Warwick, RI – The Warwick School Committee voted Tuesday at Warwick Veterans Jr. High to accept School Superintendent Phil Thornton’s recommendation to allow Norwood Elementary School Principal John Gannon’s contract to expire without renewing it this year.
The vote was 3 – 1. Chairwoman Bethany Furtado, Terri Medeiros, and David Testa voted yes, with vice-chairman Eugene Nadeau the lone dissenter. Karen Bachus was absent.
Gannon had been expected to speak with the School Committee about his expiring contract during the board’s closed session, which began at 6 p.m. Following Gannon’s disclosure of the news to staffers at the school, 32 faculty and staff members signed a letter asking the School Committee to keep Gannon. Norwood teacher Pauline Pinto sent a copy of the letter to each member of the Committee over the weekend.
In other news, the board approved a $40 million bond request to pay for repairs to the city’s schools.
Last December, the school committee passed a resolution to request $85 million in funding from the city for the renovation of the city’s schools, but the City Council only voted to allocate $40 million.
Nadeau expressed his frustration at the way the school administrators were treated by the City Council.
“They put us through the ringer,” Nadeau said, noting the renovation work won’t begin until 2019.
“We will attack the things that have the highest priority,” said Anthony Ferrucci, executive director of finance and operations for the district.
The renovations will include $9 million for 9 new school roofs, $1.9 million for new fire alarm systems for 12 buildings, new classroom doors for $1.7 million, asbestos abatement for $813,000, and $2.1 million for ADA accessible playgrounds.
Ferrucci explained the work would not happen all at once, but would be spread out over a five-year period.
Ferrucci said there were no funds for exterior doors and windows replacement, paving work, athletic fields, or plumbing in classrooms.
Testa also lamented the fraction of the requested funding the schools received, which he noted was not sufficient to perform necessary repairs within the school district’s buildings.
“We’ll do the best we can with what we have,” said Testa. “This district needs a capital reserve fund. You need to have that resource.”
The capital plan will be featured on the school district’s web site. The bond will be voted on in November.
The Committee also discussed the elementary consolidation plan.
Due to a number of factors including declining enrollment and the need for expensive upgrades, the proposal mandates the closure of John Wickes and Randall Holden Elementary Schools while turning John Brown Francis Elementary into an early childhood center and Drum Rock Early Childhood Center into additional space for Warwick’s Career & Technical Center.
The sixth grade will also move from the elementary schools to Winman and Warwick Veterans – which are transitioning from junior high schools to middle schools.
The sixth grade was supposed to move to Winman and Vets for this school year, until the school committee decided to delay it. Now, all changes will take place concurrently for the 2018-19 school year.
The school committee had put off immediate implementation of the school closures when it originally voted on the plan in 2016 following criticism about how the consolidation of the secondary schools was handled.
The detailed plan for the consolidation can be viewed at this link: https://www.warwickschools.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2018/02/Copy-of-Consolidation-Planning-Presentation-22F12F18.pdf.
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