November 20, 2014
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Panel votes to close Gorton

Faced with declining enrollment and the choice between closing Gorton or Aldrich Junior High Schools, a short-term committee that has been studying the issue for about two months recommended closing Gorton yesterday afternoon.

The 7-0 vote came on a motion by Robert Bushell, director of elementary schools and a committee member. The recommendation now goes to the School Committee.

When the committee will consider the recommendation, which the administration has indicated will include a public hearing, could not be determined as of yesterday afternoon. However, Dennis Mullen said prior to the meeting that he was hopeful a vote would be taken and that the process would not be delayed. Mullen is the director of secondary schools and chaired the committee.

"This is something we have to do and we're not jumping for joy about," Mullen said after the vote.

He expected the School Committee would do its due diligence before taking a vote, but for it to take effect by the next academic year, the administration will need to start soon on scheduling and the redistricting so that the students who are now in three schools are incorporated in two schools - Aldrich and Winman.

There was some discussion as to whether two junior high schools could be expanded into middle schools incorporating grades 6-8. That issue was raised in an earlier meeting when Bushell said it would only be a matter of time before the system went to all-day kindergarten, which would require additional elementary school classrooms that could be gained by a middle school system.

"I looked at the current populations in the schools, based on the populations on the RIDE website, and I don't see how we can put a sixth grade into two junior high schools," said committee member David Testa who moved to suspend the committee.

"This is a short-sighted thing. For chasing today's dollars, I think we handcuff tomorrow's kids, and I just don't think this is the way to go right now until we have decided what kind of district we want to be."

"If we close the junior high school and then decide to go to a middle school model, it's many years before we're there," he said.

Asked how he felt about the outcome of the committee's deliberations, Mullen said, "I'm pleased in a sense, because something had to be done. We could not continue with the potential costs. We're talking about millions and millions that could be utilized for students in a better way."

As for where the system will be with two junior highs, he said, "My hope, if it does go through, is that we end up with just as good a system if not better."

The projected operating savings of closing either school was placed at $1.1 million. In addition, there are capital costs, such as fire code improvements, that will be saved by the closing of either school.

The consolidation of the schools will result in about $500,000 in added busing costs. That cost has been calculated in the overall $1.1 million in operating savings.

The vote on recommending the closure of Gorton came quickly after discussion on the motion to suspend the committee's work until it met and discussed its findings with the long-range facilities committee. That group has not met since it was formed about two months ago.

That motion was defeated.

Bushell did not give an explanation for his motion to close Gorton. He was asked by fellow committee members and reportedly offered that it is a better-looking school.

According to information provided the committee, capacities at the junior highs range from 1,273 at Gorton to 1,311 at Winman. All three schools currently have 517 or fewer students and are operating at less than 50 percent capacity. Moving Gorton students to Winman and Aldrich would have those schools operating at about 80 percent of capacity.

With reports from Jessica Botelho


Comments
27 comments on this item

maybe i am missing something here ..I Want to see the numbers !!!!!!!!

School dept had a surplus of 2.9million closing the 2012 fiscal year,what are we saving money for a rainy day fund?

And how dare Mr bushell chose Aldrich because of the looks for his awnser and not anything to do with education!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm assuming he meant in better condition... Regardless, I'm happy with the decision. Use the surplus to upgrade the middle/high schools.

@warwick10: Too Bad thats not true!

As a practice the department is alllowed to retain its surplus

The exception is being when the have had a previous defecit ...(which mind has not been for 4 yrs)

IN NO WAY IS IT REQUIRED FOR THEM TO USE THAT SURPLUS MONEY TO UPGRADE SCHOOLS/SUPPLIES!!!!!!

Close them all after building 1 central main school. A new modern school that is energy efficient. Demolish the rest and sell the land to private investors. The money earned can pay off any loans used to pay for the construction of the new school. Think of the worth of all the land! Bus cost would be less. Less teachers, janitors, and other employees would be needed so offer early retirement severence packages.

Of course this would never happen because status quo is how our politicans think and the unions control the show.

the only exception may be Winman and Toll Gate. I wouldn't demolish those more modern buildings on a beautiful campus.

Less teachers?

Do you mean fewer teachers?

I don't think that we should be taking education advice from a functional illiterate.

Once again the school committee has hijacked another school a secret agenda, after all the smoke an mirrors they did with John Greene, They got the better building for themselves instead of the children once again. What's the real agenda this time. I do believe this was Bushell's intension when he closed Greene.

