November 9, 2007

Foster Glocester – Regional School Panel to Cut Local Duties

By Philip Marcelo; Journal Staff Writer

The committee that runs the Ponaganset schools says it's time to let Glocester administer its elementary schools.

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GLOCESTER - The Foster-Glocester Regional School Committee has ordered the regional school district administration to relinquish control of the Glocester elementary schools because, some members say, that work has distracted the administration from its primary responsibility, the high school and middle school.

The committee voted 5 to 4 at a meeting Tuesday night to divest the superintendent, business manager and clerical staff of the regional school district from the duties of the Glocester School Department.

The order is effective by, at the latest, June 30, or as soon as the Glocester School Committee establishes a new administrative staff.

Four committee members from Glocester - Kelly Hunter, Wynette Dahlquist, Christopher Hebert, and Mark Baker - voted against the proposal.

"This is a step backwards," Baker said yesterday. "Rather than pulling three separate school districts [Foster, Glocester, and Foster-Glocester Regional] together into one unit, we are separating duties into even smaller pieces. It's ridiculous."

Tuesday's vote was the culmination of efforts by Foster members of the committee who felt that the regional school district's relationship with the Glocester school system put Foster residents at a disadvantage, according to Regional School Committee Co-Chair Ronald Cervasio, who also is from Foster.

In the past year, the regional school district administration has clashed with the Glocester Town Council and the local teachers' union.

The Glocester council in February sent a letter to the Glocester School Committee and the Foster-Glocester Regional School Committee requesting Regional School Supt. Mario F. Cirillo's dismissal. Last September, the 66-member Glocester teachers' union issued a vote of no confidence in Cirillo, citing a number of unresolved grievances.

"The Glocester schools are at war with the town. The superintendent spends half of his time at Glocester. It has to stop," Cervasio said yesterday. "He should only have to focus on problems of the region."

Baker and other committee members from Glocester aren't convinced that the move will end the in-fighting and pointed out that the move may hurt Cirillo's efforts to create grade school curriculums that better prepare students for a middle and high school education. Cirillo did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

Cervasio says that making the Glocester elementary schools independent from the regional school district puts the two towns on equal financial footing.

The Foster School Department manages Capt. Isaac Paine, the town's lone elementary school, but it does so by hiring a part-time superintendent, Robert Wallace, at a cost of $49,000 a year.

Glocester's elementary schools, Fogarty Memorial and West Glocester, in contrast, have been run by the regional school district since it was created in the 1960s. The Town of Glocester, until recently, paid the region a lump sum of $170,000 for the administration of its schools, according to Baker.

But this fall, the Glocester Town Council took over the finances of the School Department, a process that's to be completed by next month.

Cervasio argues that the town is paying $10,000 for the superintendent's current role. "Glocester's saving a bunch of money and they're getting what amounts to a full-time consulting firm," he said.

Foster-Glocester Regional School Committee Co-Chair and Glocester School Committee member Kelly Hunter said the Glocester School Department is looking at a $60,000 to $70,000 expense for a part- time superintendent, when benefits are considered.

It comes at a time when elementary schools are particularly strapped. The Glocester council cut $156,000 from the local schools proposed budget and state aid for school was level-funded by the General Assembly, preventing the department from investing in new textbooks, she said.

The Glocester School Committee will take up the issue of hiring a superintendent at its meeting on Nov. 20. Said Hunter: "It's a hell of a burden. It's devastating."

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