September 1, 2014
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Four in race for two city wide School Committee seats
DAVID TESTA

Four candidates are vying for two at-large Warwick School Committee seats this November. Patrick Maloney and Christopher Friel currently hold the positions, but only Maloney is seeking re-election.


Friel, who has served on the committee for the past eight years, said he chose not to seek re-election because the schedules of his three children, ages 9, 7 and 4, take up most of his time. He also said his second term would be his last.

Friel thinks the four candidates are all good choices, though he wouldn’t single out his favorites. He said this year, there aren’t many big issues, so whomever is elected won’t have to deal with many “difficult” things, like the discussion of school closures and budgeting. Instead, Friel hopes whomever is elected will zero in on the quality of education in Warwick.

He said the lack of issues this year is reflected in the number of candidates who chose to run, a number that Friel said is low. In his past elections, Friel remembers having seven or eight candidates in the ring and a primary to narrow them down. But this year, there are only four.

Newcomers to a race for School Committee are Karen Bachus and Jennifer Townsend-Ahearn. David Testa ran unsuccessfully for the District 1 seat in 2010. And incumbent Patrick Maloney is seeking re-election.

At a candidates forum last month, all of the candidates addressed hot button issues like superintendent’s Peter Horoshack’s suspension, new mentoring regulations and how NECAPs [New England Common Assessment Program] play into determining student proficiency.

All of the candidates agreed that Horoshack’s administrative leave, which has been clouded with mystery for months, was a private personnel issue. Even Friel would not comment.

The candidates also agreed the senior project rules and regulations need to be examined and potentially changed, especially since the face-to-face mentor aspect was nixed due to a new law passed in the spring.

There were mixed opinions on student proficiency classifications, as some candidates said the 2012 ratings based on NECAP scores painted an accurate, yet disappointing picture, and others disagreed.

Ahearn and Maloney both pointed to the “typical” ratings Warwick schools earned this summer from the Rhode Island Department of Education as disappointing ratings that needed to be amended. But Bachus and Testa called the ratings inaccurate, and said NECAPs are not an accurate way of determining students’ progress.

All of the candidates gave the current School Committee a “B” letter grade.
On the ballot, the non-partisan candidates will be listed in an order determined by lottery. Testa’s name is at the top of the ballot, followed by Ahearn, then Bachus and Maloney. The district and at-large races are staggered every two years to prevent an entirely new School Committee from being elected at once.

Since one of the major issues in Warwick schools is the declining student population, we asked each of the candidates what they would do to address decreasing student enrollment in the city. We also asked what they believe is the single most important issue facing Warwick schools, and how they plan to address it.

JENNIFER TOWNSEND-AHEARN
First-time candidate
41
Stay-at-home mom

Student enrollment is declining, and there have been talks of closing a secondary school and perhaps additional elementary schools. If elected, how would you address the issue of declining enrollment?

Trends in student enrollment directly correlate to the number of schools we can afford to keep open. Efforts should focus on attracting and retaining Warwick families. We need to demonstrate to families that the Warwick school system is a top R.I. destination for education. This can only be accomplished by producing better scores and school ratings throughout all grades, offering superior vocational options and top-notch extra-curricular programs, and by physically improving our current school facilities.

What do you see as the single most important issue facing Warwick schools and how would you address it?

Administrative leadership is an ever-important issue facing the WPS today. Leadership is about hiring, mentoring and empowering great people. As an SC member, I will collaborate with my peers to task the superintendent with concise and specific academic and fiscal expectations and manage the Administration to meeting or exceeding these goals. I believe leadership needs to begin with the SC and cascade through administration and schools to raise the bar and improve results.

KAREN BACHUS
First-time candidate
49
Child protective investigator, DCYF

Student enrollment is declining, and there have been talks of closing a secondary school and perhaps additional elementary schools. If elected, how would you address the issue of declining enrollment?

Access to accurate facts and figures is vital. The needs of the students and the efficacy of our facilities must be determined. Due deliberation with other stakeholders, Long Term Facilities Planning Committee, the Mayor’s Office, parents, students, teachers and the taxpayers is a must to make the best decisions for our students. We previously closed four elementary schools, but Drum Rock and Greene were then re-purposed. Re-opening a school is not an easy task, and is costly.

What do you see as the single most important issue facing Warwick schools and how would you address it?

The single most important issue is funding. State and federal government constantly bombards schools with unfunded mandates. These mandates must end – or they must be funded by those who mandate them. The state’s school funding formula put Warwick at a disadvantage. This needs to be fixed. In addition, we need to look at other funding sources such as grants, awards and partnerships with businesses, universities and other organizations. We cannot continue to rely on our taxpayers.

PATRICK MALONEY
Incumbent; Served on Warwick School Committee since 2008
41
Owner of Dr. Desktop and Game on

Student enrollment is declining, and there have been talks of closing a secondary school and perhaps additional elementary schools. If elected, how would you address the issue of declining enrollment?

