Charles Tsonos Announces for EP School Committee
Former School Board Chair to Seek Committee Seat in Ward One
By Bob Rodericks
Former school board chairman Charles Tsonos has announced that he wants to return to the East Providence School Committee. "I am announcing my candidacy for the Ward 1 School Committee seat. Our City can be better. Our School Department can improve. I have seen this City and the School Department at its best. We are in the repair, rebuild, and restore mode," said Tsonos in his announcement. Tsonos served on the board for two years after easily defeating former school board chairman Anthony Carcieri in 2010, with 2578 votes to 1607 votes or 62% to 32% of the vote. Carcieri was a controversial figure who sought to weaken the teachers' union and slash salaries and benefits. School committee meetings under Carcieri were held with paid police security because the Carcieri committee felt threatened by the large vocal crowds attending school board meetings. At the time Tsonos said he was challenging Carcieri and was running to “be positive and not hostile as we seek to get our debt down which auditors and commissions have mostly attributed to underfunding of schools. Because school committees and city councils haven’t always worked well together, we have an oversight commission here now. I accept that fact and will work with the commission to correct our finances.” The Tsonos led committee also initiated consolidation of city and school administrative positions, which exist today. The Tsonos committee agreed to not fill a vacant maintenance director’s job and have put those duties mostly under the city building director, Edward Catelli. “This seems to be working smoothly from all reports and I’m glad we pushed for that,” said Tsonos. “We are also looking to combine the jobs of Human Resources for both the city and schools, and I have called for the possibility of merging other administrative duties on a city and town regional basis.” Tsonos said that he still would like to see relief from state and federal unfunded mandates.
A major move by Tsonos and his supporters was the effort to remove controversial former Superintendent of Schools, Mario Cirillo and Cirillo's right hand man, Lonnie Barham. Asked about his stance in dismissing former Superintendent Mario Cirillo, Tsonos said at the time that “we needed a better direction and handle on our future. We needed to set a new course to constructively address the difficult and unresolved issues that lie ahead for our schools,” read a portion of Tsonos’ statement when Cirillo was removed. Both Cirillo and Barham have sued the city of East Providence and no resolve to those matters has been publicly announced.
When state house representative districts were realigned, Tsonos decided to run for state representative in District 63 two years ago. Tsonos said that the budget commission was making most decisions at that time and he wanted to move on to the state house. At the time Tsonos said, "I want to be part of the changes that need to be made to put our city and state back on the path to prosperity. This is a reconfiguration of the state house district lines and an opportunity for me to help my city at the state level,” Tsonos said two years ago. However, Tsonos lost in his state house bid and now has decided to seek election to his old school committee seat.
In announcing this week for a school board run, Tsonos said "We have a long way to go to return to our days of stability and progress. We are in a new environment and economy, but the importance of Public Education is paramount to the success of our students and the citizens of East Providence. I believe in our city so much that 3 years ago, I moved my business here after 20 years in another city," said Tsonos. Tsonos owns and operates a clothing store on Taunton Avenue. "My father, my wife, my brothers and my children were educated in East Providence and soon my grandchild will be educated in the East Providence School System. The Safety of our children in our schools should be addressed on all risk levels. My first order of business will be to ask my colleagues and administrators to initiate a plan to address the necessary repairs for all of our area school buildings and to create a Comprehensive Building Plan to make those repairs. The ability to learn is effected by a positive environment. For these reasons, I am running for School Committee in Ward 1," declared Tsonos. The incumbent board member from ward one, Elizabeth Clumpny, has not yet made any public disclosures about her reelection plans.