3/1/15 – Blackstone River Swan near the Albion Bridge in Cumberland, Rhode Island. The Albion Bridge was built in 1885 by the Boston Bridge Works.
Rhode Island 295S from state line to Dave’s Marketplace Cumberland.
It was only last month, that “Kumbaya” moment when our Mayor, Superintendent, School Committee and Town Council singed the EDUCATION DECLARATION.
“We do hereby sign…that we will work together to foster a culture of innovation, collaboration…for all members of the Cumberland community.”
So what happened? I was shocked to read the Mayor’s statement, “…until voters elect more transformational school committee members to replace status quo thinking members in districts”
Are you kidding? What an insult to every sitting member of the Cumberland School Committee! Some might try to blow this comment off as a generalized statement for the state as a whole, but the letter was published in the Valley Breeze!
Even if it was a general statement, the Mayor makes no attempt to point out or highlight the advancements the Cumberland School Committee has made over the past year. No kudos to the new Superintendent… Just one big pat on the back, one big advertisement for BVP.
Heck it reads like a TV commercial…”One such sign of hope is Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, a network of three public schools now serving over 500 Rhode Island children ”
The Mayor needs to stop alienating the parents and students of Cumberland, the one’s that don’t believe good education should be a gamble, only made available to lottery winners.
The Mayor likes to point out Massachusetts and how much better their educational system is…well, let’s take a look at the numbers:
1. There are approximately 1M students in Massachusetts
2. Only 3% of those students are enrolled in a Charter School
Again, IN MY OPINION Charter Schools in this state are creating divisiveness in our communities. Our Mayor’s are now more concerned about their image and their schools. I would rather see them sitting down with School Committee’s (collaboratively) and working through the tough issues. If the answers are so apparent, why is the Mayor not working with, and advocating for, the necessary structural changes needed.
NOW, that would be LEVERAGING TRANSFORMATIONAL INOVATION FOR CHANGE and eliminating STATUS QUO THINKING.
Don’t tell me it’s too hard, that it can’t happen, or the union’s are to fault As the Mayor points out, just look at Massachusetts!
Last night (3/1/12 ) the Cumberland School Committee held a special meeting to discuss Full-Day Kindergarten and Redistricting. I was able to videotape the meeting and I’m in the process of uploading clips to YouTube for those who could not attend.
Below are links to individual video clips.
Here are some highlights from the meeting:
- A formal vote on Full-Day Kindergarten & Redistricting is scheduled for March 8th
- Estimated costs at this point – $502,666
10 comments/public testimony presentations
- Comment 1 – Rosemary Reilly-Chammat
- Comment 2 – Bob Shaw
- Comment 3 – Paul Anderson
- Comment 4 – Megan Dennen
- Comment 5 – Joe Rosignoli
- Comment 6 – Lisa Lanoue
- Comment 7 – Jennifer Scott
- Comment 8 – Lindsay Savigne
- Comment 10 – Allison DeStefano
- Following Public Questions & Comments Jeffrey Mutter addressed the Budget Concerns and the process moving forward
- Dr. Thornton responds to concerns with math scores and weather Full Day K will impact other budget areas
I. Chairman Convenes Meeting
II. Pledge of Allegiance
III. Approval of Agenda
IV. Consent Agenda
A. Approval of Minutes
1) Regular Meeting: 1/26/2012
B. Approval of Resolution SC-R-2012-01: Fiscal Note for Approved 2010-2014 ICSE Contract
V. Superintendent’s Report
VI. Chairperson’s Report
VII. Comments from the Public – NONE
VIII. Reports of Standing Committees
A. Payment of Bills
IX. Old Business
A. Discussion and/or Vote to Approve Field Trips of Long Duration:
1) 2013 Student Field Trip
IX. New Business
A. Vote on Non-Renewals
B. Discussion of FY 2013 Budget Timeline
C. Discussion and/or Vote to Approve the Amended KG-KGD Use of School Facilities Policy
D. Discussion and/or Vote to Approve 2nd Reading of the IHCFC-A
Preschool Tuition Policy
E. Discussion and/or Vote to Approve Resolution SC-PR-2-2012-03:
Lighting Replacements at John J. McLaughlin Cumberland Hill
F. Discussion of Full Day Kindergarten/Redistricting Proposal
Part 1 – Superintendent Dr. Thornton Overview
Part 2 – Linda Teal Questions/Comments
Part 3 – John Gibbons Questions/Comments
Part 4 – Earl Wood Questions/Comments
Part 5 – Jeff Mutter Follow Up Question
Part 6 – Earl Wood Questions/Comments Continued
Part 7 – Lisa Beaulieu Questions/Comments
Part 8 – Erika Sanzi Questions/Comments
Part 9 – Earl Wood follow up question
Part 10 – Remaining Discussion
XI. Personnel Recommendations
XII. Comments from the Public
(This clips may be out of order)
XIII. School Committee Comments (School Liaison Reports)
XIV. Vote to go into Executive Session for Discussion on Items Referred to in R.I.G.L. 42 46-5:
A. Personnel Matters – Exception (1)
B. Negotiations/Litigation – Exception (2)
2) Potential Litigation
C. Reconvene into Open Session
D. Vote to Seal Minutes of Executive Session
There are some serious issues facing Cumberland, with projected budget cuts, the need to redistrict, and interest in providing full day kindergarten. The School Committee and our administration certainly have a full plate.
