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School Committee Balances Budget For 2012; High School to Change to Six Period Days

The Woonsocket School Committee made the necessary $1.8 million in cuts to balance their budget last night at Woonsocket Middle School at Hamlet.

The Woonsocket School Committee made the necessary $1.8 million in cuts to balance their budget for FY2012 last night.

They did it by cutting 10 high school teachers and changing the block schedule to a six-period day. They cut four middle school teachers, eliminated two LEAs (who help with special education needs,) cut five general education/ special education teaching assistants, cut five kindergarten teaching assistants, closed Second Avenue School and Social Street School, ordered a mandatory building shutdown during Christmas and lastly, cut one assistant principal at the middle schools.

About 200 Woonsocket residents, teachers and students gathered inside the cafeteria at on Thursday evening to air their concerns about the school budget. 

They came out to protect their extracurricular activities, their performance arts, their ROTC program, their principals, their teaching assistants and their quality of education.

“Next year there will be no musical and no benefit if the six period day goes through, and that’s a shame,” said Jennifer Maiello, instructor of dance and theatre at Woonsocket High School.

Lt. Colonel Dan Richard who runs the Air Force ROTC program at WHS said that the six period day may end his program.  Kevin Plouffe, the director of the band, said many of his students may have to drop out if band was moved to an after-school program.  Currently both programs are offered as electives in the block schedule.

“We cannot create a musical caste system where only the children of the affluent are able to get a musical education,” said Plouffe.

Other students and teachers argued that they deserved the same education as the surrounding suburban communities.  Everyone in the room agreed that they deserved it.  They had come to speak their mind and wanted answers and decisions.

The School Committee sat on the stage and listened to them with looks of chagrin, stuck between the yearn to provide a competitive education with the pressing need to cut $1.8 million to balance the budget.

“I should not be here defending my own right to a quality education,” said one Woonsocket High School student.

After each of the 24 speakers were finished they returned to their seat with a chorus of applause.

But despite all the support for a block schedule the school committee made the tough decision to move to a six period per day schedule because of the $726,057 it would save.

Through it all the state was blamed.

Committee member Anita McGuire Forcier told students who brought signs that read “Don’t budget my future,” “This is discrimination!” and “We want blocks, not periods” that they need to take them to the state house.

John Ward, the city council president, spoke at the podium and said the city would receive an extra $1.78 million if the state’s teacher pension system was funded properly.  He noted the stress section 8 housing has put on the city and how state legislators reworked the funding formula to benefit suburban communities.  He told the crowd that there’s $10 million in that formula that Woonsocket should be getting, but is not.

"Our problem may be that we don't have enough money to give the students the education they deserve," said Ward, "but that comes from the problem the state has and they have dropped that burden on you."

The school committee announced that they had filed a lawsuit alleging improper funding by the state on Thursday and will be releasing information on that shortly.

Ward also said that he would raise taxes to provide an additional $377,597 for the school committee's budget.  He said he would do it even if it means he doesn’t get re-elected.  He added that he has brought up the issue with the funding formula for urban communities with Senate President Paiva Weed and will be meeting with House Speaker Gordon Fox soon to discuss it with him.

Despite Ward’s work, there were few options for the School Committee.  They were legally obligated to submit a balanced budget.  They swallowed their pride and passed the budget cuts detailed above 3 – 2.

The vote was as follows:  Anita Forcier, Vimala Phongsavanh, and Eleanor Nadeau for the proposal; Linda Majewski and Marc Dubois against the proposal.

Editor's note: I have made two corrections to this piece. The original story incorrectly stated that Coleman Elementary was one of the schools that would be closed. Also, the name Kevin Bluff has been edited to correctly read, Kevin Plouffe.

