and just igore yours because it's based on nothing but false accusations and made up stories in your head. Good day sir
Novan for Life August 17, 2012 at 03:56 PM
The Woonsocket Education Department has a little problem with there school committee not with the superintendent who has tried very hard to straighten out the mess at McFee. Dr.Donoyan has done an excellent job with no help outside Mrs.Mcguire-Forcier and Mr.Roberts, oh and can't forget Mrs.Dutremble and RIDE
DonQ August 17, 2012 at 04:00 PM
WED Cheerleader, I too will no longer waste my time "debating" your skewed opinions and remarks. My final word(s) to you are that I am sorry that you are such a bitter person. You seem to have a lot of hatred for those who have worked hard to obtain what they have. On the other hand, you have much admiration for those who have done nothing for themselves, but want everything handed to them. You sir, are a prime example of what has been destroying this country.
James Thomas August 17, 2012 at 04:49 PM
I have a question: have the city's delegates to the General Assembly been involved in the process at all? I heard a rumor that Mr. Sequino called both Reps Brien and Baldelli-Hunt to get their input but neither has gotten back to him. Shouldn't they be involved? They should be the biggest cheerleaders for amending the funding formula but instead they take a pass and wait for the city to go into receivership.
Novan for Life August 17, 2012 at 06:30 PM
It's on the record Rep Lisa Baldelli Hunt and Rep Jon Brien have stated they want a reciever for the city of woonsocket not a budget commission, I agree with both of them
Russell Archambault August 17, 2012 at 07:56 PM
WED well said, at this point with this slot machine chances, ILL hope we hit the jackpot with recervership. my lucky charm is lisa and jon. the the superintendent does nt have the guts to make a final desition. I would open that brand new school put the classes ,5th and 6 th grades there, and screw the parents that didnt like it. Do what is best in the long run and stop listening to a bunch of my poor kid having to walk ten miles and have to leave the neighborhood. School busing would also change on how the kids get picked up .
Novan for Life August 17, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Russell i agree with you to a point remeber any decision the superintendent makes needs to be approved by the scholl committee then by the (pathetic) budget commission with tweedle dee (Fontaine) and tweedle dumb (Ward) on it.
Russell Archambault August 17, 2012 at 08:55 PM
wed; understood !! thanks.
Memere August 17, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Vimala was not chair of the school committee in June. Ms. McGuire Forcier was the chair then.
David T August 17, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Rene, something like you proposed should be in place here, right? But I wonder if the reason it doesn't has to do with the mayor (and for that matter the council) wanting to keep his distance from WED knowing that its a political hand grenade. The way things are now, he can say the "city" side is balanced and put all the blame on the "school" side. Going forward, if the school requests this level of, lets call it "participation", he would have to go on record as saying yes or no.
David T August 17, 2012 at 11:40 PM
James, it sounds like you think they should have more involvement at the local level. If that's what you believe, I agree with you. I don't really know what the real expectation is of our state elected officials and the level of local involvement we are thinking about. But it just seems to make sense that they would at least have the curiosity to want to be part of the solution at the local level, whether they were invited or not. I don't know if you heard of or went to the meeting held at the library back in the spring which was a joint work type session of the council, mayor and at least Anita Maguire Forcier from the SC in which the local delegation was invited to. I was there and was shocked to hear Lisa's response was, to me bizarre. She acted as if she didn't have the details of what the city was facing and got very blustery. I have no special access to the city or the school but got all the facts I needed from simply attending all the meetings as a resident. So, again the delegation is absent from this process at it's most important point to date. I mean come on, at least show up like we do at some of the meetings to show you are staying informed, right?
David T August 18, 2012 at 12:06 AM
I want to add that the attorneys representing WOON and Pawtucket pathetically made a presentation to the school committee with Bill Sequino present. Sad because I actually think this suit is valid because the funding formula itself is designed to increase the urban funding but only after a number of years. To me thats acknowledgment enough that the current rate of funding is way off. But, and folks this is true, the state doesn't want to jump straight to the final funding level now because of the "distress" it will cause the smaller towns who over time will receive lower funding rates. Meanwhile the urbans are distressed and becoming more distressed, unable to make up the difference through cuts or taxes. The presentation was pathetic because when the lawyers were asked how much it would cost to make the appeal to a higher court, they couldn't come up with a number and were afraid to even ballpark it. Now, one last point on this, Bill Sequino is from one of those towns who will over time lose some state funding to the urbans. Does anyone else think he should recuse himself from this issue of the funding formula since if Woon and Pawt are successful, his town will feel some immediate pain? And by the way, his town could actually survive such a set back as they pay most of their school department's budget and the state pays a small percentage of it.
Russell Archambault August 18, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Rene your proposal sounds great. Why the mayor serving as chair? would the chair of city or town council also work ?
Rene M. Lafayette August 28, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Gentlemen (David T and russell archambault), sorry about my delay in responding, I have been off "The Patch" for a few weeks. (Sounds like a nicotine issue doesn't it?) First, David, I think your comments are spot on, however, moving ahead, the "city" side needs to take responsibility for the entire picture of the city's finances. Russell, I used the model of Leominster, MA and other communities where the mayor by law is also concurrently the school committee chair. Remember, there is a ballot question on having an appointed School Committee that Woonsocket voters will have the chance to weigh in on.

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