Budget Commission considers East Providence Schools issues

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EAST PROVIDENCE — During its usual bi-weekly meeting held Thursday afternoon, Oct. 4, at City Hall, the East Providence Budget Commission considered various issues, including a few related to the School Department.

The Commission approved the personnel actions taken by Interim Superintendent Dr. John DeGoes and Interiim Human Resources Director Heather Martino. Among those was the surprise resignation of John Craig as Martin Middle School Assistant Principal, who according to sources is leaving the district for a similar position in Connecticut.

Mr. Craig’s departure just a month into his tenure is a bit startling only because of the timing. He was unceremoniously relieved of his position as an East Providence High School Assistant Principal at the end of the 2010-11 term, but later filed and eventually won a grievance of his dismissal with the State Department of Education.

The case was decided late this summer, and Mr. Craig was brought back into the department’s administration as an assistant to new MMS Principal Frank DeVall Jr. in time for the start of the ’12-13 term. His position at Martin will not be filled. Mr. DeVall and his other assistant, Cheri Guerra, will administer the school as a tandem.

As Mr. Craig departs, his case against the School Department remains open. School Committee Legal Counsel Bob Silva and Mrs. Martino confirmed the department is in negotiations with Mr. Craig’s attorneys to settle the case out of court. Mr. Craig is likely due back pay and other restitution as a result of his wrongful dismissal.

Also from the schools, the Commission heard a request from Mrs. Martino and Dr. DeGoes to implement an emergency hiring policy for the department. The Commission, upon a recommendation from member and City Manager Peter Graczykowski, agreed a comprehensive emergency hiring for the entire city should soon be formulated.

The last bit of school business pertained to the Commission’s proposal to consolidate the legal counsel for both the department and the city as a whole. Dr. DeGoes, as he was instructed to do at the Sept. 25 School Committee meeting, voiced that body’s displeasure on the matter, which drew the ire of former Commission chairman Michael O’Keefe.

As he had earlier Thursday during a discussion of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget and Special Education policy/expenditures, Mr. O’Keefe excoriated the School Committee. He said, “It appalls me that the School Committee doesn’t even want to consider something that could save money.”

Mr. O’Keefe sarcastically continued he was sure the Committee could provide the Commission with numerous reports of how having separate legal representation helps students improve in the classroom.

He added, “If it isn’t shown to improve educational achievement then it must be a turf issue.”

Plans are likely to remain in motion for the Commission to follow through on a Request For Proposal (RFP) from law firms to represent the School Department and the city under a consolidated structure, while still allowing either side to seek outside counsel when needed or when a conflict of interest arises.

In other business, the Commission, as it has on a number of occasions in the last several months, rescinded a recent City Council vote in favor of providing the Columbus Club of East Providence tax exempt status.

The Commission approved three requests. The Fire Department was given the authority to use some $115,000 in Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) money, offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for the purchase of much-needed new hoses.

The Fire and Police Departments also received permission to have the construction of a Secure Dock Facility at Bold Point go out to bid.

The Commission also gave the go-ahead for the use of $100,000 in CDBG-Disaster relief program money towards a project to improve flow of the Runnins River. City Director of Planning Jeanne Boyle told the Commission when consultants are hired and the permit process in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts are complete, it’s likely the dredging process should begin by spring of next year.

The last action taken by the Commission was the approval to hire temporary support staff for Mrs. Martino in the Human Resources Department. The amount paid for the services cannot exceed $8,000. It should also be noted the search to find a permanent HR Director is underway. The position has officially been advertised as open.

The Commission tabled a move on a resolution requesting the advancement of state education aid payments from April of 2013 to Dec. 1, 2012. There was debate among the members whether the resolution was necessary. Also discussed was the need to begin the process of seeking Tax Anticipation Notes (TANs) while awaiting the state aid package.

Two other proposals were also tabled. One involved giving Mr. Graczykowski or the City Manager the ability to enter into PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) agreements and to represent the city in those negotiations with certain organizations. The second was a discussion of a Streetlight Management program, which was to be presented by Public Works Director Stephen Coutu and Mr. Graczykowski.

The next Budget Commission meeting takes place at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at City Hall. The meeting precedes the second and final public hearing on the proposed Fiscal Year 2013 city budget.

