2018-11-01 / Election News

Newport School Committee Candidates

From the field of 10 Newport School Committee Candidates voters are asked to select 7 to fill the 7 two-year seats.


#1) What programs are offered in Newport Public Schools that you think should be more widely promoted in order for people feel better about the schools?

#2) The budget and finances discussion is a complicated one, how do you think the funds can be better spent to serve the students?

#3) Do you think the Coggelshall School property could be re-purposed to suit any of the school department’s upcoming needs? How?

Louisa Boatwright

61, widow, one daughter

Resident of Newpor for 29 years

My goal for the Newport Public School System is to be a quality, 21st century learning environment. I believe if we embrace and act on the One Newport Strategic Plan, created collaboratively by teachers, administrators and community members leveraging research, we can achieve this goal. It will take hard work, creativity and efficient practices. Once implemented with all its action items, the Newport School System will truly become a 21st century learning environment for all students. The One Newport Plan identifies seven critical initiatives and supporting actions to engage students, leverage their interests, integrate technology, focus on today and future career pathways while creating a positive school-wide culture. There is much work to be done and it starts at the top. The School Committee must act together; leveraging everyone’s strengths toward a common goal. The ultimate goal is for Newporters, young and old, to be proud of Newport’s school system.

Louisa Boatwright Louisa Boatwright #1) Rogers High School and the Career Technical Center have been receiving national and state awards in the areas of information technology, robotics, culinary, history and more for years. We need to “shout out” these successes and expand on our offerings to other relevant fields, such as healthcare and environmental sciences where job demand is high. At Pell we must open our doors to pre-schoolers and parents so they can tour and feel welcome as in-coming Kindergarteners. Adding more hands-on/ project-based learning, such as the new Sail Newport 4th grade sailing curriculum, should be celebrated and expanded. Bringing the community into the classroom will help promote our school system and its children.

Rebecca Bolan Rebecca Bolan #2) As for the budget and finance issues, yes, it is more complex than the sound bites. Newport has an ever-changing school population which can affect the bottom line. This year alone the School Department had to add 3 new English Second Language learning instructors due to a significant uptick in international students. For this reason and others, it is critical the City Council understand their actions can affect school expenses. Further, we need to look seriously at the Lawson Software System, which the school uses, and either find quality work-arounds or seek an upgrade as it lacks critical controls. In general, for managing expenses, I use RIDE comparisons to other communities to understand our “outliers.” It is by using data that we can proactively find areas for potential savings and efficiencies.

Karlie Cesarini Karlie Cesarini #3) Last, can Coggeshall be used by the School Department? I think it should absolutely be considered however, if there is a closer location to Pell, i.e., the parking lot across the street, the Maher/Housing Authority Offices or the Newport Daily News site. These would be my preferences. But all potential sites should be reviewed in a cost/ benefit analysis.

Rebecca Bolan

63, married, six children

Sandra J. Flowers Sandra J. Flowers Resident of Newport 26 years

Retired elementary teacher

Newport School Committee: 2008 – present

I am running for another term because I believe that my work is not complete. Newport became our home after my husband completed 24 years of Naval service. I understand the challenges of the military child and families. I have six children who have diverse needs. I know how to advocate for the special needs, and the high achieving child. I served as a PTO president for many years. I have been on four consecutive strategic planning committees and have served on the district’s facilities committee since 2005. I understand the school system from the point of view of the student, parent, teacher, and the taxpayer. I do my homework, exploring all sides of an issue. I am an analytical thinker and collaborative problem solver. I promise to be a responsible steward of taxpayer’s money, and that our children’s best interests will be at the core of all decisions I make.

David R. Carlin David R. Carlin #1 Newport’s academic Gem has got to be our expanding Career and Tech programs. Our students are all given the opportunity to excel academically, and at the same time graduate high school with essential life skills that can turn into a career, or a lifelong hobby. More than half of our students take advantage of these opportunities. Which include, advanced computer skills, and carpentry. Next year we are adding Electric Boat on as one of our community partners.

#2 Allocating limited district monies is a huge responsibility. We are now in the process of trying to come to terms with the overspending that occurred in 2017/2018 school year. The problem was not brought to our attention until the end of May. It was too late to make any significant changes. These problems were perpetuated by the frequent turnover of business managers, and poor accounting practices. We have implemented many safeguards and I believe with the cities guidance we are back on track.

