Cranston News on Concrete and Education

Jesse from Cranston writes with some news, predictions, and opinions on the Cranston scene:

Just wanted to remind you that the city council will be taking up Emilio’s resolution on the $1.9 m proposed payment to Cullion. I’m sure many people will want to attend this meeting.

Here’s a news flash for you: The school committee has issued a letter to the City Council requesting $3.8 million in additional funding, and formally threatening a Caruolo action if the city does not comply. People will probably hear about this for the first time Monday night, as the ProJo generally does not print local news on Mondays — so now you have a scoop.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the school board’s letter is talked about on Monday. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Council tries to discuss 1.) the $1.9 million figure and how it was reached; 2.) the supposed $4 million cost of further litigation; and 3.) the potential for officially declaring the permit invalid and going to Superior Court for summary judgment. This would leave Cullion with no permit, worthless land, and no settlement.

Here’s the potential information that could come to light:

1.) The $1.9 is incorrectly based on an assessment that assumes an industrial use — which the land is not zoned for. Assessing the land based on open space would lower that figure substantially, and such a move has precedent in a recent state case in North Kingstown. One issue here is, the assessments were discussed in executive session (as allowed under Open Meeting Law exemptions for litigation), and the city lawyers may object to discussing them publicly.

2.) The $4 million was Judge Weisberger’s estimate. Considering how rarely judges agree, this figure is somewhat suspect, and I feel, quite misleading.

3.) Council President Garabedian previously said at a public meeting last March that he thought the mayor didn’t have the authority to withdraw the permit, based on reviewing only local zoning statutes. But looking strictly at the City Charter and state law, he may be ready to admit that his earlier assessment was wrong and support a new tack by the Council.

And now, a final bit of opinion…

Given the fact that the city has so many judgments hanging over it — the Prov Water deal, the Valley settlement, and the Caruolo suit — it makes little financial sense to fork over nearly $2 million to a company that got an illegal permit in the first place. Going to court based on the Charter and state law would result in a comparably quick decision, since it would go to Superior Court for summary judgment. In cases like that, the sides stipulate to a set of facts (as opposed to arguing over them), and the judge makes a ruling. I’m not sure what the precedent is for appeals of these decisions.

And for those wondering about Kmareka’s technical difficulties, we have finally put to death the mighty spam monster from hell, but it appears that our database may have lost a few functions in the process, which may mean starting a new database. For now, comments are back open.

Plan to Increase 6th Grade Classes at Eden Park Nixed

PTO President for Eden Park Elementary School, Liz Iacobucci, provided the following update on Wednesday regarding the 6th grade move. The school committee has backed off on its plan to send Waterman’s 6th grade to Eden Park. From the email:

Parents,

Yesterday Deb Griefer visited Eden Park to see for herself the conditions of the portable classroom and basement. She was to bring back her findings to the school committee meeting held last night. I was in attendance at that meeting and every single member on the school committee questioned Peter Nero (Assistant Superintendent) if Eden Park in fact did have the proper space to house yet two more classes. I am happy to say that our e-mails did make a difference in this case. The decision was made to keep 6th grade at Waterman and send AM and PM Waterman kindergarten to Garden City.

The reason in which Garden City was not considered to house the 6th grade from Waterman is because Garden City has 3 available classrooms. Two of those classes rooms will be for their own 6th grade classes so they are left with only one additional classroom. Since both AM and PM kindergarten only need one class room, they all agreed that the better move with be to bus the kindergarten children.

I must add that Peter Nero did say that when he went to Eden Park, the basement was used as classrooms and there would be no reason why it couldn’t be used again if needed. He did not agree that they were unsuitable for classroom use. Which leads me to believe that when they propose all day kindergarten, somebody will end up in the basement. (I disagree with him, I believe they are unsuitable for a 6 hour day for children) That will have to be another fight for another time.