There are tough decisions that need to made and plenty of opinions on how to best move forward. The issues are not new, but the approach and response by the new administration, specifically from the Superintendent has been refreshing and encouraging. Dr. Thornton maintains his cool, answers tough questions with respect, finds ways of responding without “talking down” to the public, does not become overly defensive, and seems to genuinely seek input, feedback, and encourage discussion.
2. Budget Forecast Not Good
School Committee Chair, Jeff Mutter provided an update on the FY2013 budget/funding projections. Following a meeting with Mayor Dan McKee earlier in the day, Mr. Mutter stated “FY2013 will present significant challenges” and that there is a real possibility that “any new expenditure would not be possible” and went on to say “…It is a possibility that we would be removing things that are already in the FY12 budget for FY13 and certainly with no room to add…”
These are just preliminary numbers, things could change, but I don’t sense a whole lot of optimism.
3. Redistricting Is Not Easy, but the administration and School Committee seem to be taking the right approach
I think we all know we need to do this, but given the unique layout and distribution of student population across Cumberland, there’s no easy answers. There have been consultants, countless meetings, multiple school committee’s and administrations that have tried to tackle the issues.
We cannot postpone the inevitable much longer, we need to come up with the best plan we can and move on. I have confidence in this school committee and the administration to get the job done.
4. There’s no “B” in Engineering
I love open government and the political process, which allows citizens to witness government in action. I add this for some comic relief, sometimes we need a break from all the depressing news of budget cuts and all the other struggles…watch the video.
5. Full Day K is more controversial than I thought
I was not expecting some many residents questioning the justification for full day kindergarten. Maybe I should have…if you don’t have young children, you might question the expense. Heck, even some parents of kindergartners don’t want to be forced into it. One resident saying “it’s kindergarten”, questioning the necessity and return on investment in these tough economic times.
I would suggest that full day K is an issue of competitiveness, at least partially. If Cumberland is to remain an attractive place to live and the district is to remain competitive, we need to consider full day kindergarten. Parents have many options when they are looking for a school or even a place to live: charter schools, private schools, and nearby states all offer Full Day K in some flavor.
What is the cost of NOT providing Full Day Kindergarten? That said, if the budget projections hold true, it might not matter…
6. We often seek evidence that is etched in stone before we’re willing to make changes.
It’s our job as citizens to stay informed and challenge our government when we see better alternatives or wasteful spending. Decisions should be based on hard data and facts, deliberated in the public, giving everyone an opportunity to express their opinions.
When it comes to redistricting, I feel comfortable that the appropriate research and deliberation has been, and continues to be done. I look forward to moving on from this issue, which has bogged us down for years.
7. Educating the community should be ongoing effort
I, like most of us, have a hard time keeping up with all that is going on in our community. Last night one resident came to the mic and made some fairly pointed criticisms regarding the effort to bring full day kindergarten to the community. I thought the comments were a bit unfair, but the committee decided not take “take the bait” and offered no response. In some ways I think it was a lost opportunity to educate everyone in the room, and the community, on some of the history behind this effort.
Here’s an except from the public comment:
“…March 8th is just way to fast for something like this, and with all due respect you guys are a policy making board and I’d be looking at this stuff 3-4 years out, not 30 days out. This stuff really should be directed at long-term planning, not sort of crisis management, which is what looks like is being done here.”
If I’m not mistaken, this issue has been discussed in our community for at least the last several years and IS part of the committee’s long range plans. To suggest this is a knee-jerk, last-minute idea seems disingenuous.
Here’s video with the full length comments:
(I was not able to hear this gentleman’s name)
8. Large number of teachers pink-slipped in an effort to keep options open
Every year we go through this process…the school department cannot make accurate budget projections this early in the year, but is required to notify teachers before March 1st if they MIGHT be laid-off.
The committee went “a little deeper this year” based on the funding issues, redistricting, and full day kindergarten initiatives.
9. The Transitional Building Cafetorium PA System is AWEFUL!
Why exactly did the committee move their meetings from the auditorium? Very hard to hear, especially people with quiet voices.
If I get enough wireless signal in the meeting room, I plan to stream tonight’s Cumberland School Committee Live. I’ll also videotape the meeting on a separate camera and post on YouTube ASAP.
If everything works out, you should see live video (below) around 7:30pm.
Watch live video from mwebber1 on www.justin.tv