Saturday, October 16, 2010


SOS Portsmouth can not make endorsements for candidates for Town Council or School Committee. We encourage you to review our previous posts leading to the Budget Referendum on October 5th. We urge all school supporters to advocate for and support pro-school candidates. No standing on the sidelines - email some friends and ask them to email some more.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Education in 2010 and beyond

This video was linked to a Portsmouth Patch story yesterday. The challenges facing our students in a global economy are many. This video uses some "fun" facts to highlight our challenges.

In the next week you may hear of the Aquidneck Island Math & Science Academy or AIM for short. I have been interested and researching STEM education for some years, and I will put forth a proposal to develop a "model" Magnet School at Portsmouth High. Stay Tuned...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Final Tally

Precinct 2701 (Prudence Island Fire Station) — Option 1: 51; Option 2: 6

Precincts 2702 and 2703 (Portsmouth Multi Purpose Senior Center) — Option 1: 373; Option 2: 270

Precincts 2704 and 2705 (Common Fence Point Community Hall) — Option 1: 352; Option 2: 197

Precincts 2706, 2707 and 2708 (Portsmouth Town Hall) — Option 1: 604; Option 2: 514

Precincts 2709, 2710 and 2712 (Aquidneck Island Christian Academy) — Option 1: 818; Option 2: 703

The voters spoke in a clear voice. And, the voters absolutely believed they were voting correctly. There is a general tenor of distrust, of anger, and a natural defense to blame an individual or group. The PCC and certain candidates took advantage of that by seeding facts out of context, created innuendo regarding found money, and generally put enough negative in people's hands to play on these difficult times. We can't allow truth to take a back seat to political ideology; and, we need to stand vocally for those candidates that take the time to understand and speak the truth. I believe SOS and everyone associated with us has done that, and I am proud that we stood for an open and honest election.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Election Results

It is with great sadness that I report we have lost the referendum. I will have final numbers tomorrow. The margin was approximately 10%, and was represented across all Districts. I pray there are clear answers that I can not see at this time. This is not a time to pull back, but a time to fight for those candidates who truly support our schools in November.

Thank You everyone! A special thank you to our Poll Captains: John McDaid, Len Katzman, Marge Levesque, and Andrew Kelly.


Monday, October 4, 2010

One last thing to do!

The key to our success tomorrow is to:

  1. Get every registered family member to the polls by 8:00 PM.

  2. Drop ten friends an email - just remind them the Referendum is tomorrow.

  3. A positive outcome is not a victory but simply resetting the budget to "0"

  4. We will have workers at each Poll, come spend an hour with us
I hope to be able to report the results by 10:00 on Tuesday night. This referendum is now in the voters hands. We need absolutely every vote!

Finally, please do not forget the misinformation campaign come November. Lies do not build a Town it will destroy it!

It has been an honor to work with all you fine folks - THANK YOU!

Friday, October 1, 2010

PATCH response to Ms. Perrotti

For all of you tired of reading about the referendum, I am more than tired of correcting the misinformation campaign against it. The Portsmouth Voters are smart and I should leave well enough alone, but there is a lot at stake and I would hate to leave a loose end. If anyone would like to question my facts please challenge me, to date I see no comments on my previous opinion piece.

I write today to correct the misinformation in Ms. Perrotti’s PATCH Opinion piece. Just last night I had a discussion (more like words) with Ms. Perrotti of the real damage this misinformation has to people, jobs, reputation and our community. I believe this misinformation is purely politically driven, but you decide!

Last evening I had asked her to correct her facts on the Portsmouth High School graduation rate, one of her core platforms. Ms. Perrotti claim that only 86.6% of the class of 2009 graduated, down from 96.8% in 2006 simply does not hold up. What she fails to state is that the reporting formula changed in 2008. Further before she used this fact as a core platform, she should have fact checked further. So, I did it for her. I ask the principal at the High School for a report on 2009 graduates. The school opened the year with 228 seniors of which 212 received diplomas in June, 5 graduated this summer, and 3 are scheduled to graduate in the next few weeks. That is 95% currently and 96.5% with the new graduates. Portsmouth High School never gave up on these students and worked with them well past June. This is one more reason to praise our schools – well done seniors!

How about Little Compton; Little Compton pays its own Special Education, Transportation, Administration and would not participate, per se, in the debt burden of the schools. So the best comparison I can think of is the “General Education Expenditures for Instruction and Instructional Support Per Pupil, by District”. Portsmouth’s General Education expense was $6,880 in the Infoworks 2009 report. Now that today may be about $8,000, but I use this in comparison to Little Compton’s payment. More importantly, Ms. Perrotti’s math looks more like credit-default swaps than a logical determination of value. Little Compton paid in $919,350 in FY 2010, that’s $919,350 of revenue the town’s taxpayer didn’t have to fund. The number of students is slightly greater than 100, but the cost to our system is certainly not the per-pupil fee. Little Compton provides critical mass in our grades and classrooms, and their cost is incremental. It would be difficult to quantify, but I would conservatively guess roughly $.60 on the dollar or $551,610 (I really think it is closer to $0.40 and $367,740). So by actual numbers I premise that Portsmouth is generating $367,740 in “profit”. That’s $367,740 that the tax payers do not pay.

