Thornton assures consolidation moving forward

By Kelcy Dolan
Posted 5/24/16

In response to an email, Superintendent Philip Thornton has responded to concerns over the status of the consolidation of secondary schools now that Director of Secondary Education Steven Ruscito has been placed on suspended leave.

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Thornton assures consolidation moving forward


In response to an email, Superintendent Philip Thornton has responded to concerns over the status of the consolidation of secondary schools now that Director of Secondary Education Steven Ruscito has been placed on suspended leave.

Ruscito, 56, came to Warwick last fall after several years as the principal of Westerly High School.

As the director Ruscito, who has a nearly $116,000 salary but no contract, was a major part of planning for consolidation this fall when current Vets students will move to either Pilgrim or Toll Gate and current Gorton and Aldrich students will move to either Winman or the soon to be new Vets super junior high.

Although Thornton would not discuss Ruscito’s suspension as it is a personnel matter, he responded to concerns raised in an email to the Beacon from Pilgrim teacher Peter SanGiovanni.

Even though Ruscito was a key factor in the consolidation plans, Thornton said that it has always been and will continue to be a “team effort” to finalize consolidation work and the “team” is continuing to move forward in their efforts.

Teacher schedules were expected to be available as of last night and summer construction schedules are being “finalized.” The job fair will continue as scheduled with the Warwick Teachers Union for June 7.

SanGiovanni said, “The school department and school committee have flat out refused to listen to teachers or let us on any of the 10 consolidation committees. This city has nearly one thousand college educated teachers that are the ones that spend more time than any with Warwick's children and our voices have been silenced.” The superintendent’s office assured that “nothing has changed and the district is still moving forward.”

The next district consolidation meeting will be held Tuesday, May 31 at 6 p.m. at Toll Gate High School.


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  • MPierce

    My name is Mike Pierce, and I am a teacher at Gorton Junior High School, and I have two high school students that go to Warwick Vets, and I am a taxpayer. I would like to politely request that Dr. Thornton present real and current proof that the consolidation plans are on schedule and workable. I have seen little evidence that this is true. I have observed a great many signs that the process is NOT going well.

    Since this process began, we have seen the superintendent, the director of secondary education, and the head of human resources leave the district for reasons related to the Ragosta report. We hired a new superintendent and director of secondary education who began pushing new additions to the consolidation plans. They decided that along with closing two junior high schools and merging them into one, and closing a high school and merging those students into the other two high schools, that it would be wise to make a number of other changes at the same time.

    -They decided to approve a slew of new courses with no curriculums, and cut a number of well established and rigorous courses.

    -They decided that it was also the right time to radically change the way special education delivers its services.

    -They decided it was the right time to eliminate Reading Recovery, a program that has been nationally recognized for decades for its effectiveness in changing the reading ability of the most vulnerable and needy first graders.

    -They decided that it was the right time to refuse to bargain in good faith with the teacher's union, and instead to pay large amounts of money to a law firm.

    -They decided it was the right time to hire a public relations firm in order to spread misinformation about their own teachers.

    -They decided that it was a good time to hire more administrators, even while they were cutting teachers.

    -They decided to continue to run the consolidation with zero input from teachers. The entire consolidation from beginning to end has been planned by people who are not classroom educators, including many that have never stepped once into a classroom. (For example, the scheduling committee is headed by the Anthony Ferrucci- the Chief Budget Officer- who has absolutely no experience doing scheduling in a school).

    These are massive changes, and neither Superintendent Thornton, nor the Director of Secondary Education Steven Ruscito had ever undertaken anything like it. Deadlines have been continually moved, (student schedules, for example), and when asked direct and specific questions about schedules and programs they seem to not have specific answers, or have changed their answers over time.

    Now Steven Ruscito is out. Two of the assistant principals that were hired from out of district have apparently declined the jobs. Teacher and student schedules have not appeared yet. Rumors keep circulating that the student schedules at both Tollgate and Pilgrim are not working, and that neither building really has enough space. These could easily be dispelled by the administration- show everyone the working schedules- but this has not been done.