Raymond Gomes Raymond Gomes #3 All demographic studies at the time Pell was built Predicted declining enrollment. Well as we all now know that did not happen. Enrollment is up and we need to address this pressing issue. The facilities committee which began meeting last January, knows that this a top priority. Coggeshall School has great bones, but there would have to be a detailed comparative cost vs. benefit study completed weighing all of the current options. Its location is a huge plus as it is located in the North End of the city where the majority of our students live. I am not at all opposed if this is the recommendation of the committee.

Karlie Cesarini

Robert Leary Robert Leary 46, married, two children

Resident of Newport for 28 years

Psychotherapist and co-owner of Solidground Psychotherapy

I believe that there should be parents of currently enrolled students in the Newport Public Schools on the committee who are invested in working with the schools. I have two children attending the Newport schools. My main goal and objective is to provide all students with the best possible education from kindergarten through high school. Additionally, it is critical to make fiscally prudent budgetary decisions, especially in light of the current budget deficit. As well as providing the students with safe, dry, and warm buildings. I believe that the school committee needs to begin to work collaboratively with the teachers, administration and the superintendent to begin to address the present issues regarding truancy, low enrollment and low-test scores. Committee members also need to work as a team while addressing parents’, teachers’ and community members’ concerns. Another goal is to increase awareness and advertise the many great things that are currently transpiring at the schools. At this time, I believe that I have a working knowledge of the students’ current perceptions regarding education in Newport as my children attend the schools. Being both an involved parent and a mental health professional, I will bring a unique skill set and many relevant contributions to the school committee to assist in obtaining these goals.

Kelly Lohrum Kelly Lohrum #1) I believe that there are many programs at each school that should be promoted. I will touch on only a few as I am limited to space to do so. At the Pell School, The Child Opportunity Zone which offers tutoring, mentoring, childcare, etc. offer many well-needed services. Parents also have the opportunity to be engaged with the principal on a weekly basis, including “Tea with Tracy” (principal) and “Pizza with the principal.” At the middle school level, there are many services offered to students both during the day and after school hours. Some of these free services include a part-time mental health clinician on staff to address any presenting behavioral issues as well as additional support for students. The after-school program offers many free activities for students including boot camp, squash, tennis and many other programs that increase connections between our students and the community. At Rogers, the NATC and PTech programs offer so many opportunities for unique and individualized alternative learning as well as a career path straight out of high school.

Aida Neary Aida Neary #2) Prior to delegating and advocating how the money should be best spent on the students, the school committee needs to develop a comprehensive understanding of the how, why and where these current budget deficits occurred. A “deeper dive” into how the money is being spent should be prioritized. One of my roles on the school committee would be to gain a better understanding of how the student body and tax payers feel the money would be best spent on the students.

Kathleen M. Silvia Kathleen M. Silvia #3) Regarding the Coggeshall School, my understanding as a member of the Rogers High School building sub-committee, is that Coggeshall needs an extensive amount of work. In my opinion, the school is not viable for Pre-K-K students due to it being a multi-level building. I do not believe that pursuing Coggeshall for the school department would be a cost-efficient, viable endeavor.

Sandra J. Flowers

75, single

Lifelong Newporter

Retired educator

Newport School Committee: 2009-present

One of my goals is to establish an early childhood center for our pre-K and kindergarten students, which would alleviate the overcrowding at Pell School and provide the specific facilities for our very young children so that they can thrive and develop the skills that are fundamental to success in the grades and beyond. Another goal is to promote social and emotional health for our students of all ages. With the many burdens that young people are bearing these days, the schools often become the only safe haven they know. I also wish to address more fully the expansion of the multiple pathways to career preparation. In addition to the RHS and NACTC course offerings, our middle school students are being made aware of career preparation. While learning about “community helpers” is part of elementary curricula, I do believe that career preparation has a place in the lower grades.

#1) The Grade Level Reading initiatives, the goal of which is to have all students reading on grade level by Grade Three. The Chronic Absenteeism and Truancy Reduction initiative affects so many students of all ages, negatively affecting their academic success. The many skills taught in the Fine and Performing Arts are interrelated with the academic curricula in all the grades.

