School Committee changes leadership

The Cranston Herald ·

In an unexpected and surprising change of events, the Cranston School Committee has decided to change their leadership.

At the inauguration ceremony on Monday, the Cranston School Committee voted to appoint Daniel Wall, Ward 6, as the Chairperson, and Ward 4 representative Vincent Turchetta as the Vice Chair.

Ward 5 representative, Janice Ruggieri, has served as Committee Chairperson for the past six years.

Ruggieri submitted a statement Monday prior to the inauguration ceremony.

"I will not be seeking to continue a leadership role on the School Committee for the upcoming term because when approached about my continuing as Chairperson, several of the returning members have indicated that they wanted a change," the statement read. "Despite my repeated attempts to learn why they want this change, they will not share their reasons. In my years as chairperson, there have never been any concerns or issues brought to my attention regarding my leadership that could have been resolved in a democratic and appropriate way."

During her leadership, Ruggieri personally worked on the reinstatement of programming for music, bringing Full Day Kindergarten to the district, creating a long-term plan to replace the aging bus fleet, maintained fiscal stability in the district in spite of funding issues, worked together with the administration and several unions to successfully negotiate contracts that made positive changes in education, created multiple policies, worked on a district Safety Committee to create a long term plan for school safety, and began the process to move buildings into the 21st Century and beyond in conjunction with FNI.

Ruggieri stands by her record of dedication and loyalty to the Committee.

"My decision has nothing to do with the abilities of my colleagues, rather it is a direct response to the fact that I have not been given any information regarding the reason for this desire for change," the statement continued. " I would never vote on any issue without having all of the information, and having done my due diligence first. I will continue to work in the best interests of all stakeholders alongside my colleagues. I will always question why things are being done until I feel that I have all of the information in order to make an informed and responsible decision."

Ruggieri indicated that she is focused on the future of the district.

"My dedication to Cranston Public Schools will not waver and I look forward to working with my colleagues both old and new to continue to move Cranston Public Schools in a positive direction. We have a lot of work to do in the upcoming years and I am ready to continue to work hard and get the job done that I have been elected to do. My best wishes to all tonight during inauguration and in the term ahead," she said.

Ward 2 representative, Stephanie Culhane, also issued a statement that she was not seeking to retain her position as Vice Chair.

"Three of the returning committee members (Michael Traficante, City-wide, Wall and Turchetta) have expressed that they believe the committee needs 'new leadership,'" her statement reads. "These committee members have nominated themselves as candidates for chair and vice chair. These committee members have also apparently caucused new committee members for support. I have directly asked these committee members why they feel 'new leadership' is needed and have also asked if there have been issues or concerns with how I have conducted myself as vice chair.

However, despite her inquiries, Culhane did not receive answers she sought. The Herald sought comment from [WHO] but received no response by press time.

"The only answer I have been given is that they believe it is time for 'new leadership.' I do not want to enter a new term in a contentious manner, so I have chosen not to seek a nomination for vice chair," Culhane's statement continued. "I do not believe in change for change sake, but since the majority has expressed their views, I will not stand in the way of their plan."

Culhane said that she stands by her record on the Committee. During her tenure she said she has been proud being part of a team that brought back the elementary music program and middle school sports, in addition to bringing full-day kindergarten to Cranston. She mentioned overseeing initiatives such as the replacement plan for the district's aging bus fleet and working with unions to create savings in the district while maintaining jobs.

"In my 10 years on the committee, I have proudly served Ward 2 and done my best to represent my constituents, while also being cognizant of the fact that my actions and votes need to benefit the entire district, not just the students and citizens of my ward. I will continue to do so in the next term. During my tenure, I was forced to make some painful cuts to programs and salaries. However, through sound fiscal management and sacrifice from our staff, I was able to work with my colleagues and the school administration to right the wrongs of previous committees and administrations," she said. "Most recently, we have engaged Fielding Nair International to set forth a plan to make meaningful and sustainable changes to our ever-aging school buildings. I am proud of what the committee, administration and staff have done as a team. We are doing great things in Cranston, for our students, staff and taxpayers."

Culhane said she is excited to see the Committee moving forward, regardless if she is in a leading role on the school committee.

"I will continue to serve the students, parents and taxpayers of Ward 2 and the city of Cranston as a whole. While some do hold leadership roles, everyone’s vote is equal and everyone’s voice will be heard," she said. "I do not need to be in a leadership role to lead Cranston Public Schools into the future. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your school committee representative."

Working with all School Committee members is Cranston Public Schools Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse, who expressed her excitement to work with the newly-configured committee.

"I look forward to working closely with the new and returning members of the Cranston School Committee, as we move forward with exciting plans for new buildings and improved student programming to prepare our students for the 21st Century," she said.