LETTERS

In support of campaign to keep JBF School open

Posted

To the Editor:

When I began my campaign for the Warwick City Council last year, I quickly learned the number one issue on the minds of the voters in Ward 1.

“Do you support the closing of John Brown Francis Elementary School?”

My response during the campaign was that I was 100 percent against the decision of the Warwick School Committee to send the students that were attending John Brown Francis Elementary School out of their neighborhoods to another school. (For purposes of full disclosure, I will state that my wife is a teacher at John Brown Francis Elementary School. I assure you that my opinion would not change if she still taught at Wyman School, where she was a teacher for many years.)

The reasons for this are myriad, but chief among them is my belief that both Warwick’s school system, and sense of community have flourished under the system of having neighborhood elementary schools. My three children attended and graduated from John Brown Francis Elementary School, and I fondly remember the everyday routine of them riding their bicycles to the John Brown Francis Elementary School. I was totally against the decision that would have forced parents to tell their children that they would not be able to have the same experience that my children enjoyed.

The second major reason I oppose the re-purposing of John Brown Francis Elementary School is the haphazard way that the Warwick School Committee has gone about their consolidation plan. In reviewing the history of the consolidation plans that were used by the Warwick School Committee since 2011 to close a number of elementary schools, and replace the junior high school system with middle schools, I discovered that this problem began sometime around 2010. Since that time, the city of Warwick has had 5 different Superintendents running the Warwick school system. There have been 4 different Long Term Facilities Planning Committees with 5 year plans to guide the future of the Warwick school system. Since 2011 the Warwick School Committee has authorized a half dozen different study commissions and consultants that have generated countless reports that have cost the city millions of dollars to address how many schools are needed to meet the educational requirements for our students in Warwick.

At the last Warwick School Committee meeting on October 11, the School Committee proposed a new plan to keep Randall Holden Elementary School open and to request funding for 2 brand-new elementary schools to meet the requirements of the RI Department of Education. Apparently, the Warwick School Committee has decided that the new requirements from RIDE mean that the Warwick school system would have 700 more elementary school students than we have capacity for because of our school consolidation program.

The Warwick School Committee has sent this same proposal to the Warwick City Council to receive a school bond request for $130 million. The Warwick City Council has scheduled a special Meeting to hear this proposal on November 29, 2017.

 Apparently, the Warwick School Committee has already rejected and modified the decision that was made by the school consolidation committee to close the Randall Holden elementary school. Does this mean that the entire school consolidation committee report that was adopted by the Warwick School Committee after countless public meetings devoted to the question of consolidation by members of the Warwick voters has been rejected by the Warwick School Committee?

During October and November, a group of parents, teachers, and concerned citizens representing the families being affected by the closing of John Brown Francis Elementary School have been meeting to attempt to keep JBF open as an elementary school. Operation Falcon is a grassroots organization consisting of thoughtful concerned citizens that are attempting to make a difference. They are canvassing the neighborhoods in Ward 1 passing out pamphlets, planting yard signs and spreading the message that John Brown Francis Elementary School cannot be closed. Operation Falcon leadership team has been meeting at the Warwick public library to plan their efforts. I have attended three of these meetings. I am 100 percent behind the goal of Operation Falcon to keep John Brown Francis Elementary School open.

Operation Falcon is requesting the support and help of every thoughtful citizen in the City of Warwick and the State of RI. I have pledged my support and I am urging the voters in Ward 1 to support their efforts, and contact every elected official on the Warwick School Committee and tell them that we oppose the closing of John Brown Francis Elementary School.

Rick Corley

Councilman Ward 1

Comments

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JohnStark

First, Mr. Corley wishes younger siblings to attend the same school as older siblings. Touching, but not a reason to keep a school open amidst plummeting enrollment. A child has the right to a free and appropriate public education. He/she does NOT have the right to receive that education in their neighborhood.

Second, he disapproves of the beaurocratic process of school consolidation in the city. While he is correct that there have been a myriad of commissions, committees, and studies over the last 6-7 years they all came to virtually the same conclusion: Close schools!

