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Letter: Find Holistic Alternatives to Teacher Layoffs

The Woonsocket School Committee voted last week to issue layoff notices to 700 school employees in case layoffs are necessary in the coming year.


In my recent Woonsocket Patch piece “Why Woonsocket Teachers Should Not Get Laid Off” , one of the main points I made was that while teacher layoffs might save the Woonsocket School Department money in the short run, this action can be expected to generate many negative economic effects in the long run to the rest of the already distressed City.

Superintendent Donoyan has compared her job in the Woonsocket Education Department to steering a big ship through troubled waters.[1] In my opinion, the Woonsocket Education Department should not be throwing experienced crew members overboard. In fact, they need to keep as many crew members on board as possible in order to stop the ship from going down in the storm.

In October of 2011, I attended the 50thAnnual Financial Literacy and Economic Education teachers’ conference in Chicago at my own expense and with the requested use of my own personal days. At this conference, I learned a lot about the importance of communities working together to build strong educational and economic systems.

I believe significant budgetary decisions, such as massive layoffs, that potentially impact all the City’s residents should be evaluated in a holistic fashion. Laying off large numbers of teachers to generate savings in one City department should not be done when it causes damage to children’s education and potentially much higher losses in other City departments.

In my Patch article, I also addressed the importance of honoring teacher contracts and respecting the long-term commitments that teachers have made to Woonsocket children and their families. Any efforts to move our great City forward should build on these positive and long-standing relationships, and not seek to destroy them. The contracts that the City has made with its employees should be followed so that the City’s credibility can be maintained and the loyalty of its dedicated workers preserved. Generations of trust should not be replaced by generations of fear.

I urge city leaders to work together with all members of our community to find a comprehensive solution to Woonsocket’s budgetary problems.

Some of my ideas for moving forward and increasing the City’s sources of revenue include:

  • Recover any lost monies that may have been incorrectly disbursed from the School Department’s budget and return those funds to the School Department’s budget. Identify the reason(s) for the recent Woonsocket Education Department’s budget deficits and implement new accounting procedures and oversight to make sure these problems don’t happen again.
  • Create a comprehensive Task Force that includes a diverse group of Woonsocket residents and parents, as well as representatives from Woonsocket’s schools, businesses, banks, and organizations. The purpose of the Task Force will be to bring everyone together for discussions and to develop new partnerships that can bring in local funding and provide ongoing community support for the City’s education programs.
  • Form a Woonsocket Education Department Grant Committee right away to identify new sources of external funding and to write increased numbers of grant applications. All WED administrators should be encouraged to join and support the activities of the Grant Committee. Through weekly meetings, the Grant Committee will seek innovative ways of bringing additional money into the City to support education from government, corporate, and private foundation sources.
  • Explore new ways of marketing the positive aspects of the City of Woonsocket to outsiders and insiders alike. Encourage City residents to support local businesses by buying their goods and services in Woonsocket.
  • Solicit community involvement and engagement by inviting all of the City’s citizens to share their ideas and to participate in the planning process. Ideas for building positive community interactions could range from holding town meetings, to setting up suggestion boxes in public locations, to establishing mentoring programs.

Let’s work together as a community to brainstorm positive ways of building a stronger future for all of our City’s residents – and most importantly, for the children.

Your ideas can make a difference in navigating our City’s schools to new and better horizons.

