Republican Joe Thompson plans to officially step down from the North Kingstown School Committee Wednesday night. The first-term committee member will hand in his letter of resignation at Wednesday night's North Kingstown Republican Town Committee meeting after a contentious year on the School Committee.
For Thompson, the frustrations came to a head at the committee’s Dec. 13 meeting when Chair Kimberly Page allowed a , prompting Thompson and fellow School Committee member Bill Mudge to walk out of the meeting.
Thompson believes that, in that meeting, the committee violated Robert's Rules of Order – a handbook for operations and rules of clubs, organizations and other groups – when it allowed the revote after the measure had already been shot down the month prior.
"They just bend the rules whichever way they want to make the outcome what they want," said Thompson.
For Thompson, the real “deal breaker” was when committee members were not allowed to exempt items for the night’s agenda, which would have allowed items to be discussed and voted on separately.
"If the people of this town are not allowed to hear an explanation for how and why their tax money is being spent, then they're not being represented by me because what I told them when I ran [for election] was I'm going to ask questions," said Thompson, who was the second highest vote-getter in the 2010 election behind current School Committee Chair Kimberly Page.
Though Thompson said he had originally intended to resign at the end of the academic year and move out of state to be closer to family, he says he could no longer sit up at the committee table after the events of the last meeting.
"What I'm saying to people by visually being there is that I approve of the process they’re following and I don't approve," said Thompson.
Thompson, who leaves after 13 months on the committee, could be replaced by fellow Republican John Boscardin who came in fifth in the 2010 election behind Mudge. According to town charter, a vacancy on the school committee will first be filled by the candidate who received the highest number of votes among the unsuccessful candidates in the most recent election – in this case, Boscardin. If Boscardin declines the nomination, the North Kingstown Town Council will then nominate a replacement within 30 days of the resignation.
"I'm really disappointed because I think, for the first time, we had someone on [the school committee] who was focused on the prudent and needed expenditures for the town," said Mudge. "We'll continue to try to do that."
For Page, the announcement of Thompson's resignation wasn't unexpected after he put his house on the market in October. Though the two butted heads during several meetings, Page says she bears no animosity.
"You saw in the meetings that we didn't always see eye to eye," said Page. "But I think Joe [Thompson] did a lot of good things and was a very hands-on person, going around to schools and attending events. He volunteered with LINKS and helped with the Science Olympiad team and always made sure to respond to students."
"While well meaning, I think he definitely added to the air of disruption and divisiveness that's making it difficult to do our jobs," said fellow committee member Lynda Avanzato. "When it turns into hours-long discussion on consent agenda, it's holding up the business of the committee and Joe [Thompson] was part of that disruption and chaos."
Thompson may not be the only committee member leaving the table early. According to Mudge, his own future on the committee is "to be determined." Mudge, who suffered a heart attack last summer, doubts he will finish out his four-year term.
"My goals were to concentrate on improving our dialogue with the Town Council and to have an excellent budgeting process that's open," said Mudge. "That's not happened. I hope in the next eight months it gets squared away."