Incumbents likely candidates in 2018

The Cranston Herald ·

In politics, at least in Cranston, it seems you barely assume office, before it is time to start campaigning again.

For the seven members of the Cranston School Committee, most are thinking of running again. Here is what they had to say:

Ward 1

Jeff Gale said if he runs and is elected, it would be his fourth term. Having worked for the federal agency that runs AmeriCorps in Washington, DC, he is a big believer in service to his community, and this is the best way for him to give back.

“I've spent 15 years working in the education field so serving on School Committee is a good fit. I enjoy examining and developing public policy and think I have a knack for it. I've been fascinated by politics and government since I was 14,” he said.

Since serving on the School Committee, he thinks implementing full-day kindergarten in Cranston and restoring the music and sports programs have been the greatest accomplishments of the committee since he’s been a member. 

“I'm also especially proud that we have maintained a balanced budget while expanding programs. Being fiscally responsible is especially important to me,” he said. 

His biggest disappointment has been the lack of financial support from the city for the school department's budget.

“For the last two years at least, the schools have asked for modest increases in the budget, only to receive at best half of what we requested. Other departments of the city have received much larger increases in their budgets on a percentage basis. I realize that, as the largest department in the city, it can be challenging to increase funding but people move and stay in Cranston because of the quality of life. The schools have a lot to do with maintaining and increasing that quality of life and that should be recognized financially,” he said.

As for his legacy, Gale hopes to be able to say that Cranston schools are better than when he started on the Committee.

Ward 2

Stefanie Culhane, who represents Ward 2, has not made a decision yet. 

“I'm currently serving my fifth term. I originally ran after the first sixth grade move issue.  I felt my own school committee rep wasn't connecting with parents and wasn't being transparent with regards to the impetus behind the move,” she said.

“My greatest disappointment was being forced to cut programs that my own children were a part of.  My greatest accomplishment was bringing those programs back in a much more sustainable way.  I'm proud we came full circle with regards to program cuts and budget planning,” she said.

 Culhane would like people to remember her as someone who put herself in their shoes when she made decisions.

 “I've always tried to think about how decisions make affect students from all areas of the city.  I hope people realize I always tried to connect with their lives and situations, “ She said.

Ward 3 

For Domenic Fusco says he is probably running. He is in the middle of his second term. 

Fusco has always been passionate about education and trying to help the schools be/do the best they can, and when partnered with his fascination for politics and the political process, it became the perfect opportunity to run. 

“I enjoy helping the kids. My family has been involved with PTO’s and music for many years, so I really got to meet people and children normally I never would have. It has really been a honor to serve,” he said.

Fusco always feel good when he can help parents with their questions or problems concerning the district.  

“I enjoy working with and supporting this community. I enjoy seeing the kids succeed. My biggest success personally, has to be helping the Gladstone community as the school looked to create a buddy area,” he said. As for the legacy he wants to leave, it is very simple, ‘He tried to help and did best he could.’

Ward 4

Vincent Turchetta, who is finishing his first term, said he is running again.

His decision to run was based on the fact he wanted to help an already great district get better.

“Our kids deserve it,” he said.

 Turchetta has focused on athletics.

“I was able to get an assistant AD job posted, and I created an athletic committee to oversee athletics with the help of other School Committee people and some great administrators.

He wants to be remembered as the guy who concentrated on athletics and helped bring it to the best department in the state with the help of others...all and everything is for the kids. 

Ward 5

School Committee Chairperson Janice Ruggieri has not made a final decision about returning to the campaign trail.

“If I run again it will be my sixth term, and second as the Chair. I originally ran for office because I felt like I could make a difference. I felt like I had a perspective that was important to the committee and that at the time it didn't seem like the committee members were listening to the public regarding the sixth grade move. I hope that I have been able to make a positive difference and I do gather all facts and information before I make any decision and encourage others to do the same,” she said.

Ruggieri is proud of her record on the School Committee.

“My greatest accomplishments have been Full Day Kindergarten finally being implemented and that I was part of bringing programs back after having to cut them originally. It was important for me to see things moving forward. My biggest disappointment is how long certain things take to get done. We have run into roadblock after roadblock on a project that should have been finished a long time ago and it is frustrating. It will get done but there have been a series of unfortunate incidents that has caused delay,” she said.

 Ruggieri would like her legacy to be the hope that Cranston Public Schools keeps moving forward and that she had a part in helping it get to a point where it could do just that.

Ward 6

Dan Wall is running for what will (hopefully) be his third term.

“I believed that I could bring a unique perspective to our school committee, as an active and involved parent and as an experienced practicing educator,” he said.

While running unopposed, Wall is still proud to be reelected.

“I believe this means that have support of the people I represent,” he said.

He echoed other members as to his disappointments.

“More of a frustration actually, the annual scrabble to get the budget properly funded,” he said.

While he is not presuming that he will have a legacy, he would like to be remembered as a public servant who was open and available to his constituents and who represented them honestly and diligently.

Citywide representative 

Michael Traficante said he is running.

"I came from education, I was a math teacher for 10 years, then an administrator and a coach. I took a detour when I was in politics, but my heart has always been in education, it should be a priority for every city," he said.

Traficante feels his greatest achievement has been bringing back the middle school concept by moving grade six out of elementary schools. 

"They belong in middle schools, it is a better educational process. I am also glad we reinstated music and middle school sports," he said. 

His biggest disappointment has been the lack of reinstating some sort of the EPIC program. 

"Those kids could really utilize the program, they could excel. We need to do better by our students," he said.

Traficante also stressed the importance of focusing on the infrastructure of the school buildings.

"We have to start looking at our buildings, especially those on the Eastern side of the city. They are close to 100 years old. We need to construct two new up-to-date state-of-the art elementary schools," he said.

As for what he hopes his legacy is, he wants to be remembered for his service.

"I love my community, being able to give back, it’s my city and I love it," he said.