Purchase of supplies; the school administration harps all year long on each department and school that they can only spend a % of their allocated budget. When I was on the school committee I think it was 80%, but I think it is far stricter these past few years. They squeeze as tight as they can to get through the year. Given the age of our buildings, and the propensity of our kids to use lots of toilet paper (used to the double rolls at home), the budget is horded for as long as possible through the year. Purchasing $60,000 at the end of the year is prudent – it didn’t get sold out the back of the Admin Building, it was used the following year to stretch that budget line-item the same way. A glass can be half empty or half full! This was budgeted, it was used for the proper purpose, and it certainly was not wasted (well you know what I mean). Making the jump from supplies to art education simply bears no comparison.

As to the budget, just three weeks ago Ms. Perrotti asked for the definition of Title I, a core Federal revenue line-item. I don’t mean to disparage but the budget process started last March and you are asking basic questions after the vote in September? BTW the answer she was directed to was in the Annual Budget Book. There were literally 40+ hours of public meetings focused on this budget. If you have attended a School Committee meeting Ms. Perrotti asks plenty of questions, I do not understand why she could not have asked for any detail needed. The problem may lie in her approach – always looking for that smoking gun.

Teacher ratios I do not have statistics on, but do understand that each student takes five classes, specials, sports, band etc. This is a statistic that looked good on the calculator but will never hold up to inspection.

I enjoyed my time on the School Committee because we focused on positive results. We didn’t have much to spend but we got a great return on our investment. (The republicans like ROI!)

PATCH response to Mr. Robicheau

We all live in a wonderful town with an incredible group of dedicated professionals in our schools. Most of you had the good fortune to send your children through the school system.

Just yesterday, the Portsmouth High School was awarded for having the highest proficiency in Rhode Island in the NECAP science assessment. This is a true achievement. We can both be proud of the education offered and the value we receive as taxpayers in Portsmouth. Do you know we spend thousands less per student than our neighboring communities Middletown and Newport. We are consistently in the bottom fifth in cost of education, yet we deliver in the top fifth year after year.

These past few days, the referendum has certainly been in the news and on our lips. As I said to Patch last night, even the negative serves the purpose of beginning a debate. I have had to spend an inordinate amount of my time these past few days being the fact police. I don't believe the average Portsmouth voter is naïve and I believe the use of misinformation is destructive to one's argument. The opposition to the referendum is misleading the community as to the risks of not voting for the additional monies, case in point Mr. Robicheau's current Opinion piece in Patch.

The school administration did report that they have ended the year with a surplus of between $200,000 and $400,000. A final figure will be reported by the auditor later this fiscal year, as often line-items are changed as part of the audit process. $200,000 of those funds will be earmarked for the FY2012 budget, as we did with a similar surplus last year. Mr. Robicheau's figure of $500,000 is exaggerated, but that's not my biggest gripe.

The school budget presently has a structural deficit of $765,000, meaning that to deliver a full school experience, we need these funds added to the core budget. Using one time dollars fills the hole for this year but not following years. Doing so this year in light of the $2,070,000 that will be cut from State Education Aid beginning next year ($207,000) would only put us in the hole $765,000 + $207,000 or $972,000 going into next year's budget.

Mr. Robicheau's argument that these one-time dollars should cover this year's deficit is financially shortsighted and politically expedient. This would leave the schools in crisis next year.

Speaking of one-time dollars, let's talk about Medicaid funds. While we have on account $428,000 we have budgeted $500,000 in revenue, so technically we presently have a $72,000 deficit. Now that will correct itself and we do expect to have a couple hundred thousand in account at year end. The problem here is two-fold: it's one-time money which will not solve a structural deficit and it is our reserve just in case.

What is a just in case moment, say a new family with a special needs child moves to Portsmouth, we will need to draw from these funds to pay for his/her education. Mr. Robicheau's argument would be advising you to take your emergency home account and wipe it out. Short term actions can have a more serious long term implication to our town.

Finally, they wish to paint the referendum proponents in the negative. But let me leave the reader with this thought: if we underfund our schools we will face a more serious and costly correction in the year or years ahead. We have been open and honest with the people of Portsmouth, there is no sleight of hand or smoke just a system that has been under attack for the better part of 10 years. If I were to see the future I see better contracts, changes in retirement, and increased revenue by being creative and entrepreneurial. We don't get there unless we have an honest investment in education.