For now it looks like this. The library will be moved to the portables and the current library room will be used as one 6th grade class. The reading room will either go back down to the basement, along with guidance, resource, and speech therapy, or move to the other side of the portable, and the current reading room will be used as the second 6th grade class.
Music and Art will be on a cart and rolled into each individual class. The portable will continue to be used for team meetings, choir, strings, instrumental such as flute, clarinet ect.. as well as shared with, library and possibly reading.

I will continue to keep you updated.

Thank you for your e-mails to the school committee. In this case, they really made a difference.

Liz

I am grateful for such a dedicated PTO President. The parents of the kindergarteners and first graders at Waterman are obviously not going to be happy about this.

Stormy Weather on the Stock Exchange

I shouldn’t gloat. It’s like cutting off my nose to spite my face. Because when Wall Street sneezes, working people get pneumonia.

But I remember that film clip from ‘Fahrenheit 9/11′, when President Bush is in a tuxedo talking to his base, ‘the haves, and the have mores’. I wonder if his popularity sinks a bit when the stock market tanks like it did this week. All those valuable families losing dividends.

If you run a small business, like ‘Miss Fannie’s Soul Food’, and the cash flow gets too tight, it’s your problem and you close your doors. If you run a mega business, and the cash flow gets too tight, you remind the Pres that you are his base, and if you go down you’ll take a lot of people down with you. The government changes the rules, prints up some Bush Bills, and the stock market is happy.

It’s not so happy for us when it takes more Bush Bills to pay for the gas and the groceries and the heat and the tuition. But a system built on ever-rising profits from endlessly expanding consumption cannot possibly last. It’s a positive feedback loop, totally unsustainable.

So I laugh when I see the Dow go down, even though I know that it’s me who’s going to get hurt.

Cranston to Move 6th Grade Back to Elementary School

The Projo reports that the School Committee approved the plan to move the 6th graders in Cranston back into the elementary schools by a vote of 5 to 2.

While many people are concerned about this, we in Eden Park have particular reason to be concerned, as last night it was also proposed that, to solve the overcrowding problems that the move will cause at Waterman Elementary School, the 6th graders from that school will attend Eden Park Elementary. From the Eden Park PTO listserv:

[...] Waterman Kindergarten and first graders were to originally be redistricted and (bussed) to Garden City School, because of lack of space. After the out cries, and concerns of the Waterman parents, the school committee has put another proposal on the table for Waterman.

Instead of sending their babies to Garden City, they are now proposing to send their 6th graders to Eden Park School. Not only do we now have to find the space for our own two 6th grade classes, we also have to house ALL 6th graders from Waterman School. Either we will have four 6th grade classes or over crowd and stuff them into 2 or 3 classes, but the overcrowding is not our first concern.

At this time our two portables are not in any condition to house 2 classes of children all day long (which we may have to do if Waterman students are redistricted to Eden Park). The air quality is poor, the rugs are disgusting, and the heating system is not working ( as some of you know from December’s Holiday Shop). We wore our coats all day long because they were unable to get the heat to work. When the question of cleaning up the portables was brought up to Deb Greifer and Ken Bowling when they attended our PTO meeting in November, Deb Grieifer said immediately that there was no money in the budget to spend on cleaning existing portables.

However, if we have no choice but to make do with the situation, the Eden Park PTO will hire a company to come into the portables to check for mold, air and heating quality to make sure that both portables pass the inspection and restriction guidelines. With this documentation in hand, we will then be better equipped to fight for the City of Cranston to provide good quality and clean classrooms for our children.

Another issue is where will we put the second kindergarten class in two years when they make ALL DAY KINDERGARTEN? We are already giving up the library and reading room to house the two six grade classes, not four. Where will we put yet another kindergarten class, two more 6th grade classes from Waterman, a library room, reading room and music and art room? Will we get another portable? Is there enough space in the cafeteria for lunch? Will we have to resort to having 3 lunches? These are questions unanswered. We as parents of Eden Park Students have to be the voices for our children. Please call, write or e-mail to not only the school committee, but our Mayor, superintendent, and other city officials.

We will keep you posted as to this current situation.

