To the Editor:
When I began my campaign for the Warwick City Council last year, I quickly learned the number one issue on the minds of the voters in Ward 1.
“Do you support the closing of John Brown Francis Elementary School?”
My response during the campaign was that I was 100 percent against the decision of the Warwick School Committee to send the students that were attending John Brown Francis Elementary School out of their neighborhoods to another school. (For purposes of full disclosure, I will state that my wife is a teacher at John Brown Francis Elementary School. I assure you that my opinion would not change if she still taught at Wyman School, where she was a teacher for many years.)
The reasons for this are myriad, but chief among them is my belief that both Warwick’s school system, and sense of community have flourished under the system of having neighborhood elementary schools. My three children attended and graduated from John Brown Francis Elementary School, and I fondly remember the everyday routine of them riding their bicycles to the John Brown Francis Elementary School. I was totally against the decision that would have forced parents to tell their children that they would not be able to have the same experience that my children enjoyed.
The second major reason I oppose the re-purposing of John Brown Francis Elementary School is the haphazard way that the Warwick School Committee has gone about their consolidation plan. In reviewing the history of the consolidation plans that were used by the Warwick School Committee since 2011 to close a number of elementary schools, and replace the junior high school system with middle schools, I discovered that this problem began sometime around 2010. Since that time, the city of Warwick has had 5 different Superintendents running the Warwick school system. There have been 4 different Long Term Facilities Planning Committees with 5 year plans to guide the future of the Warwick school system. Since 2011 the Warwick School Committee has authorized a half dozen different study commissions and consultants that have generated countless reports that have cost the city millions of dollars to address how many schools are needed to meet the educational requirements for our students in Warwick.
At the last Warwick School Committee meeting on October 11, the School Committee proposed a new plan to keep Randall Holden Elementary School open and to request funding for 2 brand-new elementary schools to meet the requirements of the RI Department of Education. Apparently, the Warwick School Committee has decided that the new requirements from RIDE mean that the Warwick school system would have 700 more elementary school students than we have capacity for because of our school consolidation program.
The Warwick School Committee has sent this same proposal to the Warwick City Council to receive a school bond request for $130 million. The Warwick City Council has scheduled a special Meeting to hear this proposal on November 29, 2017.
Apparently, the Warwick School Committee has already rejected and modified the decision that was made by the school consolidation committee to close the Randall Holden elementary school. Does this mean that the entire school consolidation committee report that was adopted by the Warwick School Committee after countless public meetings devoted to the question of consolidation by members of the Warwick voters has been rejected by the Warwick School Committee?
During October and November, a group of parents, teachers, and concerned citizens representing the families being affected by the closing of John Brown Francis Elementary School have been meeting to attempt to keep JBF open as an elementary school. Operation Falcon is a grassroots organization consisting of thoughtful concerned citizens that are attempting to make a difference. They are canvassing the neighborhoods in Ward 1 passing out pamphlets, planting yard signs and spreading the message that John Brown Francis Elementary School cannot be closed. Operation Falcon leadership team has been meeting at the Warwick public library to plan their efforts. I have attended three of these meetings. I am 100 percent behind the goal of Operation Falcon to keep John Brown Francis Elementary School open.
Operation Falcon is requesting the support and help of every thoughtful citizen in the City of Warwick and the State of RI. I have pledged my support and I am urging the voters in Ward 1 to support their efforts, and contact every elected official on the Warwick School Committee and tell them that we oppose the closing of John Brown Francis Elementary School.
Councilman Ward 1