Controversy Continues in Tiverton

Among the first items under discussion at the Tiverton School Committee meeting is whether the School Committee should subpoena Town Treasurer Phil DiMattia to appear before it, since he has opted not to attend their meeting at their request. Committee Member Carol Herrmann noted that it might be worth waiting to see whether the fact that he (for some undivinable reason) changed his voter registration to Middletown precludes his continuing as treasurer.
Interestingly, Committee Chairwoman Sally Black requested that this discussion be moved to the beginning of the meeting because there are Town Council members in attendance, presumably for this purpose. However, when Committee Member Danielle Coulter brought up a related letter from the Town Council President, Black stated that they’d be discussing that at the end of the meeting.
7:34 p.m.
Strange turn to the discussion. Town Council Member Dave Nelson asked whether the committee would be releasing a list of questions that was referenced earlier. Superintendent Bill Rearick got testy and said that the list was his and that he didn’t bring it to a meeting that had on its agenda “FY2009/2010 Treasurer’s Audit Adjustments,” because the treasurer had indicated that he wasn’t going to come.
There’s been much debate about what questions to ask when, whether the treasurer will know what information to bring with him, and so on. What’s strange is that there’s simply no question about what happened. If a lowly wannabe Internet pundit like me can figure it out, then these folks ought to be able to. Why pretend that it’s a mystery? Is it just a matter of getting it out of the treasurer’s mouth for legal reasons.
7:43 p.m.
This is unbelievable. The next topic on the agenda is that of transporting so-called “restricted” aid to the general budget. In summary, the school department has heretofore left money from the state and federal governments that’s earmarked for specific purposes completely out of their budgets, claiming the irrelevance of dedicated funds to general revenue. Now, with aid being cut and the state changing the way it handles it, well, in Supt. Rearick’s words: “Previously restricted aid will have to be integrated with our regular budget.”
So now, they’re going to engage in a campaign to make sure that voters, prior to the financial town meeting in May, “realize that it’s not part of a new funding stream.” This even as they’re filing litigation to keep almost $400,000 in extra local tax money that the school department spent, last year, arguing that their state aid was cut by that amount and the town has to cover it — but the increase in their “restricted” aid more was nearly double the loss in general aid.
It’s worth noting that the committee managed to maintain all of its lost aid, this year, by raising local taxes (after threatening to close schools and so on).
One gets the sense that our money is their money — they just need to figure out how to take it. Somehow, the people who pay the bills seem never to get a break.
8:16 p.m.
Now on to an actual education issue: They’re expressing unanimous disapproval of the Board of Regents and Education Commissioner’s plan to change to a three-tier diploma system, based on standardized tests, with a fourth tier of “certificate” for students who don’t make the grade for the lowest.
Everybody’s speaking as if this ratchets up the stakes, but my interpretation is completely opposite. Back in August, the news was how many Rhode Island students would not be graduating at all (in 2012) under the current system. It seems to me that the introduction of a third tier was mainly to disguise the fact that the Dept. of Education is adding the certificate, so that all of the students whom Rhode Island public schools failed to educate to the current standards would get something.
It may be too cynical, but it strikes me as plausible that certain groups would like to play chicken with the state — daring the commissioner and regents to allow almost half of Rhode Island students to get nothing at all.

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Andrew
Andrew
10 years ago

Justin,
I don’t think that Zechariah Chafee Jr. (as quoted in the next post) would be pleased with conduct of the School Committee your are describing…

Free government depends in part on maintaining confidence in “talk”. Many forms of existing public discussion undermine respect for it. Often, the proceedings follow no clear line and seem to provide no more than entertainment or the chance to sound off in an undisciplined fashion.

But at least no one can accuse them of trying to entertain.

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