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.