Parent Complains To Budget Commission About Teacher Shortage

Complaint prompts invitation to School Committee to discuss communication with parents.


Melissa Mello complained to the Budget Commission Thursday that her son, Alec, 15, has been sitting in geometry class at with a substitute teacher not trained in geometry since school began.

"He has advised me that he is learning history in geometry class," Mello said. If her son has to have a substitute teacher, that person should at least be someone who can teach him what he needs to know, she said.

Her complaint was delivered to the Budget Commission because, she said, the School Committee had directed her to the commissioners as the ones making financial decisions for the town.  Commission Chairman Bill Sequino told Mello that though the Commission does sign off on financial decisions, hiring teachers is still the school department's responsibility. The Commission simply reviews those decisions for approval, he explained.

Even though she wound up speaking to officials who aren't directly responsible for hiring teachers, Sequino said, "It's good that you publicized the point."

Ralph Malafronte, interim finance director for the , said the district has had a difficult time recruiting math and science teachers for the schools this year. "We're trying the best we can, but, it's a matter of supply and demand," Malafronte said. He said the department is seeking a long-term substitute who will be certified in geometry.

Mello was persistent, noting that her son needed the geometry class to get his diploma, and he and his class have spent days in school without getting started on geometry lessons. "What are they going to do to make up that time?" she asked.

Commission member Leo Fontaine asked if she'd seen this situation before. "No, I'm disgusted, to be honest with you," Mello said. "What is he sitting in this class for if he's not learning what he's supposed to be learning?" She said that if her son needs summer school ($150) or to take an e-learning class ($250) to make up the instruction time, it shouldn't come out of her pocket or the pockets of the parents of the other 25 kids in her son's class.

"His class is not the only one," Mello added.

Malafronte said the situation is actually common among districts, when, for instance, a sudden illness prevents a teacher from starting work at the start of school. Substitute teachers have to be called in temporarily, and science and math teachers are difficult to recruit state-wide. He said he's aware of two science teacher positions and a math teacher position that are unfilled at the moment.

Also, Mello said, the school department didn't inform her of the situation. "This is something I had to learn from my son," she said, not through a letter or a call to let her know what was happening and what the school department would do to make up for the lost time. "That's where I'm disappointed," she said.

Sequino asked David Eaton, advisor to the Budget Commission, to send a letter asking the School Committee in for another talk to discuss how the two bodies should be working together. The Commission and School Committee met recently to discuss the Budget Commission's role in city goverment and the progress on straightening out city finances. Sequino said sending Mello to the Budget Commission wasn't necessary.

"We are here, and we can be picked on, but we shouldn't inconvenience the parents." Sequino said.

After speaking to the Commission, Mello said that though she appreciates that the Budget Commission simply reviews school hiring, she feels that didn't happen quickly enough this summer, causing a backlog in teacher hiring.

The Budget Commission's involvement with hiring teachers was prompted by the rapid appointment of the Commission following the defeat of the supplemental tax bill. It took a few meetings with Superintendent Giovanna Donoyan and Woonsocket Teachers Union President Jeff Partington for the Commission to determine how many teachers who received layoff notices could be called back this year.

