WARWICK, RI— The School Committee elected new leadership Tuesday, with Judy Cobden now serving as Chair, Nathan Cornell as Vice-Chair, and Kyle Adams as Clerk.
Cobden, who had served as Vice-Chair, met with resistance from former chair Karen Bachus.
In my two years as chair, Miss Cobden has made derogatory remarks, made fun of me, berated me because I take this as a full-time job and I’m a fool for doing that,” Bachus said. “She has said this on more than one occasion. It was very hurtful, but it is what it is.”
Cobden said she would be a better chair: “I don’t degrade people, I don’t talk to them in an evil manner.”
Cobden then alleged Bachus had attended various meetings with city leaders and had not asked committee members to join her.
“You had meetings consistently with other people and the four of us never knew about it. It wasn’t right. You have gone and overstepped your boundaries at meetings with schools over employment issues. You have sat through interviews you didn’t belong in and we don’t like the way we’re spoken to,” Cobden explained. “I don’t work for you, Karen. I work for my constituents in the city.”
Cobden was elected on a 3 to 2 vote. Adams and Cornell voted in favor with Bachus and David Testa opposed.
Bachus nominated Testa to serve as Vice-Chair, but no one seconded her motion.
Adams nominated Cornell to serve as Vice-Chair.
Bachus said she had “significant concerns” about Cornell being vice-chair.
“He’s been on the committee for two years, he doesn’t understand Robert’s Rules and a lot of the other things which sometimes causes great frustration, especially for myself and others,” Bachus noted.
Cobden said she felt Cornell was qualified to serve in the position: “I think (Cornell) actually knows the process, I believe he can handle that. I think with guidance, he can bring a lot more to the table than he’s been allowed to. He has some great skills which have not been utilized enough in the last two years.”
Cornell was elected on a 3 to 2 vote, with Adams and Cobden in favor and Bachus and Testa opposed.
The committee also adopted a new safety policy. It reads:
“The goal of the Warwick Public Schools is to provide a safe and secure learning environment that is free from harassment, intimidation or bullying (hereinafter “HIB”). Students who have been the alleged target of HIB may need special protection to ensure their emotional and physical safety is secure during and after investigations of alleged HIB.
In order to request a Safety Plan and/or No Contact Contract, students and their parent(s)/guardians(s) must contact the building administrator at the student’s school. The sample Safety Plan that is incorporated in this policy is meant to assist administrators in developing a Safety Plan for students.
It should be understood that the sample Safety Plan is only a guide for administrators – all elements need not be incorporated and additional/alternative considerations may be included in a student’s Safety Plan. All Safety Plans should be written by the administrative team at the student’s school.
In cases of alleged sex discrimination, the Safety Plan shall be developed with the support of the Title IX Coordinator. If determined necessary by the school administrator or as requested by the parent, in the event that a student has an IEP or 504 plan, the Safety Plan shall be reviewed by the IEP or 504 team as necessary. The student and his/her parent(s)/guardian(s) should be involved in the development of the student’s Safety Plan.”
The committee also approved an amendment to the in-person reopening calendar.
Grades 6 and 9 will now return to school on January 19 and 20, with the remainder of the secondary students returning on January 21. The request was made by William McCaffrey, Director of Secondary Education.