WOOD RIVER JCT. — Transportation and trash disposal costs, and the impact of charter schools, were among the issues raised by Chariho School Committee members on Tuesday in a discussion with local lawmakers. Sen. Dennis Algiere, R-Westerly, and Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, D-Westerly, were in attendance; their districts include parts of the Chariho Regional School District.
A perennial issue for Chariho is the level of state aid for regional school districts. Speaking of the categorical transportation aid, Kennedy said, “I’m baffled by this in a lot of ways, that the regional districts are shorted over 17 percent of what the regulation requires.”
Kennedy said he has challenged the calculation “year after year” and had discussed the problem with Gov. Gina Raimondo, but has yet received no resolution. He noted a “disparity in the numbers we use versus the numbers they use, and I don’t know why that is.” He assured the committee that he intended to continue to get to the root of the discrepancy and champion equal funding for Chariho and the other regional districts in Rhode Island.
Another significant expense is bus transportation for students attending other districts, including some who are under the authority of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.
Chariho has consistently opposed charter schools, which have benefited from public school tuition payments and state policies encouraging school choice. The arguments have to do with money, charter school selection methods, and the educational justifications for switching children into different districts.
Kennedy said, “I have not supported a bill for charter schools yet, so don’t look to me. It’s not going to happen.”
School Committee member Clay Johnson, however, stated he was “in the minority” with regard to charter schools: “I believe that parents should have the right to choose where their kids go to school.”
Algiere essentially agreed with Kennedy, saying “I’ve been very careful with my votes on charter schools myself.”
As for solid waste disposal rates, the district continues to pursue a lower tipping rate from the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation. Superintendent Barry Ricci said, “We are actually studying our tonnage and we believe we can reduce it.” He said the study would lead to a set of recommendations on reducing school waste. He said he also hoped to join forces with the state’s other regional school districts to come to a resolution that leads to lower rates.
In other business, the committee honored Chariho High School students Matt Palmer and Garrett Barker for winning a Division III swim title. Their coach, Joe Tarasevich, leads what he has affectionately nicknamed the "Scoop," — the South County Co-op men’s swim team, made up of students from The Prout School, Narragansett, and Chariho. The team has only been in existence for the past year, and as Tarasevich stated, “It’s become a family.”
Also honored by the committee was junior Andrew Ackroyd, who won his third consecutive title in the Write Rhode Island Short Fiction Competition. Ackroyd said he hopes to win once more before he graduates next year.
The next School Committee meeting is scheduled for April 9 at 7 p.m. in the Chariho High School library.