2018-05-17 / Opinion

Guest View

Sad Actions

A t the April meeting of the Newport School Committee, representatives from RI Student Assistance Services (an amazing student substance abuse prevention program) and Project Success, as well as the substance abuse counselor who works with young people at Thompson Middle school and Rogers High School, shared a terrific presentation of the great and successful work they are doing with our students. They spoke at the meeting as to how in this day and age where substance abuse has reached a crisis level (especially in RI with its awful opioid addiction problem) it is critical to provide early intervention support and services to a population who are perhaps most at risk: our young people. These youngsters are also the people who can most easily be reached.

The presenters shared with the members of the school committee and the public that although our state (and city) is forced to deal with the important and very sad reality that young students can be easily susceptible to substance abuse, an all-important state grant of approximately $24,500 was not being renewed. The counselors asked for assistance from the school committee to make up the shortfall. All members of the school committee (including myself) who commented on the presentation and the work being done in our schools by the counselor and the program, were nothing but supportive and by extension indicated they would like the funding included in the school’s budget for next year.

Knowing that, I was both surprised and extremely disappointed with the Newport School Department administration and the Newport School Committee leadership for its failure to include the necessary funding (only $24,500 in a total $41 million school budget) to continue this important work with our youngsters. What a small price to pay for such an important and successful program. At the Tuesday, May 14 special budget meeting of the Newport School Committee, after it was confirmed for me by the superintendent and school administration that the money WAS NOT included in the budget for next year, I subsequently offered an amendment to the budget to provide the $24,500 in necessary funding. My amendment would have taken approximately $25,000 away from a line in the budget providing – among other items – hundreds of thousands of dollars in new spending, and dedicated the funds to continue support of the substance abuse prevention efforts.

None of the members of the school committee supported me in offering this financial support. Shame.

For the members of the school committee to praise the magnificent work and talk about how important the program and services provided are, and then fail to offer such a limited financial commitment to the program, is hypocritical.

My assumption was and is, that the six members of the school committee (Hanos, Gomes, Gaines, Bolan, Flowers and Silvia) consider a “rubber stamp” of the superintendent’s proposals so necessary, that even programs like substance abuse prevention cannot be supported unless the superintendent gives the “go ahead.” If that is the case, why have an independent body like the school committee, which is supposed to direct policy, produce budgets and provide oversight, among other things?

David R. Carlin lll, Member, Newport School Committee

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