Newport School Committee candidates face off

By Sean Flynn 
Daily News staff writer 
Posted at 6:56 PM Updated at 7:00 PM

NEWPORT — Eight of the 10 candidates for the Newport School Committee faced off Tuesday evening during a forum held in the Pell Elementary School cafeteria and attended by more than 100 people.

The forum was the first of three candidates forums organized by the Alliance for a Livable Newport, a neighborhood advocacy group. Questions were posed by Jane Koster, president of the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island.

The forum was the first of three candidates forums organized by the Alliance for a Livable Newport, a neighborhood advocacy group. Questions were posed by Jane Koster, president of the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island.

Participating in the forum were three challengers: Louisa Boatwright, Aida Neary and Robert Leary, a former member of the School Committee. Two of the challengers on the Nov. 6 ballot were absent: Karlie Cesarini and Kelly Anne Lohrum, who both notified the debate organizers that they had family emergencies.

All five incumbents running for re-election were present: Rebecca Bolan, David Carlin III, Sandra Flowers, Raymond Gomes and Kathleen Silvia.

Two of the incumbents on the seven-member School Committee are not running for re-election: longtime member Jo Eva Gaines and David Hanos, who resigned from the committee in early August and had his name removed from the ballot for the Nov. 6 election.

At one point in the forum, there were a series of questions in which the candidates answered “yes” or “no,” and then had up to 30 seconds to explain their positions.

When the candidates were asked whether a new high school should be located in the North End of the city, only Boatwright voted in the affirmative. She argued most Newport public school students live in the North End and having a high school there would help address the absenteeism and tardiness problems among students.

Gomes did not vote, saying he would await the recommendation of a School Committee facility subcommittee now studying possible locations for a new school.

Other candidates said the North End simply does not have available land.

“If someone could find land in the North End, I’d support it,” Silvia said.

“I’d like to see a high school in the North End,” Bolan agreed.

A study by the state Department of Education released last year said Rogers High School has the direst repair needs of any public high school in the state and is a prime candidate for replacement, since renovation costs would be so high.

On the question of whether the City Council adequately funds the schools, Carlin, Gomes and Leary were in the affirmative.

“We do not have a funding problem; we have a spending problem,” Carlin said more than once during the forum.

Boatwright pointed out that the council’s 1.5 percent increase in its allocation for schools forced layoffs this year. Silvia said Newport devotes a smaller percentage of its municipal budget to schools than most other communities in the state.

When asked whether the School Department has the programs and achievement results to attract families and students to the schools, the candidates split down the middle.

Bolan, Flowers, Gomes and Silvia thought the schools’ offerings are attractive to new families, while Boatwright, Carlin, Neary and Leary were in the negative.

During the forum, Carlin and Leary pointed out multiple times that there was a deficit of about $1.8 million in the 2017-2018 budget that closed on June 30 this year.

Leary called it a “financial crisis.”

“Fiscal responsibility has to be priority No. 1,” Carlin said.

Gomes, who is the School Committee chairman, said the overspending on budget items was partially offset by revenue reserves and savings within that school budget, so the actual deficit amounted to about $750,000. He said the City Council and the city’s Finance Department are working on a repayment plan for that amount.

The current school budget totals $40.49 million and includes all local, state and federal revenues. Of that total, the City Council approved a $25.97 million appropriation, which was a 1.5 percent increase over last year’s city appropriation. Bu it was $638,072 less than the School Department was counting on for the current school year.

The shortfall of $750,000 in the past budget represents 1.85 percent of the total. Boatwright argued there should not be an exaggerated focus on the shortfall while ignoring all that is being accomplished in the school system.

“Creating a 21st-century learning environment for our students has to be the focus of our efforts,” Boatwright said.

Neary called for a better relationship between the School Committee and the Teachers Association of Newport union when trying to come to terms on issues such as when during the day parent-teachers conferences should be held.

“Negotiations should not bleed into the lives of our students,” she said. “We are all in this for the children. They are our constituency.”

Relations between School Superintendent Colleen Burns Jermain and members of the School Committee also were a focus of the forum.

