We feel inclined to once again express our sincere gratitude to a team of educators and students that helped pull together a school committee forum on incredibly short notice on Tuesday night.
Following continued effort by these students through the application of learned skills in the Studio 107 classroom, the forum will be broadcast to, hopefully, many more people in Warwick when it airs on PEG RI-TV (Channels 17 and 37 for Cox and Verizon customers respectively; check the news article on the front page for the air dates and time).
We cannot stress enough how important such a forum is, as it holds candidates accountable and forces them to demonstrate their knowledge and preparedness to a live audience, and more who will tune in remotely once the show goes live. Becoming a candidate is something basically anyone can do, however being a viable candidate that will do good for their community is something else entirely.
There is no doubt that Tuesday night’s forum displayed a group of candidates who are enthusiastic for their city, and it also showcased a perfect example of why this school district is worth representing. The studio space put together by Studio 107 faculty and students was nothing short of superb, and its flawless technical performance demonstrated endless possibilities of what can occur when students take challenges and run with them – and the same goes for the faculty, who had to deal with incredibly tight time windows and surprises.
The key to the entire effort was collaboration, which is also the major takeaway for us from the discussion had throughout the course of the forum. Working together is not simply a buzz concept to be thrown around in election talk, it is essential to the success of a school district. Collaboration is not only working towards what you want, but being willing to compromise with someone you disagree with for the good of the many, not the few.
In the past, we have seen far too much division over issues, and far too many accusations of ill intent and assumed negativity flying in every different direction. We urge all prospective school committee candidates to learn from our students – nobody can put on a successful production without trusting their colleagues to do a good job as well. Everyone must remain focused on the same goal.
Still, if there was one aspect of Tuesday night that didn’t leave us with a positive feeling of delight, it was the turnout of individuals to witness the discussion. Those who attended have our utmost appreciation – however most of them were primary stakeholders; school administrators and family and friends of candidates and volunteers, mostly.
While we didn’t expect to fill an entire auditorium, we figured perhaps there would be a bigger showing from other city government officials, who will be working with at least two of the candidates running for election in the future, or members of the general public, whose tax dollars fund everything in the district outside of grant-funded initiatives and projects.
The school budget accounts for over half the municipal budget, so even if you don’t have kids in the school system or if you have no interest in the goings on of the department, if you live in Warwick you have a primary stake in what occurs as the result of school committee actions as well. The success of the city’s schools directly correlates to peoples’ willingness to move to the community, which affects property value rates and, ultimately, taxes and the cost of services.
We surely hope that the physical attendance does not correlate to the number of people who do research, make it to the polls and vote on Nov. 6. Elections should represent a true sampling of the voting populace rather than a popularity contest between a small fragment of our society.
We are thankful for the enthusiasm of the students and the candidates who helped make our forum successful, but we simply wish there was a way to equally energize members of the general public who, whether they realize it or not, have skin in the game too.