Still no funds for mentors, 15 custodians

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Supporters of Mentor Rhode Island drew television crews and took to the podium during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Warwick School Committee to reiterate their concern and disappointment at the current state of the FY 2019 school budget – which as of press time (prior to last night’s City Council meeting), did not have funding available to restore $102,000 to fund the program in the city.

“We were there specifically so that they didn’t forget that they cut us and that we should be at the top of the list of priorities for restoration,” said Jo-Ann Schofield, executive director for Mentor Rhode Island. “I do think we accomplished those two goals.”

School administrators and school committee members have been vocal since electing to cut Mentor RI’s $102,000 in funding in June – a small fraction of $6.6 million in total cuts to close a huge budgetary shortfall – that nobody is in support of cutting the program’s funding, a point that was brought up once again by administrators on Tuesday night.

“I think everybody in this room is in agreement that the draconian cuts we needed to take in order for the school committee to balance – legally – their budget, nobody wants,” said Anthony Ferrucci, finance director for the Warwick School Department. “We're moving forward with every opportunity to rectify that before the beginning of school.”

Still, this didn’t stop Mentor Rhode Island advocates from hoisting protest signs and making their presence known during the public comment period.

“It's a program that is done through love, through community and care,” said Doug Schobel, who has participated in the mentoring program for 17 years. “It's for the love of the kids and support of the kids. We have 160 kids that need a friend, that need a sounding board, that need that unconditional person in their life that they can depend on.”

Schobel implored the committee to find $102,000 somewhere else in the budget, calling that amount a “pittance” relative to the overall budget figure, which amounted to $171 million as approved by the school committee in late May.

Responding to questions about why a volunteer-based program needs $102,000 to operate during an interview on Wednesday, Schofield explained that the money pays for two mentor coordinators (one for students in the elementary level, and one for the secondary level). These coordinators are entirely responsible for screening, training and matching the program’s 160 mentors with students and act as the constant point of contact between educational staff and volunteer mentors. Just this past year, there were 43 new mentors that needed trained and matched.

Schofield said that the organization cannot simply take funds from other programs to sustain their Warwick program – by far the biggest program in their network that includes Woonsocket, Newport, Middletown, Pawtucket and one school in Providence – because the funding for those programs was gained through commitments through those municipalities’ budgets or through grants.

“We have obligations to those funders,” Schofield said.

Janitorial concerns

The other cut causing much concern and generating outrage during public comment was the decision to cut 15 custodians to save $750,000 – one of the largest single cuts made to help balance the budget. As a result, there will be no night-shift custodians to clean schools after they close, meaning after-school programs and activities will be unlikely to run at all. Further, the school department cut the funding for floor wax and stripper, among other janitorial supplies.

“I am concerned about the safety and health of these children,” said Betty O’Leary, a head custodian, adding that after-school custodians were crucial to ensuring that desks and classrooms are disinfected especially during flu seasons. “You're asking my staff to do twice the amount of work.”

“I take very much pride in my school being an extremely clean school, as some of you have commented to me. I work very, very hard, and the saddest thing is I am going to fail because of you,” O’Leary continued. “Failure is not in me. So, what am I to do? My best. But I need you to do your best too. That's only fair to these children, to this community and to every single one of us.”

Once again, the school committee did not pretend that the issues they were faced with were not of high priority.

“In my mind it's imperative that the second shift custodians be number one for the money, and that Mentor's $102,000 be number two,” said Eugene Nadeau, vice chair of the committee. “It would be criminal if those two things were not put back into our budget.”

Although the school committee and school administrators were due to appear before the Warwick City Council Wednesday night, the committee requested a continuance to the first meeting in September in order to wait for the results of fiscal and programmatic audits occurring currently within the department, as it would provide for more enlightened discussion once those reports are released.

“I'm going to believe that the City Council wants to work with us,” said school committee member at-large Terri Merdeiros.

Ethan Hartley is a volunteer mentor for the Mentor Rhode Island program as of March 2018.

Comments

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patientman

Max tax increase and we still have this BS. It's clear why our population has stagnated for 50 years and we have less than 1/2 the students we once had. 50 years of Poor leadership in the Mayor's office, city council, school committee, school administration and the strength of the public unions. If you have public sector employees holding campaign signs for your towns Republican Mayor, you got problems. Oh, and it doesn't help when our local paper fires the columnist that wrote pieces critical of the administration. The Beacon was more of a PR firm for Avedisian than newspaper.

Thursday, August 16
WwkVoter

I tend to agree that for whatever reason, this otherwise excellent newspaper soft pedals leadership in Warwick. We want the TRUTH.

Thursday, August 16
Justanidiot

we needs a mayer whose for the taxpayers. a taxpayers mayer.

Friday, August 17
richardcorrente

Dear Justanidiot,

I have got to meet you someday.

Thank you for the not-so-subtle plug.