#2) A significant portion of school budgets goes to contracted expenses (salaries and benefits, transportation). With this in mind, we must have sufficient personnel who meet the academic and social/ emotional needs of all students of every learning style and special needs. As the municipal government has become more involved in NPS budgeting, assisting with the buildings and maintenance areas, we should be seeking creative ways to assure quality education for all. Collaboration with the city side has to include ongoing maintenance and upgrading whenever needed. We do not want to go back to the days of deferred maintenance leading to deteriorating facilities.

#3) Newport Public Schools turned Coggeshall School over to the city for many good reasons: the cost of bringing the place up to fire codes alone was prohibitive; the building is not accessible for individuals with physical disabilities; it is not suited for current and future technology. When the initial planning for Pell School began, just about everyone said that it would not be fiscally responsible to rehab Coggeshall, even when it was still an elementary school. Even though I make every effort to see all sides of the issues, at this time I do not want Coggeshall returned to the school district.

David R. Carlin

48, married

Resident of Newport 46 years

Government/Business consultant

Newport School Committee: 2010 – present

It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to serve on the Committee. I thank you, the voters of Newport, for allowing me that privilege.

As many may know, I sometimes find myself in the minority when votes are taken. Even a minority of one. My colleagues on the School Committee are fine persons, but we have philosophical disagreements. I have a strong belief that School Committee members have to think for themselves. We cannot be mere “rubber stamps” for the superintendent. The majority of my colleagues don’t agree.

Above all, I think NSC members must pay close attention to two things: academic quality and fiscal responsibility.

#1) The Newport School Department offers many great classes, programs, extracurricular activities and more. We have outstanding courses offered at the career and technical center located at Rogers. There, students excel in information technology, design, culinary, residential carpentry, automotive and cosmetology. We also have wonderful in and after school programs offered at Pell School and Thompson Middle School. These include arts, music, orchestra, band, STEM learning and more. All of these learning opportunities must be highlighted and expanded. However, at the same time as offering these opportunities, we have slashed arts at TMS, cut foreign language offerings for students who want to learn, all but eliminated accelerated classes, and overcrowded advanced placement offerings. This must end and I pledge to see to it that it does end.

#2) Regarding budgets, the Newport school department has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. As I have consistently highlighted for more than three years now, the superintendent and school committee as a whole have paid far less attention to the importance of fiscal responsibility than we should. We owe it to the taxpayers who pay the bills. As a result of this failure, the school administration overspent it’s allowed budget by $1.8 million. And who will have to pay for this overspending? The taxpayers of Newport. It’s outrageous. If re-elected to the school committee, I promise to make fiscal responsibility a priority. In fact, along with academic quality, I will make it priority number one.

#3) No, I do not.

Raymond Gomes

53, married, five children

Resident of Newport 45 years

Retired Newport Fire Dept., consultant

Newport School Committee: 2016-present

I believe that the two of our challenges are funding of our schools and space at Pell School and the needed rebuild/renovation of Rogers High School. The common link: money! I believe that the time is fast approaching when it will become difficult not only for Newport but all our communities throughout the state to be able to fund our schools at adequate levels without some sort of consolidation/ regionalization. Yes, I use that bad word in education, among many communities not just on our beloved island. The link is that all local communities will be faced with spending millions to provide more space or repair/replace schools because of years of use or neglected maintenance. Between just our three communities on the island there are 11 school buildings, 13 with Admin. Offices. We could provide the same educational services within six buildings, maybe seven with a central Admin. Office. We would save millions in building cost and upkeep just to start.

#1) To start I believe our schools are poorly perceived, unfairly in many cases, in our community. There are tremendous amounts of great work happening every day to prepare our students for their futures. We need to make the community more aware of this work and the benefits that it has for our city. I’d encourage our community to get more involved in our schools, every school has some way that community members can help from mentors to volunteers. There is no better way to see the great work happening than first hand at the source.

#2) To say that school finances are complicated is understated. More than eighty percent of our $40,494,788 budget goes to salaries and benefits, maintenance/ upkeep and transportation for our students. I will say that our employees are worth every penny for the work that they do in our schools. Many of these costs are the result of decisions made over the last century. This leaves less than twenty percent of the budget for educational programing to benefit our students. I believe that we need to continually look to reduce our expenses for future generations to come by ensuring that solid financial decisions are made today. As I stated above I believe we need to look to consolidate our educational spending to provide more educational bang for our dollars spent.

