Letter: What about the schools' 'allied accounts'?

Posted

To the editor:

Integrity. Google says it means honesty honor fairness. Last Wednesday we all got the familiar bulk email from the school committee, claiming if they don’t get an extra $1.2 million. It would affect the integrity of Barrington schools. And at the meeting Mr. Douglas spoke eloquently about the COA’s not allowing the public to speak at their meeting. I found those things ironic.

Oh I agree with Mr. Douglas. Free speech is very important and the COA should have let everyone speak at their meeting. But coming from the spouse, with a potential ethics problem, of a school committee member just made me shake my head.

Five years ago, during my first two weeks on the COA, I got the 4-inch binder that is the real school budget, the numbers did not add up. So I called RIDE for the rules of how budgets are reported. Before I got a call back, the leadership of the school committee demanded I resign. When I refused to resign, I was told that the committee would vote at the next meeting to keep me from speaking, ever, anywhere, what is said at COA open meetings.

Through Peter DeAngelis, I asked for an opinion on whether they could stifle free speech like that. He wrote an opinion that they could not. But under extreme pressure from members of the school committee, the chair made the motion at the next meeting. I stated that if it passed, I would, reluctantly, file a complaint with the ACLU. At which point Tim Sweetser, COA’s vice chair, God rest his soul, said “I have heard enough of this” and then it was over.

So I found it ironic that people supporting the schools were demanding to speak at a meeting where they should be able to speak, after the schools tried so hard to keep me from speaking. The question in my mind after such a draconian reaction was “What are they trying to hide?”

When RIDE called me back, my concerns were justified. Most troubling, all schools are supposed to report all donations they receive that are used for any regular school equipment, events, programs, even if it is “as small as a $100 gift card from Walmart. The schools take in large amounts that we never see.

Now there are the “allied accounts” for revenues that the school receives for sporting tickets, theater, field trips, donations (BEF, Barrington Boosters, parents of note, PTOs, etc.) it is millions of dollars. This money is supposed to be included in the computation of cost per student (that $14,500 per student that people were bragging about is just based on fake numbers). Which meant Barrington wasn’t reporting the monies that other schools were, and Barrington is a generous town. Barrington was, for lack of a better word, cheating.

I had asked to see an accounting of these monies, which total in the millions in the last five years. I have never seen it. In the budget, have you noticed all the revenue listed on the town side? Did you ever notice that the schools don’t have any revenue? 

Did you ever wonder why the town has to put down library late fees, but the schools don’t? Do you think there is some money in there to pay maybe for sports and a few teachers? 

Of course that money is on top of the $5 million extra in June each year, and an average of $600-700,000 additional surplus every year? The cuts this year were misdirection, to turn opinion from them to the COA. This level of ‘integrity” could only be described as “Trumpesque”

Joel Hellmann

Barrington

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