The School Committee (SC) is trying to blackmail the City Council. They got $163million-plus dollars AND THEN closed schools and laid off teachers reducing their money-need significantly. How they could possibly run out of money is beyond me. That money was given to them with the complete understanding that it needed to cover upcoming raises for our teachers and upcoming maintenance for our school buildings. The need for BOTH, decreased greatly when they closed many schools and laid off over a hundred teachers. They should have had PLENTY of surplus money left over, but now they want MORE "claiming" that they ran out because they had to give raises to the teachers. BULL****!! Blaming Warwick teachers when those teachers had to wait over two years for a minimal raise is inhuman. Almost as inhuman as promising those same teachers their back-pay to arrive 4 days before Christmas and delivering it a month+ after the holidays. And if the SC doesn't get their way, they are threatening to sue? That's extortion! Let them try! I firmly believe that they won't. They have WAY too much to lose, and even if they do sue, the truth will come out in the court. The judge will look at over ONE AND A HALF BILLION DOLLARS given to the SC since 2009. ANY judge WILL demand a FULL accounting. I really, really doubt the SC wants to do that!. I am sure that they will back down.

They won't even allow a "clerk-of-the-works" for the $40million dollar proposed bond issue that the SC "promises" will be spent on renovations. I, for one, don't believe it. If their intentions were honorable, why wouldn't they allow a "clerk-of-the-works" to report directly to the taxpayers about how the TAXPAYERS $40million is being spent.

As Mayor I would refuse to "give them another dime" until I/we saw an audit FROM AN INDEPENDANT AUDITOR, not one selected and in the control of the SC! Taxpayers are NOT stupid. They can see right through the SC, offering an audit from a company selected BY THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE. PAID BY THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE, AND CONTROLLED BY THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE. Are you kidding me?? We all know ALREADY what THAT audit will look like. How about getting an HONEST one. Wouldn't that be a better idea?

Happy August Justanidiot. Sorry about all the capitalized words. I just got "fired-with-enthusiasm", something I would like certain members of the School Committee to be.

Happy August everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Friday, August 17
CrickeeRaven

Justanidiot, great job getting the make-believe mayor to prove his lack of restraint again. Now he's accusing the school committee of "blackmail" and "extortion."

He's also showing the level of his delusion when he talks about the "minimal raise" that the new teacher contract is paying -- this year it represents $5 million of the $8 million request from the school committee over the FY18 budget. If it weren't for the raises that the WTU got after their pickets, illegal sick-outs, and work-to-rule [actions that reasonable people would consider "extortion"], the recent offers by the city would have completely funded the school budget.

Instead of understanding this, the make-believe mayor continues with his buster and all-caps typing, he still clings to the fake narrative that only he believes about the school budget, still thinks he is somehow gaining support from the WTU, and still thinks he has the slightest chance in this year's race.

He is wrong.

Nothing he says is considered credible by honest, taxpaying voters. The WTU does not support him -- they contributed to Joe Solomon's campaign. And in less than a month he will suffer another humiliating loss, proving once and for all that his use of this website for free political advertising has failed to do anything but expose his complete unfitness for office.

Friday, August 17
WwkVoter

25 Days 23 Hours 15 Minutes 11 Seconds until polls close on Primary day... and counting...

Friday, August 17
richardcorrente

Dear CrickeeRaven,

You're wrong...again.

I am not "Now" accusing the School Committee (SC) of extortion and blackmail. I've been doing just that for several years. Here's why.

Since 2009, Warwick taxpayers have paid the SC OVER A BILLION-AND-A-HALF DOLLARS and that money was supposed to go for teachers salaries PRESENT AND FUTURE as well as maintenance of our school buildings. Can you name one person that believes that it has??? I can't, and I talk to tons of taxpayers EVERY DAY.

You say that $5 million of the recent request for $8 million is for teachers salary increases as if it wasn't covered by the original $163 Million dollar budget. If that was at all true (and it isn't) then what the HELL did they do with the rest of the BILLION-AND-A-HALF DOLLARS?? Oh, that's right. They refuse to tell us. If we had a Home Rule Charter they would be accountable but Warwick is one of the few cities or towns that doesn't. (even Richmond has one!)

The truth of the matter is the SC wants to keep this years $163 Million+ dollars, con the City Council into giving them $5 million more and then put a bond issue on the ballot to con the taxpayers out of an additional $40 Million, all with absolutely no accountability to the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab. Now if that isn't extortion; if that isn't blackmail, then what is?

I'll await your answer. I'm sure it will be respectful, unbiased, and intelligent.

Happy August everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Monday, August 20
richardcorrente

Dear WwkVoter,

Don't you understand that I win this election with the first "Corrente" vote?

Don't you understand that the message "Cut Taxes - Cut Spending" gets louder and louder with each additional vote?

Don't you understand that the message has ALWAYS been more important than the man?

I may get more votes or I may not but my message will never end. I represent the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab. You're one of them. So why don't you stop counting the days and join me. I got 29 taxes cut from the 2017 budget. Joe Solomon just slapped the taxpayers with THE LARGEST TAX INCREASE ALLOWED BY LAW.