Estelle April 09, 2011 at 01:41 AM
This is a time were R.I. stand together lets PICKET the STATE HOUSE OUR children need us now come on wake up R.I.
Matt B. April 09, 2011 at 02:24 AM
Please all of you do not vote for forcier to be re-elected or try to move up at all! She is not good for this community. She is hypocritical and doesn't deserve any spot in anything to do with my education and anyone elses!
Lori Dickerson April 09, 2011 at 02:25 AM
I think all the cities and towns deserve the same education, whether they are rich or poor! YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT OTHER TOWNS GET MORE MONEY TOWARDS EDUCATION, EVERYONE ISN'T EQUAL IN THIS MESS OF A GOVERMENT WE HAVE RIGHT NOW!!!!! The goverments getting ready to shut down, kids won't get the education they are entitled to, you know the one where our civil rights guarantee the right to an equal education for everyone, poor or rich!!! I THINK IT'S TIME TO START WRITIN OUR CONGRESSMEN AND WOMEN!!!
Lori Dickerson April 09, 2011 at 02:26 AM
Writing
Haavey April 09, 2011 at 04:02 AM
I'm in!!!! Let's do this!
give me a break April 09, 2011 at 10:20 AM
john ward needs to be replaced , all those people at the meeting and they all don't get it,THERE IS NO MORE MONEYYYYYYYY
give me a break April 09, 2011 at 10:29 AM
ok everyone theres no more money ,SO in order to keep the school running taxes will go up and there will be a drop off box at the mayors office so the elderly and the fixed income people to drop off thier keys to thier home to pay for the increase. bottem line is the school needs to make real cuts even layoffs if needed,
Ricky April 09, 2011 at 02:59 PM
I want to thank Councilman Ward for being smart enough to raise the taxes in order to fund the money. The school departments money comes from the taxes that he is planning to raise. Woonsocket residents need to realize that all these cuts, layoffs, and changes to the school system is drastically affecting us students. It sickens me to see how little people care about what's happening to the students. We are losing our band, chorus, art programs, theater, JROTC, many electives, and for some of us, our dreams. Do you realize how many students want to go forward and become an artist, actor, musician, engineer, or high-ranking military officer? I personally want to be a music teacher, but thanks to this six period day, I might not be able to take band next year. I have heard so many other students in dismay over this. If you think that our opinions do not matter because we are students, stop and realize, we're America's future, and if you keep silencing us, ignoring our opinions, forgetting about how we feel about these cuts, then the future of this country might not be what you're expecting. Last night we had a benefit for autism, and it was very successful, this would not have been possible without the music department and theater department and several other hard working groups. An event like this is unlikely to happen again because of these cut backs.
Jason D April 10, 2011 at 02:07 AM
Well said JRichard, Chris12 and Ricky. I just love how hard working people struggle to get by and the ones that get assitance get to drive around in new cars with high price accessories and expensive clothes. Woonsocket has one of the highest if not highest % of Section 8 housing. While I agree some people need help it isn't just Woonsocket and other "Cities" job to house these people. All communities should share in this burden. Woonsocket has one of the highest property tax rates and one of the lowest % contrubuted to ED. We get what we pay for! Not enough taxes are coming in. State and Federal levels are not seeing our issue and helping.
Matt B. April 11, 2011 at 12:21 PM
We dont really need the taxes raised just the percent of money that the tax payers put it for the schools needs to be raised. Right now as far as i know it is 12% that is 12 cents for every dollar it is too little!!
Jason D April 11, 2011 at 12:37 PM
@Matt "Right now as far as i know it is 12% that is 12 cents for every dollar it is too little!!" exactly. So the other 88% is going to City's budget (and some other city specific budgets) which the city itself is having issues too. I will say it again "Not enough taxes are coming in" to cover the expenses. I am not saying to raise taxes. I am a property owner in Woonsocket with school ages kids that we choose to put in non-public school. Last thing I want is to pay more taxes to City to fund the WED. Something has to change. More taxes need to come in! More of a percentage needs to goto our schools! City needs to do a better job at being cost effective at providing services! State and maybe even Federal level has to realize the situation the City is in and help contribute and turn it around. It is really sad. Our kids are our future and if we don't put the time and money into them then what does our and thier future hold? I can rattle off saying after saying but it really is "You get what you pay for".
Matt B. April 11, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Right. The kids are the future. We need the kids to get an education. The teachers get paid little to teach little billy that could be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, I know this cant happen but why do the teachers get paid so little but yet the athletic director make more than the combined average household? How about cutting some of his salary and some of the principals salary and take it and throw it in the Education fund. Why are we even discussing all of this it shouldn't be an issue it should just be the schools right of mind and give the kids what they need Band Chorus Business Special needs Career programs THEY NEED IT SO WHY FIGHT OVER IT
Steve April 11, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Why guess at the numbers? Woonsocket's budget below. The numbers may surprise you...... http://www.ci.woonsocket.ri.us/AdoptedBudget2010-2011.pdf
Matt B. April 11, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Thanks because I didn't know where to find those numbers.
JRichard April 11, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Thanks for the link Steve...one thing that immediately caught my attention is how generous the City of Woonsocket is with Paid Holiday's...14! you don't see that at most companies!!
Matt B. April 11, 2011 at 03:39 PM
