— Westerly —

October 8, 2009

Discussing the Undiscussable in Westerly

Carroll Andrew Morse

On the agenda at Wednesday night's meeting of the Westerly School Committee, in the words of Victoria Goff of the Westerly Sun, was "[finalizing] the termination of Schools Superintendent Steven Welford's two-month employment with the school district". Mr. Welford had begun a three-year contract as Westerly's superintendent of schools in July of this year.

Goff's article quoted the statement offered jointly by Welford and the Westerly School Committee that had announced the unexpected end of the new superintendent's term of employment...

On Friday evening, the school board and Welford issued a joint statement saying Welford's employment would end today because of a "differing philosophy about the operation and direction of the school district." Murano said he would offer no comments other than what is in the joint statement.
A number of Westerly residents used the open comment period of Wednesday's meeting, attended by close to 100 people, to express their dissatisfaction with the vagueness of the official explanation.

I know there is a reluctance amongst governing bodies of all kinds to discuss anything defined as a "personnel matter" in public that rooted in some valid legal concern. Still, when a decision of this magnitude is made without any credible explanation being put forth, how can the people of a community trust that their current school committee is providing truthful and transparent explanations on other matters that it decides upon?

March 2, 2009

Westerly School Committee Brings in a Professional

Monique Chartier

On August 31, the contract between the Westerly Teachers’ Association and the Town of Westerly expires. The Westerly School Committee has already lined up a professional negotiator to assist them with the new contract. From yesterday's Westerly Sun:

After seeking requests for proposals for an outside negotiator, the School Committee received responses from five applicants and interviewed two candidates in executive session in early January.

The board held subsequent discussions behind closed doors and, on Wednesday, voted in open session to hire [Attorney Daniel] Kinder, whose usual hourly rate is $350, according to Murano.

Mr. Kinder, whose list of clients currently includes the East Providence School Committee, has cut his hourly rate to $195.

Too often in Rhode Island, especially over the last couple of decades, school committees have chosen not to seek the assistance of a professional at contract time. This is reflected in the contrast of the national ranking of Rhode Island teacher salaries,

ninth highest in 2007/2008 (source: National Education Association)

to our academic achievement ranking,

forty first in 2007 (source: the American Legislative Exchange Council)