Rate this
Editorial
Let’s get all facts before closing Gorton

To the Editor:

I have been a resident of Warwick for over 15 years. My wife Susanne is a lifelong resident and a graduate of Warwick Vets High School. As a participant of the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee, I was not pleased with the way data was presented Thursday evening (May 2) at the School Committee’s Public Hearing about closing a junior high school.

To present data from the current school year when the data from the next school year, 2013-2014, paints an entirely different picture, is not fair to parents, students and teachers – the public. There is an expected 66-student increase to Gorton’s enrollment next year, a nine-student increase to Aldrich and a three-student reduction at Winman. 

(The data as presented to the planning committee is shown above.)

Students with an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) are weighted as 1.5.  

To reverse the comment made by Mr. Dennis Mullen during the hearing – Why does Winman have more teachers for five teams than Aldrich and Gorton? Winman has more teachers per non-weighted students than Aldrich and Gorton. This statement being as unfair, as the team comparison statement made during the hearing.  

There is still considerable unknown data. To recommend any school closed at this point is premature. 

To state that national school districts are moving away from middle school modes is false when middle schools have been the norm in other states since I entered junior high school in 1971. The fact is; out of the 35 school districts in the state of Rhode Island, Warwick is one of five without a middle school model. 

According to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) website on NECAP scores, only 31 percent of Warwick’s 11th grade students are proficient in math and science. Moving to a middle school model and providing math and science instruction from certified instructors would help put Warwick students on a level field with other districts. 

On Feb. 27, Mr. Anthony Ferrucci presented the expected savings if Gorton Junior High School is closed. As presented, there would be 12 teaching staff positions eliminated and eight support staff, for a cost reduction of $1,385,000 and a total savings of only $1,008,000 considering other data. Effectively, the cost savings come from staff reductions. The other data presented that afternoon did not support the reduction of 12 positions, so I believe Mr. Ferrucci was not provided the correct information. To date, the reports presented and the other supporting documentation from the Short Term Planning Committee meetings have not been posted on the Warwick School Department’s website. 

To claim that it is imperative to close a junior high school due to budget issues and then request funding for nine new administration positions during the April 10 School Committee meeting is an absolute insult to the public. 

Furthermore, to read in a Warwick Beacon article on Tuesday, April 30, with a quote from School Committee member Ms. Terry Medeiros, that she has received more communications from parents to close Gorton Junior High School is disconcerting and surreal. Most parents have been e-mailing all School Committee members the same communication. Another School Committee member stated they had received over 130 communications without one request to close any junior high school. Ms. Medeiros was elected to represent the Warwick Vets/Gorton area. So there is no confusion, I encourage all parents to e-mail Ms. Medeiros their position again with all School Committee members on copy. She needs to start listening to her constituents. 

Edward F. Racca

Warwick


Comments
8 comments on this item

Short term-delay/postpone the closing of Gorton(or any other junior high in Warwick).

Long term(Sept. 2014- PLAN on which junior hign & senior high school Warwick will close;even with a middle school model model approach, it is undeniable that Warwick's student enrollment has declined by approx. 10, 000 since 1969-the current model or a middle school model still has the same undeniable fact-decliniing overall student enrollment. Whether this fall there is an anticipated overall increase of aprox. 72(at the junior high level) is overall insignificant-the 3 junior high's are still approx. half capacity.

It's time to make the choices- Warwick School Administration should be REDUCING positions, not asking for additional ones! Teachers, overall school staff positions, likewise! Long term, these are where cost savings will come. If you reduce schools, it's obvious some students will need to be bused outside their current districts, an unfortunate inconvenience, but not devastating! By reducing staff at ALL levels, including reducing school locations/operations, will provide overall long term savings that can be allocated to educational programs/offerings. Warwick should be looking at Cranston-similar size/student enrollment. Cranston has eliminated programs in the past(art & middle school music) that Warwick takes for granted(Cranston has found alternative ways to fund these).