    The claim is that everything is being done properly and on schedule. It is hard to feel positive about this when the school committee decides to schedule school committee meetings at 7 am. Open meetings are supposed to be scheduled at a time and place that is convenient to the groups that might be reasonably assumed to be interested in attending. Holding a meeting at 7am when parents and teachers are the obvious interested parties is obviously not holding a true open meeting. It certainly does not encourage the public to believe that the school committee and administration are being open and honest with them.

    At this meeting this morning, the school committee approved awarding a contract to do work at Vets and Pilgrim. This provided a small window into the planning and priorities of the administration and school committee.

    Here are the budgeted amounts and the bid awards:

    -Veterans front entrance renovations: Budgeted: 75,000 Bid Award: 380,500

    -Vets Rehab Auditorium: Budgeted: 400,000 Bid Award: 678,000

    -Pilgrim Rehab Auditorium Budgeted: 450,000 Bid Award: 678,50

    Total: Budgeted: 925,000 Bid Award: 1.74 Million

    Unbudgeted items added

    -Pilgrim Front entrance Renovations

    and cafeteria window wall: Bid Award: 600,500

    -New ceiling cafeteria: Bid Award: 71,000

    Total: Budgeted: 925,000 Bid Award: 2.4 Million

    Two problems, both of which do not engender confidence in the administrations' planning:

    1. Why are the budgeted amounts so far off of the actual bid awards? Did the people who created the budget have that little understanding of what needed to be done and the associated costs?

    2. Why are the cosmetic projects being done before the much more critical physical plant issues are contracted out? Shouldn't we pay for and install the heating system before we pick out the colors for the auditorium seat cushions?

    This is a perfect final example of why people are doubting the planning of this administration.

    This past winter, Superintendent Thorntons stated that the heating system was so bad at Vets that it could fail any day, and that the district had actually drawn up double sessions plans if all the students needed to be moved out of Vets. The superintendent assured everyone that there would be no problem replacing the system over the summer. The superintendent actually had stated publicly that the heating system at Vets would be simple because the basement system would be replaced with modular roof units. This was a critical part of the renovations being pulled off in a 3 month time span. Unfortunately, he made this statement without apparently consulting any kind of building engineer or expert, as the truth is that the building cannot support that kind of weight without major reinforcement.

    Now, it is almost June, and apparently nothing has been done about the broken heating system. This should have been the first priority, not new seats and curtains in the auditorium.

    That is the kind of evidence we are seeing of the planning being done.

    The consolidation involves major changes, and people are understandably concerned and afraid. The parents, students, teachers, and citizens of this city deserve to know that their school system is being properly planned for.

    Superintendent Thornton, you have the power to end all of the rumors and fears- simply lay evidence of all of the completed plans on the table for all to see. If you have truly made great progress, you should be proud to show it.


    Tuesday, May 24, 2016 Report this

  • Bluestone

    You seriously think that a district that holds school committee meetings at seven in the morning has any plans of being open and honest about what they have gotten done? Do kids who forgot to do their homework volunteer to present theirs first?

    Holy crap- you ARE naive...

    ...expecting the superintendent to do what's right. HA!

    That's just downright funny...

    ...or it would be, if it wasn't so sad...

    ...and if it wasn't about our tax money...

    ...and it wasn't about our children.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2016 Report this

  • SusanBlack

    As a parent I am very frustrated with this entire consolidation process. I have not seen any evidence that anything is actually happening. I am a huge believer that actions speak louder than words. I am not seeing any proof of actions. Dr. Thornton can say anything he wants, but WHERE IS THE PROOF??? How can 1200 students move into Vets with a failing heating system? What about the elevator? Show us schedules for our students. But this is not happening because it is not done and they are scrambling to fix this mess that Ruscito left. They are using green, inexperienced new administrators to fill his place and finish this job. These young administrators have no experience or understanding on how to do any of this. Dr. Thornton has never taken on a project of this magnitude EVER. How can I reassure my child that everything is going to be fine next year when I have no proof that this is the case. Again words are cheap. Lets see some action.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2016 Report this

  • Bluestone

    You know, you are right about one thing that you implied. People like Thornton LOVE to toot their own horn. If he'd finished polishing the doorknobs at the administration building he would have announced it to the world and shown pictures of all of his best and most shiny work. "Look at Me! Look at my Great Work! I'm so awesome!"

