2018-06-14 / Opinion


Fix Our Schools

To the Editor:

I have been actively involved in Rhode Island’s education system for more than 50 years, so I wasn’t surprised when the assessment of our school buildings set off alarms. The proposal to make a statewide investment in our schools, including the $250 million bond, is urgent, necessary and long overdue.

As a teacher, I know that a school’s facilities impact much more than the students and the educators inside the buildings. We tend to lose sight of how wide the net gets when you’re discussing how a school building affects us, but I’ve seen it play out in how we as adults view schools and schooling.

The most important issues affecting people’s lives are jobs and the economy, health and healthcare, and access to a good education. Healthy, well-equipped school buildings positively impact all these issues.

Students in classrooms without temperature control or with poor ventilation are learning in an environment that can trigger asthma, allergies and respiratory infections. At best, students focus less on what’s being taught in class and more on their discomfort. At worst, they’re missing school days because of an asthma attack, pneumonia or the flu.

Aside from the stress that serious illnesses like these can have on our healthcare system, we must remember that if a young child has to stay home from school someone must stay with them. This can mean losing a day’s earnings for parents or guardians, or an older sibling forced to miss school themselves.

The poor condition of our school buildings hurts academic performance to varying degrees, but it still hurts. Lower grades and test scores affect what opportunities are available to students as they leave school. With fewer opportunities come fewer options for well-paying jobs. This creates another generation of working Americans who want to make a meaningful contribution to our economy but struggle to make ends meet. Over time that becomes unsustainable, and folks might consider moving to another community that can provide their children with better opportunities.

People will relocate for work when there is access to affordable housing and a real sense of community. But if someone can’t also find great schools for their children to attend, they may choose to forego the job. Employers know this and look at those factors when deciding where to start or expand their businesses.

Companies won’t come to Rhode Island if their employees don’t want to live here, and the businesses that are already here have a hard time recruiting qualified employees for the same reason. If we want to attract people to Rhode Island, we need it to be attractive; and thriving schools are incredibly attractive.

Repairing our school buildings is about more than just the people who are in them right now. It’s about making Rhode Island desirable for the people and businesses that haven’t considered coming here before. I can’t think of a better thing than investing $250 million for school construction to begin making our schools the best they can be. Our children deserve no less than our best effort to provide safe and appropriate school buildings.

Please let your state legislators know that you expect them to support the legislation to put this referendum on the ballot so that this fall we can vote for the bond to fix our schools.

Jo Eva Gaines, Rhode Island State
Board of Education, K-12 Council
Newport School Committee

Let's Talk About Consolidation

To the Editor:

I made a motion to initiate discussion. All I asked them to do was talk. There was no second to my motion.

What does that say? It tells me (and the public) that this Council thinks it intrinsically knows best and doesn’t need or want any information that might clarify the issue or even cause them to change their minds. How arrogant! But it’s not new.

Councilpersons generally have some area of expertise that they bring to the Council, and that’s usually a good thing because it adds personal perspective to what is often a complicated matter. It becomes a problem, however, when a councilperson regards him/herself as the ultimate expert who expects the rest of the Council to follow suit “because I know best.” It is a trap we must all be aware of and ensure that what we contribute is expansive rather than prescriptive.

So the motion for discussion of the possibility of consolidating the high schools was intended to expand knowledge to assure an informed decision.

Logical reasons were provided, of course, to affect the decision to talk or not to talk with a potential partner. The enrollments of the two schools is comparable (approx. 630 students in each school) so an appropriate legislated agreement would provide equal control.

MHS enrollment itself is only 69 percent of capacity; Rogers has been described as having the worst condition in the state.

Educators will agree that a school of 1,200 could possibly re-instate many of the lost educational opportunities for students. Some current councilmen should be able to relate to the choices they could make when they were high schoolers as opposed to what is now available.

A 2014 referendum was approved in Newport while it was defeated in Middletown by 460 of a total of 5,198 votes and the Council leaned toward favorable funding.

Recently, however, after some questionable expenditures, this Council has been more tight-handed, approving a zero increase for FY18 and merely granting the equivalent of the lost FY19 state aid. Expenses will go up, but the funding is not likely to get better. There is a good chance that more Middetowners would now prefer consolidation to increased taxes for schools when they are not always sure the money is being spent wisely.

Finally, it should be hard to argue with a 58 percent state reimbursement as identified by Senator DiPalma.

Yet, obviously, the Middletown Council must know best since it totally disregarded the aforementioned logic and chose to remain in the dark. One can only hope that something will happen to get them to see the light.

Thanks to the writer who said, “…Stay with it. The others on the council need to go back to school!”

Barbara A. VonVillas, Ph.D.

GOP Gubernatorial Endorsement

To the Editor:

The Newport Republican Town Committee endorsed Patricia Morgan to be the next Governor of Rhode Island Thursday night. Because of the upcoming GOP Primary, there has been renewed interest amongst Republicans in Newport. After much discussion, the Town Committee decided that Patricia is not only the only true conservative in the primary, but her history of fighting for lower taxes, less spending and weeding out corruption, make her the best candidate to be Rhode Island’s next Governor.

It's clear that Patricia Morgan is a true conservative with a record of protecting Rhode Islanders and growing jobs. She was the first to sign the ATR No Tax Increase pledge and she won the endorsement of the RI Liberty Caucus. We believe that it’s time to restore honor and integrity to the Governor’s office. Patricia will stomp out the pay to play antics of Federal Hill while implementing a conservative platform of tax cuts and job increases. We agree with Patricia that it’s time to reduce red tape and revolutionize Rhode Island, and the Newport Republican Town Committee is proud to stand with her.

Upon receiving our endorsement Patricia wrote, “I am honored and humbled to receive the endorsement of the Newport Republican Town Committee. It’s time to write the next chapter in Rhode Island’s history. I know every Rhode Islander is tired of waking up to scandals, mismanagement, and higher taxes. I will use common sense conservative principles to turn our state around and put the Ocean State back on top. I welcome everyone’s involvement. Let’s revolutionize Rhode Island together!”

I will be representing Newport conservatives at the upcoming 2018 Rhode Island Republican Party Endorsement Convention on June 27, along with two other Newport Committee delegates.

Larry Girouard, Chairman
Newport Republican Town

Bon Apetit

To the Editor:

Many thanks and congratulations once again to the students and staff of the culinary program at Rogers High School. Great service and take-out options, and wonderful, creative food!

Judith A. Byrnes

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