It would be nice if everyone could get what they wanted, local schools within walking distance within their respective neighborhoods; this choice doesn't exist under any present model/proposed model. The problems Warwick School system faces are not about Gorton vs. Aldrich or why Winman has more teachers per non-weighted students than Aldrich or Gorton.

Markyc, moving to a middle school model brings the capacity at the 3 junior highs up to over 80% for at least the next 7-8 years. yes enrollment is declining but if we go to 6-8 it allows us to consolidate elementary schools which, by the way, provide about the same amount of savings as closing a junior high. As far as Cranston is concerned, they have not found a very good way to replace those programs that were cut. Some schools have not had those programs replaced. it's done on a volunterr basis and through fundraising. I'd also remind you that Cranston repeatedly ran up signifcant deficits with the city and I think at one point they owed them close to $6 million. Plus they had two Caroulo actions that were unsuccessful. Cutting art and music programs in the schools is not good policy. I too don;t think we need to have neighborhood elemtary schools like we've had in the past. And at some point we will have to do something with a high school but in my opinion you can talk about closing a high school without having a discussion about expanding the Career & Tech Center.

People need to understand that a small increase of even up to 100-200 students will not make a difference. The number of students attending Warwick Schools have dropped from 20,000+ to less than 10,000 over the course of 20 years.

Warwick Schools needs a long term plan before making ANY plans that will affect future decisions. There is no denying several points; first there has been a decrease in enrollment. Secondly there are approximately 400 vacant properties in Warwick. Third potential home buyers look at the school districts when deciding where to purchase a home. If we do not have quality schools that attract new families to our city, all our taxes will continue to rise. In addition, there isn’t a successful company that would consider a plan based upon one set of data that has been presented in these committees, especially since it has not been verified. There have been numerous sources that have questioned, and challenged the data presented but these inquiries have been met with additional questionable data not explanations of where or how the data came to be. Warwick tax payers could end up paying more than the proposed estimated savings that Dr. D’Agostino claims. He states these cuts are needed to be “used to support other programs.” Therefore Warwick taxpayers will NOT save anything and future expenses are unclear. Not a “Win – Win” for Warwick any way you look at it.

The School Budget was cut 5% ($6.2 Million) in 2010 by the City of Warwick. The school budget has been level funded (underfunded) for 4 years since for an approximate total of $25+ Million since it was cut. Since 2008, the city budget has gone up and now it is up $30 MILLION annually. With the cut in 2010 now having a total reduction of $25 Million, where will Warwick Schools find the money to actually fund education?

I toured the schools when I was on the committee. There were empty and unused classrooms during the day (at the Junior and Senior HS) and from what I saw, some of the classes had only a dozen students. I agree there should be a long term plan but in the short term, there is no money. The total effect of the 2010 cut is now in excess of $25 Million. I am glad the cuts were made, it forced departments to make cuts, more will need to be made. I would like to see the city make cuts to their budget too rather than continuously increase the taxes by the maximum each year and send it to the city side of the budget. I believe there have been 24 years of tax increases in Warwick, enough is enough.

The fight to keep a school open should have been fought in 2010 when the school budget was cut 5%. If the fight in 2010 was won, there would no Jr or Sr high closed right now. The public did not come out to support the schools in the fight to stop the cut. The mayor and city council spun the facts and used the stimulus money and influence at the general assembly to cut the school funding while increasing the city taxes the maximum amount and keeping it for their own needs ignoring the needs of the schools. They called the CUT level funding. When I see $6.2 Million not being sent to the schools, that is a cut NOT level funding. The $6.2 Million cut is missing from the school budget each year and it ends up being a lot of money quickly. In another 4 years, it will be $50 MILLION missing from the school budget.

If a Jr High school doesn't close and a high school doesn't close the schools will be bankrupt, teachers and staff will not be able to be paid. Right now, there are shortages in the classroom and I see it, you see it, but what is to be done to fix it? There is no hidden fund sitting at the administration building, there is no secret money hidden in a closet.