    I have seen no excited announcements and no pictures of his best and shiniest work.

    Conclusion: He hasn't gotten a god-damned thing done. He'd have given himself a ticker-tape parade if he had.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2016 Report this

  • MGrooter

    One thing is for sure, my son will go to the new Vets Jr. High and it will still be dumpy, outdated and with asbestos. I am always concerned about my sons education, but now I have to worry about his health as well. I may not agree with the teachers 100% of the time, but they do need a proper place to teach the students. Maybe if the schools were better maintained you'd see a higher teacher attendance rate. If the office that I currently work in had asbestos, mold, and outdated heating and HVAC systems that could effect ones health, I'd call the Dept. of Health in a flash. I encourage those to do so if the schools are not up to proper updated standards for school year 2016/17 as promised by Superintendent Thornton. I hope that the consolidation moving forward will be done for the best interest of the students, teachers, and administrators that have to work in these schools. We are not a third world country! Unfortunately, I have lost all hope due to the lies this school committee has sold to the public in the past. Please Mayor Avedisian pressure the school committee to do the right thing and take value in education for once. Your school buildings are falling apart, but manage to end each year with a sizable surplus of money. If bad administrators keep ruining education in your town no amount of consolidation will fix the problem. Stinksville, RI here we come. Home of the finest swindlers around.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2016 Report this

  • WarwickfortheKids

    Many are obviously and understandably concerned about many issues in the Warwick schools. The best way to manage change and concerns is to have continuous community meetings to hear, respond and address issues. There hasn't been enough information communicated to the public regarding teacher layoffs/reassignments, newly appointed leadership positions (vice principals, department heads), scheduling, additional course offerings, sports/extra curricular activities, coaching assignments, school building, traffic and transportation concerns, etc. The school co. meetings are not the proper venue to openly discuss these, should not be the only outlet/forum to update parents, and there has been some, but not enough opportunity for dialog. The school consolidation website has limited specifics which is what everyone is looking for with only three months before full implementation. Parents do not care how or who is moving boxes (although I am sure staff does) they want to know:

    Who are the teachers in each school next year or when and how will that be decided?

    What is being done to offer more EEP/AP classes? Are teachers being encouraged/assisted in obtaining requirements to teach those classes?

    What is going on with special ed/what do our neighboring districts do? What are their outcomes?

    What is being done to understand and address student scores in Math and Science?

    Who are the coaches?

    Who are the vice principals?

    Who are the department heads?

    What is the schedule for rolling out chromebooks?

    Who is their guidance counselor? Will continuity try to be preserved?

    What is my child's schedule/will they get the classes requested or do they need to rethink them?

    What are the anticipated class sizes by subject next year?

    When will i be able to view my child's grades online - Will interims be done in a way that doesn't take away four full class days/year?

    What is the plan/timeline for all the needed building improvements?

    Why are some improvements needed everywhere only occurring at one school/is there a plan/timeframe for each building?

    How will the parking/traffic be addressed/improved?

    What extracurricular activities will be offered next year at each school?

    What middle school sports will be offered and where will they play/practice? How do my kids sign up?

    Will there be the same opportunities for courses, sports and extracurricular at each school? if not, will kids have the opportunity/transportation to take class/join another school's group?

    How can we improve the transportation so buses are better utilized?

    What is the transportation schedule/times?

    Even if there are not specific answers yet for everything, families should be given a plan/timeline for each question so they can have confidence they will be addressed and will understand when the information will be provided to them.

    My fear is that absent constructive forums for the discussion of issues and better information dissemination, parents and staff are turning to media/social media outlets to vent, try to understand/get any information they can, and it is creating greater distress - and leading to even more families opting out of the school system and our city, which hurts everyone. There are a lot of things to be addressed right now but there is also a lot of good things going on that we should be aware of - ie. I hear there is a new technology director (who is getting great feedback) and this should be widely announced. The Beacon could help with this by asking and publishing updates on the specifics regarding consolidation (see questions above) and the school department could be better in creating open dialog forums and providing specific information to the community.

