2016-03-17 / Opinion


Commit to Future of Schools

To the Editor:

On March 10, the Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) held one of its most important public forums of the year, featuring the Newport Public Schools (NPS). Even though advance publicity was good, the turnout was disappointing. That was unfortunate, in that the presentation by School Committee members and school administration officers was outstanding.

Their plans for continuous improvement were informative, comprehensive and impressive.

A small but well-informed audience raised important issues. One asked if opportunity remains for high school regionalization among Aquidneck communities and was told that this may still be possible, but will require concentrated effort to overcome negative stereotypes about Newport schools. In fact, opportunities exist today that allow our students to attend classes in other districts, and a unique “schools within a school” curriculum has been developed at Rogers High School to custom-tailor educational opportunities for college and workforce readiness.

“Every student will now graduate with a plan,” promised NPS Superintendent Colleen Jermain.

Our schools – Newport’s largest budget expenditure and our hope for the future – have long been the brunt of criticism. The Thursday night presentations belied such an impression. At the end of the evening, cautious optimism prevailed. Jermain is committed to community outreach, developing partnerships with businesses, families, and residents. This is the concept of “One Newport” that anchors the NPS fiveyear strategic plan now in development. It will come to pass only if the community is willing to engage and commit to our schools. Apathy, as evidenced by the low turnout, appears to be our biggest hurdle.

Having attended more than a dozen meetings as a part of the strategic planning process, I’ve been converted from a skeptic to an enthusiastic supporter of our public schools and their future. No one involved denies there is a lot of heavy lifting needed to improve graduation rates, test scores, truancy levels and early childhood school readiness. Yet even today, we have a lot to be proud of. See for yourself: The slides from the forum and a summary of the fiveyear plan are on the ALN website at newportalliance.org.

The NPS Strategic Planning Committee is actively looking for volunteers to serve on seven important and far-ranging subcommittees. If you are willing to commit your time, energy and experience, contact strategicplanning@npsri.net. Whether you volunteer or not, we should all be better informed about our city’s public schools. They are our responsibility; they serve our children and our future.

Sincerely and with hope for Newport’s future,

Isabel Griffith

Co-President Alliance for a Livable Newport

Solar Success

To the Editor:

In February, the Solarize Aquidneck program completed its initial sign-up phase. The Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) wishes to thank the partners that made Solarize Aquidneck a great success: the City of Newport, the towns of Middletown and Portsmouth, the state Office of Energy Resources and CommerceRI, and the organization SmartPower. Thanks, also, to Newport This Week for your coverage of the Solarize Aquidneck program and events.

Solarize Aquidneck was the first multi-community, multi-installer solar energy partnership in Rhode Island. Through education, outreach and discount pricing, the program generated more than 600 homeowner inquiries and, to date, nearly 170 contracts to install solar panels on Aquidneck Island homes. Once complete, these installations will provide more than 1100 kW of clean electric generating capacity – saving money for homeowners and improving our island’s energy independence.

Our island communities are exceptionally vulnerable to coastal storms, sea level rise, and other climate change impacts. By reducing our carbon footprint, the Solarize program is helping Aquidneck Island to fight back and ensure resilience for the future. Moreover, the program provides a model for inter-municipal cooperation on Aquidneck Island and throughout Rhode Island.

AIPC is deeply grateful for the support of the municipal councils and committees in Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth, and the assistance of the municipalities’ able professional staffs, in managing the Solarize program and, indeed, everything that we do. We are committed to continuing to work with all three communities to create programs that, like Solarize Aquidneck, benefit island residents and improve our quality of life, while using the power of collaboration to save time and money.

Over the next year, solar energy contractors will be installing the solar panel systems contracted through the Solarize Aquidneck program. For information, visit us at aquidneckplanning.org.

Thomas C. Ardito

Executive Director Aquidneck Island Planning


Tolling Shows Failed Leadership

To the Editor:

Mike Burk, chair of the Tiverton Democrat Town Committee, was recently upset because Tiverton Councilor Joe Sousa blasted Rep. John Edwards, D-Tiverton, for voting for the RhodeWorks legislation. But the councilor is absolutely correct; cars will be tolled because the toll plan will fail, as proven by the Sakonnet Toll Opposition Platform (STOP) during the Sakonnet toll debate.