As the Markets Get Manipulated

UPDATE #3: After making a new back-up of the site yesterday, I found that the spam issue had impacted the comments sections. Therefore, and much to my dismay, I have closed the comments on posts temporarily while the spam problem is fixed. We are making progress and hope to be back to normal soon.

UPDATED NOTE TO READERS: Wow, what a prophetic post for Kmareka to be stuck on — Nancy certainly called the turmoil in the markets today in her last two posts, and even printing up free money and giving away interest rates is only marginally stabilizing things.

In the meantime, Kmareka is having its own little crisis. Last Friday, we were attacked by a spambot which got into the site. We have regained security and removed the offending spam link droppings, but we are currently still seeking to restore the site to full functioning. The solution to this problem may or may not involve upgrading our platform, which could take a few days. In the meantime, comments on all of our posts still work, so feel free to talk amongst yourselves. In other words, please chat it up on a thread of your choosing. — Kiersten Marek

NOTE TO READERS: We seem to be having some technical difficulties with creating new posts. Please bear with us as we try to solve the problem. — Kiersten Marek

ORIGINAL POST:

I’m not an economist, but ever since the election of President Bush, shortly followed by the fall of Enron, the failure to prevent the terrorist attack of 9/11, the start of the Iraq War, I have heard astounding amounts of money being poured into this and that, as the rich enjoy one tax cut after another. I just assumed they were printing up Bush Bills in the basement.

You hear talk about fiscal responsibility when there’s another cut in services to low-income people, when the schools, hospitals, bridges and levees are shortchanged. Strangely, the same filthy lucre that is so corrupting to working people is a source of virtue to the rich. It’s a terrible thing to make someone pay taxes on inherited wealth. Tax the workers on their pay, or whack them at the supermarket with sales taxes, but leave those stock dividends alone.

Now it looks like the squeeze on ordinary people is affecting profits, and something has to be done. Last week put a scare into the stock market.

“Privately, the White House has discussed its support for a tax rebate of as much as 800 dollars for individual taxpayers, more than double the 300 dollar rebate featured in a 2001 effort to spur economic growth,” the Wall Street Journal said.

In a key concession to Democrats, the US administration appeared willing to accept stimulus legislation that does not include an extension of Bush’s tax cuts, the Journal said.

Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, are suggesting they would be willing to suspend their own budget rules and accept a tax break without first figuring out how to pay for it, the Journal said…
Breitbart.com

Why worry about how to pay for it? Just print up more Bush Bills. This president can’t run again, his party might not even want to win the election. How much better to let the Democrats get dirty trying to clean up the mess. George Bush will do a Tony Blair and get a cushy job consulting something for someone. And what kind of awful problems will we leave to the next generation?

Asked by Woodward how history would judge the war, Bush replied: “History. We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.”

I know I’m going to see the full force of the Bush Bills when my elderly clients, who worked in mills and offices and homes all their lives, see their pensions failing to cover the cost of food, heat, transportation, comfort. They gave a dollar’s work for a dollar’s pay, but the dollar is only worth what the economy can bear, and when Washington plays tug-of-war with the money, the working people lose.

Cranston Teacher’s Alliance: “Stop Runaway Train!”

UPDATE #2: Tonight is the night of the big meeting. The vote will be at Cranston West Auditorium at 7 pm. More people have raised important issues in the comments below.

UPDATE: School Committee member Andrea Iannazzi has provided some more information:

- The School Committee will be voting on two separate resolutions. The first, scheduled for a vote on Monday (1/14), states “SPONSORED BY THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE AND ADMINISTRATION NO. 08-1-2 ­ RESOLVED, that the 6th grade classes be housed in the elementary schools and that the middle school model will consist of the 7th and 8th grades commencing with the 2008-2009 school year.” After this vote, the School Committee will then discuss and debate curriculum (most likely at a future work session).

- Cost savings from this move range anywhere from 300,000 to 1.8 million dollars, depending upon which “Scenario” the School Committee votes for.

