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EDITORIAL
Enough school suprises

“Surprise” is the word Richard D’Agostino used to describe his appointment as superintendent of Warwick Schools. It’s understandable. He wasn’t actively seeking the position when he was chosen to fill the role of acting superintendent in September; he wasn’t interviewed for the post by the School Committee; the committee hadn’t posted it would make a selection on its agenda. Yet, by a 4-1 vote last Tuesday, he was picked for the job.

“Surprise” is not how the committee running the system should operate. Remember, they are elected and they are reporting to us. But that isn’t happening.

Start with the action to place former Superintendent Peter Horoschak on paid administrative leave last September. That, too, was a surprise.

Horoschak, whose three-year contract expired this coming July, had not been given a formal job evaluation as his contract required. He was not cited for committing an act that would have merited his dismissal and, in fact, in a press release issued in December when he announced his retirement, the committee applauded his management of the system.

So, why was he pushed out?

Clearly, the committee is not following its own policy or procedures, nor does the public have an explanation of what’s happening, or a means of evaluating whether these actions are in the best interest of our children and our schools.

In voting for D’Agostino, committee chair Bethany Furtado said this would not be the time to conduct a search for a superintendent, as it would be a diversion from pressing issues facing the district. Further, she reasoned that D’Agostino has demonstrated he is capable of running the system and that the process of selecting a superintendent can be undertaken prior to the expiration of D’Agostino’s contract in July 2014.

Unfortunately, the concern for a smooth transition is misplaced.

Furtado feels this is best for Warwick schools. We don’t.

There is never a better time than now to engage in a discussion of how our schools are performing and how they can be improved. D’Agostino may be the man to do that, but with a 15-month contract, he is hamstrung. Instead of pushing the process, the committee has put Warwick schools in a holding pattern.

What’s more distressing is that there isn’t an agenda. The committee has not defined what it expects of the system or its leader. It has not even finalized a contract with D’Agostino, although he now holds the top job.

To its credit, the school administration is taking a hard look at the system’s declining enrollment and how best to allocate its resources – the taxpayers’ money. This is not the time for surprises. This is the time for a thoughtful engaged community discussion of where our schools should be next year, five years from now and in generations to come.


Comments
3 comments on this item

So much for transparency and a willingness to change.

Instead of telling us why decisions were made, why they are continuing with the old guard, and why no thought was put into the future; the school committee decided to hide.

If letting Mr. Horoschak go was a for personal reasons, that is fine. Tell us that and we will let it go, it is none of our business. If it were for some other reason, and the committee doesn't want to say what the reason is because it may "look bad", well, your silence makes it look bad and I can only assume the worst-case scenario was put in play. If you are not going to say why, then we will just have to assume there are nasty things going on.

As for Mr. D'agostino, he may be the best person to run the district, but shouldn't the School Committee at least see if that is true? Too much money is being spent on education only to have those in power say, "Oh well, we made a mistake. We went down the wrong course and now are going to have to spend twice as much to bring us back to where we were years ago."

The time has come for schools in this city, and state for that matter, to be run differently. Spend what it takes to insure that we put out top students, citizens who can take this city and state to a higher level.

It can be done, but not by being secretive and unwilling to lead.

I do believe that the school committee is not following its own policy. I believe there was a policy in place that prior to hiring someone for a position that it be posted and others be given a chance to apply. I know this because I was on the committee when the policy was created. I do believe that there would not be enough time to find a replacement for the start of the new school year. There was an interim Assistant to the Superintendent in place for nearly 3 years before hiring a Director of Secondary Education and removing the Interim Assistant to the Superintendent position. I believe it would have been fine to leave Dr D'Agostino in an interim position for another year or until a permanent Superintendent could be found. Part of the problem is that there are 2 new members on the committee and 2 members who were newly elected in 2010. The committee only has 1 member who has a history. My suggestion would be for the new members to read the policies before they vote on them. I always did my homework prior to voting and they promised they would too during the election. Hold them to it. In the last 2 months they have voted to extend the WISE union contract with raises for employees without even reviewing the budget. They hired a new superintendent without posting the position. I believe 2 members of the committee didn't know they were even in negotiations with the WISE union. I wonder who knew they were hiring a new superintendent? I believe Dr D'Agostino will be a good person to be in the position for the time period, he has all the necessary qualifications and has done a good job so far. My only concern was that the contract was extended without securing a concession for the schools. It seems to me the Union got everything and the schools received nothing in return.

what was the rush? he could have been a temporary acting super for a while.

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