Russell Archambault September 11, 2012 at 01:25 AM
I beleive most teachers dont live in this city, so take this warning, when im mayor your fired unless that kid has a teacher who will teach. you have till friday. so get your union guy and you super. to get it done or ill fire everyone of you! try me!
Jerry September 11, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Russ, please, go back to school, preferably Mount, graduate, and then come back and write on the patch. You have a comment about everything about NOTHING. Not trying to be rude, but there's no other way to explain it.
Brian O'Ryan September 11, 2012 at 02:44 AM
I know, right?!? As if he will become mayor one day and fire any one!!! Aim high, Russ!!! LMAO!!!!!!!
Brian O'Ryan September 11, 2012 at 02:54 AM
I think what you mean is that they ARE expendable. Meaning, easily replaced. Right, Russ?!? By saying "not expendable", you are saying that they will be hard to replace. Ugh, forget it. I give up with you, Russell. I see now why you failed most classes. I have no hope for you. But, bless your soul for making me laugh! LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sly September 11, 2012 at 10:18 AM
Jerry did you graduate? Don't seem like it.Your in the same sinking boat as all of us.and your no better.Your comments are not that great anyway basically boring.The more you call talk shows the slower you sound.Alway's picking on everybody but yourself.God Bless.
Christopher September 11, 2012 at 11:01 AM
A few comments... 1. As terrible as this situation is, it is still a substantial improvement over what typically happened when I was in school in the 80's and 90's. Back then, a sub usually meant that you weren't learning anything at all. Learning some history instead of math is still an improvement over nothing. 2. Ideally, every teacher in that building (and not just the math teachers) should know enough to teach lower-level geometry. They took these classes in high school. They took a refresher in college. It isn't that difficult. 3. Finding a truly good math educator is very difficult. I can say from experience that, while many of them are good at math, they are not good at *teaching* math. There is a difference. One day should not make much of a difference. The problem shouldn't be finding a qualified sub, it should be finding qualified math teachers and keeping them. The good ones can make it happen, regardless of what their subs do.
Christopher September 11, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Hmm... just read this again... since the BEGINNING OF THE SCHOOL YEAR? Ok. That's just wrong.
Pitlover September 11, 2012 at 11:29 AM
The truth is, many excellent teachers have left for greener pastures over the summer and new ones to take their place haven't been found yet. Unfortunately, we'll wind up with first-year, inexperienced teachers or teachers nobody else wants because of the situation in Woonsocket. It is not a case of teachers already calling in sick.
DR September 11, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Sometime Russ gets carried away,but he has more common sense than a lot of people will ever have.
Jo September 11, 2012 at 12:18 PM
The best math teacher in the world is at www.khanacademy.org. He starts at 1+1 and goes all the way to advanced Trig. Each math concept is explained and demonstrated on a blackboard clearly and and in less than 10 minutes. Best of all it is FREE!!
John Ward Jr. September 11, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Maybe he was being taught the history of geometry and she misunderstood.
John September 11, 2012 at 12:38 PM
I wish she would state who from the school committee instructed her that she had to go before the Budget Commission. This is just dead wrong. She should have been instructed to speak with the Superintendent, then again maybe it was the Superintendent passing the buck.
Memere September 11, 2012 at 01:34 PM
With the way that the many of Woonsocket's finest keep bashing teachers and blaming them for everything that goes wrong here, is it any wonder that we are having a hard time filling teaching positions? What person with a teaching degree would want to apply for a job here when they know that they will be constantly criticized, can make more money in another community and have job security there? Our teachers work very hard for our children and put up with a lot of abuse. We should be very grateful we have them. It is absolutely ridiculous to assume that just because a teacher is out for a few days (or even weeks) that she ( or he) is abusing the system. Teachers do get sick, injured or require surgery, just like everybody else. To blame them for that is just plain stupid and malicious.
Sly September 11, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Memere Teachers work hard,come on.They work from the end of Aug. to June,not a bad gig,Raises every year,Do they work for more than 8 Hrs a day like normal people. Cheap health Ins. give me a break,It's time to cough up somemore mone like the rest of us.Where I work some people are paying upwards of 170 a week for Ins.No raise,work the entire year.Teachers are what is killing this country.I think you should go back to school.I never take a day off management needs to be there day in and day out,Just like everyone else that's part of a TEAM. Remember there's no TEAM in Woonsocket JUST MONEY HUNGRY UNIONS.
Fish September 11, 2012 at 02:28 PM
If you think that teachers work just from August to June, then you have a lot to learn. All teachers are required to take continuous college courses at their own expense and spend a whole lot of money doing so. They also spend their summers planning next year's classes.And spend countless hours of their own time during the school year preparing materials for their classes ( and pay for those material out of their own pockets) and correcting papers. At least that is what my friends who are teachers tell me. I am so glad that you are in management and probably make a lot more money than your employees and probably more than many teachers. And I sincerely doubt that you spend your vacation time working on your own time for the company. I, too, worked in business on the management level when I was younger and if I had a choice today between teaching and business - give me business any day!!!! Many Union workers in Woonsocket make less than $25,000 per year. Do You make that?????? I sincerely think that you are grossly misinformed.
