Council establishes its own educational funding committee

Council establishes its own educational funding committee

CUMBERLAND – Town Councilor Tom Kane says a committee formed to find ways to address local educational funding is designed to bring everyone together on the issue.

Mayor Bill Murray doesn’t see it that way.

Murray expressed frustration last Wednesday as the council moved to establish the Committee on Educational Funding and Development, telling council members that “maybe your committee will do a better job” than the separate advisory committee he set up to advise him on school funding.

School Committee Chairman Raymond Salvatore, who praised the formation of the new committee, had slammed Murray for holding closed-door meetings with his advisory education board, filing an open meetings complaint against the mayor.

Kane, who has battled with Murray on numerous issues, said he’s simply hoping that the 11-member committee, made up of council and school board members, residents, nominees from the mayor and school superintendent, and someone from Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academies, will bring everyone together under a common goal. The board, he said, will look into the “substantial issue we find ourselves in year after year with school funding” and the “lack of solutions we’ve had time and time again.”

The board, he said, is tasked with finding solutions for improving the school district while protecting taxpayers from frequent tax increases.

When it was pointed out that Murray and Supt. Bob Mitchell didn’t have appointments on the board, Kane said he didn’t intentionally mean to exclude anyone from the board, adding that everyone is welcome. The council then included yet-to-be-named appointments from the two men.

Several council members thanked Kane for proposing the formation of the committee before voting unanimously to approve it.

Murray told council members he received the message with the formation of the committee. “I get the picture,” he said.

He added that he hopes everyone is “prepared to give more money to the schools and raise taxes.” He said he’s planned all along to present the findings from his own advisory commission once it comes up with recommendations on school savings.

Kane responded that Murray’s comment was “a pretty negative statement,” saying he’s tired of those who “constantly draw a line in the sand” and “drive a wedge” between factions.

“My intent is to try to erase that line,” he said.

Murray also questioned Kane’s push to form a new Cumberland Economic Development Commission, saying initiatives from past commissions “didn’t go anywhere.”

Kane said he only wanted to enact “what we already have” in the charter,” and see what can be done to take advantage of opportunities for growth, especially in the Broad Street corridor.

Murray noted that previous mayors didn’t support the economic development commission.

“In essence, it was a big waste of time in the three times I served,” he said.

Murray noted that it’s up to the mayor to focus on economic development, and there’s plenty his administration has done to promote business growth.

“If you’re not paying attention to economic development, then you shouldn’t be mayor,” he said.

There are several companies in Cumberland because of the work of his administration, said Murray, including Rhode Island Textile.

Councilor Lisa Beaulieu, a Kane ally and Murray critic, said the formation of the economic development board might lead to a beneficial outcome. Beaulieu said it seems like “the only good committee” in Murray’s mind is the one the mayor appoints “that we don’t have any exposure to,” pointing to the mayor’s education advisory commission.

The council will seek people to serve on the economic development commission.

In defending his formation of his own education advisory commission, Murray said his responsibility is to protect all town taxpayers, “and not a select group.” He said he has multiple legal opinions stating that the committee can meet privately. He said it’s not his job to “dictate the running of our schools,” but feels an obligation to help solve the education funding situation.

Murray denied previous accusations from Salvatore claiming the mayor said he would get “rid of administrators” or “get rid of buses.” He said Salvatore’s characterization of the cell phones Blackstone Valley Prep teachers carry and the violins the school has as perks not afforded to the public schools was off, as the cell phones are free and the violins were purchased with a grant.

Murray said he will not resign from the BVP board of directors. BVP’s finances will also be reviewed by his blue ribbon advisory commission, he said.

If Salvatore would scrutinize the school budget like town officials look at their own, said Murray, “we would be much better off.”

Salvatore told the council he stood by his comments and commended the board for creating the new committee on education funding.

Jeremy Chiappetta, executive director of BVP, told the council the school’s goal is to help find solutions to funding issues, and staff have testified on fixing the formula. The ultimate goal, he said, is to see more money invested in all schools.

“We want to work together,” he said.

He commended Cumberland’s public schools for their educational gains, and said BVP doesn’t take credit for them.

Assertions by Salvatore that BVP is “somehow destroying the schools” of Cumberland are wrong, said Chiappetta, as evidenced by the continued progress of the town schools. BVP leaders have worked on partnerships with town schools that save money for everyone, he noted.

Chiappetta also took issue with Salvatore’s comments about cell phones and violins.

The phones are meant to increase family engagement, a strong focus at the charter school. Charter schools “invest differently” in education, he said. There’s “not one best way to run” schools, he said, and Cumberland parents have “two great school systems to choose from” for a “better and stronger Cumberland.”

Comments

How did BVP first graduating class score 108 points above the State average!!!
The original intent for the Charter School was to be a think tank to further education.
Form a committee to find out how the Charter School did this!!!!

Mr. Thibodeau
Maybe the charter can explain why the PARCC test results were below the Cumberland Public School?

Now that's a conversation to have, what happen?

Good let,s have the discussion and learn what works the best for our students.

Unfortunately, the public school department is no longer about what’s best for our students. It has become a political forum for egotistical mongers to wage their sword fights to gain the upper hand. They simply use our children as their pawns in their game to gain leverage on each other. If any of them were honestly concerned with providing the best for our children, they would climb down off their high horse and do the right thing…but, I’m not holding my breath. It’s an national embarrassment.