City Council rips school board for decisions

City Council rips school board for decisions

PAWTUCKET - The recent amicable relationship between the City Council and School Committee appears to be a thing of the past after council members leveled heavy criticism at the school board for its recent decisions.

Council members, led by Larry Tetreault, are voicing their displeasure on a number of issues, including:

• The July 25 decision from the Attorney General's office confirming a complaint from The Valley Breeze that the school board violated the Open Meetings Act by holding an illegal closed-door session on Feb. 11 and must release the minutes from that meeting.

• The fact that school officials have sought a delay in releasing the minutes from the Feb. 11 meeting, where committee members voted on a transition plan for a new superintendent. Council members questioned why school board members might consider "hiding behind an appeal" instead of releasing the meeting minutes.

• The transfer of leadership from former Supt. Deborah Cylke to new Supt. Patti DiCenso, which kept Cylke on as a consultant at her $159,000 salary.

• And the award of a bid for a food service contract to Sodexo instead of Chartwells, a decision that went against a subcommittee recommendation for Chartwells, a company that offered a better financial package to the district.

According to Tetreault, "it makes it difficult to rely on their judgment" when school board members make decisions that have a sometimes "dire impact on what we do as a council." The board acts independently of the council but almost every decision it makes affects the entire city, said Tetreault, especially its budget.

Council members are calling on leaders of the School Committee to meet with them to explain why certain decisions are being made.

School Committee Chairman Michael Araujo said he is "saddened and disappointed" by the comments made by some members of the council.

"I have advocated for a positive, professional and respectful relationship between City Hall, the Pawtucket City Council and the Pawtucket School Committee," he said. "I can confidently say that the School Committee has given the City Council the respect I believe an elected body should be given as they make decisions that they were elected to make with the hopes that it would be reciprocated."

As has been demonstrated with "the unprecedented sharing of services" between the Pawtucket School Department and the city, as well as in the budgetary ad hoc committee meetings he has been part of, Araujo said he has "seen that relationship grow."

"Therefore, despite my disappointment, I will not waver in my commitment to move forward in a positive, professional and respectful manner in regards to the relationship between the Pawtucket School Committee and the City Council for the betterment of our students and our city," he said.

City Councilor Thomas Hodge said he shares Tetreault's "bewilderment" about the decisions being made by the School Committee.

"I don't understand how they've done these things either," he said.

Council President David Moran said he was especially "troubled" about the decision to go with Sodexo over Chartwells, saying the move sends "a very mixed message" on school finances.

Councilor Tim Rudd said Tetreault "hit a home run" with his speech about his "continued and mounting concern about the inner workings and decision-making of the city's other elected board." Rudd said he thinks the ongoing "mismanagement" on the part of the school board shows that members might need some help running Pawtucket schools.


I wish I could comment on Mr. Spooner's letter to the editor directly, but I will make my comments here as they are still related to this story.

I feel that the City Council and it's entire membership has the right and AUTHORITY to question the actions of the School Committee, especially when it comes to contract related decisions. The School Committee has the ability to negotiate contracts with vendors such as the food service provider with the best interest of the citizens of Pawtucket in mind. However, they do not have the ability to increase the funds coming into the City or School Department budget to pay for a more expensive contract that a self-appointed sub-committee did not suggest. The City Council and Mayor will get left with the "blame" of raising taxes while the School Committee can boast about a "successful contract." I think it is completely absurd that someone, especially someone as experienced in city government as Mr. Spooner, would not realize that.

I for one appreciate the “watch dog” mentality that Mr. Rudd and Tetreault take for the Pawtucket Taxpayers. I hope that the “new look” School Committee with 5 new members will start to move in the right direction and take true responsibility for their actions, the first time!

I fully agree with you except for one small comment, "5 new members". I'm hoping that the new school committee will consist of 7 new members. Re-electing anyone from the current school committee would only cost the taxpayers more than the hundreds of thousands they have already wasted.

