2018-06-07 / Opinion

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Is Status Quo in Everyone’s Best Interests?

To the Editor:

At Monday’s Middletown Town Council meeting, the Council delivered a resounding blow for the status quo. Councilor VonVillas and Senator Lou DiPalma presented the level of State financial support expected to be available if Middletown and Newport consolidated their respective high schools into a new, joint high school. After a brief discussion, the Council decided to decline to participate in any further consideration of a consolidated high school.

Ms. VonVillas pointed out that Middletown and Rogers High Schools’ student populations are now about 630 each and are not projected to change significantly in the foreseeable future. She also noted that a combined student population of approximately 1,200 students would support a greatly increased diversity of classes such as advanced placement STEAM and technical instruction.

Senator DiPalma presented the expected level of State financial support for a consolidated high school. He described the various financial support levels available which, cumulatively, would provide about 58 percent of the cost of a new, state-of-the-art high school. He indicated that this unprecedented level of State financial support would probably never occur again, it was, in his words “the opportunity of a generation.”

The eventual replacement of Middletown High school for about 630 students will cost Middletown far more than a consolidated school.

The Council’s objection to pursuing a new Middletown-Newport High School ranged from an automatic, visceral dislike for consolidated education at any level to fear that the Middletown Council’s control of the high school’s finances and governance would be diminished or impaired.

Senator DiPalma’s explanation that under RIGL Title 16 such concerns would be fully addressed by special legislation was not persuasive, with one Council member saying that he “just didn’t trust the State government” and another member confusing consolidation of an entire district with the proposed high school only consolidation and worrying that the new high school would possess “eminent domain”.

I participated in the previous Newport-Middletown discussions of high school consolidation. Based on that experience, I am convinced that the objections raised by the Council can be addressed and reasonable solutions found.

The State of Rhode Island has committed to a program of “Fewer and Newer” schools to address the aging of our educational infrastructure. It is, in my view, unfortunate that Middletown has chosen the status quo, to patch up our schools rather than bequeath to subsequent generations a high school with the facilities and a student population adequate to support the program diversity and curricula strength required for a 21st-century education. It seems to me that the Council’s decision is asking for new results while continuing to do what we are now doing, a very unlikely outcome.

Maintaining the status quo is undoubtedly the non-controversial approach. But I do not believe it is in the best interests of our students or taxpayers.

Richard Adams
Middletown

Community Shines in Helping Students

To the Editor:

As Thompson Middle School Student Council Advisors, we want to take a minute to extend our appreciation for all that this community has done for the Thompson Middle School students this year. The community as a whole, parents, friends, and local businesses have really helped us do some amazing things with our students.

Our year kicked off with the POWER walk. Students were sponsored by family and friends and took a walk through town to begin our fundraising efforts to help our POWERful behavior recognition program. Not only did the students get many sponsored donations, but the response from local business owners and employees as the students walked through town accompanied by the TMS band made our students feel so special.

Joe Lalli and The Hillside Cafe (Cappy’s) hosted a fundraising evening of fun, food, and raffles. This helped us bring over 300 POWERful students who met a very high behavioral standard to the Jane Pickens Theater for an afternoon movie! These fundraising efforts will also help us execute the TMS End of the Year Celebration where we will again bring over 300 POWERful students to Braga Park for a field day.

One of our most exciting events this year was one that TMS has not hosted for many, many years. Our Eighth Grade Semi-Formal dance was held on June 1st. Our 8th graders asked, then begged, and finally got us to agree to this long abandoned tradition. Despite not knowing if we had the interest, the funds, or the know-how to put it all together, we decided to give it a try. Our fears were laid to rest as soon as we started this process. The parents, friends, TMS custodians, and teachers (both current and retired) stepped up in the biggest way.

We had a “shopping week” at school to ensure that each and every student had something great to wear that night. Donations of dresses, ties, jewelry, shoes and dress shirts were pouring in! Parents were running out to grab last-minute shirts of all sizes, simply because the kids needed them.

We then moved on to decorations, and again the donations came pouring in...lights, signs, balloons all made possible by parent and teacher contributions. We were able to transform the TMS gymnasium into a Carnival Wonderland, complete with a red carpet, rose boutonnieres for each young man, and a rose for each young lady donated by local Stop and Shops, Shaw’s, and Water’s Edge Florist.

There was a never-ending dessert bar that was donated by parents, teachers, and friends of TMS. It was complete with a snow cone machine, a cotton candy machine, popcorn from Pub 99 on Connell Highway, and every kind of cookie you could imagine. What an amazing night these 8th graders had! We cannot say THANK YOU enough to all of the people who helped us make this night, and our year, a success.

Lindsey Cruff and Beth Raffa

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