Warwick is both a shrinking and greying economic pie. If families of means with high academic expectations move to Warwick in the first place, it is with the understanding that their children will not attend public school after 8th grade. I recently observed teachers conducting class in shorts and/or jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers. It should come as no surprise that a slovenly appearance translates to slovenly academic outcomes, both of which are clearly being avoided by an increasing number of parents.

Tuesday, November 7
Justanidiot

Again, build one school K-12 and warehouse the kids. That is what our education system is anyway, a place to plop our kids while we go to work. Feed em and keep them off the streets until they reach 18.

Wednesday, November 8
BeaconCommenter

Justanidiot is right, Let's build a huge warehouse and shove all the kids in there to stare at laptops and call it a day, Also, John,where do you observe teachers conducting classes in shorts and jeans? Do you just randomly wander into public school buildings and sit in on classrooms? I would hope security is a little tighter than that.

Wednesday, November 8
markyc

The Warwick School consolidation process has become a fiasco. But what would you expect of a process that should have been started in the early 1990s. Undisputed fact: Warwick's student enrollment has been declining. Warwick's Education system, or the perception of it, has declined(debatable). The School Committee now proposes a $ 130 million bond that includes two NEW elementary schools & Holden is to remain open. Is Wicks still to close ? The most recent articles I read on the elementary school consolidation was that Holden & Wicks would close & Francis was to be repurposed as the "new" early learning center because Drum Rock Early Learning Center at the Toll Gate Complex wouldn't be able to meet RIDE accreditation standards(the maximum standards desired). Why not keep Francis open & either improve(if possible) Drum Rock or build a new Early Learning Center ? Maybe this would be CHEAPER & be more convenient for the students/their parents/the school system. If elementary school enrollment spots are still needed maybe build a combined early learning/elementary school ? In any case, I believe the School Committee/Administration is not using/requesting taxpayer dollars in an efficient manner. Maybe the elementary school consolidation process needs to be further delayed to see the effects of the secondary school consolidation( I believe that's still a work in progress). Besides, the PRIORITY should be making sure the teachers contract is ratified first.

Thursday, November 9
Justanidiot

hows abouts we buys a buncha buses and ship all the kids to barrington

Friday, November 10
DanElliott

The thoughtful citizens of Warwick are skeptical of the indefinite tabling of the Aldrich school proposal by Councilman Corley and his colleagues. Why wasn't the charter school given a fair hearing? Apparently, the Councilman's wife is a WTU member and JBF teacher. The fact that Corley moved to "hold indefinitely" the Aldrich redevelopment proposal now makes perfect sense. Delay, deny, until it dies.

If the City Council continues it's dithering, the city may ultimately be left with an empty building, another eyesore to symbolize our lack of vision in Warwick. Then when all else fails and years pass with no activity, we'll end up with a big Target store to compete with the Wal-Mart across the street. That would be a shame, and Councilman Corley would be the politician responsible.

Read between the lines, folks.

Dan Elliott

Sunday, November 12
davebarry109

Mr. Corley, if you are so dead set on keeping JBF as an elementary school you have lost my vote. You may get some parents votes but from a business sense, you're dead wrong.

3 days ago
davebarry109

If Mr. Corley's wife is a Warwick teacher and one at JBF, he needs to divulge that. That is a complete conflict of interest. No wonder Aldrich remains an abandoned building.

3 days ago
davebarry109

"The reasons for this are myriad, but chief among them is my belief that both Warwick’s school system, and sense of community have flourished under the system of having neighborhood elementary schools". Completely irrelevant comment. We are at a tipping point. The city can no longer afford this nonsense.

Does Mr. Corley abstain on any council questions that involve the WTU? If his wife is a teacher, and he says she is, how can he vote on anything related to the teachers? He should remain silent on the JBF matter since he appears to be about keeping peace at home and saving his wife's preference of teaching at JBF. Wow. And he's a lawyer?

3 days ago