WwkVoter, which do you prefer?

Happy August everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Monday, August 20
CrickeeRaven

With every false claim and delusional statement he repeats, the make-believe mayor brings himself closer to a humiliating and crushing defeat on Sept. 12.

WwkVoter, good job drawing out the make-believe mayor to repeat his delusional claims.

Honest, taxpaying voters are far too intelligent to support his disgrace of a candidacy.

Monday, August 20
WwkVoter

thank you. and the man's statements are just nutso. it's like saying the sky is green, watching people look up and shake their heads, and then repeating it.

he got NOTHING cut. he has never held office.

he doesnt pay his own bills. those are the only (illicit, immoral) "budget cuts" this subject has ever made.

Monday, August 20
Scal1024

The "Make Believe Mayor" Rick Corrente is starting to realize what most of us learned months ago: He is going to lose the Democratic Primary for Mayor. The spin from Rick has already begun. He is testing out the same excuses from last election. "PAC" checks although he seems to create his own meaning for the word PAC. Now he is spinning that with just 1 vote, his campaign will win no matter what. This pathetic attempt to spin a loss that hasn't yet happened shows even Rick Corrente knows the writing is on the wall. After he gets crushed there will be no doubt voters will have rejected the drek that is the Corrente "plan" twice (no plan at all, a smattering of talking points and slogans). All his slandering of the school committee, pandering to the teachers unions will be for NOTHING. I personally cannot wait until primary day.

Monday, August 20
CrickeeRaven

Scal and WwkVoter, what's always been notable about the make-believe mayor is how he is responsible for sinking his own campaigns -- and yet he is the last one to realize it.

Take his most recent comment:

"I am not 'Now' accusing the School Committee (SC) of extortion and blackmail. I've been doing just that for several years."

So, not only is he admitting to falsely accusing elected officials of crimes, but thinks that repeating those accusations over years is actually helping his chances to get elected.

He's wrong.

A look at the actual facts -- which, as we've seen, he has no ability or willingness to do unless he can twist the information to fit his fake narrative -- shows that all of his bluster has resulted in nothing.

The school committee continues to publish annual budgets and audits, negotiate contracts, and get additional funds from the city. Nothing the make-believe mayor has said made the slightest change to any of that.

He lost the 2016 election after making his delusional claims about the school department -- again, nothing he said would have changed that outcome.

As Scal says, the make-believe mayor clearly knows that honest, taxpaying voters are about to reject his candidacy again, and is trying to spin his inevitable defeat.

He's wrong.

We and our neighbors know better; we know that he is a tax delinquent and a liar. We know that he has done nothing to affect anything in the city.

We know that the only audience he's ever cared about is himself. That's why he's put so much effort [wasted as it has been] in posting comments on this website -- it's so he can see his own writing and delude himself into believing that it's giving him any chance of getting elected.

Again, he's wrong.

He has spent four years getting free political advertising and using someone else's website to post objectively false statements, try to enforce standards for its use, attempt to change the subject by accusing Joe Solomon of... whatever it is, resort to name-calling and baseless accusations, and whine about being proven wrong.

Contrary to his delusional beliefs, none of this behavior will help him in the election -- instead, it will result in another crushing and humiliating defeat on Sept. 12.

Tuesday, August 21
richardcorrente

Dear readers,

On August 20th, I asked CrickeeRaven to explain the obvious blackmail attempt on the part of the School Committee.

I awaited his/her answer saying that I was "sure it would be respectful, unbiased, and intelligent."

I was wrong.

Tuesday, August 21
Scal1024

"Obvious blackmail"

Words matter. Apparently the "Make Believe Mayor" doesn't think so, but they do. If you are a member of the School Committee and you read these comments where this uninformed, unintelligent, tax delinquent, buffoon named Rick Corrente accuses you of stealing, blackmail or any of the other many things he's accused them of how eager would you be (as a school committee member) to work with that dummy if he were elected? It shows the inexperience and immaturity of Rick Corrente. Did he feel like the School Committee has always been stealing and blackmailing the city? Or did he only start feeling that way when he became a candidate? I can't find his comments on this website anywhere before he was a candidate. Did he just not care then? Or (like I suspect) is Rick desperately using this as a campaign issue in order to pander to the teachers unions? The answer seems transparent. Rick Corrente will say and do anything to get elected. Luckily, Warwick voters are not buying what he is selling.

Tuesday, August 21
CrickeeRaven

Scal, I'm sure it didn't escape your notice that the make-believe mayor wanted me to justify his accusations against the school committee -- and then tried to argue that he somehow made a point when I didn't.

It's yet another sign of how pathetic his candidacy is, and how defective of a candidate he is, that he would again resort to such juvenile behavior.

While other candidates are raising thousands of dollars, holding campaign events, putting up lawn signs, and actually meeting voters, the make-believe mayor is humiliating himself yet again on someone else's website.

We can be sure he will only succeed in disgracing himself further in his next comments.

Tuesday, August 21