Woonsocket School Committee Chair: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Anita McGuire-Forcier: Committee members playing political games Instead of working to fix school department budget.


A resolution to change our by-laws in order to oust the chairperson by a majority vote instead of a super majority clearly shows that we are witnessing a political game.  This change will mean the school committee can play musical chairs.  So, the chairperson and or vice-chairperson will need to go along to get along or they will be voted out. If a member wants to control the agenda, he/she doesn’t need to be the chairperson; all they need is two votes of support and put their ideas on the agenda in order to get their way. Why is this political power play necessary? It is not.

Let me remind everyone of what the Woonsocket Education Department has been faced with in 2012.  Our finance department was completely in disarray.  Nobody, not even our finance director or our superintendent knew what was going on.  After our finance director was terminated, the extent of how bad it was soon became evident.  We received notices from all our vendors that they would discontinue their services to our district if they were not paid immediately!  The superintendent called Mr. Roberts and myself along with the union president Jeff Partington into her office to show us the letters of termination of services and told us that we would not be able to make payroll.  Our primary focus had to be on the safety of our students.  It was decided that we needed to let the public and state officials know how dire our financial situation was.

Schools providing out-of-district placements for our special needs students told us they would terminate services. The school department does not have the staff or programs these children need.  Also, our district did not have enough subs to cover our classrooms and trying to assign subs without being able to pay them would be impossible.  Our transportation services would be discontinued and we even faced the loss of electricity and oil to light and heat our schools.

It was decided to place closing of schools on the agenda to inform everyone of our desperate situation. This was a group decision, not just mine. I called every member of the school committee to inform them of our financial situation and the risk of discontinuation of services. A couple of members felt that we could place all the children in the cafeterias of each school with a couple of teachers supervising them. A ridiculous proposition, this action is simply unconstitutional and would be putting children’s safety and well-being in danger. But I must remember the members that proposed this do not have children in our schools.

By placing a resolution to close our schools on our agenda, we where able to get the attention of the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and they advanced us our state education aid and the city also advanced us more than $400,000. It worked, but only as a temporary solution.

Our superintendent decided to address our budget and district issues by using a zero base budget strategy. However, before she had time to complete this budget we were faced with the March deadline to give layoff notices to our teaching staff.  In order to be sure that we did not end up with employees we no longer needed in the reorganization, we decided that it would be best to layoff all of the teachers. A special meeting took place on Feb. 22 to discuss this.  Committeewoman Phongsavanh voted yes to layoff the entire teaching staff of the department.

Now we were faced with coming up with a balanced budget without a business manager.

The city charter demands that the school department provide the mayor with their budget estimate by March and we were now months behind.  So, as chair of the school committee, in collaboration with the superintendent, the entire school committee reviewed the budget projections line by line.  It took many hours over many days. The superintendent and her directors successfully dealt with an enormous challenge by analyzing accounts in great detail and providing the school committee with the answers we needed to provide the city with the best budget estimate possible under the circumstances. At the conclusion, the spending plan called for $69 million, including $2 million for deficit reduction, but not including our federal grants.

Following that effort, the majority of the school committee felt we needed more help.  We then proposed a resolution on our agenda to ask the State to help by taking over local control as a temporary measure.  Committeewoman Phongsavanh was the only one to vote no.  She felt we should get ourselves out of this. Thankfully, she did not prevail and RIDE has come in to provide critically needed assistance. They are working hard to help put our budget together and have agreed to advance us our state education aid.  Thank you, RIDE, for all your help.

So, while three members of our committee are busy playing political games trying to make a name for themselves, I along with Mr. Roberts, the Superintendent, RIDE, the Mayor, and City Council are busy doing our jobs.

