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.

Anonymous June 30, 2012 at 12:17 AM
I'm foggy on educational issues because I truly value it. Here's a question though. What is more important attendance or judgement? Which is valued more?
Still Hope June 30, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Thank you for the link la_m. I was actually thinking of the Braver audit. When you look near the end, it basically says repeatedly "Woonsocket's policies and procedures for accounting and bookkeeping suck." The shitty part is, the auditors keep stating this year after year with little to no fix coming from past OR present officials. Why was everyone surprised at a mystery deficit when Braver told us time and again it would happen? Again, I ask, do you still want to spend the time and $ on a formal investigation or would like to reread the reports for free? 2010 http://www.ci.woonsocket.ri.us/Final%20Audited%20FS%20City%20of%20Woonsocket%206-30-2010.pdf 2011 http://www.ci.woonsocket.ri.us/City%20of%20Woonsocket%20Annual%20Report%20June%2030%202011.pdf
la_mouffette June 30, 2012 at 12:33 AM
I'm not sure I understand your question. Do you mean, attending meetings vs. understanding them? Or are you talking about the school committee chairperson?
Chuck June 30, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Bless your hearts.
Anonymous June 30, 2012 at 01:47 AM
School Comittee Members judgement on issues, or their attendance to the meetings. What's more important in your opinion? Anything else needed to clarify? Maybe the pool?
la_mouffette June 30, 2012 at 02:19 AM
I'd say they are equally important. And yes, please do. I really need a swim after today's heat =)
taxed2death June 30, 2012 at 02:28 AM
What you need, mouffette, is to get that frustration out on the dance floor...the Sexy Saturday Dance Party dance floor, that is. Join us!!! We're gonna rave all night! We can discuss all this nonsense while getting our groove on! You comin'?
John June 30, 2012 at 03:35 AM
I encourage everyone to attend the next school committee meeting to speak in support of Anita McGuire-Forcier during the good & welfare segment of the meeting. Maybe we can change Vimala's mind, she is obviously easily persuaded if Nadeau and Donlon could do it. I also ask that everyone that cares about our school system and pays taxes in this city call Nadeau, Donlon and Vimala to express their disgust in what they are about to do. Let's make them talk about 10 million reasons why they should discuss the schools finances!!!! Have your friends and family call too! Here are their phone numbers (as elected officials these are public information): Eleanor Nadeau 401-636-1347 John Donlon 401-525-1734 Vimala Phongsavanh 401-378-1949
EssaySea June 30, 2012 at 04:22 AM
I'm unclear as to why the promotion of non-profit agencies is a bad thing? Seems like a smart use of existing resources (which don't require WED money). What am I missing?
DonQ June 30, 2012 at 10:53 AM
Proof once again that Phongsavnh, Nadeau and Donlon should be run out of town on a rail. These are the three most incompetent bums ever elected to the School Committee. The morons don't think they should be concerned about finances. That is exactly why the School Department has been so out of control with their spending. Anyone who doesn't think that Donoyon is orchestrating this power play is sadly mistaken. She wants to be able to spend money unabated and Forcier-McGuire is insisting on fiscal responsibility. If Vimala is appointed Chairman, you watch the deficit grow out of sight.
Russell Archambault June 30, 2012 at 11:43 AM
@L A SWIMMING in woonsocket i dont think so. i think someone pulled the plug at world war two park. they took out the pool years ago on social street. took out the wading pool in fairmount. cass park has water but you cant swim there. harris pond is a nono.
Russell Archambault June 30, 2012 at 12:06 PM
@ john can you let me know what date and place , next school meeting. i have to admit ive never followed before, but its never too late. i really want to be more informed first hand. thanks
John June 30, 2012 at 03:32 PM
The next school committee meeting is Wednesday July 18th 7:00pm at the Hamlet Middle School. We really need to fill that cafeteria with support for Mrs. McGuire-Forcier and Mr. Roberts against the union puppets that have no clue that this city is in a financial crisis!!
Yvette M Ayotte July 01, 2012 at 01:08 AM
I think all of this is just BS!!! Do you really think we care if they get along or not, we care that they concentrate at the matters at hand and stop bickering. Once the finances are established, then and only then will you be able to tell exactly what our children will be getting for an education. Stop stabbing each other in the back, there's way too much of that going on in this city and it's sickening!!!! Concentrate on wlhat your suppose to, get the finances straight!!!!
Memere July 01, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Someone should definitely be run out of town on a rail but it is not the 3 that you mentioned. Someday - hopefully soon - the truth will come out. It is true that Chris Robert has a degree but it is not in education (finance maybe?) Vimala has a degree but it is not in education. Donlon and Mrs. Nadeau I am not sure about. You did have a person with a masters degree in education on the school committee at one time and all Anita did was argue with everything that she did. It should be a prerequisite that whoever sits on the school committee has at the very least a degree and preferably in education so that they may better understand the rules and regulations put forth by the Dept of Ed. There should also be at least 1 person on the school committee with a degree in finance to better understand the financial aspect. Come on guys, would you hire a chef to rewire your house or would you hire a plumber to perform your surgery? It's only common sense. For this very important job of educating our children and administering the finances for the schools should'nt we have people on the school committee that are qualified to do this? Mrs. Mcguire-Forcier really wants to help our schools but I seriously question her qualifications. And I know many will not agree with this post but this is my opinion.
la_mouffette July 01, 2012 at 04:28 AM
I guess that leaves one of the gyms or...pool hopping, lol? There was a wading pool in Fairmount? I had no idea..where was it?
