A group of secondary students will have the chance to voice concerns and questions to prospective members of the school committee who will be participating in a forum on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at Pilgrim High School.
The forum – organized by the Warwick Beacon with the help of the Warwick School Department and, specifically, the audio/visual production team of Andrea Place and Christopher Pratt from Pilgrim High School – will provide an opportunity for school committee candidates to explain their qualifications and outline issues of importance to them in advance of the Nov. 6 election.
As the workings of the school committee ultimately affect the lives of students within the schools, student participation was sought to provide more context into the questions students had and the issues that mattered most to them. On Tuesday, five students from Toll Gate and Pilgrim High Schools came to the Beacon office to do just that.
“I think it's important to have a student perspective on these issues,” said Tara Monastesse, a sophomore at Toll Gate. “We're the ones going to schools every day, we're the ones using these materials and talking to our peers about issues they're experiencing and also hearing from our parents on what they think are important issues. I think we have a unique perspective that needs to be heard.”
Issues pertinent to participating students were all-encompassing, covering everything from confusion over the recycling of dated technology during the district’s technology refresh program this summer, concerns about relationships between the central administration and the Warwick Teachers’ Union, school safety and the condition of the school buildings they inhabit.
“I felt like this was a unique opportunity to get involved with something that affects me, because I go to school,” said Rebecca Carcieri, a senior at Toll Gate. “These decisions affect me and impact me on a daily basis. I felt I should have a say or some kind of contributing factor because I can't vote yet.”
Being unable to vote and, by extension, feeling powerless to enact change through choosing their representatives, was a common thread among the student participants. Ryan Corrigan, a senior at Toll Gate, said he felt as though his opinions were not of importance to administrators in the district and that, while he understands that kids cannot be given the keys to run a district, the situation can still be frustrating.
“I think often times there's a disconnect between the central administration and the kids they work for,” he said. “It's frustrating how sometimes the students feel one way about an issue and then the administration makes a complete opposite decision about that issue.”
Some students, like Pilgrim High School senior Danielle Stone – whose father teaches in the district – were cognizant that school committee members and the members of the administration may represent different interests, but that students should take advantage of opportunities where they can directly advocate for what they want.
“I think this is our chance for us to stand up and encourage them and show them our side, because they may not even know our side because we have no one representing us,” she said. “This is our chance to represent us.”
Andrew Powers, a senior at Toll Gate, was more direct about why he was participating.
“I believe it's incredibly important to be informed in any given situation in the kind of society that we live in,” he said. “These decisions affect us directly every day.”
The exact formatting of the forum to be held at Pilgrim is still under discussion, however it is likely that plans for what was originally intended to be an event open to the general public will have to be adjusted due to production and time limitations, in addition to concerns about the quality of sound and recording that is possible when shooting video in a large, open space like an auditorium. The forum will be held within the Studio 107 classroom at Pilgrim. There will be seating for 80 in the studio with overflow seating in the auditorium.