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11 Comments

  1. Tom Terrace said:

    Why would they allow John Craig to leave? EP has lost 2 great administrators. Ms. Roy who was one of the best principals in recent years is now a principal in Coventry. Jen Roy wanted to come back to EP but Sheehan forced Roy and Craig out because she wanted her buddy Deblois back. Now John Craig will make a boatload off of EP and we are still stuck with Sheehan who walks out of EPHS at 2:55. I haven’t seen her at a single game aside from one football game. I’ve said it once and i will say it again. it is time for a change.

      • billsmith said:

        I hear the reason Mr. Craig was terminated was …..yes, incompetence! Shocking I know, but sometimes employees don’t do the job befitting their responsibilities and it takes a strong leader to call them out. The proof of leadership is in the proverbial “pudding.” Ms. Sheehan has moved the scores, rallied the (mostly) excellent teaching staff and and earned the support and respect of EP’s students. Sounds pretty darned good to me. Some communities should be as lucky to have such a dedicated Principal. In fact, I suspect she’ll be scooped up soon for greener pastures….

        • Tom Terrace said:

          She has so much disdain for the community that she didn’t even show up for the Homecoming Dance. My daughter and her friends noticed. Not a lot of respect or support from many people.

          • billsmith said:

            So you were a chaperone and were there yourself?

            Why do parents expect their childrens’ teachers to do their jobs? You should do your research on what you are paying your town’s dedicated administrators and perhaps you’ll gain some insight……

          • Townie Teacher said:

            The town’s dedicated administrators are compensated well for the amount of hours they put in. One doesn’t want the responsibility of doing observations because she will have to spend time at the school. It makes sense that if you have the lowest paid teachers, you should have the lowest paid administrators. Those 3 year contracts will be up soon, though.

  2. Steve Furtado said:

    Mr. O’Keefe failed to acknowledge the report submitted to the budget commission by the school committee sub-committee. In the report we stated that we would be receptive to an RFP that included options for a law firm to represent either the school department, or the city.
    Included in the report were the facts that the school committee has reduced their legal costs by over 50% in the past 18 months! Also that the school committee legal bil ammounts to just 23% of the total city bill!
    Clearly any new savings would most likely be on the city side!
    Any “turf war” seems to be on the part of the Budget Commission seeking to impose their will on the elected school committee.

  3. Townie Teacher said:

    Teachers at EP are still upset that Jen Roy did not come back. She was by far the best principal that was here in the past few years. Yes, she did want to come back because she had a real love for the community and the kids. If we are lucky, she will come back as principal and soon.

  4. Zevard Wilson said:

    Is it a surprise that Sheehan is no good? Cirillo stacked the deck to hire her because he knew she would do his bidding. She got fired from her last job (or rather the position was eliminated…yeah sure). The house cleaning has been in process for 2 years now, but it all will be resolved in time.

    • billsmith said:

      See above…. You should look beyond your “townie” myopic glasses to get your facts straight. No doubt you are a seasoned administrator in academia???? (cricket….cricket….cricket…)

  5. Felixx said:

    The Budget Commission has been here for almost a year now. The Budget Process didn’t start until about three weeks ago. They have been so busy sticking their nose in the city politics and worrying about who has been appointed to what committee or commission that the most important feature was neglected until now. A balanced budget.
    It’s time for them to move on. We’ve had enough of the sharp comments, enough of the pillaging of our school department, enough of the decisions that best suit them and not the people of this city. We have to live here after they are done cutting us to the quick in all the wrong places. They get to go home to Seekonk, North Providence and so on without losing an hour of sleep over little old East Providence or the mess they are leaving behind.
    Our schools are a disaster and they cut the school budget by $4 million. Our kids haven’t got the necessary equipment or tools to learn the new curriculum coming next year. Our parks and recs department will surely be eliminated with the new self-funding mandate as they need to produce $315,000 per year which will mean raises in all fees to our citizens to use the parks and recreation facilities. Our water bills are through the roof, our car taxes are outrageous, our property taxes are sky high, they have done nothing to promote economic growth, they’ve done nothing to generate new revenue except cut our homestead exemptions, nothing to improve our roads, nothing to fix our infrastructure and we can’t even go sit at a park to collect our thoughts because we won’t have anyone to maintain them. Oh, wait, let me guess, we can outsource it right? Bring in a hack private company and pay illegals to mow the grass. A much better plan. Yes, let’s do that instead.
    We will have a new council soon enough and we should all say a novena that the next council has the fortitude to send this Budget Commission on their way. We’ve had enough.

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