Brousseau Letter

I’ve recently been asked to provide examples to back up my brief LTE about committeewoman Brousseau. In my letter I stated the following:

Michelle Brousseau, an experienced educator of 33 years, has followed a data-driven perspective, has shown the courage to oppose short-sighted proposals, has asked tough but fair questions of administration, and has shown consistent respect for the needs of the teachers, students, and taxpayers of South Kingstown.

Short-Sighted Proposals

Councilwoman Brousseau has opposed several shortsighted policies and proposals supported by the School Committee majority. Among these were the vote to fire the district’s legal counsel in November 2018, the vote to suspend the committee’s by-laws to pass a major change to the Personnel Assignment Team (PAT) policy in April 2019, and the vote to initiate an unnecessary investigation of the previous superintendent. The change of legal counsel jeopardized ongoing litigation by current and former students. The new PAT policy resulted in several out of place appointments, including a former middle school teacher being inexplicably placed as the dean of students at an elementary school. The investigation into Superintendent Stringfellow yielded no action and ultimately cost the district approximately $50,000. IMO All of these qualify as short-sighted, as they accomplished little of value for the students and set horrible precedents for how the School Committee majority views their responsibility toward accountability and transparency.

The most egregious vote which Committeewoman Brousseau opposed, however, was the decision to change course on the facility plan just after the 2018 election. Despite being warned of risks to RIDE approval given such a substantial change so close to the deadline, and despite being aware that changes to the plan could be made after approval, the school committee majority pressed ahead, throwing away 18 months of work and leaving the building committee only 3 months to submit a major application to RIDE. Predictably, the application was summarily rejected by RIDE and the district has since missed 2 additional deadlines (September 2019 and February 2020). The district is now merely 4 weeks from the next deadline with very little expectation in the community that an acceptable application will be completed in time.

Had the committee followed Committeewoman Brousseau’s advice, we likely would have an approved plan and be well on our way to breaking ground. Instead we continue to stumble toward yet another deadline with an extremely uncertain future. The original facility plan was informed by many community visioning and educational specification meetings with the public. By contrast, no decisions made since the 2018 election have been informed by community input. Ms Brousseau has been consistent in demanding that community input frame our priorities and decisions.

Tough but fair questions

Over the past 2 years, Ms Brousseau has been one of only a handful of committee members to ask tough questions of school administrators. A great example is her questioning of CFO Crawford regarding a $1 million discrepancy in the school budget documents at the most recent SC meeting. Her questioning led to the revelation that the district had assumed that town council would provide additional funding without actually asking them first.

Advocating for the Community

This School Committee has made many decisions which have eroded public trust in district administration and leadership. In several cases, members admitted publicly that the optics were terrible, but pushed ahead anyway. Member Brousseau has consistently warned of backlashes from the community for the way the school committee was behaving.

In a prescient moment, Ms Brousseau strongly warned that the SC should expect pushback from the community for failing to make any budgetary changes in response to the COVID pandemic. Despite a well funded campaign to “protect the schools”, a referendum dealing with the school budget would go on to be defeated by a surprisingly small 34 vote margin out of 3000 votes cast. Although some committee members claimed otherwise, the slim margin (less than 1%) clearly reflected the pushback Ms Brousseau predicted.

Michelle’s experience, respect for and understanding of the community, and willingness to stand up for what is right make her voice an important one. She deserves another term on the SK School Committee, and hopefully the next committee will be one in which her voice can speak with the majority.

One thought on “Brousseau Letter

Add yours

  1. I read Mr. Ralph’s short LTE in the local paper, in which he expressed support for Ms. Michelle Brousseau’s SKSC candidacy. I agree with both the sentiment and reasoning in his letter, and appreciate his effort to present specific examples in support of his position. I also wholeheartedly endorse Ms. Brousseau’s re-election to the Committee, and hope you will support this dedicated public servant.
    Kevin Sullivan,
    aka “bor1791amendx”


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