#3) As a member of the school building subcommittee we have looked at the possible re-uses of Coggeshall School for educational purposes. Unfortunately, all the reasons that the school was closed still exist and most of the land as also been deeded to the Aquidneck Land Trust has open space. This leaves the building with limited uses for the school department other than possible administrative offices.

Robert Leary

69, married with six children

Lifelong resident of Newport

Retired educator

Newport School Committee: 2001 – 2016

First and foremost, you need to do a forensic audit! The initial $1,800,000 deficit from fiscal year 2018, forced the NSC to use all its $700,000 surplus for overspending. With some savings on other line items they ended up with a $750,000 deficit not paid by June 30th. So, the city is obligated to pay that. What a mess! What we have here is a spending problem not a revenue problem. I will make sure we live within our budget. This is the reason why I decided to run for the NSC. I promise this will not happen if I’m elected!

As to Rogers replacement, all options must be discussed and investigated thoroughly. So, for example, maybe it’s a modified approach as with Thompson (at a cost of $19,000,000). As it presently stands a whole new Rogers cost is over $80,000,000 plus this is a lot to swallow.

Space issues presently must be discussed for permanent and short-term solutions. Short term you could move the 8th grade to Rogers. The 4th grade would then be moved up to Thompson. This would free up 7 rooms at Pell. Pre-K would use 3 rooms and the other 4 rooms would go back to their original use as art and music rooms. Permanent solutions need a lot more discussions before being presented to the taxpayers.

#1) I believe, the school department does a good job promoting its programs. In fact, there is a person who gets paid for doing that. However, there are few things that come to mind that need publicizing.

One thing that could be promoted more to the public is that every student is tested in reading and math at least once a year. Because of the testing, Interventions or advance work are put into place.

That being said, Thompson just shortened its advanced program due to a new schedule. This has, in my opinion, lessened the challenges of our top students. Giving the principal some autonomy to operate their school should be a good thing. But how do you plan to measure the effectiveness of this new approach?

#2) Along with a forensic audit there must be a program audit. The forensic and program audits will be the first things I will put on the agenda if I’m elected. An example of how funds can be better spent to serve the students is by showing the wrong way it was done. The purchase of chrome books! Let me be clear, I’m not questioning the support for technology. What I’m questioning is how it was not well thought out. The teachers need the “tools” to do their job. That’s not the issue, the issue is all the chrome books will go “stale” at the same time. This is simply poor planning! The chrome books should have been purchased over 5 years not all at once at a cost of $1,400,000.

#3) It needs to be investigated thoroughly, along with other possible options. Look around at all the old schools built in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, which are still being used.

Kelly Lohrum

Married, four children

Raised on Aquidneck Island

Officer manager, bait company

I am running for NSC to help bring communication, transparency, and management with the overall standpoint of providing a quality education for all students in clean, warm and dry facilities. Our educational programs need to be reformed starting at Pell, for all students as well as for those with academic gifts and challenges. I would like to see more efforts toward a STEAM learning environment offered at the elementary level and carried through to high school. I would like to see the Arts and Foreign Languages be put back in our schools’ curriculum. I think the NACTC and P-Tech programs in place are a huge asset for the students and our community. However, I would like to take a closer look at what the cost is to educate non-Newport residents vs. the cost of providing this education in our district. I feel strongly that in order for a committee to be successful you need to work together at all levels as a team striving for the same goals. Ideally I would like to see the City Council work more closely with the School Committee. Possibly meeting quarterly vs. the current once a year meeting would be helpful. I believe implementation of a strategic plan is imperative and that the current plan may need to be reworked considering poor test scores, current statistics and data to “create a professional working climate that is respectful, produces a high-achieving and powerful learning community where faculty, students and families want to work, attend and succeed.” It encompasses the success for everyone.

