Lombardi: Town should manage school finances

Lombardi: Town should manage school finances

Educators defend their work, autonomy

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Mayor Charles Lombardi, upset at what he sees as mismanagement within the North Providence School Department, says school officials should turn over management of their finances to the town and stick solely to the education side.

Supt. Joseph Goho and School Committee Chairman Frank Pallotta are defending their work, saying they’re managing the district’s finances through proper oversight.

Goho says Lombardi’s statements about the district paying two people for one job, new Director of Finance Lisa Casinelli and interim Finance Director John Crowley, is inaccurate. He said it hasn’t been determined yet whether Crowley will be paid during an interim period after Casinelli officially comes aboard.

Lombardi previously cited Goho’s assertion that Crowley would be paid $600 per day to help “keep the ship afloat” for at least a month during a transition.

“We would have done it for nothing,” he said of town employees taking on the extra load.

Goho said he made that statement at a meeting two weeks ago when he wasn’t fully aware of when Casinelli would start.

“The new finance director has to provide departure notice to Barrington Public Schools and will start working in North Providence in the middle of November, at which time the interim finance director will depart after a brief and appropriate transition,” he said.

Once former Finance Director Ronald Gonsalves informed officials of his resignation, “we moved expeditiously to secure an experienced interim finance director (Crowley) to ensure uninterrupted and proper oversight of the budget,” he added. “The School Department is in capable hands with Mr. Crowley and, in addition, we were fortunate to find a highly qualified candidate for the permanent position, who also happens to be an invested town resident.”

Goho said he couldn’t say whether Crowley will be paid alongside Casinelli. He said he hasn’t said whether Crowley will be paid for his work, as Crowley has simply indicated that Casinelli will be able to call him at any time after she starts for help and guidance.

The School Committee and School Department have accomplished a great deal in the district “by working with the town as a team, and in a respectful and fiscally responsible manner,” added Goho in a statement. “We look forward to that partnership continuing in the best interest of students, families, and taxpayers.”

Lombardi emphasized that Goho was clear about Crowley staying on to support Casinelli in an interim capacity.

He said if school officials had just followed his advice to not hire Gonsalves, who left last month after questions about missed deadlines on workers’ compensation, and instead have existing staff run the finances, or if school officials would just let the town fill the gaps as requested a number of times, the department would not need an interim director at whatever it ends up costing taxpayers.

The district has had anything but a stellar track record on hiring in recent years, said the mayor.

School Committee Chairman Frank Pallotta, in a letter to the editor this week, is defending the School Department’s autonomy in making hiring and firing decisions. He noted that the finance department is still operating with the same number of people it’s run with for the past 10 years, and that it was reorganized for efficiency.

He rebuffed the earlier assertion by Lombardi that the department is in shambles, saying officials have created stability by hiring qualified people to manage a level-funded budget. He said the School Committee has saved more than $200,000 over the past nine months through a variety of moves.

“As always, we will continue to work with all branches of government to ensure that taxpayers’ dollars are expended judiciously and efficiently, and to provide an appropriate education for all our children,” he said.

Goho, at the September meeting, noted a “laundry list” of successes by the department, including completing redistricting and the appeals process, creating a new transportation plan, re-staffing the entire district thanks to redistricting, negotiating a new teacher contract, completing multiple school construction projects and moving two swing space schools, filling 60 vacant positions, hiring several new administrators, implementing state testing, and developing budgets, and reorganizing the central office, among others.

“Other than a few bumps, they all went off swimmingly, surprising even myself we handled all of this, with so many new people, so efficiently and effectively,” he said.

Comments

I am very concerned that the Mayor wants to take over the financial operations of the school department, particularly with the town comptroller being Ms. Maria Vallee, who has had her fair share of dubious involvements with the law around money issues. I think she makes Bridget Morisseau look like an angel!