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.