A brand-new school committee majority will take office January, as all three seats up for grabs – including the one held by Terri Medeiros, the lone incumbent running in District 2 – were decided by narrow margins during Tuesday’s election.
In District 1, political newcomer Kyle Adams – who graduated from Pilgrim High School in 2010 – beat Richard Cascella 5,138 votes to 4,427 (53 to 45.8 percent). It was the widest margin of victory for any of the school committee districts.
In District 2, another newcomer – Judith Cobden – beat out incumbent Medeiros by a vote count of 4,674 to 4,215 (51.7 to 46.7 percent). Cobden’s shoe-leather – or tire rubber, perhaps more appropriately, as she utilized a unique scooter to get to and from houses in the district – campaign clearly paid off.
In District 3, Nathan Cornell – the youngest running politician in Warwick, who graduated from Toll Gate High School in 2016 – beat out certified CPA and college professor Corey Smith by a count of 5,125 to 4,612 (52 to 46.7 percent). The differences in experience and expertise between the two were apparent, but Cornell apparently made an impact with his insistent foot campaigning.
The results mean that change is likely to come to Warwick schools, as all three winning candidates campaigned on platforms that decried decisions made by the past iteration of the school committee, especially in regards to how they worked with the school administration, led by Superintendent Philip Thornton. However, what exactly that change will look like remains to be seen.
The new committee will be put to the fiduciary test right away, as Warwick voters overwhelmingly approved the $40 million bond initiative to begin fixing the most critical needs within the district’s buildings. In total, 23,053 voters (74 percent) in Warwick voted in favor of the bond. The state’s $250 million bond also easily passed.
It will be the school committee’s responsibility to take the bond moneys – which are released via the Warwick City Council – and appropriate them towards projects that will optimize the limited resources. To put the bond money in perspective, the state estimated that Warwick would need about $190 million to properly repair the schools in Warwick. The $40 million bond was the result of a reduction from the original request of $85 million by the school department, as approved by the school committee.
It will be interesting as well to see how the Warwick City Council responds to the change in school committee composition, as multiple members have recently openly expressed their distrust of the committee and the school department - part of the reason the bond was cut down by more than half its requested amount.
Some new members of the school committee expressed their excitement on Wednesday to get started.
“Now that we will have a new a school committee, we as a district need to move forward towards making our schools the best,” said Cobden. “We can do this by being fiscally responsible, transparent, respectful and, most importantly, by having open communication with all stakeholders. I feel positive that myself and those also just elected, along with those currently sitting, can work well and hard as a team. Although there is much to improve, I believe we can learn from the past to create a much better future. We need to strive to regain trust from the city council and all those in city of Warwick as a whole. I look forward to being part of making Warwick the best again.”
Thornton, too, was focused on moving forward in the best direction for students as well, and thanked the last iteration of the school committee for their efforts in bringing the district forward.
“Over the past three years, a great deal has been accomplished here in Warwick; 1-to-1 computers for students, added AP classes and a successful school bond referendum to name just a few,” he said. “The school committee has been central in all of this work. Moving ahead, I look forward to working with the new school committee to continue our work of making our schools the very best they can be.”