To the Editor:
My name is Mike Mullane, and my wife and I have three children in the Warwick Schools, all of whom would be affected by this proposal. We have a 9th grade daughter at Pilgrim, a 7th grade son at Aldrich, and a 6th grade son at Wyman. We’ve lived in Warwick for over 15 years. We’ve been very satisfied with the education our children have received, which we think is due to excellent teachers and manageable class sizes that have enabled teachers to deliver the differentiated instruction and individual attention that children need.
I think the proposal of the long-term subcommittee will worsen the quality of education in Warwick, in that it will surely lead to much larger schools, larger class sizes, disrupted school communities and fewer extracurricular opportunities for students.
The focus of my comments, however, is on the validity and credibility of the report of the Long Term Subcommittee. On page two of the subcommittee’s November PowerPoint slide presentation (PDF Form of November 2013 Slide Presentation.pdf), the subcommittee makes it appear that the background for this facilities review is one in which the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) is compelling the School Committee to take such severe actions as are being proposed to you tonight. This backdrop on page two is false and misleading and is not supported by the February, 2013 Public Schoolhouse Assessment report of RIDE, final-schoolhouse-report.pdf, which should cause the School Committee to question the reliability of the report and recommendations.
The first bullet, “RIDE has reported that Warwick schools are under-utilized” is not true. Nowhere within this 97-page report does RIDE say that Warwick schools are under-utilized.
The second bullet, that “RIDE has reported that Aldrich and Gorton are rated at a level 3 school requiring major renovations,” is false. First of all, the RIDE report had districts self-report building ratings to RIDE, so it isn’t RIDE reporting that Aldrich and Gorton are at level 3 but the Warwick School District who reported that to RIDE. Further, the RIDE report defines level 3 as buildings that are in need of moderate repairs, not major, as the subcommittee has written in its slideshow.
The third bullet, that “RIDE may change weighting of state aid funding formula to Warwick if school facilities are not better utilized,” is false. Neither the state aid funding formula (..\State Aid\Funding-Formula-Summary-2-19-11-version.pdf) nor the housing aid formula (..\Housing Aid\IssueBriefSchoolHousingAidFINAL.pdf), whereby districts can apply for partial reimbursement from the state for school construction and renovation costs, have a factor for facility utilization. Thus, the percentage of capacity of the enrollment of the schools has nothing to do with the amount a district receives from the state aid funding formula, and this third bullet is unsupported by the facts.
These bullets on page 2 falsely make it appear that RIDE is compelling the district to close school buildings or risk a reduction in funding. I urge the Committee to compel the subcommittee to make public the specific basis for the three bullet statements on page 2, and to seriously doubt the validity of the subcommittee’s recommendations due to this fabricated sense of urgency from RIDE, and to vote against this subcommittee’s recommendations that will negatively affect education and the local economy in Warwick.
Michael J. Mullane