- The cost savings are achieved from reduction of FTES (teachers, administrators, and itinerants) and the closing of five of our nine portables. There are “add-backs” for additional elementary level itinerants.

- Each “Scenario” proposes eliminating the Family and Consumer Science program.

- Despite what may have been implied by the opposition, this topic was extensively studied. The subcommittee held a dozen plus meetings over a five month period. Additionally, many of the School Committee members involved discussed the potential move in other forums. For example, I attended Open Houses at six elementary schools (Garden City, Glen Hills, Orchard Farms, Peters, Stone Hill, and Woodridge), met with parents upon their request, and met with teachers at the elementary schools in my district.

ORIGINAL POST

The teachers are lining up with the parents in Cranston on one side of a battle, with school administrators and school committee members on the other side. The fight is over whether the 6th graders should be moved back into the elementary schools, to solve some of the overcrowding problems in the middle schools. Today the teachers sent a big mailer of a racing supermodern train on the front and an unfortunate-looking train wreck on the back. The text on the front reads “Stop This Runaway Train…” (train labeled Cranston School Committee Express) and on the back reads “…Before It’s a Train Wreck!” The rest of the text is as follows:

The Cranston School Committee and Cranston Schoool Administrators want to railroad through changes that will move Cranston’s 6th graders from their middle schools back to elementary schools and dismantle important educational programs, such as family and consumer science, arts and music classes. They say these changes will save money, but the savings will be less than 1% of this year’s school budget. Worse, they fail to tell you that it will have a profoundly negative impact on our children. In fact, the majority of the parents on the committee to study this issue were adamantly opposed to these changes.

This proposal will:

–put important educational programs at risk
–create minimal savings — with maximum disruption
–more temporary classrooms — increased class sizes

Don’t Let Our Children Get ‘Railroaded’

Attend the Cranston School Committee Meeting
January 14, 2008, Cranston High School West, 7 pm

An email I received from my elementary school listserv said that parents are targeting Steve Stycos and Deb Greifer as members of the committee most likely to be sympathetic to their concerns.

I was initially in favor of this proposal to move the 6th grade back, since some of our elementary schools have been closed for lack of an adequate census. However, the parents who have studied this issue are probably the best ones to listen to, and they are indicating many ways that this may cause problems for educating children in Cranston.

But it’s interesting that the teachers are coming out so strongly. One issue for teachers is the 6th grade teachers needing to be certified to work on the elementary level. I don’t know the details of how this was going to be worked out, but I know it was flagged as a problem early and often. I have heard people talk about how this will force a healthy number of retirements in the middle school teacher population, but I don’t know how true that is.

Sign Katha Pollitt’s Letter

Well-known feminist and writer Katha Pollitt has written an open letter about whether American feminism is taking an unfair bashing for not focusing on global issues enough. Here’s the letter.

An Open Letter from American Feminists

Columnists and opinion writers from The Weekly Standard to the Washington Post to Slate have recently accused American feminists of focusing obsessively on minor or even nonexistent injustices in the United States while ignoring atrocities against women in other countries, especially the Muslim world. A number of reasons are given for this supposed neglect: narcissism, ideological rigidity, reflexive anti-Americanism, fear of seeming insensitive or even racist. Yet what is the evidence for this apparently now broadly accepted claim that feminists don’t support the struggles of women around the globe? It usually comes down to a quick scan of the home page of the National Organization for Women’s website, observing that a particular writer hasn’t covered a particular outrage, plus a handful of quotes wrenched out of context.

In fact, as a bit of research would easily show, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of US feminist organizations involved in promoting women’s rights and well-being around the globe — V-Day, Equality Now, MADRE, the Global Fund for Women, the International Women’s Health Coalition and Feminist Majority, to name some of the most prominent. (The National Organization for Women itself has a section on its website devoted to global feminism, on which it denounces a wide array of practices including female genital mutilation (FGM), “honorâ€? murder, trafficking, dowry deaths and domestic violence). Feminists at Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations have moved those organizations to add the rights of women and girls to their agenda. Feminist magazines and blogs– Ms, Feministing.com, Salon.com’s Broadsheet feature, womensenews,com (which has an edition in Arabic) — as well as feminist reporters and commentators in the mainstream media, regularly report on and condemn outrages against women wherever they occur, from rape, battery and murder in the US to the denial of women’s human rights in the developing or Muslim world.