“Some members of the School Committee believe when the school superintendent says to jump, your job is to ask, ‘How high,’ ” Carlin said. There is not enough communication between the superintendent and committee members, he said.

“I don’t see respect from all members of the School Committee toward the school superintendent,” Boatwright said.

“It’s a personal issue for some School Committee members,” Flowers said.

“Our job is not to direct the superintendent,” Silvia said. “She makes recommendations and we either accept them or reject them. The superintendent and the teachers are the professionals.”

“The children are the people we are supposed to be serving,” Neary said.

When the School Committee and superintendent take actions, they should be asking this, Neary said: “How is this working for the children?”

“Everyone has to work together,” Bolan agreed.

The second ALN forum, set up to hear from the seven candidates for the four at-large seats on the City Council, takes place Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. in the council chamber of City Hall.

The third and final ALN forum, for the two candidates running for the Ward 1 seat and the two candidates running for the Ward 2 seat on the City Council, takes place Tuesday, Oct. 23, beginning at 6 p.m. in the council chamber of City Hall.

sflynn@newportri.com

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR – Be an informed voter

The Newport Daily News | Page A07Tuesday, 2 October 2018

As we’ve seen in the past week, the old shibboleth “Elections have consequences” holds true.

We are now less than six weeks before the elections on Nov. 6. According to a recent Pew Survey, voter enthusiasm is at its highest level for any midterm election in more than two decades.

The enthusiasm that holds for the national elections should translate to the local level. This is certainly a positive sign, but will voters in Newport be as knowledgeable of critical local issues as those at the national level?

To assist Newport voters to learn more about their candidates and make informed decisions for whom to vote, the nonpartisan Alliance for a Livable Newport has been conducting public candidate forums since 2010. Prior to the forums, questionnaires are sent to all local candidates. This year, all 21 candidates in contested elections for Newport City Council and School Committee have posted their responses to the questions submitted by the community and ALN. The alliance encourages all Newport citizens to read the responses at NewportAlliance.org.

In addition to reviewing the written responses, citizens are encouraged to attend the three public forums in October where the candidates will address additional questions in person.

The schedule is School Committee candidates:

Tuesday, Oct. 16, 6-7:30 p.m., Pell Elementary School auditorium.

At-large City Council candidates: Thursday, Oct. 18, 6-7:30 p.m.,Newport City Hall.

First and Second Ward City Council candidates: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 6-7:30 p.m., Newport City Hall.

This is a pivotal election for Newport. Our newly elected City Council and School Committee will be dealing with critical issues affecting all of Newport, including the development of the North End, the bridge ramps re-alignment, parking, taxes, short-term rentals, etc. Likewise, the new School Committee must contend with the overcrowding at Pell, the repairs or replacement of Rogers High School, academic performance, finances and other significant issues.

The final day to register to vote is Sunday. To do so, visit http://vote.sos.ri.gov.

John Hirschboeck, co-president,Alliance for a Livable Newport

SPECIAL 2018 Newport Elections Home Page

Newport City Council and School Committee Candidates Address the Tough Questions

September 27, 2018 – The Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) announced that candidates for both the Newport City Council and School Committee have now posted their responses to numerous questions posed by the Alliance and the community in advance of the public forums that the Alliance will hold in October. *see dates/times/locations below

All twenty-one candidates in contested races have diligently taken time and effort to address how they would deal with many of these challenges.

Click the LINKS below to VIEW the survey responses:

  • View #1 – ALL of the Candidates responses to each question…
  • View #2 – INDIVIDUAL CANDIDATE RESPONSES to each question
    • – see screenshot example
https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-S7THFT5HL/

(School Committee Responses) 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-QD3JLM5HL/

(City Council Responses) 

“This is a pivotal election for Newport. Our newly elected city council and school committee will be dealing with critical issues affecting all of Newport, including the development of the north end, the bridge re-alignment, parking, taxes, short-term rentals, etc.,” said John Hirschboeck, co-president of the Alliance.