There should only be 1 paid holiday Christmas let them use their vacation pay otherwise.
Tush Cote April 11, 2011 at 05:00 PM
You know what...why not just shut down all the schools in the city and let a private company come in and run them, like the Catholic or Charter schools. They charge you only if you are going to send a kid there. We wont have to pay for them if we aint using them
JRichard April 11, 2011 at 05:45 PM
They couldn't deal with them...remember, Catholic & Charter schools get to select the students they would like to educate, while the public school system is left with a mix of children who want to learn and those that are forced to be there.
Steve April 11, 2011 at 08:33 PM
Teachers pay scale: http://www.woonsocketschools.com/ActiveDocuments/Superintendent/WTG%20Contract_PartB_2008-2011.pdf
Chris12 April 11, 2011 at 09:02 PM
To all the students of Woonsocket, the taxpayers do not want to take anything away from our students. If taxpayers of this city had their way they would cut all the WELFARE, all the FREE social programs and FREE medical programs that are given to the non-citizens and transients of the community. This FREE aid is sucking the life blood out of our state. If that is not enough cities and towns have to pay for the UNFUNDED mandates dumped upon them by the General Assembly. If students really want to help themselves START WRITING TO YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS. What should you write in your letters? Tell them the students of Woonsocket should not have to justify why they deserve a proper education! Tell them the students of Woonsocket should not have to stand at a podium at adult meetings and beg and grovel for a proper education!!!
Carole Pichette April 12, 2011 at 12:17 AM
Carole Pichette Let's talk about "No Child Left Behind"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! With these budget cuts, the pendulum has swung the other way..............., now it's the students who are capable and have the highest potential to achieve great things who are being left behind. They are the students who are being deprived of and denied a full and rounded education which includes music and the arts. Do you honestly think a good college will be looking for students coming from Woonsocket High School?
Lavergne April 12, 2011 at 02:34 AM
Let's starting taxing our welfare recipients. What are they paying for? NOTHING. They take, take, and take more. They feel like they have entitlement rights, like they are in a union. Since taxpayers pay for their food, medical, braces, glasses, housing, and so on...why should they get a free ride in life. If they want kids, pay for them yourselves. Your kid has issues, deal with it.. Enough is enough, no more free ride in life. Who helps the working class? NO ONE. Since a good number of subsidy children use all of our services, start charging them. The moms don't work, let them volunteer in the schools. Let them tape their soap operas and watch them at night. Start paying back since the taxpayers are supporting you.
give me a break April 12, 2011 at 10:10 AM
why don't the city strat by reviewing all those on welfare and weed out the freeloaders, talk about a big savings
Chris12 April 12, 2011 at 11:31 AM
taxed2death- I think most of these FREE social services are state laws. We just pick up the tab!
Matt B. April 12, 2011 at 12:42 PM
I think yes we need to find some way to weed out the freeloaders. If you drive through Fairmount or Rock Ridge or Morin Heights all you see is these nice new or newer cars with upgrades galore. They work the system like theirs no tomorrow. In addition if we could sort out all of the drug dealers, drug takers and convicts and charge them more taxes because they are ruining our community. We need everyone in this city to show an interest in our education and come to the meeting so that they will have to post pone it to the next week because they will have to us all of the open space in between the two middle schools. With giant speakers and a stage platform with at least 1000 people would be great and if then we could bring all of these people to the statehouse on day i would sacrifice my day for the education of the students
Matt B. April 12, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Dont forget they will tape these soap operas on their brand new 60in plasma with their expensive high def service.....Then they will drive to school in their brand new lexus or brand new BMW or Mercedes while the working class is forced to drive a 15 year old ford.
Matt B. April 12, 2011 at 12:56 PM
Exactly what should be appointed to the committe.
Jerry April 13, 2011 at 12:33 AM
If they would legalize drugs in Woonsocket, we would have enough money in this city to actual donate to charity.
RonW April 13, 2011 at 01:05 AM
Is this counting the weeks off for Febuary and April Vacations, Plus another week off for Christmas Vacation, And of course lets not forget summer vacation. Does anyone know where I can find a job with this many vacations?
DLB April 13, 2011 at 03:47 PM
Found something interesting ,...According to RIDE: '' The new diploma system requires students to apply their learning to their own interests or passions, which motivates students to pursue their own learning. Whether a student is interested in rock music, sports, cooking, car mechanics, or fashion design, most passions can reasonably become a subject for a demonstration of proficiency in content and applied skills. Music alone could suggest projects in the science of acoustics, the math of tonality, the social studies of cultural tastes, the technology of instrument production and so forth. Indeed, one of the most compelling features of the new diploma system is that it harnesses students’ interests in the service of their own learning. Traditional education asked students to ‘park’ their passions at the door, which invited alienation among those students who find course work irrelevant to their real concerns. School advisors and content-area teachers will help students design exhibition and portfolio projects that satisfy their own natural thirst for information and skills. Outside interests and those content areas beyond the six core subjects – such as foreign language and technical education – can become integrated into everyday school life, making academics more interesting and relevant.''

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