This letter is in response to The Sun article “Parents say they were ‘baited’ to a lecture”, by Anna Maria Lemoine, that appeared in the September 27 edition.
Many thoughts are going through my mind, as I think of the handling of this episode.
Robert Cardozo, the Chariho School Committee member, should be taken to task as well as William G. Day, the Chariho School Committee Chairman, and others on the committee. These two members from Richmond, which like my own town Hopkinton, three times in succession defeated the Chariho budget this year. They certainly have a right to their opinion, but respect of varying opinions should be expected, and especially their own constituents.
The school committee exclusively controls the line items in a school budget. Neither the public nor the Town Council can direct them on what they spend it on. In Chariho, since the school district is regional, the Town Council does not even have the power to set their bottom line for education spending. In a single municipal district, the local town or city council can. This recent episode orchestrated by Mr. Cardozo deserves to be criticized.
People have busy lives. In Hopkinton those from the public do not participate in discussions generally, as we formulate our town budget at meetings or workshops. Our Town Council does it basically alone with staff people. Public participation is sparse or none at all. To antagonize and mislead people, which clearly was done at the last Chariho School Committee meeting, was uncalled for. As described in your article “At least 50 parents concerned about an agenda item,...”, those parents who have the responsibility for caring for their children, were inconveniently bothered by a clear political tactic by Mr. Cardozo. One can only speculate on the political damage he caused for himself, his views and goals as well as the school district’s. Mr. Cardozo is new to local politics, only being involved in office a short while. The question is whether he has learned any lessons from his handling of this matter.
The fact of the matter is Chariho budgets impact the three towns differently. Charlestown has a large assessable base, is bigger than the other two towns combined, has one of the lowest tax rates in Rhode Island and has fewer students than the other two towns. Charlestown has the luxury to vote in favor of Chariho budgets. The ability to pay taxes will always be a factor in how people vote on budgets. Additionally, considering the state of the economy and the uncertainty of “Obamacare,” this will impact people’s evaluations on their financial well-being in the near future.
Looking at the article, I would like to know how the school committee feels about having two elementary schools in Hopkinton.
Mr. Cardozo apparently feels about $500,000 can be saved. Historically for decades there have been two elementary schools in Hopkinton with the other two towns having one each. I am considering asking the Chariho Omnibus committee to consider adding to the agenda of their January meeting a discussion about the two elementary schools in Hopkinton. Clearly we have school committee members that have a concern about two schools in our town. I remind Mr. Cardozo that Hopkinton, like Richmond, spends around $18 million a year for their Chariho operating share.
This latest matter concerning the principal situation in Hopkinton reinforces my argument for an outside management study of Chariho by objective professionals with credentials in school administration.
I did not attend the school committee meeting in question. I did vote against the Chariho budget three times this year. But I did make a point of going to the Rhode Island State House to testify in restoring the regionalization bonus. As a Hopkinton Town Council member, I voted for our town budget, which was rejected. But I am not showing to Hopkinton residents the disrespect that some school committee members show toward Hopkinton for rejecting the Chariho budget!
In 2012 all school committee members were elected unopposed. Not a good commentary on public involvement. That means none of the three Chariho towns had a choice among candidates listed on the ballot for school committee — not a good sign for democracy. Mr. Cardozo came to office by appointment; we will see how he does electorally if he runs. I have both won and lost elections, so I have the experience of both perspectives.
I speak only for myself.
Scott Bill Hirst
The writer is a member of the Hopkinton Town Council, Vice Chairman of the Hopkinton Republican Town Committee, and is a Chariho graduate.