“Likewise, the new school committee must contend with the overcrowding at Pell, the repairs or replacement of Rogers, academic performance, finances, and other critical issues.”

In addition to reviewing the written responses, citizens are encouraged to attend the three public forums in October where the candidates will address additional questions posed by ALN in person.

ALN PUBLIC FORUMS SCHEDULE:

School Committee Candidates

  • Tuesday, October 16 |  6-7: 30 pm
  • Pell School Auditorium | 35 Dexter St, Newport, RI 02840

At-Large City Council Candidates

  • Thursday, October 18 | 6-7: 30 pm
  • Newport City Hall | 43 Broadway, Newport, RI 02840

1st and 2nd Ward City Council Candidates

  • Tuesday, October 23 | 6-7:30 pm
  • Newport City Hall | 43 Broadway, Newport, RI 02840

The non-partisan Alliance has been holding election year forums since 2010 to assist Newporters in learning more about the candidates and to help make informed decisions for whom to vote.

Contact:  John Hirschboeck, Office of the President | Alliance for a Livable Newport

John Hirschboeck, Co-President of Alliance For A Livable Newport, joins Frank Prosnitz and Ryan Belmore

What’s Up Newp Radio Edition

08-29-18 August 28th, 2018 12:00am

John Hirschboeck, Co-President of Alliance For A Livable Newport, joins Frank Prosnitz and Ryan Belmore

http://wadk.com/podcasts/whats-up-newp-radio-edition?play_file=72177

John Hirschboeck, Co-President of Alliance For A Livable Newpor
John Hirschboeck, Co-President of Alliance For A Livable Newport

ELECTION YEAR ALERT – ALN CALL FOR QUESTIONS

Twenty-seven civic-minded Newport citizens have filed to run for seven City Council and seven School Committee seats this election year promising strong contests for all openings.

As it has since 2008, Alliance For A Livable Newport (ALN) will conduct free public forums to give Newport voters an opportunity to assess the qualifications of the candidates.

At this point, we anticipate holding three forums – one for candidates for the three Ward Council seats, one for candidates for the four at-large Council seats and one for candidates for the seven School Committee seats.

In addition, two online questionnaires — one for City Council candidates and one for School Committee candidates — will be given to the candidates, and their responses will be presented on ALN’s website, www.newportalliance.org.

We want to hear what Newport’s voters are interested in learning about the candidates.

ALN is requesting the public to submit questions to be answered by the candidates. Questions for the forums and questionnaires will be selected from those received.

To allow time for the questionnaires to be prepared and given by the end of July to the candidates for their responses, your suggested questions must be submitted no later than July 15.

Please send your questions to info@newportalliance.org

THANKS FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT!

For over 10 years, the Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) has promoted and enhanced the quality of life in its city by providing an unbiased resource for information on issues facing our community.

Please support ALN today!
To pay online go to http://newportalliance.org/join/
Or mail your check to ALN, PO Box 2636, Newport, RI a 501(c3) non-profit organization.

PUBLIC FORUM – Students of Newport Public Schools Speak Out

  • DATE: Tuesday, May 1st
  • TIME: 6-7:30 PM
  • LOCATION: Claiborne Pell Elementary School | 35 Dexter Street, Newport, RI.

A Public Forum Presented by the One Newport NPS Strategic Plan Subcommittee And Alliance for Livable Newport (ALN)

Listen to our Thompson and Rogers School students talk about their future aspirations and
the roles education and the community play in making life choices. Here’s an opportunity to
understand the perspectives of Newport’s young people as they navigate technology, social
media, classroom traditions, extracurricular activities, family pressures and a rapid change in
the labor market.


You have heard from the Newport City Council and the School Committee, and about the
Newport Public Schools’ Strategic Plan. Now is the time to hear from our most important
educational constituents.

Panelists:
Students from Rogers High School and Thompson Middle School

If you could ask them a question what would it be? Now is your opportunity.

Questions may be submitted via email before the forum or in writing the night of the event.
info@newportalliance.org

You do not have to be present at the forum to have your question chosen.

The One Newport Subcommittee is a group of volunteers who are committed to helping improve the Newport Public Schools.

