WARWICK, RI — “It’s a new day in Warwick,” said Karen Backus, school committee chair, after the committee voted 5-0 to approve $3,985,474 in additional funding allocated by the Warwick City Council.
The unanimous vote came at a special meeting Thursday night.
But, despite the additional funding she noted the committee is still about $4 million shy of the total $7.7 million they had asked for to fund all schools programs.
The additional funding allows the committee to fund items 1 through 17 as detailed at previous meetings, including school sports.
And as at previous meetings, a number of teachers and parents spoke, with most arguing for some programs to remain and others to go.
“We’ve been traveling this roller coaster together,” said special-ed teacher Elizabeth Lejeune.
“There are things we need and want … but we can’t afford everything,” she added while speaking against a $10,000 allocation for new jerseys from Adidas for the football team.
She also argued against funding for the NorthEast Sports Training and Rehabilitation (NEST) program, which provides athletic trainers for games, saying if one of the players gets injured there are walk-in clinics just down the driveways of the district’s two high schools.
“And we have a wonderful hospital… just consider the alternatives,” Lejeune added.
Fellow teacher Tracy McDermott said she was “thrilled” to see the cooperation between the city council and the school committee in reaching the funding compromise.
But like Lejeune, she said the $1.3 million price tag to sports “seems like a lot of money.”
Coaches, however disagreed, with one holding up various school team uniforms showing how they had been stitched together by parents so players could wear them one more year.
The agreement with the city council includes stipulations that a district committee, with council representation, will look at schools’ spending, and work on the district’s deficit. They will compare that deficit with similar school districts, such as Cranston, to see where things can be done better.
The district has also promised to also reduce expenditures, although Bachus pointed out that of their expenditures, 82 percent goes toward salaries and benefits for contractually covered staff.
“We are going to do the best so we can give the best to our kids,” Bachus said. “…First and foremost we’re an academic organization.”
And while it’s not in the additional funding package coming from the city council, Bachus promised the committee would find $15,000 in money to keep the district’s late buses.
“This isn’t perfect, but it’s good,” added committeeman David Testa.