2016-12-15 / Front Page

New School Committee Looks Ahead

By Betsy Sherman Walker

With a laundry list of organizational nuts and bolts on its agenda, and with a relatively sparse amount of discourse, the Newport School Committee gathered for its first official meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13, and approved everyone – and everything – that came up for a vote.

Committee Chair David Hanos and Vice Chair Ray Gomes were officially and unanimously voted into their positions, as were subcommittee appointments. The 2017 schedule of meetings was approved, with Hanos announcing the addition of a 15-minute opening session, to which the public is invited, prior to the monthly meetings at 6:30 p.m.

“We want people to know,” he said, “that the door is always open.”

Votes on awarding two different bids – one for installing much-needed window shades in a number of classrooms at Rogers, and the other on a mechanical services contract – generated the most conversation. Committee member David Carlin was concerned that for both contracts, the bidders were not from Newport County.

Citing the need to support small local businesses, he argued that many local businessmen did not even know the steps to take to be included on the state vendor-approved list. He suggested that votes be delayed for a month so that in the interim, the vendors could be shown how to apply. Carlin added that he had researched the number of shade and window companies on the island and came up with “at least 16.”

Superintendent of Facilities Management Tom Harrop said that he called many of those same companies and that “the vast majority said the job was just too much for their resources.” Of the vendors called, Harrop reported that three showed up and only one submitted a bid. Off-island bidders, he added, were also able to offer more competitive bids.

Carlin echoed his concerns with the mechanical services contract. “We do more to alert the public about the girls volleyball team,” he said, “than to alert local businesses. We should delay until we have reached out to them to let them know these contracts exist. This is a shame.”

Again, Harrop said he had reached out. “It’s tough,” he agreed. “But they don’t have the capability in house to take care of an energy management system.”

Both bids passed muster, 6-1, with Carlin dissenting on each. After the second vote he said, “We are doing the vendors of Newport County a disservice.”

The committee recognized the Rogers girls volleyball team’s perfect season, taking the Division III Rhode Island championship with 17 wins and no losses – the team’s first championship in 32 years. As grateful as she was proud, Head Coach Sarah Glancy told the committee that she had been “overwhelmed with how tight-knit this community is.”

Rogers history teacher Colleen Hermes made a presentation on the International Studies and Leadership Program (ISLP), conveying its tremendous success, her vision for how far it could go, and what it could accomplish for her students if it was properly funded. “The rest of the world,” Hermes told the members, “begins on the other side of the Pell Bridge.”

She introduced her teaching ally, Capt. Mark Turner, director of the Naval Staff College, who has been instrumental in developing the program. His goal, along with Hermes, is to create “globally competent students.” Turner had high praise for Rogers. “No other school I can think of,” he said, “has what we have.” Turner told the committee that in ISLP he saw “the opportunity to change the dialogue of Rogers” while enriching the entire district.

In a reference to the recently approved strategic plan, Turner concluded, “This is One Newport before there was One Newport. It aligns with your strategic plan.”

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