October 23, 2014
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Editorial
Ahearn and Testa for schools

Few positions on the ballot get less voter attention than those for School Committee.

This has always been a mystery to us, for the committee plays a powerful role and, all things considered, members have a greater impact on the community and taxes than the council does. Consider this – the committee has five members (versus nine on the council), they serve four, not two, years and they control more than 60 percent of the city budget. More importantly, they set the course for our schools and, in the process, form the mold for our future. Good schools are a community asset. It is a reason why people want to live here, which has a direct correlation to property values. Apart from what good schools can mean to individual enrichment and achievement, which is critical, they also serve to attract businesses and, in that process, create jobs.

Somehow, the electorate either doesn’t see or appreciate this. Few people know their School Committee members.

For years, until the Board of Canvassers went to a lottery system, committee candidates were listed alphabetically on the ballot, and the odds of being elected were greatly enhanced by being on top of that list. The same holds true today, although candidates are not listed alphabetically unless the lottery turned out that way.

This year, four candidates are vying for two at-large seats.

One is an incumbent, Patrick Maloney, who is looking to be re-elected to his second four-year term. Of the other three, two are running for their first time, Karen Bachus and Jennifer Ahearn. The third, David Testa, ran unsuccessfully for a district seat two years ago and is now in it for a citywide seat.

We also note that three candidates – Maloney, Testa and Ahearn – have students in the system, an important asset, in our book, for someone looked upon to set policy and the course for Warwick schools.

The campaign has been low-key thus far. There have been some letters in support of various candidates, but otherwise no press releases, or for that matter, position papers. Signs, advertising and some door-to-door campaigning have been the extent of most efforts.

We did get to see and hear the candidates in a recent forum hosted by this paper where they were asked questions by a panel of three high school students – one from each of the city’s public high schools – and Beacon reporter Kim Kalunian.

We came away from that forum both buoyed and troubled.

Foremost, all four candidates illustrated a knowledge of the issues facing Warwick schools and a zeal to engage in the process of solving problems and setting a course for the future. That’s good. What troubled us was Mr. Maloney’s response to a question raised by Vets High senior Bianca Coppelli over the status of Superintendent Peter Horoschak, who has been placed on paid administrative leave. Maloney deemed the question “inappropriate” because it is a personnel matter and for legal reasons can’t be publicly discussed.

What blather. Certainly taxpayers should know why the committee continues to pay Mr. Horoschak while telling him not to set foot on school property. Moreover, Mr. Maloney’s answer is reflective of an attitude that the committee is above question and need not answer to the public, even though he has espoused greater communication and transparency.

Because of this, our choices are Ms. Ahearn and Mr. Testa. Though Ms. Bachus showed the vim and vigor of a natural leader at our School Committee forum, she doesn’t have children. Ahearn, Maloney and Testa do have children in Warwick schools and that’s an important component. With what they bring to the table, we think Ahearn and Testa will best serve the interests of the entire school community, while not losing sight of the even larger base of citizens they would represent.


Comments
12 comments on this item

I would like to provide some additional information. I believe in transparency and have always worked for better communication. When I found out that there would be no forum at all in Warwick for the School Committee candidates, I called and emailed the Warwick Beacon to request that they hold a forum. I was told that there wasn't enough time to put it together. I responded to John Howell that if no forum would be held that I would host the event myself because I believed it was important that the citizens of Warwick get a chance to meet all the candidates. He responded that he would call me back and would try to host the event. I received a call a short time later that there would be a Warwick Beacon hosted forum. This is only one small example of how important transparency and communication is to me. This event would not have happened if I didn't work to make it happen.

It is unfortunate that a question was asked that I could not answer due to the fact that it is a personnel issue. It should be noted that all of the other candidates agreed with me and would not comment on it because it was a personnel matter. Over the last 4 years, I have always worked for better communication. I pushed for the creation of the Parent Communication Advisory Committee. I volunteered to be the School Committee member to sit on this committee that meets each month. I always listened to the parents and have resolved many issues over the years for parents who have come to the committee to voice issues.