They believe that a superior educational system is critical not only for the children of Newport but also for the future of the City.

For over 10 years, the Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) has promoted and enhanced the quality
of life in its city by providing an unbiased resource for information on issues facing our community.

CONTACT For Immediate Release: April 13, 2018
Isabel Griffith, Co-President
Alliance for a Livable Newport
Igriffith38@verizon.net
401.849-6444

ALN Hosts First Annual ‘State of the City’ Forum Addresses Governance, Safety in 2018

Watch the VIDEO HERE 
CREDITS: By Joseph T. O’Connor | 2018-03-01 / Front Page | Newport This Week


In an effort to reflect on the year that was and to look ahead at the year to come, Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) held its first “State of the City” forum on Feb. 27, providing a chance for open dialogue between citizens and the city’s top officials.

More than 100 Newporters turned out at Pell Elementary School to hear Mayor Harry Winthrop, City Council Vice-Chair Lynn Ceglie and City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson, Jr. present the city’s accomplishments and the challenges it faces, and to discuss what they say will be a promising 2018.

City leaders took questions submitted by citizens and read by ALN moderators John Hirschboeck, co-president of ALN, and Tom Hockaday, who sits on ALN’s executive committee. The nonprofit had solicited questions based on topics that citizens identified as issues they wanted addressed: the armory, schools, traffic and parking, other city properties, communications and governing processes, hotels and other issues.

“Hopefully [this] was an audience that appreciates our openness,” Nicholson said in an interview following the forum. “I want to work with people. I want people calling me. I want them to understand what’s going on with the city.”

The forum began with the city officials commenting on Newport’s accomplishments, its investments, and developments, as well as the challenges facing the City by the Sea.

Winthrop cited more than $190 million in citywide public investments, including the water and wastewater treatment plants, the Pell Bridge Ramp Realignment Project, Freebody Park, Broadway, the Gateway Center and Sheffield School, among others.

In addition, he noted the benefits that $350 million in private investment has had on local properties, among them the Breakers and Mrs. Astor’s Beechwood mansions, Gurney’s, the Marriott, Sail Newport and the Opera House.

“One thing that shows confidence in the city and the city government, I believe, is what type of personal investment people are willing to make in their community,” Winthrop said.

Along with upcoming hotel development, infrastructure investments and North End redevelopment, as well as major Newport events that attract more than 3 million visitors per year to the area, including the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in May, and the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals, the city is seeing major accomplishments, Winthrop said.

But Winthrop, Ceglie, and Nicholson also identified significant challenges for Newport, among them a $2 million-plus investment into repairs on Bellevue Avenue, a declining population, the relocation of the Newport Grand Casino that displaced 225 workers, and $2 million in needed repairs to the Edward King House. One issue, in particular, is the sea-level rise in low-lying areas of the city.

“Sea-level rise … has been a topic for quite a while now, and things need to be done,” Winthrop said. “But of all of the challenges, that to me is the one at the top of the list.”

Ceglie said the city is making strides in infrastructure through $425,000 in grants to stem the rising tide by helping to commission a study and preliminary design, and beginning a pilot program that looks at tide gates, which could allow water to flow out of storm drains but not back in. “We’re working on this challenge but there’s certainly more to go,” she said.

Another challenge city leaders identified is the potential repair or replacement of Rogers High School that Winthrop said could cost $50 million. But, he added, change will take time, and he urged Newporters to be patient as city and school officials navigate complex options.

“There’s going to be a lot of time and a lot of effort [invested in] building a high school that will hopefully be here for another 50 years,” he said.

Question and Answer Period

The first topic addressed was the Armory building and its potential sale to the National Sailing Hall of Fame, currently located in Annapolis, Maryland. The city officials reiterated that the council has maintained its position since talks of a sale began.

“There’s no change to policy,” Winthrop said. “The city took title to [the Armory] in 2010 because the redevelopment agency could not afford the repairs. We reluctantly took it on and immediately attempted to sell it. This is not something new.”

