Continue Our Progress on November 3rd
On November 3, 2020 the voters of East Providence have a distinctive choice for the East Providence School Committee, At-Large seat. Rarely does it happen that we as voters can compare the actual performance of both candidates for the job they are applying for. My opponent, Chrissy Rossi, before running for the City Council and Mayor, served on the School Committee. She held a seat during the 2010-2012 term. By the end of this term, we had no administrators left in the Superintendent’s office. All three had either left, or had been wrongfully terminated, costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not over a $1M in legal fees and settlements. We had the lowest paid teachers in the state and rundown facilities.
The State Budget Commission had taken over our finances, as the district could not show where our tax dollars were being spent. Vendors would not issue us any credit and we lost middle school sports. The district was in disarray by 2012, and my opponent chose to walk away from the schools and take an open seat on the City Council.
To the contrary, in 2012 I decided to ask for your vote so that I could contribute to the cause. I felt that my business and management experience would be useful. Thankfully, the voters of East Providence agreed to support me in my efforts. I never sought any other seat and remain committed to our schools.
Our School Committee was completely new, and within weeks of our inauguration, the Budget Commission forced us to close a school. The late Dr. DeGoes, interim Superintendent (brought in by the Budget Commission), and the School Committee objected to this mandate, but since the school department’s budget could not show the financial ability to operate effectively, we had to close a school. We did so as carefully as possible, finding a way to keep our classrooms intact. Immediately after, together, we began to show the Budget Commission that we were committed to putting our school district back on firm ground.
The State soon hired Superintendent Mercer on a permanent basis. She then hired a team to surround her. As the Chair, I worked directly with her on our finances and showed the Budget Commission that we could fund middle school sports. From there, we began to reclaim more control of our finances, and the Budget Commission was confident in our ability to do so. We weren’t out of the woods yet, but we were showing strong progress.
Although we were moving forward, we realized that members of our Central Office were not performing to our liking. However, we could not afford to make the same costly mistakes we were still paying for by terminating anyone prematurely. This is where my professional experience was helpful. I documented performance. I listed to my colleagues on the School Committee, as well as the district staff. I worked with Superintendent Mercer to provide opportunities for improvement. Ultimately, we managed them out, at no cost to the taxpayers of East Providence. Management requires skilled work, but it’s critical to the job I had signed up for.
Today’s Central Administration consists of some of the most talented professionals in RI education. Together we have increased teacher salaries, allowing us to attract more qualified teachers. We have involved educators in curriculum selection which has resulted in an overall increase in student performance. We have 100% control of our finances, have a skilled IT Department, and our Facilities Department has funds to maintain our buildings, as well as a Capital Improvement line in the budget that did not exist in 2012. Every decision we make has an immediate and a long-term financial impact. The successes of these past few years is largely due to the ability to correctly predict the long-term impacts of recent decisions.
The most recent major decision we all made was to build a new high school. The East Providence voters understood that it was less expensive to build new than to patch the old. Besides the risk of losing accreditation which would drastically hurt our graduates, the old building represents a huge financial risk, as it was likely to require major infrastructure repairs very soon. The lower impact to our taxes is what the voters chose. We chose to build a new high school for our children. My opponent was against building a new school for our children, she continues to misunderstand the long-term financial impact of patching up the old school, referring to the school as if it were a burden to the city. As Co-Chair of the Building Committee, I am proud to state that the project is currently under budget as we work to maximize the quality of the investment, we all voted to make in our students and community.
I am extremely proud of the work we have done to get to where we are today; I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing people. However, there is still more work to be done, and I hope that East Providence will allow me to continue working on their behalf. Moving forward, together, we are doing great things.
East Providence School Committee, At-Large