2016-11-17 / Front Page

Hanos Gets Chair

Strategic Plan, Early Childhood Education Top To-Do List
By Betsy Sherman Walker

In a week where transitions of power at the local level were happening earlier – and everywhere – members of the Newport School Committee met for a post-election caucus on Monday, Nov. 14. In two unanimous show of hands, members swiftly voted to appoint incumbent David Hanos as chair, and Raymond Gomes, the only newcomer to the group, as vice-chair.

The committee gathered to establish leadership and to discuss direction, subcommittees, and organizational issues for the next two-year term. It was a full head count, with Rebecca Bolan, David Carlin, Sandra Flowers, Jo Eva Gaines, Gomes, Hanos, Kathy Silvia, and Superintendent Colleen Jermain in attendance.

After the vote, outgoing chair Gaines told Hanos, “This is a commitment.” She also took one last chance to advocate for her agenda. “You must remember,” she said, “that it’s all about the kids. You have to keep the kids in the middle of the table at all times.”

Following the vote for Gomes, the kids came right back out on the table along with OneNewport, the strategic plan approved by the committee on Nov. 9. “Today we had 26 students identified as children needing special attention,” Jermain reported. “Not necessarily at risk, but in their first school experience, they are already having struggles.”

As a list of subcommittees made the rounds, their purpose and function was debated. One in particular – the pre-K group, formed in 2012 – came under direct fire. Calling it out-of-date and out of touch, Gaines said she was “concerned about its direction,” while Flowers added that it had been “wandering away from its intent.” Agreeing that it was time to “repurpose” the pre-K subcommittee into a working tool for the success of the strategic plan, it was dissolved by a unanimous vote pending an upcoming OneNewport meeting on Thursday, Nov. 17.

Beyond the business of appointing its new leaders, the session was a good opportunity for the restructured group to think out loud, position, and look ahead.

Hanos stressed that committee members would need to work as a team to get things done. He tasked his colleagues with working to define their goals and examining “other things you’d like to achieve, for the district and the city. Is there something,” for example, “you don’t see in the strategic plan?”

“Now is where you can talk about things you’d like to see being done,” noted Jermain.

Some subcommittees – such as those on negotiations, contracts, and policy – also came up, but without much discussion. Another, on public relations, appeared to have fallen off the radar. After someone inquired about the PR subcommittee, Gaines wondered out loud, “Did we lose PR?” Flowers felt that it could be expanded upon, adding that “we need to get the news out.”

Other topics: facilities, laptops for committee members, and meeting locations. When Hanos suggested Thompson Middle School, the consensus was that the acoustics there were “awful.” Gaines suggested City Hall as a possible venue.

“Let’s try to mix it up a little bit,” Hanos said. “If it gets more people to come to the meeting, I’d embrace that.”

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