In the shadow of a renewed national debate over guns and safety in American schools, city officials were asked what steps were being taken to develop and implement a comprehensive safety plan for schools.

Nicholson said he has been discussing the issue with Newport Schools Superintendent Colleen Jermain and Police Chief Gary Silva.

“As it stands today, we have a police presence in all three schools, but it’s an ongoing discussion,” Nicholson said. “In past years, my first reaction would be it’s about the money. But it’s no longer about the money. It’s the new normal.”

Ceglie said Newport has two “very safe schools” in Pell and Thompson and that, in addition to staffing police at all three schools, city officials are allocating money to the 50-year-old Rogers High School for locks and cameras, among other safety features.

“I’ve said over and over again, my number one priority in the city of Newport is public safety,” Winthrop said. “Without public safety, none of this other stuff we’re talking about really matters.”

In an interview at the conclusion of the forum, Hockaday said, “They may see their own councilperson at a neighborhood meeting, but you rarely get the two top elected officials… and the city manager together at one time to collectively participate in answering those questions.”

Hirschboeck said some people might be upset that their questions weren’t answered, but he added that all questions had been submitted electronically to the Newport City Council for councilors’ input and reference.

“We have a great relationship with [ALN’s] board,” Nicholson said. “It was a nice turnout, and I thought it was a great exchange. A good way to get things off your chest.”

Read moreALN Hosts First Annual ‘State of the City’ Forum Addresses Governance, Safety in 2018

The Navy Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission Discloses Lead at Navy Hospital

BRAC Discloses Lead at Navy Hospital

During the Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) “State of the City” forum on Feb. 27, Newport City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr. responds to a question about the Navy hospital property transfer, explaining the options currently available to the city.

The Navy Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recently informed Nicholson that before any land transfer can take place, lead from gutters that flaked into the soil on the Navy hospital property must be cleaned up.

The cleanup could take up to three years, the commission told Nicholson. The city is now exploring a third option to acquiring the property after nearly a decade of negotiations, according to Nicholson. He added that the city does not at this time have any use plans for the property. (Photo by Joseph T. O’Connor)

 

Read moreThe Navy Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission Discloses Lead at Navy Hospital

Cover Story – NEWPORT – City officials “State of Our City”

The Newport Daily News | Page A01Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The Newport Daily News | Page A01Wednesday, 28 February 2018
The Newport Daily News | Page A01 Wednesday, 28 February 2018

 

Purchase of Navy hospital, sale of Armory and longevity of cell tower at high school are the other major changes discussed at a forum Tuesday.

CREDIT : By Sean Flynn Staff writer  The Newport Daily News | Page A01Wednesday, 28 February 2018

NEWPORT – City officials chose a “State of Our City” forum Tuesday night to make some major announcements on school security, the city’s planned purchase of the abandoned Navy Hospital on Third Street, the proposed sale of the Armory on Thames Street and the likely longevity of the cell tower on the Rogers High School campus.

City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson, who is also the city’s director of public safety, said beginning this week there are now full-time police officers stationed at the high school, Thompson Middle School and Pell Elementary School. In the past, there have been budgetary concerns and grants were sought to pay for police presence at the schools.

“It’s no longer about the money,” Nicholson said. “This is the new normal.”

“Our number one priority is public safety,” Mayor Harry Winthrop said. “Who gives a damn about a pothole on Bellevue Avenue if we are not safe?”

More than 100 people gathered in the Pell cafeteria for the forum that was sponsored by Alliance for a Livable Newport, the major neighborhood advocacy group in the city. Audience members submitted written questions that were consolidated and asked by ALN officers Tom Hockaday and John Hirschbeck. Besides Nicholson and Winthrop, Council Vice Chairwoman Lynn Underwood Ceglie responded to the wide-ranging questions.

Such events are not usually the arena in which new initiatives and developments are revealed to the public, but that’s what happened.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency recently informed the Navy that it could not sell the hospital property to the city until it cleaned up the lead contamination on the site, Nicholson said. That could be a two- to three-year process, he was initially told.

That caught the audience by surprise because the city believed the Navy’s final environmental impact statement was completed and hired an appraisal firm last year to set a value on the hospital property.