Sly September 11, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Hi Fish I also now some teachers that take off to different Island for the time off,and not worry about next years schedule of events.The pee-ons that make less than that they do most the work.Yes I am in management and make good money,But I still have bills like anyone else.and to see some people lose to this society because of certain people that have jobs that do nothing.We all choose our profession win or loose.But the Teacher Profession is one the easist around.Grossly misinformed NEVER !!.I also do alot of work at home.That's my job and I don't cry about it.
Mr. Sluggo September 11, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I also know one that gambles once or twice a week at Foxwoods or Twin River.
Mr. Sluggo September 11, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Maybe i should complain to the Budget Commission about the lack of good jobs and opportunities in good ole Woonsocket,i mean,since all things are connected and money has to come from somewhere. But then again,something tells me the complaints would fall on deaf ears.
Russell Archambault September 11, 2012 at 08:12 PM
I wish I had just one week off with pay.Also The only free stuff I ever get is from dumpster diving and finding great treasures on the side of the road in the north end.
Mark September 11, 2012 at 08:22 PM
This is dead on. "Sequino asked David Eaton, advisor to the Budget Commission, to send a letter asking the School Committee in for another talk to discuss how the two bodies should be working together." This is sour grapes and passing the buck. The school budget is set and you have to make do with what you have. Simply sending a concerned mother to the Budget Commission because they feel slighted ... really?! Oh and a basic math education is sorely needed in this economy. If Woonsocket is going to pull out of a nose dive it has to get back to basics. This just blows me away.
Mark September 11, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Blaming the teachers is wrong. Blaming the people who were supposed to minding the budget, like the school committee board - a board of directors is responsible, the city council, the mayor, that's where the blame should be placed. Someone told me that Leo Fontaine had a degree in finance, accounting ... nice.
Mark September 11, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Fish I don't care what profession you are in you have to constantly learn. No one pays for the book I buy and read to stay ahead in my profession. Grow up.
Memere September 12, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Russell, Teachers do not get vacation pay either. If they choose to get paid during the summer months, their yearly salary is just spread out more to cover those months.
Russell Archambault September 12, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Memere; i understand they can get paid either way they wish. But the facts are if a teacher makes 52000.00 per year and they work 40 wks per year they get 12 weeks vacation pay. take the time they actually work/ hours per year, its a good racket. We can argue that they have to take some of kind of education credits per year, again they make more per hour than any other professional. I have no disregard for teachers, Im just tired of listening to the games school systems play with the public."the children" is their best words to play all of us. Its a game!!! They use or hide behind the children to get their large salaries, and organizations who get federal grants to get their large salaries, use and hide behind the poor.
DR September 12, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Good point Jo I believe 60Minutes recently had an episode about Khan Academy. RIDE should get into the 21 century and look into Ipads for the students.
Woon Ed Dept Staff September 12, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Ok so as I have read the many comments that people have left on this post and I have realized that many are truly misinformed. The teacher who is being spoken about at the High School is not actually out sick..That position was vacated by a teacher who took another job within the district. Teachers do not get vacation pay.. If they are being paid in the summer that is because they have chosen to spread out their salary through the summer. Oh and the whole thing about teachers getting raises..well it has been at least 7 years since our teachers in the Woonsocket School System have received any raises. Yet they as well as our support staff members were asked many times for them to give back many different things and both of the unions in our district sucked it up and gave back. There were many promises that were not fulfilled such as getting some of the money that was given back would be returned to them and they lost that too. Many of the teachers have purchased things with their own money to be used in their classrooms to help the students in Woonsocket.
Misty Harbor September 17, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Vacation pay?? The teachers don't get paid for Thanksgiving days time off, Christmas week, February vacation, April vacation, holidays, professional days, the whole summer off...Really?? What kind of a lie is that? Oh, you mean if they want say, Columbus week off? I guess they could if they called in sick....so we are not stupid. that is vacation pay..
English first September 17, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Russ. Before you press submit, just look and see what words are underlined in red.That might help you with your spelling.. Sometimes things get through without being caught, but it does help.
English first September 17, 2012 at 12:56 PM
When a person signs a contract with a salary it is an agreement. Both the city and the union employee understands the terms. Almost everyone gets paid for Christmas and Thanksgiving who works full time.
Upset Citizen September 17, 2012 at 01:30 PM
The person being blamed for calling in sick does not exist. It is a vacant position that the school department is unable to fill. As previous posts have already mentioned, many good teachers have left the district to take jobs elsewhere. Certified people do not want to work in Woonsocket because they are subject to the awful management of the School Committee. Congratulations, Vimala! Is this what you had in mind when you promised everyone the good things you were going to do for the schools? What's next, quarter-day kindergarten? Run for mayor all you want, you can't fire people who work somewhere else... and that's where the good teachers are going.


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