Cynthia Boss
Resource Teacher
Woonsocket Middle School 

Lori February 29, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Where has all the money gone to educate these children, are they not given enough money at the beginning of the year for all the kids. WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING, WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO DROP THE BALL ON WHERE ALL THIS MONEY WENT!! Just so everyone knows Ms. Boss rocks!!! One of the best teachers around!!!
J. Head February 29, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Calling the children of Woonsocket little monkeys is highly offensive!!!
KJ February 29, 2012 at 03:39 PM
I have to agree with J. Head on this... Facts are being stated, but removed for whatever reason, but comments about the kiddos is ok? Hmmmm...
J. Head February 29, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Stating the facts to the Patch about the author of this letter however is highly offensive!!
Imzadi February 29, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Ms. Boss needs to do some research before she writes. There already is a finance committee in place, and there are already grant writers that work for the school department. They are already working diligently to do what she has suggested. However, the real reason the school department is faced with such financial hardships is that the city has underfunded the school department for years. When the mayors refused to raise taxes for so many years, it sure looked great to the voters, but all it did was create havoc to the city where the COST of doing business in the city has gone up each year. Perhaps if the taxes had been raised in steady increments, there would not have been such a shortfall now.
J. Head February 29, 2012 at 04:56 PM
The Providence Journal reported the other day that local school funding had on average gone up by 5.1 % since 2004 in the cities and towns of Rhode Island. However, Woonsocket has raised the amount they contributed to the schools by just 1.1%. The lowest amount in the state.
Steve February 29, 2012 at 05:39 PM
J.Head, this data seems to dispute that Projo fact: http://woonsocket.patch.com/articles/finance-subcommittee-requests-input-on-school-budget-cuts#photo-5443604
J. Head February 29, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Steve, I wish I could reconnect to the Projo's site to cite the article further, but since the online version is no longer free, I can not show you the data. However, the city of Woonsocket has increased it's contribution to the schools by a a mere $1.8 million dollars over a 12 year period. The schools are under funded by the city plain and simple.
Steve February 29, 2012 at 06:10 PM
No problems, according to the data in the Patch article, in the timeframe from 2004 to 2011, it looks like the city has increased it's education spending somewhere around 10%. Also, here's a 2008 - 2009 comparative chart from RIDE showing how Woonsocket stacks up to other cities and towns when looking at expenditures. It looks like Woonsocket is pretty much in line with other cities and towns in the area. http://www.ride.ri.gov/finance/ride_insite/2009/State/2009-RI-COMP-1b.pdf
KJ February 29, 2012 at 06:18 PM
WOW Imzadi... Thanks for the information... Guess she doesn't rock like people might think...
Lori February 29, 2012 at 11:41 PM
THAT'S RIGHT MS. BOSS ROCKS!!! AND I WILL SAY IT 100 TIMES OVER!!! AND KJ SHE DOES ROCK, SHE IS WILLING TO STAND UP FOR THE RIGHTS OF STUDENTS AND HAVE TO SUFFER THE RAMIFICATION OF IT, HOW MANY OTHER TEACHERS OUT THERE WOULD DO THAT, ALSO IF YOU HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE USE YOUR REAL NAME, WE ALL KNOW WHO'S COMMENTING ON THESE COMMENTS!!
Lori March 01, 2012 at 12:02 AM
and one more thing, HOW MANY TEACHERS ARE WILLING TO STAND UP FOR THEIR STUDENTS!! NOT MANY FROM WHAT I SEE, ESPECIALLY IN WOONSOCKET. THESE KIDS ARE BEING DUMPED BY THE WAIST SIDE, THERE IS AN INVESTIGATION GOING ON RIGHT KNOW BECAUSE MY SON'S IEP WASN'T BEING FOLLOWED AND MS BOSS WAS THE ONLY ONE WILLING TO STAND UP FOR THAT!!! SO YES SHE DOES ROCK AND I WILL TELL ANYONE THAT IS WILLING TO LISTEN, I WILL SCREAM IT TO THE HIGH HILLS!!! I WILL DO WHAT EVER I HAVE TO, TO HELP MS. BOSS MY SON ABSOLUTELY LOVES HIS TEACHER!!!
Novan for Life March 06, 2012 at 03:30 AM
sorry steve but the data J.Head is referring to is accurate you can't take the fact that this is the cities doing because Mayor Fontaine and Former mayor Menard had issues with the school department now Mr.Fontaine is paying the school department back in kind
Joyce March 12, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I for one want to know where the money is, as we haven't received any paper, or other supplies this year and as teachers we can't continue to buy the supplies for the school. It seems more and more gets added to our daily schedule leaving us with less time for teaching as it is. We take home more and more work to finish because we can't get it done during the day, and all this with no raises, our deferment was not returned, oour Medical went up so we take home less every week and they want more from us. I think we have given more than enough it is time for someone else to give up some of their money.

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