Navy leaders came to Middletown on Jan. 30 to complete the sale of the 3-acre former Navy Lodge property at the corner of Coddington Highway and West Main Road to the town for $1.3 million. The deal was the first for the 165 acres of federal land on Aquidneck Island that is part of the ongoing Base Realignment and Closure process.

Newport thought it was next in the pipeline for a property purchase, but “the BRAC people told me they were avoiding me,” Nicholson said. That is when they dropped the EPA ruling on him.

Nicholson said the city initially was given the choice of waiting for the Navy to clean up the property, or buying the land and taking on the full liability for the lead clean-up, “which we were not going to do.” The property must be cleaned to “residential standards,” he said. The city has hired a Boston attorney familiar with the BRAC process to explore whether there could be a “fast transfer” of the land to the city under the condition that the Navy returns to the property and conducts the cleanup, Nicholson told the audience.

“That is our path forward,” Nicholson said. “I don’t want to wait anymore.”

Since the Navy declared the hospital site surplus property in February 2010, the city has eyed the parcel for economic development purposes, but it looks like the wait will continue.

The proposed sale of the Armory to the National Sailing Hall of Fame was given a new twist during the forum.

Members of the public have been concerned about the fate of the city-owned Newport Maritime Center, located in the basement of the Armory, which the city opened in 2012, as well as the beach at the back of the building and the adjoining Ann Street Pier.

Nicholson said earlier this month the Sailing Hall of Fame would own the whole building, but lease the basement to the city for a nominal fee under a 99-year lease. He explored the model of dividing the building into condominiums, with the city retaining ownership of the basement maritime center condominium that fronts the beach, but attorneys had advised him against that, he said at the time.

“I changed my mind,” Nicholson said at the forum.

He now favors dividing the building into two condominiums, with the Sailing Hall of Fame owning the main assembly hall on the first floor level with Thames Street and the second floor. The city would retain clear ownership of the basement level, the beach, and the pier.

“That would answer the public’s concerns about protecting public access,” he said.

Does that delay action on the proposed sale of the Armory? Nicholson was asked.

“Everything is delayed,” he responded.

Winthrop told the audience that the Rogers High School cell tower is likely to be redesigned so that is “amenable” to the neighbors, but it is likely to remain where it is.

AT& T, Verizon, and T-Mobile currently use the cell tower, but Verizon’s contract expired June 18, 2017, AT& T’s contract expired Oct. 23, and the T-Mobile contract expired Dec. 28. The companies continue transmitting though. The school department receives a total of about $90,000 annually for the lease of the tower, an amount the companies continue to pay.

The School Committee voted in December 2015 not to renew the telecommunications contracts once they expire. This action was taken because of ongoing neighbors’ complaints about the tower.

“It was a misinformed decision of the School Committee,” Winthrop said at the forum.

He said the companies have explored with city officials whether a new tower could be built near the high school auditorium, or whether a new tower could be constructed across Old Fort Road at the Fire Department’s Station 5. Both towers would be too large and obtrusive, he said.

The three telecommunications companies hired a consultant firm to complete a comprehensive report on the impact of removing the existing Rogers High School tower. The firm determined large areas around Ocean Avenue, Brenton Road and Gooseberry and Hazard beaches would be left without cell coverage.

“We cannot lose cell coverage in the south end of the city,” Winthrop said.

Time was spent at the forum discussing the realignment of the Pell Bridge ramps, which could free up about 60 acres for economic development, both Winthrop and Nicholson said.

The state Department of Transportation, which is now designing new approach ramps, will hold a public workshop on the project on Thursday, beginning at 6 p.m., in the council chamber of City Hall.

The state has committed $40 million to this project, Winthrop said. It was one of a long list of public investment and private investment projects that were either completed in the recent past, are now taking place, or are pending that city official presented.

Leading the public investment list was the $120 million that the city has been investing in its two water treatment plants and the wastewater treatment plant.

Flynn@NewportRI.com

Social Widgets powered by AB-WebLog.com.