WOOD RIVER JUNCTION — Motivated by the parental outcry at the Chariho School Committee’s meeting on Sept. 24 over whether to hire a new principal at the Ashaway School, Catherine Guisti, a Hopkinton resident and mother of three, presented her proposal for a “parent liaison” volunteer position to the committee on Tuesday evening.
Guisti said the pilot position is designed to improve relations between the Chariho School Committee and the parental community.
“After the meeting on the 24th, I think a lot of us were surprised at how that meeting went. The idea was borne from standing in the vestibule and listening to parents with great opinions but who were unwilling to share their opinions with the school committee because they were afraid of what might happen,” she said.
Guisti added, “My idea is to find other parents who have things they want to say, things that should be heard and try to find an avenue for the school committee to hear them.”
Committee member Donna Chambers said that she thought it was commendable that Guisti wanted to take the position.
“I think it will open communication and will foster good will between parents and school committee members,” said Chambers said.
Chambers also encouraged Guisti to invite parents to the school committee meetings.
“There are blockades that happen. People are afraid to say what they really feel because of consequences,” she said. “I think it’s a great idea to open that avenue of communication. I also suggest you encourage them to come here and speak. We need to hear from parents.”
Hopkinton Town Councilor Barbara Capalbo said that representing all of the schools could become overwhelming for one person.
“It is a big commitment. I don’t think that I want to attend every PTO meeting at every school,” Guisti said. “My goal is to establish relationships in those schools and find other parents like myself who know other people and can open those channels of communication. But because it’s a pilot, I think those questions will be answered as this works itself out.”
Guisti said that the school committee could also communicate with school parents through her.
“This could be a tool for you as well if you have things you would really like the public to understand – I would like to communicate that as well,” said Guisti.
“I think if we can make it a less formal setting, if we can get some conversations going that can benefit you in decisions that you make and help parents understand what happens here – it could open that communication,” Guisti added.
School committee member George Abbott asked if Guisti wanted to get involved with the budgetary process.
“If you look at the budget it’s not easy to understand and that’s through no fault of your own, but I think if we can explain it better, we might get more people out there. There are things that we want to see happen that just aren’t happening and it would be nice if more people understood,” said Guisti.
“I think the budget is a big concern – the school committee should be gearing up for a big budget fight again unfortunately and I don’t think that’s a surprise to anybody. Last year I found understanding when I should be voting ‘yes’ and when I should be voting ‘no’ was unbelievably confusing,” she said.
Guisti said her goal was to find parents who are interested in communicating information about their own schools.
“I hope that I get a response,” she said. “I have an e-mail that is set up. I plan to contact the principals of every building to see if they can identify any parents, much like the strategic plan in which the principals identify parents in their building who would help – so I’m hoping to find parents that way.”
She added, “You can e-mail, you can call – this is really an open forum.”
Guisti’s email is PLChariho@gmail.com .