2018-08-30 / Opinion

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

6 Percent Teacher Raise? 10 Questions First

To the Editor:

The Middletown School Committee wants the town council to approve a new three-year teachers’ contract granting teachers a 6 percent raise. Many teachers may deserve a raise, but the public also deserves excellence, better school and student performance, and higher levels of accountability by the school committee and superintendent. The Middletown Town Council is supposed to vote on the new contract in early September. There are questions that should be answered before the council votes.

Rhode Island’s public school system encourages superintendents and school committees, Middletown for example, to maximize their budgets, teachers’ salaries, and teachers’ association dues contributions. There is no incentive for school leaders to reduce costs, improve students’ performance and education experiences, or employ only the best teachers. In the spring of 2018, the Middletown Town Council appropriated about one-quarter of the Middletown school department’s funding request for 2019 and asked the School Department why other Rhode Island school districts performed better for a lower cost per student.

The Middletown Town Council should continue its emphasis on building and sustaining best-value government services that are economical and affordable, and should have the school committee answer that question and the 10 others below, before it votes on the new teachers’ contract.

1. Where is the Middletown teacher salary scale with respect to all Rhode Island cities and towns, particularly the ones that have lower per-student costs and better student academic performance?

2. How will the school department pay for the 6 percent pay raise?

3. What are the annual increased costs of teachers’ longevity pay?

4. What is the total cost of salary increases for teachers’ participation in extracurricular activities?

5. What is the total of all costs of the new teachers’ contract?

6. How is the total cost offset by National Education Association concessions?

7. What are the contract’s provisions for the National Education Association; are dues increased?

8. What new contract provisions did the school committee add for improving students’ experiences by fixing the management of teachers’ absences and substitute teachers’ costs?

9. What new contract provisions did the school committee add for rewarding teachers for their performance?

10. What new contract provisions did the school committee add for refreshing the teachers’ workforce, improving student performance and reducing costs?

We should pursue excellent education for our children and assure that a new teachers’ contract shapes that outcome.

Paul E. Mankofsky
Middletown

Why I am Voting for Gina Raimondo

To the Editor:

I am proud to support Gov. Gina Raimondo for reelection. I had the pleasure of working for Gov. Raimondo for several years after a decade of working as a teacher in Rhode Island. I was able to learn so much from her. Besides her excellent work ethic and wealth of knowledge, Gina truly cares about people.

While the governor's hard work around infrastructure, economic development and workforce training have been exemplary, her focus on education has been pivotal in the revitalization of our state. For example, Gov. Raimondo approved three school districts to host the state's new Pathways in Technology Early College High School program (P-TECH). Newport has been fortunate to have such a great partnership between its school system and industry, ensuring good paying jobs for students right out of high school. Beyond this, the governor has made computer science available to students in every public school, an important initiative which best prepares students for the jobs of tomorrow.

Finally, I had the pleasure of visiting Pell Elementary School in Newport when the governor announced that she was ending the school construction moratorium in 2015 in order to invest in the buildings where our young learners spend so many hours of the day. She is so committed to learning environments that she has made this year's school construction bond a top priority. When the governor makes a promise, she keeps it!

I am certain that many of us who care deeply about the future of Rhode Island will look back at this governor's tenure as a win for Rhode Island students. Here's to four more years!

David Allard
Newport

Pell Bridge Ramp Alternatives

I have attended several presentations by RIDOT of the Pell Bridge- Ramp realignment alternatives currently under consideration as part of the environmental assessment process. While the final design is many months away, it strikes me that there are three things, among others, that need to be addressed now rather than later.

First: The need to have local government involved in approval of the final plan. I commend RIDOT for their willingness to meet with as many stakeholder organizations as possible during the evaluation of-alternatives process, but I am concerned that a failure to fully involve local government in the process would be a critical mistake. The community must accept ownership of the eventual design and that needs to be achieved through participation of both local elected officials and its citizens.