English first July 06, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Steve. You are correct. I cannot resist, although I have been less noisy about it lately. Russell, you need a question mark at the end of your post. I found something called Grammarly.com that can help us all.
Russell Archambault July 06, 2012 at 12:59 PM
English; Got ya! Don't believe i needed a ? mark after that sentence. In my opinion it was structured as a "rhetorical" question. Please advise.
English first July 06, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Here are some facts Russell. Thanks for helping educate the public. I thought you were asking a question about your improvement using capital letters. rhetorical questions are commonly used in speech and in informal kinds of writing (such as advertisements). Rhetorical questions rarely appear in academic discourse. A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question that is asked in order to make a point and without the expectation of a reply.[1] The question is used as a rhetorical device, posed for the sake of encouraging its listener to consider a message or viewpoint. Though these are technically questions, they do not always require a question mark. A form of rhetoric, rhetorical ' describes a statement or word asked merely for effect with no answer expected Examples; Is the Pope Catholic? Do bears live in the woods? "Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do 'practice'?"
(George Carlin) If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled? How come no one ever says, "It's only a game" when their team is winning?
Steve July 09, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Woonsocket patch, where the uneducated pontificate.
Nancy July 09, 2012 at 12:24 PM
That is an Understatement - WOW - but certainly the truth. Everyone puts their spin on things and do not really understand what the issues really are!!
Steve July 09, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Wow, "Pontificate" must have taken you all weekend to come up with that one huh?
Pontiff of Patch July 09, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Patch poster's pontificating produces presumptuous predictions polluting pristine public property
Novan for Life July 09, 2012 at 02:50 PM
led by steve lol
Sly July 09, 2012 at 05:35 PM
How can anyone keep blaming the Sate,You people need to get a job and quit thinking.If anyone 1 of you have a job and your boss calls you in and tells you your getting a paycut what do you do? CUT YOUR EXPENSES.no brainer right,not here though.this is Woonsocket and some people could not run a zoo.School Com. goes along with the Mayor and Council Prez.You all can't be as dumb as you sound.
Russell Archambault July 09, 2012 at 06:03 PM
sly i agree with you.this is not only the states fault. mostly the city's. also people needing to stop thinking they are worth more than they actually are. fair wages for work. its gotten way out of hand. i do think that the mayor and council president have the fortitude to do a good job, they just can't handle what we are demanding that easily. i would not handle negotiations in the manor that they are, but im realizing my way would not work, due to laws, contracts. we can only hope!
Russell Archambault July 09, 2012 at 06:07 PM
school committee is another story than the city's side. we are in big trouble here. I hear of tremendous waste going on, from people within! too afraid to say anything fearing for their exposure!
Sly July 09, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Russell,agree with you all the way.Its to bad the word bullying is also part of the equation.Unions will do that to there own people.Whoever knows more should pull the plug and say what the waste is.Forcier Knows along with the mayor and Prez.Its to bad there playing the game of political bull.They rather hurt all of us instead of themselves.Pity on them,Forcier couldn't even answer a questionj that J.Dionne posed on Friday.What a waste they are.We should band together and start a petition to oust them all and deliver that to the State.
John July 09, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Sly, I don't what you were listening to on Friday. Forcier put Dionne in his place, he was stuttering and didn't know what to say. After Forcier hung up there was complete silence and Dionne never came back on to close out his show. She pointed out many of his convenient memory issues and his lack of truth on the topics.
Sly July 09, 2012 at 08:21 PM
John,I was listening to the Dionne show.Forcier didn't put anyone in THERE place.She didn't have any answers to anything. That's why we are where we are.Nice show though.Truth haha what's that, no one Knows the truth if it bit him.Waste,waste,waste, So bye bye to all the leaders in the next election.Go play golf.
Russell Archambault July 09, 2012 at 08:23 PM
watched a news program last week about public unions, bullying the entire country for their survival. its unfortunate their rank and file dont petition the unions in their area. there are many good people in unions that are there because they dont have a choice. dont know if any kind of petition could do anything. one thing would work, if we email our state officials. but in any election its a toss up on the percentages on officials to win. look at the obama, romney circus, that stupid election will probably be won by 1 or 2 % points. unfortunately we are divided on eveything.
John July 09, 2012 at 08:33 PM
By your post it sounds like you could use an education. Try mount
Russell Archambault July 09, 2012 at 09:09 PM
NANCY i would like to here your point on what you feel the issues are.
Susan Pawlina July 11, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Not to the Schools!
Susan Pawlina July 11, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I wonder why the superintendent would call in the Chairwoman and Mr. Roberts who has not even served a full year on the school committee and not the Vice Chair? Also, If I remember correctly it was the Chairwoman who first brought about placeing the "children" in the cafeteria as a way to save money on subs. based on a newspaper report that other schools where doing it and she dose have children! So I dont get her point is it that its O.K to take this stance if you have children and its not O.K if you dont ? Am I missing something?
Russell Archambault July 11, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Im glad that this editorial came up again today from a reader posting. john you are absolutely correct in your statement about funding, thanks. i did some digging and believe that it cost the city about 2,000.00 per student, to get a minimum education.some special ed students for some reason get alot more education than regular students and cost far more to educate. we must have them in school, in some cases till they are 21 years old. also another interesting fact the schools are owned by the city, but the school dept. pays for capital improvments, sewer use, water use, and a bit of other things, on their own. an improvement to better serve the tax payer would be to separate the school system one strictly to educate and another division to operate. we are asking board members with perhaps little knowledge on how to accomplish repairing, maintaining buildings.dont think it should be on their shoulders. i now understand a little more of each role in the system. we as tax payers should be knowledgeable about certain little talked about problems. also absolute key possitions should be filled by absolute qualified people. memere you are absolutely correct about the superintendant. and i have been totally incorrect, in some of postings. im going to dig more and learn more facts.
John July 12, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Susan, The Superintendent called in the two members of the School Committee that are assigned to the Finance Sub-Committee. Each School Committee member is assigned to different Sub-Committees, it doesn't matter if you are Chair or Vice-Chair. If you remember Forcier had mentioned that Cumberland was going to try it but that was only on a day to day basis for lack of subs not as a permanent solution for out of district needs children as other School Committee members were recommending. Are you missing something? Yes, The truth!
John July 12, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Sly July 12, 2012 at 02:58 PM
John,I can handle the truth.Its liars I can't handle.By the sound of your postings its you that evidently did not get an education.Try Holy Family Girls National School. I bet you even have to look it up to find where it is.Have a pleasent day.
John July 12, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Sly, Learn how to put a complete sentence together then we'll talk!!
Sly July 12, 2012 at 05:52 PM
John is that all you got,wow.!! You really need to look into the above mentioned school.Your wasting my time.
Susan Pawlina July 12, 2012 at 08:15 PM
"John" sorry if my comments offend you! I find that truth and politicans are seldom in the same room so please excuse my skepticism.
John July 12, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Susan, It's not your comments that offend me. It's your willingness to share your distorted view of the facts.
Susan Pawlina July 13, 2012 at 07:24 PM
"John" My willingness to share my distorted view of the facts,Really!!!!!!! are we not allowed to ask questions? Sonds like a politician to me. BTW welcome to the patch .
David T July 29, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Bravo Memere! I couldn't have said it better myself. The more people of this city understand this the quicker we will get our reps on board with action they should have been pursuing all along.
Russell Archambault July 29, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Leaving no child behind, is a cute phrase.The problem is the system forces to push the child ahead without a proper education.Beleive it or not i wouldnt blame the teachers. Try looking at who,s fault it really is. If a child cant read or write properly or do simple math or simple other task, try asking how long the mother or father,if you can find him, how long they spend with the child after school, encouraging their child to do their homework and the importance of it.


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