February 25, 2010

Stop Me if You've Heard This One: School Department Overspends Budget

Monique Chartier

... by millions more than the millions some people initially suspected.

The Valley Breeze has obtained a copy of the preliminary version of the school performance audit which

says school administrators have been overspending taxpayer dollars by at least $10.4 million per year.

The performance audit (apparently and inexplicably long delayed) was conducted as a function of a Caruolo action filed by the Pawtucket School Committee. However,

The preliminary performance audit results now call into serious question the $4 million lawsuit against the School Department's host city and its taxpayers, concedes a school leader. That's the amount of added funding that school administrators have maintained they need to adequately operate the schools.

So the School Committee thought the department was overspending by $4 million, which it sued the city to obtain. But now it turns out the department was overspending by $10 million? How can the body officially charged with defining and administering the school budget have lost track of $6 million in spending? This makes me feel just swell about the state tax dollars we're sending to Pawtucket.

By the way, I'd like to second at least one of the recommendations of the audit, which is to

Eliminate all 32 floating building assistant positions pending further study. Cutting 11.5 of those positions at minimum would save the district $518,995, while cutting the rest would presumably save an additional $1 million;

A "floating" position? That's always nice. "No, I'm not at your school today, Principle Smith, I'm at one of the others. See, I float. So no one can really keep track of where I am or what I'm doing at any given time ..." Isn't that how the Central Landfill education coordinator got into trouble?

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Kudos to the Valley Breeze.

Given the ever-higher education labor costs and poor results, perhaps we should try to provide some classes online to students at home. Maybe the feed could come from some education-serious place like Japan or Singapore. Standard but aggressive curriculum; standard performance tests.

We certainly would not need the "floating building assistant positions" -- which sounds like a polite term for "no-show" positions.

Posted by: Abigail at February 25, 2010 10:06 AM

Unfortunately, you're taking inaccurate data and building off of it.

1. There is no report (draft or otherwise) that has been done on the district. There were some preliminary recommendations that had not been vetted to the school for feasiblity. Those workpapers are now being deemed an offical (albeit, draft) report.

Those documents, and the report that follows did not say, and will not say, that the district 'overspent'. The report (as required by the contract) will provide ideas for reduced spending. As noted in the Valley Breeze, the District (and City) could save money if they choose to close schools, and therefore elimiate teachers. That does not indicate 'overspending' and the taxpayers need to decide if closing schools and increasing unemployment is the best for their community. Most of the issues enumerated in the article require tough choices the City will have to make.

It's easy to add comment to something you see in print, but you may also be aware that not everything you see in print is accurate.

Posted by: outoftowner at February 25, 2010 11:04 AM

Not sure if this is how things work in Pawtucket, but my son works with a floating teacher who spends some days at one school and other days at another. I wish there were 2 teachers for each school so my son could spend more time with this particular teacher so I'm not sure if the same holds true for these 32 position. Are they 64 positions consolidated into 32?

Posted by: don roach at February 25, 2010 12:29 PM

I have a different take on the Pawtucket School System budget and it's Teachers. I agree the system bears a large part of the blame for it's dismal financial performance but where I find the most fault with them is that they've all known for an awful long time that the task they've been given is unattainable. Why haven't they spoken out long before now about how nearly an immpossible task it is to try to teach to a population of which 35 % does not have English as their primary language and a portion of that same population has never been in school a day in their lives in the country they came from. I'm personally thrilled that this aspect of the problem is being brought up on your web site , as well as others, in addition to Talk Radio and maybe the general public will FINALLY question why in the Urban Schools ALL the children, American and Immigrant alike, are being cheated out of a quality education for the sake of the Education community, up until now, being Politically correct. As a matter of fact Pawtucket is not unique to this situation. A Female Teacher from the Providence School System called in to a local Talk Show this afternoon and tried to expose the near impossible task of trying to educate a young man from Haiti who had been placed age appropriately in her class last week who speaks ONLY French. The teacher speaks only English and Spanish and she has to use a laptop for translation. The young man does not even know how to use a French Dictionary ( provided by the school ). The rest of her class must standby while she attempts to resolve these problems. She also stated she's had three Spanish speaking students from the Dominican Republic that are basically in the same circumstance for the last three months. MONEY is not the solution although in my opinoin it's being seriously misused in Pawtucket and neerds serious scrutiny. The entire system needs to be revamped maybe starting with IMMERSION. Deborah Gist should be expanding her horizons and addressing the real underlying problems with our Urban School Districts. If she does she'll go down as a true HERO in the annals of R I Education. She may even be able to convince Arne Duncan to admit that this is a problem nationally.

Posted by: leprechaun at February 25, 2010 3:28 PM

My compliments to the Valley Breeze, but, I have to ask why isn't the Projo all over this sort of stuff? I have long thought that what Rhode Island needs is a "good" newspaper. Cianci made me wonder about this, why did the paper wait until the Feds stepped in? Is it possible they didn't know? More's the shame.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 25, 2010 5:23 PM

Mr. Warrignton Faust--the ProJo did consider covering the story. They actually took the time to validate the facts; realized the story in the Valley Breeze was significantly inaccurate and chose to take the high road and not exploit our emotions and put unnecessary fear in the minds of the community and the employees of the school district.

Posted by: outoftowner at February 26, 2010 10:05 AM

No matter how accurate this report is, it does show that there are problems in Pawtucket (just like the rest of the state). If you are from Pawtucket and are frustrated with the staus quo, why not look for an alternative. The Democrats and public employee unions have had their chance and have ruined Rhode Island. The Pawtucket Republican City Committee is having a meeting at the downtown library on Monday March 22 at 7pm. With the victory of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, it shows that anything is possible now. Please tell your friends and neighbors that they don't have to put up with inadequate service and indifferent politicians. Use your voice to rally hard-working citizens and support new candidates for the city council, school committee, and GA.

And John Loughlin will be there to answer questions from attendees about his run for Patrick Kennedy's seat.

Posted by: Tommy Waugh at February 26, 2010 11:45 AM

"Those documents, and the report that follows did not say, and will not say, that the district 'overspent'."

Possibly the document/report does not use the specific word "overspent". We know definitively that the district overspent by at least $4m, however, because the School Committee filed a Caruolo action in that amount.

Further, if overspending is not an issue, why is this report identifying prospective spending cuts?

Posted by: Monique at February 26, 2010 5:05 PM

We had similar issues with non-English speaking children. They seem to have done just fine with the immersion approach. Note particularly that they were encouraged, even required, to do so by the parents, who wanted them to become successful Americans.

It seems that today's parents do not share that goal.

Posted by: BobN at February 26, 2010 7:46 PM

My grandparents and most of my uncles and aunts came from either Canada or Portugal.

They learned to speak English by total immersion and struggled in English speaking schools until they caught on. Teachers were helpful in after school programs (for no extra pay) but neither French nor Portuguese were spoken in the classrooms.

My uncle told me when he first came here, he spoke, wrote and read French. After three months of kids picking on the Canuck, he learned English and the world became right and it didn't cost the taxpayer a single penny.

Posted by: Roland at February 28, 2010 2:41 PM
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