Second: The need to integrate consideration of a broader array of activity outside the bridge-ramp realignment area than what is being addressed in the current analysis of-alternatives process. The current process doesn’t appear to consider things outside the bridge-ramp realignment area, land targeted for resilience-innovation hub development, that will have a significant impact both within that area and in areas proximate to it and beyond. Three things are immediately obvious: (a) development of the Naval Hospital land; (b) mixed-use development of the Newport Grand land by the Carpionato Group; and (c) development at the Gateway visitors center site for which an assessment of future alternatives is underway. The development of each of these sites will have a dramatic impact on the bridge-ramp realignment area, yet it is not obvious from the presentations I have attended that impact of their development has been integrated into the current analysis. In addition to those projects, the disposition of the city yard, the future of waste transfer station, the dog park, and the creation of a bike trail also need to be addressed. Concurrently, some alternatives allude to what might happen to the Van Zandt bridge, to the rerouting of traffic away from the center of Newport, and to creation of alternative means of transportation in conjunction with creation of a parking lot within the project footprint; these could have significant impact on local traffic patterns, roads outside the ramp-realignment area and other development that would need to align with this project. Unfortunately, the current alternatives don’t appear to take these critical components of future development into consideration.

Third: The need to clearly state how community concerns will be addressed and balanced as the project evolves; there undoubtedly will be trade-offs, but who exactly will influence that process, and how will decisions be made? RIDOT has invited everyone to weigh in with comments, but who will make the final selection? Who in local government is influencing the process and preparing for the impacts that are coming? RIDOT may do an outstanding job of overseeing this project, but the City of Newport needs to be involved at every stage of the project and to ensure that we don’t just build some roads, but that we build something that will benefit the entire city. Ultimately, Newport, not bureaucrats in Providence or Washington, needs to be making these decisions. Accordingly, the role of local government in this project needs to be more clearly and strongly stated than it is now.

To that end, I would suggest that the city establish an advisory body comprised of city staff and elected officials and neighborhood, business and stakeholder groups to assist the city in overseeing this project.

Justin McLaughlin
Newport

Multicultural Lectures Informative

To the Editor:

Last evening I had the pleasure of attending a very interesting presentation given by Newport native, Keith Stokes, entitled “American Irony: Religious Freedom and Slavery in Colonial Newport.”

The primary message was to describe how colonial Newport, which was founded on the principles of religious freedom was at the same time the leading center for trading of African slaves.

This presentation, compiled following considerable research by Keith and his wife, Teresa, was extremely informative. It explained both the unique history of religious diversity in Newport as well as the early history and eventual success of Africans who were brought to Newport by the early slave traders.

I hope Keith and Teresa will offer this presentation again. It was time very well spent.

Meanwhile, I want to thank Rev. Dr. Anita Schell for providing the monthly “Speaking of Religion” series of multicultural lectures. The next lecture in the series will be on Sept. 24 and will be about an immigrant American Muslim’s journey.

Peter Martin
Newport

Newport Favorite for Triennial Event

To the Editor:

The recent Weekend of Coaching in Newport was once again a wonderful success, and the Preservation Society of Newport County extends its sincere appreciation to all who helped to make it so. We are especially grateful to the Newport police and fire departments, and to the Middletown and Portsmouth police departments for their operational and logistical support, helping to ensure that the beautiful horse-drawn coaches and their passengers were able to safely negotiate through their communities.

To the estimated 3,000 people who enjoyed the coaching skills exhibition at The Elms on Saturday morning, and the many more who lined the streets each day to applaud the coaches and their teams as they passed, we also say thank you for providing such a warm greeting to our guests. Your enthusiasm is one of the reasons the members of the Coaching Club tell us their Newport meet every three years is the one they look forward to the most.

Trudy Coxe
CEO and Executive Director
Preservation Society of
Newport County

To the Next 100 Years

To the Editor:

Our 2018 season and 100th season of George Donnelly Sunset League baseball has come to a conclusion with the Brother’s Baseball Club capturing the title.

I would first off like to thank my beautiful wife Michele for her continued support of what I do, she is the bedrock behind the scenes of the league. Secondly thank you’s go out to all the managers, players and umpires and Ethan and Aiden my two assistants. Without all of you the league would not be celebrating one hundred seasons.

I have had the great opportunity to meet some wonderful people during this past season.

Everyone from tourists visiting our beautiful ballpark to Sunset League alumni, It is truly an honor to run this league. We are certainly in a good place and look forward to many more seasons down on the corner of Thames and West Marlboro.

Chris La Rose
Commissioner GDSL

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