    Wednesday, May 25, 2016 Report this

  • smh

    Thank you, MPiercs, for pointing out what is really going on beyond the scenes and WarwickfortheKids, for asking some excellent questions.

    "The next district consolidation meeting will be held Tuesday, May 31 at 6 p.m. at Toll Gate High School"

    Let us hope that this meeting is STANDING ROOM ONLY! This has got to stop!

    Wednesday, May 25, 2016 Report this

  • Rockpt

    Let's keep the ball rolling! This Thorton guy is a professional. If it don't work out, Governor Thorts pays for all mistakes and inconvenieces out of his paycheck.

    Wednesday, May 25, 2016 Report this

  • MGrooter

    I just found out that the schedules for the applied subject areas are all screwed up for the switch to the new school. Both 7th and 8th grade students will be mixed in the same class. Curriculum assignments aren't even made for these classes yet and the teachers don't even know what their teaching yet! Holy Moses! This stuff is hysterical. Superintendent Thornton must be a gambling man, but he's betting with our kids education. From what I heard and also taking into consideration the short fall of money it's going to take to make the changes to Vets, I'll bet that this joker loses big time! Stinksville, RI here we come! All aboard to Stinksville. Thanks Warwick school committe for the crappy kid hating job that you do. Can't wait for my taxed to go up because of this mess.

    Wednesday, May 25, 2016 Report this

  • Justanidiot


    We want cheaper education, fewer teachers, fewer schools, etc.

    But we don't want it to affect OUR children. Let the other children in the district bear the burden and let my little Johnny stay where he is, with his teachers and in his school. Let the burden fall on the others.

    Thursday, May 26, 2016 Report this

  • Wiseguy


    I only stated the facts Sometimes the truth hurts Mr. Thornton. Just like any DICK-TATOR you censor the press. This lets the DICK-TATOR control public opinion of the event. The next thing the DICK-TATOR does he kills anyone who does not agree with his ideas or falls out of line.

    Mr. Howell This is America with freedom of the press freedom of speech.

    Please don’t let DICK-TATOR Thornton hide what he’s doing. The public needs to know.

    Saturday, May 28, 2016 Report this

  • Wiseguy

    Just 1 more little bit about Phil Thornton and how he works. Mr. Thornton has put a gag order on all employees about Mr.Ruscito sexcapades in the ad building. Mr. Thornton also told all the Principals and Administrators that they were not aloud to speak to elected officials about any thing with out speaking to him or his highly paid P.R. firm. I hope this fact won’t be taken down. The City council I hope you read this and ask some of the Principals about this.

    Saturday, May 28, 2016 Report this

  • Wiseguy

    I guess my past post did some good for the Tax Payers of Warwick. I helped motivate Mr. Thornton to do his job at work instead of at home.

    Mr. Thornton was seen at Warwick Avenue quite a lot this week.

    I guess he was making sure no more sex scandals happen under his watch.

    Mr. Thornton must have pushed back his daily run from midday to night.

    I think it was water for lunch too.

    Saturday, May 28, 2016 Report this

  • danfire

    Warwick's new logo


    Warwick's new logo under Phil Thornton leadership.

    Saturday, May 28, 2016 Report this

  • Imhere

    Phil Thorton is just as incompetent as his whole administration. He is the leader of "The Cover Up Crew" especially at Norwood elementary with his co hosts Lynn Dambruch and John Gannon! Thorton has been to many districts to learn best techniques to cover up any issues within his administration or schools he is supposed to "lead". How many times does there have to be an issue before this guy and his crew are in the unemployment line, because with this guy at the helm Warwick schools are in worse shape with him here than without. He is in bed with the school committee so they work in cahoots to silence everyone, but soon enough their lies will be uncovered and maybe one day we will have a school committee and administration that is for the children and the schools, rather than just raking in their inflated checks they don't deserve. The teachers don't get contracts but principals do, which is absurd because it's the teachers on the front line teaching the future not the principals who stay in their office and keep their eyes closed to severe issues in their respective schools like John Gannon.

    Saturday, May 28, 2016 Report this