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School Committee Votes To Allow Reorganization On Majority Vote

Chairwoman Anita McGuire-Forcier tells fellow members to "grow up."

 

School Committee Vice Chair Vimala D. Phongsavanh said Wednesday she's interested in taking over as chair of the board if Chair Anita McGuire-Forcier is voted out.

After the Woonsocket School Committee voted to allow reorganization at any time on a majority vote during Wednesday's meeting, that seems likely. The Woonsocket Budget Commission was seeking legal advice on whether they had the authority to block the re-organization, but did not take action on the matter this week.

Two votes during the School Committee's next meeting, one to re-organize, another to elect a new chair, are required to name a new chair, said McGuire-Forcier. She said both could happen during the same meeting.

Audio of the meeting can be reviewed at Mywoonsocket.com's "In their own words" page, under the heading: June 27, 2012 School Committee Meeting, #s 20-24.

An amendment suggested by Committee member Chris Roberts to require a super-majority vote for reorganizing the Committee failed with only McGuire-Forcier and Roberts supporting it.

Roberts asked if there was anyone on the board interested in taking McGuire-Forcier's place. Phongsavanh said she would, and Roberts suggested that she recuse herself from a vote on naming a new chair, since it created a conflict of interest in granting her an additional $250 in the stipend for the position. "You will now be voting on a conflict of interest to give yourself additional money." He said that in the event Vimala did not recuse herself, he would send a letter informing the Ethics Commission of the vote.

School Committee Counsel Richard Ackerman said he would look into whether Phongsavanh was allowed to vote for herself.

"It is my firm belief that our chairperson has lost sight of the vision of the School Committee," said Committee member John Donlon, focusing on financial matters instead of the education of the city's children and setting policies for the district.

"We are responsible and entrusted with the proper allocation of all federal, state and local dollars. This is written in our RI general laws, so I don't understand how you can say it's not our job," McGuire-Forcier said, quoting from RI General Law 16-2-9, which gives the School Committee the responsibility for the budget.

"So, it is our job. And we are in such a financial crisis, this needs to be made number one priority," McGuire-Forcier said. She said Superintendent Giovanna Donoyan has said her primary focus is on finance, as have officials at the RI Department of Education.

"So this is a political spin you're trying to put on it, trying to make it look like I'm doing a bad job," she said. "If I'm busy in finance and I'm doing a good job, and I'm attending everything and participating, you don't punish someone for that." 

"If you guys want to continue going this way, I would feel better not being chair, because the last thing I'd want is three people constantly playing political games while our city is going down the tubes. And in my opinion, grow up," McGuire-Forcier said.

The motion to alter the bylaws was approved, with McGuire-Forcier and Roberts voting no.

David T July 04, 2012 at 05:10 PM
CITY of WOONSOCKET I Mayor and City Council I FIRE POLICE SCHOOL DEPT I would support anyone in and out of city government who can fix this problem. Many people wouldn't or couldn't stop this tsunami and many were part of the problem, which didn't just start last winter. Anita and the entire team were in way over their heads. The city could only think of one way to fix this, taxes. John, I've attended many meetings and haven't seen any reason why you would want to support Anita as the leader of this board. I like her but the magnitude of this problem far surpasses her talents. In fact, I don't know if there is anyone who is qualified to take over. Did she do enough, before the deficit, to demand more and get more hard facts? Did the CITY do enough to do the same? I would like the CITY of WOONSOCKET to be more directly responsible for the CITY of WOONSOCKET EDUCATION DEPARTMENT. It's part of the city, not a separate entity. And yes, any city's or town's school department should focus on finances, but be capable of focusing on that and other issues. Heck, the City should focus on finances of all it's departments, including the school.
David T July 04, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Frank A, I'm agreeing that this board, BUT ALSO and MORE SO, OUR CITY, needs to focus on FINANCES but also making our education something that can attract people to the city or at least keep us here. If the city was as FOCUSED on the school's finances as people think Anita is now, then we wouldn't be in this mess. And as much as I like Anita, here focus on the finances hasn't resulted in solving our problems. She is the leader of the board and under her watch this has happened. Is she a puppet for the city council? Is that why there is a growing support for her? And, by the way, I'm not saying I have decided on what I will do if I could vote on this, but really, this was a shared responsibility from the start. I want the city's elected officials to feel more heat.
John July 04, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Frank A, It is the After School Coalition that works with WED to improve education. Vimala refuses to recognize this organization is already in place?
John July 04, 2012 at 10:26 PM
David T., You are mistaken. Anita has been on the committee but just became chair in December. This deficit was not created in the last 7 months it is from the last two years. For the last 6 years Marc Dubois and Eleanor Nadeau were co-chairs of the Finance Sub-Committe and told anyone on the School Committee that inquired about the budget to mind their own business. That's why Anita and Chris called for an investigation of the Schools Finances but Nadeau, Donlon and Vimala voted against it. What are they trying to hide?
DonQ July 04, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Also keep in mind that Vimala was the lone vote against asking the state to take over the Woonsocket School System. As I have stated before, I am firmly convinced the Vimala and John Ward know that the deficit was caused by more than poor financial management. They have just been fighting too hard to prevent an outside investigation. II also feel very confident that Marc Dubois ghad a huge hand in creating this deficit. Unfortunately, no matter how much/how hard we demand an outside investigation, the way the City Council and School Committee have the power to block any outside investigation. Unfortunately, the Woonsocket taxpayers will never receive an honest answer.

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