We need to maintain and ensure fiscal responsibility and cut the over spending. Considering the current financial situation I would support a full forensic audit of the School Department to assure that there are no other financial problems ahead of us. I think there should be a review at each school committee meeting to confirm full budgetary integrity. We need to raise test scores, provide STEAM initiatives and more challenging curriculum for our students while reducing absenteeism. The poor facility conditions and security concerns at RHS as well as the overcrowding at Pell need to be addressed immediately. We need to have our schools offer more enriching experiences with advanced coursework and be a forerunner in public education in order to attract young dynamic families to our community to insure vitality in the city of Newport.

Aida Neary

48, married, two children

Resident of Newport for 13 years

International Programs, Salve Regina University

I am running because I believe in the Newport public schools. The Newport public schools are full of opportunities and challenges, and I would like to have a part in leveraging the opportunities and resolving the challenges. I am running because I want to have a part in creating pathways for our students to be successful. I am also running because I am a homeowner and a taxpayer, and I want to have a say and make sure that my tax dollars are spent on the students of Newport. All citizens of Newport have a vested interest in seeing our children succeed. If they succeed, the city succeeds and thrives. Above all, I am running because I want the work of the committee to be primarily focused on thoughtful, strategic policies for the next 5 to 15 years.

#1) I think the public needs to learn more about the collaborations between the Newport schools and our community partners who deliver unique opportunities, like sailing in the 4th grade through Sail Newport and tennis in the 5th grade at the Hall of Fame. In addition, the successes of our graduates, both in the traditional academic realm (acceptances to Ivy League colleges) and the NACTC and P-TECH programs, have to be made more widely known.

#2) It is important to understand that once the school district has paid its obligations (salaries, benefits, transportation, maintenance, etc.), it is left with limited funds with which to achieve its stated goals. With the money remaining, the school district is charged with delivering an educational experience that helps each student thrive. It is essential that the members of the school committee work collaboratively with the superintendent, who presents the budget, and the city council, which funds it, to be creative and find efficiencies in the system.

#3) The City of Newport owns the building and the land-use is restricted under the Aquidneck Land Trust. In order for Coggeshall to be used again as a school, there would need to be conversations with the City. Coggeshall is not a good candidate for an early childhood center (pre-K through K), which is the district’s most immediate need. In addition, bringing the building to code in order to house children has a significant cost. These factors all make the re-use or re-purposing on Coggeshall a difficult proposition.

Kathleen M. Silvia

72, two children

Lifelong resident of Newport

Retired Newport City Clerk

Newport School Committee: 2014-present

During the next two years the major goal is to address the replacement of Rogers High School and establish an early-learning center for our pre-K and Kindergarten students, which would eliminate overcrowding at Pell School. This needs to be a community effort and, as a member of the Facilities Sub-committee, I will continue working towards finding acceptable solutions that will be affordable to our residents. Additionally, Grade Level Reading for our students remains a priority, as well as addressing the issue of absenteeism in our schools. These are key areas on which we must continue to focus our attention as they are key to every student’s success.

#1) The P-Tech Program provides a student a fantastic opportunity to earn college credits and to simultaneously graduate with a diploma from Roger's High and an Associate's Degree from the Community College of RI at no cost to the student. The student is then well positioned to join the workforce in a high-paying career in technology, or to continue on towards a Bachelor's Degree. I think it should also be pointed out the Newport School Department offers a wide range of opportunities to our diverse student population, such as, but not limited to, swimming, sailing, and tennis lessons. We have numerous collaborations with organizations and agencies that offer varied programs that keep children interested in attending school. Our NACTC Program also continues to expand and offer a wide range of opportunities to students to excel in the workforce.

#2) Approximately 85 percent of the Newport School Department Budget is disbursed for salaries and benefits for current and retired faculty and staff, leaving approximately 15 percent for programs and curriculum development, professional development, classroom supplies, etc. Our Administrators and teachers have become very successful in pursuing grants for innovation in the classroom to provide creative opportunities for our children.

#3) I had the opportunity to tour the inside of Coggeshall School two years ago. While the building is attractive on the outside, the conditions inside are deplorable. Since its abandonment as a school, there has been significant water damage resulting in mold throughout the building. There is insufficient space on the first floor to accommodate early education classes; and with technology and modern teaching methods, it is no longer feasible to assign a single grade to the school, as was the practice years ago. In my opinion, the only possible repurposing could be for Administrative Offices; however, the cost of restoring the interior to a safe and purposeful environment would be cost-prohibitive.

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