Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education Meeting

Matthew Kazas

On December 3rd I attended the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education meeting, which was held at the Lincoln High School and started at 4:07pm. The Board members in attendance were Robert G. Flanders, Patrick A. Guida, Colleen A. Callahan, Amy Beretta, Anna Caro-Morales, Angus Davis, Karin Forbes, and Betsy P. Shimberg. Joining them was Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Education, and David V. Abbot, Deputy Commissioner of Education.

The first thing listed on the agenda was the Commissioner’s report. Gist started her report by commenting on the "Development of the boards support for starting a RI school for the deaf". Referring to development of the school for the deaf, she said: "We are making progress in terms of identifying individuals to serve on the board and are feeling very encouraged at the turnout so far."

After the Commissioner’s report it was time for the second item listed on the agenda, which was "Public Remarks". Most of the public remarks came from teachers, students and parents opposing the six-period day that Superintendent Tom Brady is trying to impose upon all of the city’s high schools.

John Welch, CEO of Innovative Health Care Plans, was the one of the two people to not speak about the six-period schedule change. Instead he said: "My suggestion is for the Regents to co-host with the Rhode Island Association of School Committees a presentation on a program called PAL that saved the Chicago school system $60 million and only cost $250,000. I think with the 150,000 students in Rhode Island this calculates into over a $14 million savings…"

Welch didn’t give any explanation about what PAL was, nor did he pass out any documents with further information.

The one other person to speak about something other then the schedule change was Mary Ryan, who has four children who were all homeschooled. Ryan said: "I received the Strategic Plan Draft about five days ago, and first I would like to ask that you seriously consider giving some more time before finalizing it."

The draft she was referring to was the RIDE Strategic Plan Draft and can be found here: The Draft was released for public comment on Nov 25th and, according to a Providence Journal article written by Jennifer D. Jordan on the 23rd of November, was to be endorsed at the Dec 3rd meeting. Later, Gist mentioned that there had never been a plan to finalize the Draft at this meeting, and that the finalization would most likely happen sometime during January.

Mrs. Ryan went on to say "One of the things I was concerned about is that it’s a constitutional right for parents to direct the education of their children. But throughout this document--other than one piece of it--there is no mention of parental involvement. There are also one or two clauses talking about how the directives would be reaching out to the families and students to tell them what their options were [based upon] proven pathways, and I feel that is encroaching on the authority of the parents."

She also mentioned her concern about how the draft seems to imply the standardization of younger children, ages three to four, to be ready for Pre-K.

After the Public Remarks section was over, a large majority of the people in the room left, leaving only eight or nine-- about four of those being reporters. This means that there was no one from the general populace to comment positively or negatively on any of the items for approval. Some of the items on the list for approval include: The 2010 revised budget and the 2011 budget, The Table of Organization, The Educator code of Responsibility and the Educator Evaluation Standards. All of these items were approved by the board with no comment from the few people left in the room.

The second to last thing listed on the agenda was the Strategic Plan update, which consisted of Gist reiterating some of things that she wants the Draft to change in the school system, giving a small list of word changes on the Draft, and speaking about how she had visited several families that were concerned with the Draft.

The last thing on the agenda was the Race to the Top update. The update was an explanation of how Gist has worked with the Strategic Plan to have it work alongside the Race to the Top. To learn more about the Race to the Top and how it affects Rhode Island, or to become a little more well-versed with Rhode Island's educational system, attend any of the upcoming Board of Regents meetings. A list of future meetings can be found here:


1 comment:

  1. Note above you say: "All of these items were approved by the board with no comment from the few people left in the room."

    You misunderstand how public meetings work. Rhode Island public meetings have a period of "Public Comment" at the beginning of the meeting. Then the public body goes about its work of taking votes and making decisions. The public body is not able to get into a dialog with the public during the course of its voting as it would be a violation of the open meeting laws of the state.