Frank Brown and Shaun Galligan are competing for Dist. 1, Steve DiPalma and Leah Hazelwood are vying for
Dist. 2 and Michelle Kirby Chapman and CJ Donovan are running for Dist. 3.
The incumbents in each of those districts, Kyle Adams, Dist. 1, Judith Cobden, Dist. 2, and Nathan Cornell, Dist. 3, all declined to run for reelection.
“Changes are coming, and the winners in these district races will have a role in shaping our schools in the years ahead,” said Warwick Beacon Editor John Howell, who moderated the event along with Lara D’Antuono, director of the Boys & Girls Clubs Of Warwick.
Brown has Called Warwick home for more than 20 years with his wife and three kids, who attended Warwick Public Schools. He said his daughter is a teacher in another district, and his wife Paula is a behavior specialist in another district. Brown said he has worked for the state of RI Dept. of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals for 33 years, coordinating rehabilitative services for individuals with developmental disabilities in the least restrictive community setting. He said he’s certified to conduct investigations of serious allegations of injury and neglect or exploitation.
“All of these things have really developed me into the person I am today.” Brown said.
Brown volunteered with youth organizations and groups, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Warwick, and was a president and director of a local little league for more than 10 years. He’s been recognized as an influential advocate for girls softball in RI, and has volunteered with Pilgrim High Girls Basketball, and also serves on Juvenile Hearing Board for Warwick.
Galligan said he and his wife are both graduates of Pilgrim High School. When they married in 2015, they decided to live in Warwick. They have three boys, two in Warwick schools currently. Galligan works as director of public safety for a U.K. business, managing regulatory compliance with environmental regulations. His middle son has an IEP, and at one point his resources were going to be reduced.
“So that was kind of a grave concern to both my wife and I, and like many other taxpayers in this city, and parents sweeping in to think, Do we move? Do we put them into private schools? Or, do we try to run, and change something?” Galligan said.
DePalma has been a Warwick resident for the last 18 years, and is a Bishop Hendriken grad, and U.S. Air Force veteran. He’s a father of two, a 5 and 7 -year-old. He’s worked in operational management for 15 years, requiring strategic planning and budget reviews. “I’m just your average, open-minded resident and parent looking to make the Warwick Schools better for the community,” he said.
Hazlewood said she has been a resident of Warwick most of her adult years. She and her husband raised four children. “I see the day-to-day, the operations that take place in the school department. I love these kids. I am for the kids, trust me. And I’m doing this because I want to be involved in everything going on. I’m effective in my job. I’m effective as an advocate for the kids, but I know when I do this, it’s going to go to another level.”
Hazlewood has spent 10 years as chair of the Warwick Police Explorers, and she’s a member of the Citizens Police Academy, the FOP, and the Oakland Beach Association.
Donovan, a lifelong Warwick resident, is a grad of Warwick Veterans High School, as were his parents in 1956, the first graduation class. He and his wife have two kids, one at Winman and one at Toll Gate. “I made the decision to run for School Committee after first talking it over with my family. I felt as a parent, a taxpayer and a former City Council member, I could offer the voters of the district a solid choice to represent them on school matters,” Donovan said.
Donovan said he is running on three principles: Student safety, open and transparent dialogue with stake holders, and ensuring all students have access to a well rounded education, including, academics, athletics, vocational and the arts.
Chapman – Grew up in Warwick, went to John Wickes, Winman, then Toll Gate. She graduated and moved to California, spending 17 years before moving back 5 years ago with her daughter so she could have the same education she did. Kirby-Chapman manages a successful high-end cocktail bar in Providence.
“I am running for School Committee because on moving back, I listened to the community that the schools have changed since I left. I’ve listened to how parents voices are not being heard. I’ve listened to how, overall, there’s a lack of confidence in our community leaders. Now, my daughter’s in school. I don’t want to be on the sidelines having the same complaints and not seeing any change. So I decided to run to help. I want to help the voice of parents. I want to help bridge the gap of the parent teacher community, I want everyone to feel heard. I want open communication. With open communication, there’ll be more community involvement. These are our kids. It’s their lives, and we want to shape their future for the better.”
One of the first questions asked during the debate focused on the bond to build two new high schools in the city.
Are you in favor of the new High School Bond
Galligan (Dist. 3): “At this stage of the game I am in favor of this bond issue, in hopes of the City Council and Mayor having another shot at going over the details.”
Kirby-Chapman (Dist. 3): “I am in favor of the new schools. I have reservations. I have reservations about how they’re going to keep up the maintenance,” she said. When asked what she would do about those reservations, Kirby Chapman said she would make sure the district kept up with the maintenance instead of just fixing holes when they occur.
DiPalma (Dist. 1) Dipalma did not definitively state if he was in favor or against the school bond question. “I would, again, agree, looking at the infrastructure we have, now at two high schools, that definitely need some addressing. I have a few different things in regards to whether I agree or disagree with schools.”
Hazlewood (Dist. 1) “We need new high schools,” said Hazlewood. The new schools would create environments where students will thrive and places that people will want to attend, as opposed to now, when other programs lure Warwick families away. When asked what the new schools
Galligan (Dist. 2) “I will be voting yes on question four, and I expect that every household is going to have a difference of opinion on this, which is why it’s great that it’s going out to the community, and it’s not sitting with one elected body. But my household’s reason is we’ve had 18 years of Warwick Public Schools in front of us, so certainly I want my children going to new schools.” “I think one thing we’re missing here is we keep looking at the total cost to build these schools, but what we’re not seeing is the cost savings or the cost avoidances that have to be presented to the taxpayers.” Such as, he said, more efficient schools that will cost less in energy, with fields the need less maintenance, and it will save the $4.4 million the district spends on students going to school outside the district due to the Pathways Program.
Brown (Dist. 2) “I personally will vote in favor of the new schools. I can testify to anyone, as I mentioned earlier, I volunteer with Pilgrim Girls Basketball. Despite the appearance, I try to run as much as I can with those girls. And unfortunately because of the timing and use of the gym, we have to rely on running the hallways of the school. And it is absolutely absurd the amount of buckets we have to run around, the amount of tiles that are coming up and the lack of ceiling tiles as we run through that school.” Also, he said, the city is fortunate that the state will cover over 50 percent of the cost. “It would not be wise for us to let that pass,” Brown said.
The full debate is posted to the Warwick Public Library’s Facebook Page, embedded below:
Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of WarwickPost.com. Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.