As feminists, we call on journalists and opinion writers to report the true position of our movement. We believe that women’s rights are human rights, and stand in solidarity with our sisters who are fighting for equal political, economic, social and reproductive rights around the globe. Specifically, contrary to the accusations of pundits, we support their struggle against female genital mutilation, “honor” murder, forced marriage, child marriage, compulsory Islamic dress codes, the criminalization of sex outside marriage, brutal punishments like lashing and stoning, family laws that favor men and that place adult women under the legal power of fathers, brothers, and husbands, and laws that discount legal testimony made by women. We strongly oppose the denial of education, health care and equal political and economic rights to women.

We reject the use of women’s rights language to justify invading foreign countries. Instead, we call on the United States government to live up to its expressed commitment to women’s rights through peaceful means. Specifically, we call upon it to:

–offer asylum to women and girls fleeing gender-based persecution, including female genital mutilation, domestic violence, and forced marriage;

–promote women’s rights and well-being in all their foreign policy and foreign aid decisions;

–use its diplomatic powers to pressure its allies — especially Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive countries in the world for women — to embrace women’s rights;

–drop the Mexico City policy–aka the ‘gag rule’–which bars funds for AIDS- related and contraception-related health services abroad if they provide abortions, abortion information, or advocate for legalizing abortion;

–generously support the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which supports women’s reproductive health including safe maternity around the globe, and whose funding is vetoed every year by President Bush;

–become a signatory to The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the basic UN women’s human rights document, now signed by 185 nations. The US is one of a handful of holdouts, along with Iran, Sudan, and Somalia.

Finally, we call upon the United States, and all the industrialized nations of the West, to share their unprecedented wealth, often gained at the expense of the developing world, with those who need it in such a way that women benefit.

signed,

Katha Pollitt, writer
Marge Piercy, writer
Susan Faludi
Alix Kates Shulman, writer
Julianne Malveaux, president Bennett college for women
Anne Lamott, writer
Mary Gordon
Linda Gordon, historian, NYU
Jennifer Baumgardner, writer
Ruth Rosen, historian
Jane Smiley, writer
Anna Fels, MD, writer
Debra Dickerson, writer/blogger, Salon.com
Margo Jefferson, writer
Jessica Valenti, writer/blogger,www.feministing.com
Dana Goldstein, The American Prospect
Karen Houppert, writer
Gloria Jacobs, The Feminist Press
Carole Joffe, Sociology, UC Davis
Janet Afary, Middle East Historian, Purdue University
Barrie Thorne, Professor and Chair of Gender & Women’s Studies and Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
Catharine R. Stimpson
Lakshmi Chaudhry, writer
Rosalyn Baxandall, chair, American Studies SUNY-Old Westbury
Naomi Weisstein
Alisa Solomon,writer
Judith Ezekiel, historian, Wright State U/U de Toulouse
Barbara Bick
Amy Swerdlow
Kathryn Scarbrough
Bea Kreloff
Drucilla Cornell, prof political science women’s studies and comparative literature, Rutgers.
Sonia Jaffe Robbins, writer/editor
Laura X, activist
Linda Stein, sculptor
Stephanie Gilmore, historian, Trinity College
Ariel Dougherty, Media Equity Collaborative, co founder Women Make Movies
Amie Newman, Associate editor, RH Reality check
Merle Hoffman, Choices women’s Medical Center and On the Issues magazine
Adele M. Stan, columnist, American Prospect Online
Michelle Goldberg, writer

If you would like your name and professional affiliation added to this list, you can send an email to Katha Pollitt at kathapollitt@gmail.com.

Do you think male feminists can be on the list too?