Our city council has more then a right they have an obligation to the taxpayers to hold the school committee accountable. We have so many hard working taxpayers that can't keep up with every movement of this elected body. We must have the checks and balances in place to call out the low blow moves and get answers.

Mr.Araujo "saddened and disappointed" really? Because you can't handle being called out? After this I am angry and disgusted with the school committee.

I share a similar wish to AvidReader's that I could comment directly to Councilor Tetreault's letter but this story is related and discusses the Open Meetings Act violations and unethical campaigning from the Council floor I want to discuss.

Larry Tetreault is an expert on the ‘yes sir’ approach and voting as he’s told since he is only a puppet of Alan and Charlotte Tavares. One of the worst kept secrets on that Council is that Mr. Tetreault reads scripts prepared for him by Alan. They even had to bring Tavares in as their “fiscal analyst” to baby sit Mr. Tetreault at Council meetings to make sure he stays on script.

I try to watch every City Council meeting on TV, and when I watched the last one it was pretty apparent to that Mr. Tetreault was using the Council meeting to politically grandstand and try and damage his opponent. However, his script, likely another Tavares special, was careful not to mention Sandra Cano by name so he could play like he had actual concerns and wasn’t abusing his position at a City Council meeting to campaign.

The commentary from Mr. Tetreault in today’s Valley Breeze definitively proves though that his lengthy comments on a topic that was not posted on the City Council’s agenda were entirely politically motivated.

I call on Ethan Shorey to continue to stand up for open government and file both an OMA complaint about the illegal discussion and vote held by the Council about the topic and an ethics violation with the Ethics Commission about Mr. Tetreault campaigning from a Council meeting on August 6.

The article in this week's VB about Open Communication, is this a joke? And you want respect? Start respecting the citizens of Pawtucket, stop wasting taxpayer's money and "man-up" on the contents of the secret meeting.

This story is unfortunate. There are many residents who have not taken the time to read our City Charter. Clearly our Charter authorizes the Council to investigate and research what occurs in the Departments of City government. The Schools are a part of the Executive and/or Administrative branch of Pawtucket government. As such they function under our Charter. It does appear that some think they function independent of oversight. Our Council is the branch of City government tasked with the power to investigate and get answers for the voters in matters of public outcry and concern. Fortunately the roles of our Executive and Legislative parts of City government should be a system of checks and balances, not a system of hidden and unclear agendas.I applaud the Council's oversight.
Joseph C. Knight


Have you filed those complaints about Larry with the Ethics Commission and the Attorney General's Office yet?

Pertaining to Mr. Knight's comments, what is equally unfortunate to not knowing the City Charter, is not knowing Rhode Island law which clearly states, "The entire care, control, and management of all public school interests of the several cities and towns shall be vested in the school committees…" Rhode Island law trumps the City Charter and certainly overrides personal opinions. And while the City Council has the legal authority to review and even veto contracts and the budget as a whole, they do not have any authority over individual budget items.
This is the same system of "checks and balances" by which the Governor and the General Assembly function. It is called democracy and it works. The good of the whole supersedes the advantage to one person.
The only "hidden or unclear agenda" going on here is political and it is a flagrant abuse and yes unethical, of certain members of the council's position and power. It is not for the good of the whole. It is not for the good of our children, our taxpayers, or our city. It is a blatant attempt to discredit a political rival, and I truly believe the good voters of this city, who perhaps have not memorized the City Charter, know fully well the purpose behind these attacks. I too urge Mr. Shorey to file a complaint.

I am very aware of Title 16. I am also aware that Pawtucket has a home rule charter. When the Charter is approved by the General Assembly,the home rule charter is the governing document. So while your comment is appreciated it is also quite possibly both inaccurate and misleading.

Joseph c. Knight

For those of you that want an unwarranted violations complaint, I think we first need to focus on the complaint AND ruling that has yet to be complete. How about "urging" the School Committee to comply with the AG's office and release the 6 month old illegal minutes. Then we can move on to this so called violation in the City Council chambers.