One issue that was voiced was the science program at Cedar Hill. This issue was brought to my attention by Jennifer Ahearn several years ago. I invited the head of Science and Math for the schools to the meeting to listen and explain the program. I visited the school, talked with the principal, visited the classrooms and consulted with the curriculum coordinator and brought the issues to their attention so it could be researched and changes were made to make improvements.

I also report back to administration any issues that arise at the PCAC meetings. I have brought forward bullying issues, transportation issues, Graduation by Proficiency issues, ALAP issues, budget issues and countless other issues. There is more work to do. I would like to assure the citizens of Warwick that I work hard and I do more than "espouse greater communication and transparency", I strive to make education better and have actually created a way for Parents and the community to get more information. I attended the Parent Communication Advisory Committee tonight. This subcommittee meets the First Thursday prior to the Regular School Committee meetings.

Communication is a priority for me.

When I ran for office in 2008, many people told me I was crazy to decide to run when the schools were in bad shape and there had been 2 years of deficits. These deficits totaled about $3.2 Million. Good decision making allowed me to be able to pay back the city the full deficit amount and repair many of the schools that needed work during my 4 years on the committee. I am not afraid of a challenge and wanted to make sure the schools improved for my kids' education.

Since being elected, I helped balance the budget each year. The two biggest projects of the last 4 years were the Pilgrim Roof replacement and the beginning of Fire Code upgrades this year. Each of these projects came in within their budgets. There are still 2 more years of Fire Code upgrades necessary to bring the schools up to New State requirements.

When I arrived on the committee, the Warwick Independent School Employee (WISE) union had been working without a contract for several years. I helped resolve the contract and this lead to union concessions, savings for the schools and most important for the employees, stability. The WISE Union was the first union in Warwick to agree to a co-pay of 20%.

Last year, the teacher contract was reaching an end. I helped the school committee and the teachers to reach a temporary agreement that would save the city money again. The one year agreement consisted of the teachers paying a 20% co-pay for the year and an agreement to review and shape the RI Dept of Education evaluation system. As the year passed and we reached the end of our temporary agreement, I helped settle the teacher contract which allowed us to permanently secure the co-pay and for the first time in years modify the Special Education Weighting in Warwick allowing us to continue to service the Special Education students appropriately while saving money.

These are only a few of the major accomplishments I have helped the committee achieve.

It is unfortunate that despite the hundreds of questions I have answered for the Warwick Beacon and hundreds of hours I have spent helping families in Warwick, the Warwick Beacon is not supporting me because I will not answer one question at this time. It is my hope that citizens of Warwick support me on election day because I have done a great job and will work to improve the schools. Together we can make things better.

Patrick Maloney

Patrick you shouldn't expect the editors to make a decision based on fairness and balance. Most of the information they present as facts, are not true.

The decision of the beacon to endorse candidates is influenced directly from the mayor's office.

In fact some of the articles and columns written are sent to the mayor office for him and his staff to review them and they have requested modifications to the articles if they don't like what is being printed.

So the bottom line Patrick, don't worry about who they endorse most Warwick voters don't read this junk anyway.

Thank you Warwick Taxpayer. You made my day. I wanted to make sure people know I do care and I do work hard. I also do not believe we are beyond question and I never forget that I work for you. Here is something that I have done while on the committee. Each committee member has a name plate assigned to them. On the back of the plate is a sticker that has the name of the person who has the plate. When I was elected in 2008, the sticker on the back of the plate said Joyce Andrade. In 2009, I saw that they were going to remove the sticker and I asked them not to. The reason I asked them not to was because I wanted to be reminded at each meeting that the seat was not mine and could be someone else's if I didn't work hard to get the right answers and make good decisions. The sticker is still on the back of the plate and it still says Joyce Andrade. You are welcome to see it at any meeting. Thanks again for your kind words.