The information on the vote is incorrect. The vote was 7-2-0.

Mr. Bushell made a motion to close Gorton not Aldrich, concernedparent

??? nothing wrong with using that word in that context..

defintion: consisting of a small number

Stay in school young man you can use it

I'm also not concerned with proof reading my comments on here. As long as my point is made. You are obviously either a student at that school, or a parent that didn't graduate yourself if you cannot realize the bigger picture if you will. People are leaving the city and state. The amount of children attending schools are dropping. The economy has resulted in a lower birth rate. We do not need all these schools. Further reduction in city population will occur as the airport expands and buys homes. Warwick is being transformed from a residential community to a business driven community. More and more of the city is used for business and not residential purposes.

@amie11 .sorry my mistake just a little upset when i wrote it and didnt bother to proofread

Bushell chose Gorton not aldrich

I should have worded it differently .Saying the reason Bushell voted for keeping aldrich open is it looks better...

Anyone who attending these hearings could easily see that the closing of a Junior High was a done deal even before the committee met. The real issue revolved around which school to close. Gorton has larger cafeteria, auditorium and wider hallways. In fact, anyone who has visited both schools would come away with the impression that it's actually brighter inside Gorton. The real estate Gorton sits on has no value to the City of Warwick, yet Aldrich sits on considerably valuable property that could be sold as a benefit to the taxpayers of Warwick. Additionally, the most recent state test scores has Gorton students out-performing Aldrich students indicating that the methodology used at Gorton is being effective. In fact, Gorton's cohort growth from 7th to 8th grade, especially in the area of math, has been noteworthy! And more importantly, Gorton sits right next to an partially empty school allowing for expandability if needed and possibly a place to house the lost computer lab. Other than the fact that Mr. Bushel indicated that he feels Aldrich is in better shape, the is NO measurable data that would indicate that closing Gorton is the best option. Actually, Mr. Bushel's evidence for choosing to close Gorton would not pass the smell test for reliable data. Most data and evidence shows that closing Aldrich would be more evidence-based. I challenge the Warwick Beacon to press the committee to use evidence and data to make good decisions for Warwick's children and not rely on the personal "gut" feelings when making such a monumental decision.

Am I missing something here, We have 253 Juniors at risk of not graduating in 2014,but we want to close a Junior High School and over crowd more classrooms where children are already struggling. "Without a real plan". I feel we are rushing this decision at our childrens expense once again. This is their future why do we keep taking it away from them. I also would like to know what is the plan for building or has the School Committee already started moving in. Oh wait if I remember correctly from Greene they wait till the day after the vote to do that. Maybe that's why Mr. Bushel wants us to believe Aldrich is a better looking school.

With all due respect, Mr. Bushell should have retired years ago.

Time for some new blood.

Of course, in this city, that will never happen, they would just promote from within.

Nevermind.

I agree, we did have a surplus last year, we are certainly not "losing" money, and just exactly how will the money saved be"utilized in a better way" who will it be utilized for, our children? We are not doing them a service buy adding to their class size. We need more teacher/ student teacher ratios in some classes, not less!

And this article states that money will be saved because of fire code improvements that now will not have to be done. I heard that the school department may be moving the admin. building to Gorton, so code would still have to be updated.

Really, what is the rush now? Figure out when the 6th grade will be added to form a middle school, when will all day K come into play, then look at enrollment.

This needs to stop didn't this same Committee reach an agreement with Supt. Peter Horoschak to pay him 6 1/2 months salary remaining in his contract and continued health insurance for that period, with monetary compensation for heath insurance, plus a letter of recomendation and keep his School Dept issued Iphone. So he "Horoschak" was paid $272,302 shortly after his departure from the district, plus he had 3 months paid administrative leave. An this Committee will not make any public comments on this matter, Why do they have a right to make this decision. As a parent I am so disgusted. Let's just keep discourageing our childen . You are the problem with the decline in our Schools.

Thank you Dconman very well said!

The Committee owes us no awnsers as we have been basically told in the past meeetings

We were told we voted them

Asked if we could vote them out and were told thats not a option !

Also questioned why they dont have to awnser to the Mayor,still would love to know that

I think they maybe back-doored Horoshack ,this would possibly explain why we still paided his salary and D'agastino as" acting super" for 6 months

Dont we as taxpayers/Warwick residents have the right to know?

