History Matters

Recently the endorsed Democrats for South Kingstown School Committee released a list of focus areas for their campaign. Since SC chair Stephanie Canter has been in office for 2 years, it’s fair to use history to assess these goals. It remains to be seen whether her running mates will deviate from the actions of the school committee majority of the past two  years, but it will take a leap of faith to assume that they will.  

  1. Advance curriculum and policy rooted in equity to ensure an inclusive education and culture in our schools.

Beyond reaffirming an immigration policy passed by the previous school committee, there had been no examples of actions to ensure an inclusive education until recently. This committee abandoned equity-based professional development already paid for by the previous school committee and have only now decided to embrace the idea. It should be remembered that they only took action with an election approaching.

  1. Center our focus on student success while supporting policies that enhance the long term fiscal sustainability of the entire community.

A plan that would have built on a strong foundation and saved upwards of $30 million over the next 20 years through building consolidation and sustainable construction was instead abandoned in favor of adding onto the crumbling infrastructure of CCMS. This does nothing to enhance the fiscal sustainability of this community, yields less in operational savings, costs more, and requires the town to assume substantial risks that would have been avoided in the original plan.

Worse, the last 2 years have seen per-pupil costs skyrocket as enrollment has plummeted. There has been no marketing effort to expand enrollment in our CTE programs as other districts continue to attract SK students. Superintendent Savastano is attempting to invest in early special education services which has the promise of reducing our future special ed spending, but we have yet to see a plan for achieving “long term financial sustainability.”

  1. Identify gaps w/in our system and work with leadership to quickly close them.

Gaps in educational achievement are often the result of long term societal factors that make “quickly closing them” a difficult proposition at best. All school committee members and administrators have attempted to close these gaps. They still exist because the work is not complete, not because past leaders have failed to move the ball forward. 

After systematically dismantling our district’s attempts to fix these problems, the school committee majority has acted as if nothing has ever been done to address them. In a recent social media post, Chair Canter said that previous members were part of a “monstrous” system and should be “ashamed.”  It is divisive and toxic rhetoric that does nothing to bring the community together to help solve these problems. 

  1. Strengthen and support family engagement within our schools and greater community.

Incoming kindergarten families have received no communication and have been left off email distribution lists. The district’s reopening plan was developed with zero input from the community and communicated weeks after nearby districts had already begun community outreach, with administrators attempting to lay responsibility at the feet of parents to watch school committee meetings. 

The current school committee majority ran on a platform of “authentic listening.” Yet as Committee Chair Ms. Canter led a toxic effort to brand community members as #JerksWithPens and has shown no interest in bridging differences in the community. Her committee majority has pushed policy and plans to the community upon completion with an expectation to take it or leave it. As the just released enrollment report shows, many are leaving. The district has lost 227 students (8%) since this committee took office. 

Educational visioning sessions were held with a small number of hand picked community members, including Christie Fish, a candidate running for SC on Chair Canter’s slate. The results of that session were nearly identical to the early visioning suggestions developed by the community in 2017 and since abandoned by this committee. Further, after 18 months of a true community effort, this committee has held precisely zero community visioning events in developing the facility plan. With only 4 weeks before the submission deadline, the community has no idea what is actually in the plan, how much funding will be needed, or how their children’s education will be affected.

Previous community communication tools such as the community list-serv have been abandoned by this majority, further complicating and reducing communication with stakeholders in the greater community beyond families with students in the schools. The obvious result is the fading away of the community conversations that were held when important policies were being developed such as DLI and 1:1 technology. The entire community was invited and welcomed for those often uncomfortable conversations because true democracy requires the representation of all constituencies. 

The current SC majority responds to pushback as if they are personal victims.  After forming a DLI subcommittee meant to address and rectify issues and concerns with the program, the subcommittee was suddenly disbanded when community members expressed frustration with the process. 

An effective school committee is able to process constructive criticism and feedback from the community and effectively mold the community’s needs into a viable long-term plan. This committee clearly does not meet those qualifications. Rebuilding the relationship between the district and the community it serves is clearly needed. A slate of candidates led by Chair Canter will never be able to achieve that goal.

2 thoughts on “History Matters

Add yours

  1. these facts and more are true, this school committee is compromised of educators and/or their associates, therefore thr only needs they are willing to listen to and address are issues that involve their profession, take them out of office, put normal everyday hard working people in and things will change.


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