Define the vision before the plan
If anything, the school department hasn’t moved any closer to addressing the critical matter of declining enrollment or developing a vision for the future of Warwick schools.
When it last met on Jan. 31, the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee voted to suspend looking at options to close one or more secondary schools until the administration completes an analysis of the full system – not just junior and senior high schools. Committee members were looking for a “vision” report before developing recommendations to be forwarded to the School Committee.
The request was clear, the committee was taking its charge a step further than the stated objective of Superintendent Peter Horoschak to consolidate schools and reduce costs.
At the time, Horoschak suggested a subcommittee could do the analysis with the help of an outside facilitator. That never happened. No subcommittee was named and no facilitator was hired. The work of the committee came to a standstill.
That was until last week, when acting superintendent Richard D’Agostino reconvened the group. D’Agostino was a member of the committee when Horoschak served as its chair and he is certainly familiar with the work it had done and where the work stopped.
Perhaps Horoschak’s unexplained dismissal this September is related to a failure to follow through with a vision and a plan for the district. We don’t know, and probably won’t find out until the matter of Horoschak’s contract, which expires in July, is resolved.
But that should not delay a plan to respond to the ongoing decline in enrollment, which now stands at about 9,600 and is projected to drop by 12 percent over the next 10 years.
Yet on Friday, D’Agostino, who is now chair of the committee, didn’t start where the group last left off. Rather, unless he has a plan that he hasn’t articulated, he once again defined the issue and then concluded the committee should be subdivided to develop both short- and long-term plans. It appears members are expected to volunteer for which plan they would prefer to develop.
D’Agostino did not specify the urgency of a plan, other than it needs to be “short-term,” or whether he is looking for recommendations to be in place by the start of the next academic year. If the intention is to close one or more schools by September, then there is a lot of work to be done. If not, that means a school won’t be closed – and costs won’t be reduced – for at least another 18 months.
As important as the budget issue is, if not more so, is a vision for the department. The committee made it clear that is what it sought last January.
Let’s start there.