I hear you concernedparent. You are probably right. And it's not right...and under the circumstancs, I'd rather have Gorton close because my chld will be attending Aldrich. It seemsto be a done deal. I think the three junior highs should remain open, while consolidating the 6, 7 and 8th grades. Leavng the vacant 6th grade classrooms for all-day kindergarten. They are proposing an all-day kindrgarten--- so where are they going to go?

I think large consolidting the junior high schools is a mistake. Large schools will have a neative effect on student achievemet and graduation rates.

OOPs--continue... I think consolidating the junior high schools is a mistake. Large schools will have a negative effect on student achievement and graduation rates.

Bob Bushell, Denis Mullen and Richard D'Agostino had this decision made long before the dog and pony show of a committee meeting they bullied through on Wednesday. For one hour of the meeting, the discussion was to table the closing of a Junior High until a long-term plan was made. This was from Mr. Testa who seemed to have the best interest of the students in mind. Two other committee members seemed to agree. Out of the blue, Mr. Bushell made the motion to close Gorton because "ah, um, ah, Aldrich is a nicer facility" - total hogwash. From there, the 7-2-0 vote to close Gorton was an absolute bully move from the three amigos. Let's not forget to mention how D'Agostino got his position as Superintendent. Was there a search? No. Interviews? No. Do the administrators need a new administration building because the one on Warwick Lake Ave. is falling apart? Yes. How nice for them that Gorton is right next to the Greene building they stole from the kids four years ago, how cruel for the students today. The majority of RI school districts use the middle school model and all-day kindergarten will be absolutely necessary to keep up with the new Common Core State Standards, so why is Warwick always 10 years behind the time? Because of fat-cat insider administrators who only care about their cushy office in their "boys club" of a department. Shame on you D'Agostino, Bushell, and Mullen. I hope the school committee members see the big picture hear and quit listening to their bullying bologna.

Dr. D'Agostino was given the Superintendent's job without a search being done, I wonder who recommended him? As far as closing a junior high school a few things parents should know: (1) some students may be on buses for up to 1 hour. (2) Some elementary schools will start even later due to the changes in the bus schedules , (3) With so many traveling teachers students may arrive to an unsupervised classroom ,(4) classes and hallways filled to 95% capacity may likely result in more bullying and fighting, (5) fewer classrooms decreases the chances to increase technology access to students (something they need to be successful college and employment) as well as future programs that may have been possible, (6) students transferred from the closed junior high may be split to return to their original high school unless one of them is closed the following year. Overall please realize that if I saved 1% of a $55,000 pay check, it would be about $550 per year. This is an example of what the school department may save since they will be saving less than 1% of a 115 million dollar budget - so when we hear a million dollars it sounds like a lot but really is that type of savings worth what we will be putting these kids through? Is it worth the decrease in our market value of our homes? As taxpayers it is time to demand that these committees look how to make our schools the best in the state, become competitive so people want to move to Warwick and increase the number of people sharing our tax burden. We must demand leadership that is proactive instead of reactive. Please make your voice heard.

The schools are at 50% capacity now. closing 1 brings it to 80%. Do you people understand that 80% is less than 100% which means they would still not be at full capacity?

Does it really matter which school closes? Heard of school busses (those big yellow extended truck looking vehicles)? Good grief!

@hopdog...I assume you are not a taxpayer in Warwick or you have no children that attend school here currently!

There is more than meets the eye to all this ...A MUCH bigger picture!

We as a community all need to stand up and demand awnsers

Here is a logical answer to the complaining parents. Spend the $15,000 - $20,000 per year and send your kid to a private school. The school system in Warwick is broken and has been for a very long time. It is unfixable. The buildings are in shambles which causes constant maintenance on the part of school dept. workers who (as a side bar) aint the most efficient workers in the bunch. We have the highest teacher absenteeism in the country , and the Dana Center math program is an abismal failure.

If you want to see just how poor the education system is in Warwick, ask your child to recite a prepositional phrase. After they studder, ask them to name 3 bridges in the state or 2 local species of fish. You just might be disgusted with the results of the quiz.

Warwick will never be able to build a state of the art school as they are doing all over other New England states because our legacy costs consume such an enourmous part of the tax revenue that nothing is left to put towards future capital improvemnt projects.

Very sad indeed.

This just in people: Educated professional families are not moving to RI due to it's confiscatory tax structure and reputation of hostility to business. Period. Those with financial means are leaving, resulting in a shrinking pie with a lower-skilled, less educated workforce. If you were part of that enrollment bubble in the 70's in Warwick and went to college, it's unlikely that you moved back to Warwick and sent your kids to the Warwick public schools. Next closure: a high school. Within three years.

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