To the Editor:
The Thursday edition of the Beacon did not endorse me as a candidate of choice for the School Committee election. The reason given was that I would not give additional information regarding the superintendent other than stating it was a personnel matter. It stated that I have an attitude that the School Committee is above question.
This could not be further from the truth. I have explained several times that as an employee, every individual has rights. These right are protected by law. It is similar to the practice of any company who has a personnel issue. Most companies today will not provide any information about an employee record while employed, other than to confirm the dates an employee worked for a company. This is for the protection of the company. Like any company, I am being careful not to release information about this particular situation until it is resolved. I have often heard politicians recant statements they have made because it was said the wrong way, misinterpreted or quoted incorrectly.
I do not want to make a comment and have it misinterpreted by the media, as doing so would not be good for the schools. I have worked to create a stable financial environment and an environment of transparency and open communication. During our forum, I did state that the question was inappropriate for the venue and was a personnel matter. Each of the other candidates agreed and responded the same. I did go on to say that when the time was right, the correct information would be released.
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 Kim Kalunian and John Howell to request that they hold a forum. I was originally told that there might not be time to put it together. I responded to John Howell that if no forum would be held that I would host the event myself and invite all the candidates 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. My work provided an opportunity for all of Warwick to meet all the candidates, including my opponents.
Over the last four years, I have worked for better communication. I pushed for the creation of the Parent Communication Advisory Committee (PCAC). 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.
Each month, I report back to administration any issues that arise at the PCAC meetings. I have brought forward many issues such as bullying and transportation issues, Graduation by Proficiency issues, ALAP and curriculum 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. The PCAC meets the first Thursday prior to the regular School Committee meetings.
When I ran for office in 2008, many people told me I was crazy to decide to run when the schools were in bad financial and physical shape. Two previous years of deficits totaled about $3.2 million. With my help and good decision-making, the schools paid the city the full deficit amount accrued within only two years. Since being elected, I helped balance the budget each year. The two biggest projects of the last four years were the Pilgrim roof replacement and the beginning of fire code upgrades this year. Each of these projects came in within their budgets.
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 percent.
Last year, the teacher contract was reaching an end. I helped the schools 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 percent co-pay for the year and an agreement to review and shape the R.I. Department 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.
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.
School Committee Member and Candidate