I think in the final analysis Ahern and Maloney are the best qualified. It is true Maloney dances around the issues but I think he has learned that people want more straight forward answers and will provide them in the future.

Testa flip flops all the time.

I think that Karen Bachus is very qualified. She has been working with children and families for over 25 years. I don't believe that not having her own biological children in Warwick Schools means anything. She has a proven commitment and is not looking for personal gain. As John said in his editorial, she is a "natural leader". How true that is. She will work for all of our kids and our taxpayers to make things better for all. Her statement and that of Patrick Maloney hit the issues on the head. They both see funding as the most significant issue but want to see things improve and have plans to do that. Karen will get things done. I believe that Patrick will as well. I don't understand this silly bias. If anyone attended the forum put on by the Beacon, Karen did very well, was clear, not afraid to speak up, and had some good ideas.

Vote for Karen Bachus for Warwick School Committee--you will be glad that you did and everyone will benefit.

Thanks.

Here is a link to a question asked in a 2008 Warwick Beacon Forum and that question is still relevant today.

The question was:

As has been reported, the school department has entered the current budget year facing a projected $4 million deficit. It appears trimming such an amount from operating expenses can’t be done without affecting personnel and as a result programs. What programs would you cut, or how else would you balance the budget?

My Answer is here:

http://www.maloney4schools.com/question2_response.html

Here is another question from a 2008 Warwick Beacon Forum:

The state Board of Regents is examining a change in high school graduation requirements that would equally weight grades earned while in high school with completion of a senior project, known as graduation by proficiency and performance in a one-day state-run test. Do you feel this is a fair measure for evaluating a student’s performance?

My Answer is here:

http://www.maloney4schools.com/question1_response.html

Another question from a 2008 Warwick Beacon Forum:

As you know, more than 60 cents of each Warwick Property tax dollar goes to the School Department, yet neither the Mayor nor the city council that set the overall city budget and tax rate have a say on how schools spend the money. And, as we have learned, schools can overspend their budget requiring the city to pay the deficit. Do you think the system needs to be changed and how?

My Answer to this question is here:

http://www.maloney4schools.com/question3_response.html

It should be noted that the School budget has not gone up in the last 4 years. Only 55 cents of the taxes now go to the schools. This clearly shows that I have made good decisions that have saved Warwick Taxpayers money while at the same time maintaining buildings, and keeping education moving forward.

The Warwick Beacon site does not allow for links. To see the linked information, you will need to copy and paste the link into your browser.

More savings are needed from the school admin. to shore up the pension and medical liabilities. All that is saved should go right towards that goal.

Thank you Michael. I should have added that Administration paid a 20% co-pay for medical and dental before any other group. I believe this change was made prior to 2010. I was on the committee at this time and pushed for and voted for the change. Administration is also paying their fair share. We have also had administration retire and rather than fill the positions we have combined the responsibilities into other positions.

Patrick Maloney

TRANSPARENCY?? Let me see if I have this straight...Maloney refuses to comment under advice of legal counsel no doubt and that is "BLATHER"?? Yeah right Pat go ahead and comment because this city loves to spend money foolishly..Like in the case of Mr. Naylor in which the administration totally screws up the case, (by design or incompetence?) of a rouge public works employee, wrongfully terminates him, and is forced to give him $8.000.00 dollars in back pay..because of the filing screw up....Real responsibility there, watching out for the taxpayer...Imagine the hue and cry if Maloney did speak out and open the door to untold thousands in legal costs and civil damages awarded to Arnold Horseshack? I have no idea why the super is getting dumped, perhaps we will all know at some point. What I am glad about is that a public official didn't have his brain in escrow and thought of repercussions before speaking...Re-elect the guy..He has integrity, which is something I can't say about a great many other quarters in this city..Mr. Howell, get a grip!..

Warwick is screwed.

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