"Talk of the Townies"
I have been relatively aware of the history and development of East Providence since my student days at the old Central Junior High School, back to the early 60's. Growing up in a family that was active in community, politics, youth sports and other groups, I was involved at an early age. A proud 1972 graduate of EPHS, I am quick to defend its honor when I think my alma mater is inaccurately portrayed by detractors. Four years out of high school, I ran for and was elected to the East Providence School Committee. Politics - for the right reasons - has been a keen interest of mine. As the attendance officer for our schools for 30 years, and a long time supporter of little leagues, CYO's and community groups, I have come to know many EP families. The strength of our community lies within our families. Most of us have been strong supporters of a high quality of life for EP residents.
That has not always been the case with certain elected officials. Under the guise of "saving money," some prior elected and appointed officials deferred or ignored the need to provide preventative maintenance for school buildings and other city property. Also the unprofessional handling of many city personnel decisions has cost EP residents millions of dollars in fines and court rulings. A couple more cases still linger that we will probably be paying for.
In particular, education has been treated unfairly by some prior elected officials to the detriment of our entire city. Teachers were deliberately targeted and had paychecks and benefits slashed to make them among the lowest paid in New England. Others were denied jobs or promotions because they were "Townies." I have dozens of clear examples which I will be writing about in upcoming commentaries. You'll get a kick out of some of these stories! Including when I was asked to sign a document that would prevent me from speaking about some of these issues upon my retirement. Of course I did not sign.
For now, I think the tide has turned for the better. Many of those negative naysayers were bounced from office. New leaders were elected on the school committee, city council and at the state house. There seems to be a renewed respect for education and those who teach our children. Any socioeconomic or real estate expert will tell you that a community is only as good as its school system. Home values, business profitability and quality of life issues are directly tied to a vibrant school system. Today, I finally see a Mayor's (city manager) office, city council, school committee and state house delegation, whom collectively value our students, teachers/staff and families. It is a group who realize that they may not always agree on every single issue, but can act professionally in the best interest of this city.
Our current City Council is working together with no personal agendas or vitriol, just an honest effort to do what is best for EP. Any disagreements we may have are and will be maturely discussed in open session. There will be no room for petty discourse. This School Committee also acts with a respect for public discussion and a sense of working together with other elected officials as a team.
Yes, Mayor Bob DaSilva, keep visiting schools. Keep high-fiving students. Keep visiting local businesses. Keep showcasing positive ideas for EP. Keep taking pictures with school kids, with diner wait staff, with youthful athletes and artists, with business owners and with Sally and Joe Q. Public. Keep putting EP initiatives out there. This is not a rubber stamp backslap for you by any means. I will continue to support your office as we work together for a better EP, but I will publicly let it be known if our opinions may differ. It's called democracy. It's called Townie Pride.
("Talk of the Townies" is a personal commentary from Bob Rodericks and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Reporter publishers or management. Bob Rodericks is a feature writer for The Reporter, a former school department Attendance Officer, former School Committee Chairman and a youth sports coach and volunteer for many East Providence civic groups. Retired, he is currently the At-Large East Providence City Councilman. His views in this column are strictly his own opinion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)