I would like to work with the city to highlight the good things that are happening in our schools. Schools are the top reason people choose to move to a city. More families moving to Warwick will stabilize enrollment and also stabilize taxes. This would be a win-win situation for the taxpayers and the schools. If it was determined that a school would need to close, all stakeholders would be involved in the decision.

What do you see as the single most important issue facing Warwick schools and how would you address it?

The single most important issue facing Warwick Schools is unfunded mandates. The state and R.I. Department of Education regulates the schools and forces programs and guidelines on schools that the local cities must pay for to be in compliance. State-funded mandates are only partially funded and the schools must pay for the difference. With less mandates, better education can be achieved for all of our students by providing what they really need to succeed.  

DAVID TESTA
Ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for Dist. 1
49
Senior Buyer, Perkins, Inc.

Student enrollment is declining, and there have been talks of closing a secondary school and perhaps additional elementary schools. If elected, how would you address the issue of declining enrollment?

We have a demographic challenge. Piece-meal school closings won’t work anymore. All stakeholders (school, city and the public) need to have an honest discussion about what kind of a school system we want to have in five years, in 10 years. We need to reconvene the Long Term Facilities Planning Commission and use data from outside sources that specialize in this area. Our infrastructure is very old – our newest school is approximately 40 years old.

What do you see as the single most important issue facing Warwick schools and how would you address it?

Implementing the new Common Core curriculum, especially the elementary math curriculum. Unlike in the past, this implementation is occurring across all grades simultaneously, posing challenges to students and teachers. Parents need to know what’s expected of students and what tools are available help their child succeed and teachers need support from Administration to help them succeed. Our online Parent Portal that would allow parents to see how their children are doing needs to be operational.


Comments
6 comments on this item

my vote is going to karen DYCF worker why not . We own the kids when we take them. housing schools even a palce to live if they are haveing a kid. Just look at st marys in north prov. they live in new apartment fully staffe and they even have there own school. So why not elect here she can understand=more money to a system that can,t be fix.

Yes, a Union-Member State Worker, because we ALL know what side union members fall on when it comes down to crunch time.....

A Message from Patrick Maloney:

I have dedicated the last 4 years as a School Committee member to my wife and children, my family, the students of Warwick Schools and to the Taxpayers of Warwick. I pledge to continue working for the citizens of Warwick.

When I ran for office in 2008, many people told me I was crazy to decide to run when the schools were in bad shape and there had been 2 years of deficits. These deficits totaled about $3.2 Million. Good decision making allowed me to be able to pay back the city the full deficit amount and repair many of the schools that needed work during my 4 years on the committee. I am not afraid of a challenge and wanted to make sure the schools improved for my kids' education.

Since being elected, I helped balance the budget each year. The two biggest projects of the last 4 years were the Pilgrim Roof replacement and the beginning of Fire Code upgrades this year. Each of these projects came in within their budgets. There are still 2 more years of Fire Code upgrades necessary to bring the schools up to New State requirements.

When I arrived on the committee, the Warwick Independent School Employee (WISE) union had been working without a contract for several years. I helped resolve the contract and this lead to union concessions, savings for the schools and most important for the employees, stability. The WISE Union was the first union in Warwick to agree to a co-pay of 20%.

Last year, the teacher contract was reaching an end. I helped the school committee and the teachers to reach a temporary agreement that would save the city money again. The one year agreement consisted of the teachers paying a 20% co-pay for the year and an agreement to review and shape the RI Dept of Education evaluation system. As the year passed and we reached the end of our temporary agreement, I helped settle the teacher contract which allowed us to permanently secure the co-pay and for the first time in years modify the Special Education Weighting in Warwick allowing us to continue to service the Special Education students appropriately while saving money.

If re-elected, I will continue to make good decisions for education and to save the taxpayers money.

For more information, visit my website www.maloney4schools.com

Thank you,

Patrick E Maloney Jr

School Committee Candidate for re-election

Here is a link to a question asked in a 2008 Warwick Beacon Forum and that question is still relevant today.

The question was:

As has been reported, the school department has entered the current budget year facing a projected $4 million deficit. It appears trimming such an amount from operating expenses can’t be done without affecting personnel and as a result programs. What programs would you cut, or how else would you balance the budget?

My Answer is here:

http://www.maloney4schools.com/question2_response.html

Here is another question from a 2008 Warwick Beacon Forum:

The state Board of Regents is examining a change in high school graduation requirements that would equally weight grades earned while in high school with completion of a senior project, known as graduation by proficiency and performance in a one-day state-run test. Do you feel this is a fair measure for evaluating a student’s performance?

My Answer is here:

http://www.maloney4schools.com/question1_response.html

Here is another question from a 2008 Warwick Beacon Forum:

As you know, more than 60 cents of each Warwick Property tax dollar goes to the School Department, yet neither the Mayor nor the city council that set the overall city budget and tax rate have a say on how schools spend the money. And, as we have learned, schools can overspend their budget requiring the city to pay the deficit. Do you think the system needs to be changed and how?

My Answer to this question is here:

http://www.maloney4schools.com/question3_response.html

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