Does there need to be a long term plan? Yes. What should be done in the short term? If something is not done soon, the schools will be in the same situation as Central Falls and Woonsocket.

When Greene was going to close, Helen Taylor stood up in front of the crowd and proclaimed she had a solution, the city council would help. They did nothing. Donna Travis says the city council wants to help, but not until the schools make cuts. What the heck does she think the schools have done each year since the budget was cut in 2010? (or since my arrival on the committee in 2008.) There were cuts after cuts after cuts and the student education is suffering. Please remember the city budget HAS gone up $30 MILLION dollars annually during the same time period the school have been "level" funded (again, cut $6.2 million annually).

Now, newly elected City Councilman Ed Ladouceur said he hasn’t "seen transparency in the process and won’t support closing any schools until accurate information and numbers that balance are presented." Well Ed, if you paid attention for the last 4 years you would know the schools have been underfunded and the elementary schools have already been closed. The schools have been talking about a bubble of students moving through and the potential for a Jr or Sr High to close for years. So, Mr Ladouceur, if you won't support closing the schools, what is your solution? Keep them open and go bankrupt? The fact is, percentage wise, administration has been consolidated as much as teachers and staff for the last 4 years.

The city council will pretend to want to help but they will not. The school committee will be blamed but in the end it is the students who will suffer, not because they need to be on a bus longer or because they may be separated from their friends but because they are not getting what they need to succeed when they graduate and move on to the workforce or college.

Does the classroom of the building a student sits in matter more than the education they receive by the teacher standing in front of them?

On a related side note,

The sewer authority was $7 Million over budget in 2009-2010, is this being paid back to the city? The fire Department is over budget $1 Million annually with overtime, how is this being handled? By building a new fire station. Get costs under control in all areas, NO MORE TAX INCREASES!

If we keep increasing property tax, nobody will relocate here. Also, lets not forget the 500 houses the Airport Corp will take. Does anyone read RI monthly . Did you see where Warwick High Schools finished. The Warwick school system needs a overhaul

I would take that one step further and say that the education system for all of RI needs an overhaul. We do not need 39 cities and towns each with their own police/fire/school systems. We should look at regionalizing everything. People will need to give up their little kingdoms but it should be explored.

I understand about short term and long term committees and what they are trying to accomplish but nothing is more short term than the Mayors budget just sent to the city council. There is a raise in taxes again with no increase to schools. The budget proposed for approval within the next month will require extremely short term planning. If passed in its current form will require the school committee to cut $3.8 Million from the budget. This will mean draconian cuts to which this city has not seen.

Where will schools find $3.8 Million in cuts. Which of your child's programs do you want cut? Any of them? All of them? Contact your city council person and attend the city council budget hearings. Let them hear your voice.

Does Warwick need a tax increase to provide a small increase in funding to the schools? No, the city has raised taxes every year for 24 years and has additional revenue amounting to a yearly increase of $30 Million annually over the last 4 years. They have enough money, it just isn't going into education. It is paying for benefits and pensions of city employees. After 24 years of tax increases, when does it stop, when will they have enough of your money? The roads are in poor condition, property values are still down and the schools, our greatest asset for attracting families will have nothing to offer after these cuts. Warwick Schools will provide nothing more than the Basic Education Plan (BEP) set by the RIDE (RI Dept of Ed). This basic plan will be just that, nothing but the basics. At a time when we should be reaching higher and trying to attract families to broaden the tax base and stabilize we will be telling people, actually screaming at them to STAY AWAY! This is not what Warwick needs and there is a way to stop the insanity.

Here is a link to the city council emails and phone numbers. Contact your council person today.

http://www.warwickri.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=797&Itemid=237

You must be logged in to post a comment. Click here to log in.
Copyright © 2014, Beacon Communications. Powered by: Creative Circle Advertising Solutions, Inc.