Each year the Chariho School Committee and administrators meet with the Town Councils of Charlestown, Hopkinton, and Richmond in one meeting to present the proposed budget for the next school year.
This year that meeting will be held on January 18 starting at 7:00 pm at the Chariho Career and Technical Center – Rooms 105/107, 459 Switch Rd. on the Chariho campus.
The only topic of discussion, per the meeting announcement, will be the budget. But that may not stop people from making other statements about our school district.
This budget cycle could be a challenging one as the rhetoric, measured by Letters To the Editor in The Westerly Sun, is more intense than ever. Historically, Charlestown voters reliably approve the school budget and Hopkinton voters reliably reject it with the final result depending on Richmond voters and the turnout in the three towns.
To get a sense of the emotional level, some articles and letters in the Sun can be seen here:
“You people need to wake the f up and open your dam eyes”. On a recent Facebook post on the Richmond Democratic Town Committee page which explained the far-right Parents United group and which local Town Council and School Committee had signed its pledge, I observed someone had made that comment. ... Larry Phelps is one of three new Chariho School Committee members from Hopkinton, each of whom is supported by the extremist Parents United political organization.
At a minimum, the local school district laid the groundwork for public dissatisfaction.
"I do ask the Chariho School Committee and administration to reflect on the recent election where both Hopkinton and Richmond ousted incumbent School Committee members. In addition, they should remember Hopkinton and Richmond’s resistance to proposed school budgets for the current 2022-23 by their votes earlier this year."
In a year following a contentious election that saw Hopkinton and Richmond each elect considerable new representation to the School Committee — Republicans Tyler Champlin, Polly Hopkins, Larry Phelps, Kathryn Colasante and Patricia Pouliot will all be part of budget discussions for the first time — Picard knows she has her work cut out for her convincing local communities.
During discussions among members of the Hopkinton Town Council last week, (Hopkinton Council Vice President Scott Bill) Hirst expressed strong discontent in the way the School Committee has operated in recent years. He has been a vocal advocate of former School Committee member David Stall, and said he believes election results show area residents are looking for a change.