Russell Archambault July 01, 2012 at 12:45 PM
L A . i have photos of it . it was at the beginning or bottom of the project in the field. L A only thing left is your sprinkler, ill be over in my bathing suit. can i bring along, taxed and the others?
Frank A July 01, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I believe judgement on issues is more important than simply attending meetings. You can attend all the meetings you want - but if you don't contribute anything then whats the point?
Frank A July 01, 2012 at 04:37 PM
I agree with Essay Sea... Why not take advantage of non-profit resources ? The underlying mission for all non-profit organizations easily coincide with that of WED. I don't get why the SC and WED are expected to take care of of business without help from other members of the community (especially since others agree that some members might not have the proper background to make the best decisions). Non-profits aren't going anywhere any time soon, so why not work together? Shouldn't education be a team effort?
Frank A July 01, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Woonsocket has many coalitions, that focus on many issues. WPC is one of many. WPC does not focus on improving education, like the tax payer coalition does not focus on substance abuse prevention.
Frank A July 01, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I don't understand why this is getting so personal. SC is a job. If the same people who voted Anita chair the first time, have now changed their minds - doesn't THAT say something? If this move is driven by political aspirations only, wouldn't Vimala be running for the State Rep seat like Roberts? Finances are obviously priority, but to negate that improving our education system is not equally important is preposterous. We are failing our children and SOMEONE needs to focus on thinking outside the box. We aren't getting money any time soon (cry to the state all you want), so we need to look elsewhere for the time being. There are five members on the SC, why do they all have to be focused on the same issue? That sounds real inefficient to me.
Frank A July 01, 2012 at 05:18 PM
@John, your comments exemplify what is wrong with our governing bodies. Its always about placing blame and bringing attention to others' weaknesses and mistakes. Professionalism is almost completely non-existent. You speak of resigning and "growing up". How about work off of each others' strengths? You can think they are incompetent at many things, but EVERYONE has something to bring to the table. If we can't identify assets in our SC, how are we ever going to do so in our schools? If we fail to understand this, I believe we are doomed. Good luck getting "qualified" people to run for local office. Educated people don't want to stick around Woonsocket, nor do they want to get involved and be exposed to this nonsense. You can't try anything new or different without getting criticized. This is why we need to work with what we got - the people willing to sit in the seat. I commend Chris Roberts for asking great questions, anticipating legal pitfalls and ethics violations. Having someone like that on the team creates balance, however, too many negative anticipations will hinder any positive progression. The SC needs to work together, personal feelings aside, and do everything it takes, finances and beyond, to improve our schools. The damage is done - lets rebuild.
John July 01, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I just read Vimala's article in The Call. The title is "Actions always speak louder the words". This is ridiculous coming from someone who writes columns every week speaking of visions but has not done anything or accomplished anything on the School Committee in three years! When will we see some results or even an actionable plan from all these visions your having Vimala? I have a vision too. I see a school system that manages their money properly so the children of Woonsocket can maintain sports, music the arts (not to mention electricity, heat and teachers in front of the classroom) and the things that keep them interested in school. I challenge Vimala to outline an actionable and measurable plan in her next article instead of fluff, fluff, fluff, unicorns and rainbows and yet more fluff. A quote from Yoda??? Really??
Russell Archambault July 01, 2012 at 09:43 PM
@ john; i also read the article, and i asked the same question, alot of really nice nothing. you can tell that she has no plan. i wish i could write that well !!
David T July 04, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Carole, It will depend on the other candidates, right? What bright person, in their right mind, would want to knowingly inherit this mess? Here we are, 7/4/12 and we already know we will not have the 12 million in state aide next April because the state gave it to us now. The only difference between the school year that just ended and the one starting in September is we KNOW there is a deficit. Plus, I hope, we have a better understanding of the budget and it has been completely re-written. The CITY's elected officials are trying hard to blame someone for the financial mess, other than the CITY. But the city has watched the mess unfold from the beginning. They are not blameless. WED belongs to the CITY. The school department and SC, not one member, can really say they are blameless. Even Chris and Anita. If the residents of Woonsocket are fortunate to have new and qualified candidates for any of the SC seats, then there will be a real choice. But after the last few years, ALL elected official from the council all the way to the mayor should be squirming in there seats, and for good reason. The superintendent question, do we get rid of her or not? Why do people want to vilify her more than any of the other city elected officials, who, most have been around for many years and some served on the SC.
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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