EDITORIAL

Let’s see school plans through

Posted

There’s a certain point after you’ve been driving for a while on a long car trip, especially one that you take somewhat often, where you may say to yourself something along the lines of, “Well, if I forgot anything at home, it’s staying there, because I’ve officially gone too far to turn back now.”

It’s a phrase devoid of pesky nuance that means exactly what it says. Once you have committed to an action – be it a physical path in the road or a philosophical shift in the procedures of how you operate – provided there are no physical obstacles preventing you from completing that path, it is generally wise to see such action through to its completion.

This is wisdom that is necessary in our elected leadership and, though some won’t be happy to hear it, the Warwick School Committee displayed that wisdom on Tuesday night when they voted to proactively extend the contracts of four of the most vital administrators within the Warwick School Department. 

There has been a lot of talk and criticism pointed at these administrators, particularly in the direction of Superintendent Philip Thornton and Chief Academic Officer Sheryl Rabbitt – primarily that the former should be performing the responsibilities of the latter as part of his job description. Critics further levy charges that the administration is uncaring towards students and faculty and only care about themselves.

Whether you agree or disagree with their philosophical direction, their methods of implementation or even simply their communication skills, this publication has witnessed an administrative team that is at least willing to disrupt the natural order in which many within the district comfortably reside in order to try and manifest positive change for the students.

This may involve shifting from a guidance counselor model to one involving psychologists, consolidating schools and closing others, or upgrading technology, but it is clear to us that they undoubtedly think these changes will result in something positive. Why, on Earth, would they do it otherwise?

If you listen to some of the outspoken critics, it seems they fully believe the administration is actively seeking to harm students and teachers and have some Machiavellian scheme behind each action. Our question to such rhetoric is simply, why? Why would a group of people who have dedicated their lives to education make decisions that result in a worse education for the students they serve?

Thornton and his team have unquestionably implemented changes and, from a neutral perspective, it seems the most difficult of those changes are now in motion. Schools are closing, consolidation is happening and there’s a $40 million bond to fix our crumbling schools, which will be up to the people of Warwick to approve or shoot down this November.

Criticism is necessary to improve things, undoubtedly, but equally necessary is a willingness to let the seeds of change manifest and then to sample the fruit. Snipping the stem prematurely, as some have vocally expressed their desire to do in regards to getting rid of administrators, does nothing to benefit students either. The district has initiated too many ideas to simply expel the current team and start over. What would that accomplish?

The political argument that this move takes power away from whoever wins seats on the school committee this upcoming election is also a bit misleading. Even if there is a total sweep, and three new committee members with strong anti-administration sentiments win seats, they will still be able to make the decision to get rid of Thornton and whomever else three years from now when the extended contracts run out.

In fact, not being able to make a reactive decision – which it seems would be more based on years of bad blood rather than sound, objective educational analyses – is probably the best thing possible for the district and for the kids currently going through their education here. Continuity, as many committee members echoed in today’s news story, is crucial towards success.

If three years down the line we find ourselves in the same hole, having the same issues and nothing has improved, it would be a much more compelling case to advocate for some change at the administrative level. It would be proof their philosophy failed or is failing. As of right now, we’re too far into this trip to turn around and start from the beginning. Let’s see it through.

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richardcorrente

Dear editor,

You ask "Why would a group of people who have dedicated their lives to education make decisions that result in a worse education for the students they serve." Maybe they don't care to serve the students as much as they care to serve their salaries. Thornton came in at over $140,000 and that number is growing fast. So are the number (and salaries) of his staff. In fact, about the only thing in our school department that HAS improved is the income and number of the administration.

Do you think the critics would soften their tone if there were some willingness from Dr. Phil and his team to be forthcoming? What if any of them said "Let's hire a "Clerk-of-the-works" for the $40 million dollar bond request to show the taxpayers that the School Committee wants to be transparent and accountable to the taxpayers." We haven't heard anything like that, have we?

I agree with you when you say that in three years if nothing has improved "it would be proof that their philosophy failed", but isn't it three years already? You say "Let's see it through." Haven't we done that already? Isn't it time to do something else? With someone else? And aren't these highest paid Warwick employees just protecting their enormous salaries by extending their contracts? What possible other reason could they have other than to protect themselves!? I think it's so, and I believe that the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab feel the same way.. I don't think we have to "see it through". I think we already have.

Happy Summer everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Thursday, June 14
chrismark

This editorial is absolute non-sense. Let's take your analogy: what if that "thing' you left at home was your blood pressure medication? Would you leave that at home and drive onward? You would certainly not take a risk at leaving something so vital behind.

Then why should we as parents sit idly by as our elected school committee continues to feed and reward an administration that has their own personal interest in mind? They certainly do not have the parents and students interest at the forefront!

Don't believe me? Make a point to attend the next school committee meeting. As a parent of four school aged children in the Warwick school system, it bothered me that our committee members felt so confident that their decisions were in the best interest of the community. It was too easy for them to say so. As a Market researcher and political pollster for the last 12 years, these decisions NEVER came with the ease and favor spoken by many of these committee members.

I have designed and launched an opinion survey. It is 15 questions that ask the community about the recent actions of our school committee and how favorable they are to the decisions. I invite any in our community to add their input as well. The link will remain open until the week before the next SC meeting, allowing me time to do a proper analysis and report. I'll present the findings at the meeting itself where you can hear just how great a job these individuals are doing.

Survey link: https://www.research.net/r/WPSschools

I hope that you understand that we as parents are reserving our rights to afford our children the education they deserve. These children are our future CPA's, CFO's, Surgeons, and your future financial planners. Do you REALLY want to take a position behind an administration that has a clear and evident political agenda at the forefront of their decision making? Or should the interest be placed with our children in mind. I offer my survey as your means to answer.

Monday, June 18
patientman

It seems there is plenty of blame to around. The former Mayors, current and former city councils, WTU, school boards and administrations. Do people want to make a point, or do people want to make a difference? Young families have been abandoning Warwick because of our schools (others are abandoning Rhode Island all together). The only stakeholders that have done their job are the residents. We've had our taxes nearly double in 13 years and for what? Well run cities raise revenue through growth. Warwick is not, and has not been a well run city.

Tuesday, June 19