WARWICK, RI — Three School Committee members who passed on reelection November said farewell to the district Tuesday.
It was the final meeting for School Committee Chairwoman Judith Cobden and members Kyle Adams and Nathan Cornell, who did not run for re-election last month as their terms wound down.
“It’s been a wild four years,” said Adams, who revealed his health was a primary factor in his decision not to seek another term.
“To make it short, I did not think I could run and deal with cancer at the same time. I thank you all for everything over the past four years. It’s been wild. I wish the new School Committee good luck. Thank you all for the amazing work you have all done for us in the Warwick School District.”
Cobden also cited health concerns as a reason for not seeking re-election to the committee.
“It is a four-year commitment and it deserves the person who can give 100 percent to this job,” Cobden said. “I don’t feel I was going to be able to give 100 percent. I think anyone who runs for office needs to be prepared to give 100 percent which I tried to do throughout my four years.”
Cobden expressed pride in the work she and her Committee members accomplished.
“We did a good job and I don’t regret any of our decisions,” she said.
Newly minted School Committee member Leah Ann Hazelwood, elected to the Dist. 2 seat Cobden served on, thanked the trio for their service to Warwick schools, noting: “You did it during one of the most difficult times anybody could undertake, COVID, smack in the middle of your term on a weekly basis showing up to try to get things in line for Warwick schools. It hasn’t been overlooked, it’s much appreciated by many of us in the community.”
Darlene Netcoh, the President of the Warwick Teachers Union, also praised Cobden, Adams, and Cornell, along with Testa and Bachus, for enduring “the most difficult time in Warwick school committee history.”
“These people had to make decisions that were unpopular but they made those decisions to keep people safe,” Netcoh said.
“We truly appreciate all the hard work that you have done over the past four years,” Superintendent Lynn Dambruch said. “You have provided many positive opportunities and experiences for all members of the Warwick school community. You made these accomplishments during a pandemic that turned things upside down, one of the worst times in our country and the world. Your dedication has truly made a difference.”
Electronic devices policy
In other news, the School Committee voted to adopt a policy on electronic devices in schools.
The policy reads in part: The Warwick School Committee holds high expectations for student behavior, academic integrity and responsible use of existing and emerging technologies capable of capturing and/or transmitting data or images. Cell phones and all other personal electronic devices must be powered/turned off and kept out of sight before, during, or after school hours while on school grounds or at any school-sponsored event unless otherwise directed by individual teachers or administrators in their classrooms.
Cell phones and all other personal electronic devices may not be used to:
- disrupt classroom lessons with ringtones, beeping, or sounds of any kind.
- photograph, record, or film others without their consent.
- record a disruption on campus that can be used to degrade, threaten, intimidate, or dehumanize the person(s) involved
- take pictures or record in school activity private areas such as locker rooms, counseling sessions, restrooms, and/or dressing areas
- send or display pornographic or inappropriate messages, pictures or images including sexting
- bully, humiliate, harass, or intimidate school-related individuals or violate local, state, or federal laws
Violations of this policy will result in disciplinary action up to and including which may include confiscation of the personal device. Office phones are available for emergency use.
“There’s no need for a cell phone to be on during school,” said committee vice-chair David Testa. “You need to call your parents, you can go to the (main) office and call your parents. It’s a tremendous distraction and I feel very bad for teachers that try to teach through this.”
“Cell phones are just the epitome of disruption and bad practice,” said member Karen Bachus.
Student surveys policy
The committee also approved the second reading of a policy regarding student surveys. It reads in part: 1. In the fall of each school year, each school will inform the parents/guardians/caregivers of students attending the school in writing of the following: a. The specific or approximate date(s) during the school year when there will be the administration of a survey that has been prepared by a third party, including without limitation, a survey prepared by the United States Department of Education, Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or a third party vendor which contains a request for disclosure of any of the following items of information:
- i. political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student´s parents/guardians/caregivers;
- ii. mental or psychological problems of the student or the student´s family;
- iii. sex behavior or attitudes;
- iv. illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
- v. critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
Parent Tara Lavasseur complained about a lack of transparency regarding the surveys.
“I have also requested to see what goes into the Panorama database and have gotten lies, excuses, and the runaround as in ‘the Panorama database is down.,’” Lavasseur said, noting the school committee had ignored her concerns. “I sincerely hope in January the new school committee who ran on these ethics will do their job.”
“As I read this policy, I don’t have issues with it because it’s pretty clear on where the surveys come from,” Testa said. “This is a federal government survey. If you don’t like what’s in the surveys, go to your congressman, go to your state rep., go to your state senator.”
“We worked long and hard on this and the policy committee looked at it many different ways,” Bachus said. “(The surveys) are coming from the feds and RIDE. We do everything in our power to make people aware.”
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