On January 26, the Westerly Sun ran a version of my letter.
A similar letter ran in the Chariho Times.
Here is the original as I wrote it:
From your recent coverage, it looks like the townspeople of the three Chariho school district towns are grabbing their pitchforks and torches for their annual assault against the Chariho School District even though it is one of the top-ranked in the state for quality education.
Charlestown has done its part by appointing Ron Areglado (former Chariho Elementary School principal for a short period, and one of the leaders of the aborted movement to have Charlestown secede from Chariho) to fill the unexpired term of School Committee member Jim Sullivan.
Apparently, Charlestown feels the best way to support Chariho is to have one of our representatives be a guy with a history of trying to destroy it. I think this is a consolation prize for Areglado who failed in his bid to win election to the Town Council as a candidate of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA)
We will probably also demand that Chariho charge us less money as we did a year ago when we subjected Chariho Superintendent to the Spanish Inquisition. We demanded he cut Chariho’s budget at least enough to save Charlestown about half a million dollars.
Under the tri-town funding formula, that would have meant about $1.5 million in overall cuts, but to increase the intensity of the torture, our Town Council President Tom Gentz wouldn’t answer Dr. Ricci’s repeated request for at least a couple of suggestions where to cut.
This year, as a warm-up to the annual budget auto-de-fe, Charlestown has decided to reject a request from Chariho Superintendent Barry Ricci for Charlestown’s support for change to state law that would require parents to foot the bill for charter school education if they choose a charter school that is educationally inferior to Chariho.
You would think that after last year’s spectacle, the Charlestown Town Council would eagerly embrace a sensible cost-cutting measure such as that proposed by Ricci.
But our Councilors say, “whoa, wait a minute…maybe taxpayers should pay so parents can send their kids to crappy schools.”
Pseudo-experts, such as CCA follower Donna Chambers stood up to criticize Ricci’s proposal. Chambers admitted that she had not read Ricci’s proposal, but felt perfectly qualified to criticize it.
Her most specific evidence that Ricci was wrong to want to withhold public dollars from inferior charter schools was that Chambers knows someone who sends their kid to a charter school that specializes in environmentalism. Chambers doesn’t know if that school is rated as highly as Chariho. It doesn’t matter, said Chambers, because her friend likes the idea that her kid gets an environmental curriculum, so taxpayers should foot the bill.
Charlestown Council meetings took this and other equally uninformed statements to heart. They decided to postpone their decision on whether to support Chariho’s sensible, economically-sound proposal until Ms. Chambers can come back to them with more research. Actually, any research, since she prefaced her remarks by saying she hadn’t done any.
Town Councilor George Tremblay (CCA) also wanted the Council to get more pro-charter school information from charter school representatives. Except, unless Tremblay wasn’t paying attention, the only presentations the Council received that evening were from charter school advocates. I’d actually think that an informed decision would be aided by some hard information about the disappointing results at many charter schools.
As Superintendent Ricci said later, if people like Donna Chambers or George Tremblay have school-age children (which I happen to know they don’t) and want to send them to a charter school that doesn’t equal Chariho in overall quality of education, so the kids can study the environment or UFOs or bird calls, they should feel free to do so – on their own dime.
When Superintendent Ricci comes back before the Charlestown Town Council in a month or so to discuss the Chariho budget for the upcoming year, I hope this discussion remains fresh in everyone’s minds. The Charlestown Town Council has forfeited its credibility to demand any budget concessions from Chariho by failing to support a perfectly sensible proposal to curb costs.