Yesterday at a five-year old’s birthday party, a mom new to town said to me with a concerned look, “I moved here for the schools.” I know that look — it’s the one I have when worrying about my children before they try something new or on days when I know things might be hard for them.

I reassured her that she had made the right choice for her child by moving here and shared the amazing experiences I had attending schools in North Kingstown. I shared my gratitude for teachers who have gone above and beyond to support my children as they entered their schools during the pandemic and the fantastic community support I’ve seen at PTO meetings and school events.

The news stories about survivors who have endured inappropriate behavior leave me heartbroken, but I am proud of students and alumni for speaking up. It’s important for people to come forward and advocate for change so that we can implement new policies and procedures to keep students safe. Transparency is key to regaining public trust in our school department. Effective training for staff and teachers on creating a safe school environment, Title IX and federal policies, clear procedures on reporting concerns, timely response, and clear record keeping by the school department must be adhered to. The community should have access to the policies implemented by the school department and administrators need to feel community support for holding anyone who violates policy accountable.

In order to address these issues, we must begin to rebuild trust in our school department to bring back stability to our community. I believe in our schools and students. We need to continue to challenge policies that aren’t serving them. We also need to provide mental health resources for survivors and teachers who are directly or indirectly affected in order to have community healing. It’s one of the many reasons I am running to serve our community on the NK School Committee. I’ve been doing this my entire professional career in higher public education. We need to support our incredible teachers and administrators so that North Kingstown can continue to thrive and be a place that families move to for excellent schools.  

Erin West Earle

North Kingstown

The author is a candidate for North Kingstown School Committee

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