Four in race for two city wide School Committee seats

Posted

Four candidates are vying for two at-large Warwick School Committee seats this November. Patrick Maloney and Christopher Friel currently hold the positions, but only Maloney is seeking re-election.


Friel, who has served on the committee for the past eight years, said he chose not to seek re-election because the schedules of his three children, ages 9, 7 and 4, take up most of his time. He also said his second term would be his last.

Friel thinks the four candidates are all good choices, though he wouldn’t single out his favorites. He said this year, there aren’t many big issues, so whomever is elected won’t have to deal with many “difficult” things, like the discussion of school closures and budgeting. Instead, Friel hopes whomever is elected will zero in on the quality of education in Warwick.

He said the lack of issues this year is reflected in the number of candidates who chose to run, a number that Friel said is low. In his past elections, Friel remembers having seven or eight candidates in the ring and a primary to narrow them down. But this year, there are only four.

Newcomers to a race for School Committee are Karen Bachus and Jennifer Townsend-Ahearn. David Testa ran unsuccessfully for the District 1 seat in 2010. And incumbent Patrick Maloney is seeking re-election.

At a candidates forum last month, all of the candidates addressed hot button issues like superintendent’s Peter Horoshack’s suspension, new mentoring regulations and how NECAPs [New England Common Assessment Program] play into determining student proficiency.

All of the candidates agreed that Horoshack’s administrative leave, which has been clouded with mystery for months, was a private personnel issue. Even Friel would not comment.

The candidates also agreed the senior project rules and regulations need to be examined and potentially changed, especially since the face-to-face mentor aspect was nixed due to a new law passed in the spring.

There were mixed opinions on student proficiency classifications, as some candidates said the 2012 ratings based on NECAP scores painted an accurate, yet disappointing picture, and others disagreed.

Ahearn and Maloney both pointed to the “typical” ratings Warwick schools earned this summer from the Rhode Island Department of Education as disappointing ratings that needed to be amended. But Bachus and Testa called the ratings inaccurate, and said NECAPs are not an accurate way of determining students’ progress.

All of the candidates gave the current School Committee a “B” letter grade.
On the ballot, the non-partisan candidates will be listed in an order determined by lottery. Testa’s name is at the top of the ballot, followed by Ahearn, then Bachus and Maloney. The district and at-large races are staggered every two years to prevent an entirely new School Committee from being elected at once.

Since one of the major issues in Warwick schools is the declining student population, we asked each of the candidates what they would do to address decreasing student enrollment in the city. We also asked what they believe is the single most important issue facing Warwick schools, and how they plan to address it.

JENNIFER TOWNSEND-AHEARN
First-time candidate
41
Stay-at-home mom

Student enrollment is declining, and there have been talks of closing a secondary school and perhaps additional elementary schools. If elected, how would you address the issue of declining enrollment?

Trends in student enrollment directly correlate to the number of schools we can afford to keep open. Efforts should focus on attracting and retaining Warwick families. We need to demonstrate to families that the Warwick school system is a top R.I. destination for education. This can only be accomplished by producing better scores and school ratings throughout all grades, offering superior vocational options and top-notch extra-curricular programs, and by physically improving our current school facilities.

What do you see as the single most important issue facing Warwick schools and how would you address it?

Administrative leadership is an ever-important issue facing the WPS today. Leadership is about hiring, mentoring and empowering great people. As an SC member, I will collaborate with my peers to task the superintendent with concise and specific academic and fiscal expectations and manage the Administration to meeting or exceeding these goals. I believe leadership needs to begin with the SC and cascade through administration and schools to raise the bar and improve results.

KAREN BACHUS
First-time candidate
49
Child protective investigator, DCYF

Student enrollment is declining, and there have been talks of closing a secondary school and perhaps additional elementary schools. If elected, how would you address the issue of declining enrollment?

Access to accurate facts and figures is vital. The needs of the students and the efficacy of our facilities must be determined. Due deliberation with other stakeholders, Long Term Facilities Planning Committee, the Mayor’s Office, parents, students, teachers and the taxpayers is a must to make the best decisions for our students. We previously closed four elementary schools, but Drum Rock and Greene were then re-purposed. Re-opening a school is not an easy task, and is costly.

What do you see as the single most important issue facing Warwick schools and how would you address it?

The single most important issue is funding. State and federal government constantly bombards schools with unfunded mandates. These mandates must end – or they must be funded by those who mandate them. The state’s school funding formula put Warwick at a disadvantage. This needs to be fixed. In addition, we need to look at other funding sources such as grants, awards and partnerships with businesses, universities and other organizations. We cannot continue to rely on our taxpayers.

PATRICK MALONEY
Incumbent; Served on Warwick School Committee since 2008
41
Owner of Dr. Desktop and Game on

Student enrollment is declining, and there have been talks of closing a secondary school and perhaps additional elementary schools. If elected, how would you address the issue of declining enrollment?

I would like to work with the city to highlight the good things that are happening in our schools. Schools are the top reason people choose to move to a city. More families moving to Warwick will stabilize enrollment and also stabilize taxes. This would be a win-win situation for the taxpayers and the schools. If it was determined that a school would need to close, all stakeholders would be involved in the decision.

What do you see as the single most important issue facing Warwick schools and how would you address it?

The single most important issue facing Warwick Schools is unfunded mandates. The state and R.I. Department of Education regulates the schools and forces programs and guidelines on schools that the local cities must pay for to be in compliance. State-funded mandates are only partially funded and the schools must pay for the difference. With less mandates, better education can be achieved for all of our students by providing what they really need to succeed.  

DAVID TESTA
Ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for Dist. 1
49
Senior Buyer, Perkins, Inc.

Student enrollment is declining, and there have been talks of closing a secondary school and perhaps additional elementary schools. If elected, how would you address the issue of declining enrollment?

We have a demographic challenge. Piece-meal school closings won’t work anymore. All stakeholders (school, city and the public) need to have an honest discussion about what kind of a school system we want to have in five years, in 10 years. We need to reconvene the Long Term Facilities Planning Commission and use data from outside sources that specialize in this area. Our infrastructure is very old – our newest school is approximately 40 years old.

What do you see as the single most important issue facing Warwick schools and how would you address it?

Implementing the new Common Core curriculum, especially the elementary math curriculum. Unlike in the past, this implementation is occurring across all grades simultaneously, posing challenges to students and teachers. Parents need to know what’s expected of students and what tools are available help their child succeed and teachers need support from Administration to help them succeed. Our online Parent Portal that would allow parents to see how their children are doing needs to be operational.


Welcome to RIjobs.com
Hot stuff
Photos
Blogs
Stories
Video
The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, an event that unites all of us who have been affected by cancer, wishes to inform the community about a movement that will …