In her comments to open the May 8 School Committee meeting, Emily Cummiskey decried the division that has developed in town and called for unity. While we whole-heartedly support this call, unfortunately, Ms. Cummiskey misdiagnosed the cause of the division. She and several community members from the Friends of Wakefield/Friends of SK/WhyWakefield who spoke seem to believe that the facility decision is what is at the root of the division in our community.
While there is clearly disagreement over the elementary configuration, that is but a symptom of a larger problem. Many of the decisions made by the current School Committee have failed a basic test: “Is this in the best interests of the students of South Kingstown?” The firing of legal counsel Sara Rapport, the rushed PAT decision, the still mysterious investigation of superintendent Stringfellow, and yes, the decision to change the facility plan, all fail this basic test. While each of these decisions belies a focus on the children, we believe the facility decision is the most potentially damaging to our students’ education and thus has become the focus of community discussion.
Those of us who argue for the closure of an elementary school do so because we value the education of every SK student.
While the decision to maintain a fourth school has financial implications, it is the effect on the education of all district students that most concerns us. We see a decision to spend $30+ million in lost operational savings over the next 25 years on a building we don’t need, to be paid for by program cuts and educational opportunities lost for all SK students.
The current budget process is highlighting these costs. Teacher layoffs, and program scale-backs equivalent to the lost savings we could realize by an expedited elementary closure, are being felt across the district. As three former contingency committee members discussed in an open letter last week, the district absolutely could have expedited school closures and, given the incoming kindergarten class size, it would be the prudent decision. It would have saved north of $800,000 in next year’s budget.
From an educational standpoint, We see the decision to maintain four schools as a counterproductive one with no pedagogical basis. Students at all four schools will begin to feel the negative effects of this decision starting next year when the district maintains split grade sections at three of the four schools, and single section grades of monolingual students at least two schools. Neither of these configurations are in the best interests of our children. Combined with the spreading of fewer resources across more schools, these configurations will negatively impact the education of students at every school in the district, and most severely at our smallest elementary schools.
If the School Committee majority truly wish to bring unity to the community, we applaud them. But the only way to achieve that goal is to start making decisions in the best interests of the children of our whole district, not just a select few. The decision to maintain an unneeded elementary school building is only but one example where the School Committee’s decision failed that test. The decision to change the PAT process and fire the district’s long term legal counsel are other examples. The investigation of Superintendent Stringfellow is especially concerning as it is nearly impossible to explain in relation to a focus on our students.
The search for a new superintendent is an opportunity to right this ship. We hope the committee will hear the calls for unity from the community and keep the interests of all children in mind as they make this important decision. If they do, then community unity is surely possible.
Co-signers: Barry Alofsin, Rick Angeli, Trish Angeli, John Babbitt, Kathie Babbitt, Meredith Barber, Cheryl Barbera, Kristen Benjamin, Roland Benjamin, CJ Bergner, Deb Bergner, Paula Bradley, Eugene Bucci, Wendy Bucci, Kate Bucci, Christine Byrne, James Byrne, Linda Campanini-Sweet, Gary Chapman, Monique Chartier, Ann Cibelli, Rachel Clough, Jeff Coons, Dave Coppola, Kerri Costa, Dave Cote, Maureen Cotter, Brian Cromack, Melissa Cromack, Matt Crook, Al Crudale, Barbara Crudale, Jean Curzake, Adrienne Daly, Josh Daly, Jeff Davis, Matthew Delmonico, Sara Delmonico, Paul Donnelly, Karyn Dukworth, Cathy Dwyer, Jamie Dwyer, Brendan Fogarty, Tom Ford, Linda Ford, Jeffery Foye, Laura Frye, Thomas Frye, Kellie Gaunya, Michael Gaunya, John Gennari, Kathy Gennari, Julie Glen, Meg Grenier, Charles Hall, Cadence Hansen, Jesse Hansen, Lynn Harper, Leea Hauser, Lisa Herbert, Emily Iredale, Kevin Jackson, Carol Jurczak, Rick Jurczak, Sara Ladas, David Laudati, Lee Laudati, Joslin Leasca, Sarah Lobdell, Ray Lyons, Brian Macinanti, Denise Marsh, Julie Marzilli, Julie Marzilli, Belinda Matson, Amy McGillivray, Michael McNamara, Andrew McNulty, Donna McNulty, Sally Minetti, Jennifer Mitchell, David Mosher, Raissa Mosher, Nicole Mulanaphy, Roberta Mulholland, Lee Nadeau, Mark Nadeau, Michael Nahmias, Pam Nahmias, Carla O’Donnell, Sean O’Donnell, Kevin O’Neill, Nicole Paliotti, Alex Petrucci, Dave Pezzullo, Jason Ralph, Joseph Reppucci, Melanie Reppucci, DPT, Nicole Riley, Joelle Rollo-Koster, John Rossi, Suzanne Rossi, Kristen Samponoro, Dudly Samponoro, Kathleen Schafer, Rebecca Schmid, Ross Schold, Tara Schold, Dee Shea, Dan Shea, Susan Smith, Scott Smith, Scott Smith, Linda Soderberg, Skye Soderberg, Sven Soderberg, Martha Stamp, Peter Stelljes, Mary Stiller, Kevin Sullivan, Greg Sweet, Judith Taft, Kitty Tally, PJ Tally, Paul Tasich, Cherie Taylor, Peter Taylor, April Tessier, Ann Tomlinson, Robert Tomlinson, Jessica Vescera, Bruce Waidler, Susan Waidler, Bryce White, Kristen White, Dawn Zyons