I’m appalled by a lot of things.
I’m appalled by the 38 Studios debacle.
I’m appalled by the contracts issued by the last East Providence City Council and School Committee.
I’m appalled by 10 percent unemployment in the state and that we’re not friendly to business.
I’m appalled that we will be losing FULL Day K and closing Oldham School, and possibly more.
And I’m appalled at the use of the word “appalled” by a Budget Commission member at the state-appointed commission’s Oct. 4 meeting when discussing our desire as a School Committee to maintain our legal counsel independent of the city.
We as a city and a state have much more serious things to be appalled at than what state law and the Department of Education both say is our legal right as a School Committee.
Even as the Budget Commission attempts to consolidate the legal affairs of the city and the schools, I would anticipate the newly-elected School Committee following the November election would put a Request for Proposal for its legal matters. And I believe they would be in their right to do so, especially considering the inherent conflict-of-interest that comes with one law firm attempting to represent both sides.
I don’t want to speak for them, but if it were me I would urge the rest of the School Committee to do it. Legal representation for the schools should be in place for things like a possible Caruolo Action or Maintenance of Efforts suits are brought against the School Department.
It is also important because of frequent Special Education cases the department is presented where legal representation is required. Quite often, we’re dealing with the same children and parents. Without separate legal services we will lose the institutional knowledge if there is no longer continuity of counsel.
I will concede in the past the School Department has been too lenient in granting certain requests. Those requests could have been answered in a less expensive way.
We in East Providence have always had a large Special Education in comparison to the rest of the state. Nobody denies that. But if someone already living in the city or if someone new moves in and meets the requirements, we must provide them with certain basic services according to the IDEA Act of 1975.
With all do respect to the Budget Commission, we do not have any control over the population. Yes, we must be more vigilant in our oversight of Special Education, but on the other hand we also must abide by federal law.
It’s easy to be appalled by lots of things. It’s much more difficult to find solutions we all can agree upon.
Charlie Tsonos is the current School Committee Chairman and former Democratic candidate for the General Assembly District 63 seat.