I was very disappointed in Rep. Edwards, who led the fight to repeal the Sakonnet toll (along with Sen. Walter Felag, D-Warren, and Sen. Louis DiPalma, D-Middletown), and Rep. Raymond Gallison, D-Bristol, for his treatment of Rep. Patricia Morgan, R-Coventry, in the House Finance Committee hearings.

Why is it OK to have tolls in other people’s backyards, but not yours? Even though they were elected by the people in their districts, the laws they help pass affect everyone in the state.

You know that the law requiring voter approval before tolls can be extended beyond large commercial trucks is false; that’s why the Democrats did not want it as a constitutional amendment. If it was in the constitution, only voter approval could repeal it when the revenue falls short, not the General Assembly.

The Democrats have been running the state for some 60 or so years, and look what they have done to it and you. But they did not elect themselves, the people did. Only you, the people, can make it right in November.

The Middletown Republican Committee is welcoming candidates for local and General Assembly offices. Please attend our next meeting on March 23, at the Courtyard by Marriott, at 6:30 pm.

Antone Viveiros, Chairman Middletown Republican Town Committee

French Offers Real- World Advantages

To the Editor:

I have read with interest and also some alarm about recent communications surrounding the proposed phasing out of the study of French at Portsmouth High School.

Current evidence suggests that students who are fluent in French will be at a distinct advantage when they enter the workforce, being able to communicate with 274 million French speakers worldwide. French is spoken on all continents and is the third most widelyused language on the Internet and the second most widely-used language in the European Union.

Portsmouth students who speak French will be able to take full advantage of the double majors being offered at the University of Rhode Island: French-engineering, French-pharmacy, French-fashion, French-business, French-economics and political science. It is estimated that 60 percent of French speakers worldwide are under the age of 30. Portsmouth students who speak French will be as wellprepared as their peers in other countries to survive in a world economy where the French-speaking countries account for 19 percent of world trade goods.

Rhode Island’s rich history in both manufacturing and agriculture has produced a significant population of both French-European and French-Canadian descent to whom the French language and culture has great importance. The United States and France are linked by a shared commitment to liberté, égalité and fraternité. The echo of footsteps from Rochambeau’s Army lingers in Portsmouth and its surrounds. The return voyage in July, 2015 to Newport of the replica of Lafayette’s frigate ship, The Hermione, was celebrated by thousands. Studying French will provide students with a deeper understanding of this history.

I support the goals of the Portsmouth High School mission to “value the past, thrive in the present and prepare for the future.” Learning French and developing an understanding of French culture will enable Portsmouth High School students to meet those three goals and to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Mary-Gail Smith, President

Alliance Française of Newport

Jeans Drive Had Positive Impact

To the Editor:

First, I would like to thank you for publishing my Rogers High School senior project in Newport This Week. With your help and the help of numerous members of the community, I was able to collect 350 pairs of jeans for the Teens for Jeans campaign. Teens for Jeans volunteers from all over the country tackled the fact that over a million young people experience homelessness in the U.S. every year.

A pair of jeans is one of the most requested items by this group and we impacted the lives of youth all across this country by collecting tens of thousands of jeans from New York to California, Puerto Rico to Hawaii, Rhode Island and everywhere in between. DoSomething.org now is one of the largest global organizations for young people and social change; it has 5.1 million members in 130 countries whose volunteers tackle campaigns that impact every cause including poverty, discrimination, and the environment. Their promise is: Any cause, anytime, anywhere.

Once again, thank you for your support and to all members of the community who helped to make this a successful drive.

Raven Ferri Newport

Tragedy Waiting to Happen

To the Editor:

This letter concerns a photo I recently saw of the 2016 St. Patrick’s Day parade showing young people sitting and standing on the top of a tall old building on Thames Street.

This was a very steep roof. It would not take much for an old shingle to give way or for someone to trip. We should never forget the people who have died or have been injured from old porch and balcony collapses in our city due to overcrowding.

Let’s not add rooftops to that list. Landlords take notice.

Bettie Sarantos


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