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Changes to Town Charter Could Reduce Number of School Board Members

The North Kingstown Town Council is looking to change parts of the town's charter, including reducing the number of school committee members.

Should the North Kingstown School Committee be reduced from seven members to five? Voters may be faced with that questions come election day.

Over the past few months, the North Kingstown Town Council has been discussing and deliberating a handful of topics in the town's charter to re-examine and possibly change. Six topics were sent to the Charter Review Commission this spring for study.

Among the suggested changes was reducing the number of members on the town's school – a measure that the majority of the commission opposed.

“Four of the commission members felt that even though there has been some controversy with the school committee, there should be seven member as approximately 70 percent of the town budget funds the school department and the required educational programs and mandates,” said Nick Dewhurst, chair of the commission, in his report to the council.

According to the commission’s research of other municipalities across the state, 16 communities have seven members (including South Kingstown, East Greenwich and Portsmouth) while 14 have five (including Barrington, Narragansett and Coventry).

Amongst the other proposed changes is the institution of term limits for elected officials and appoint commission, committee and board members. The commission recommended that no person can serve for more than 12 years on a particular board, commission, committee or council – similar to the restrictions imposed on elected officials in East Greenwich. Additionally, they could not be reelected/reappointed to that body for two consecutive years thereafter.  Most cities and towns do not impose term limits, according to the commission’s findings.  

Another area the commission studied as amending the charter to grant the  town manager authority to appoint and dismiss department heads. The majority of the commission recommended there should be an “advise and consent” on the part of the town council, but voted against requiring the town manager to seek the council’s approval. The charter currently allows the administration of the town to be done without the interference of the council.  

The town has until Aug. 8 to submit questions for the November ballot. The council plans to vote on whether the questions go to voters at its July 30 meeting.

Govstench July 24, 2012 at 11:20 AM
The town manager is the CEO and is answerable to the council. While the manager has input as to who he wants for department heads, advice and consent of the council should still be required. Regarding the school committee, as this committee has grown to be dysfunctional over the years, perhaps reducing to five members is worth a try. The council has that many members and appears to function fine. As North Kingstown has such a large area, thought should be given to consider setting up wards instead of having all seats at large. It would be easier to attract candidates. Term limits are an excellent idea and it should be implemented as a two term limit, whether consecutive or individual. and
Dave July 24, 2012 at 03:33 PM
I disagree that the Committee is disfunctional. There are two nutty members who are disfunctional. Actually the SC is much more transparent and functional than the TC, in what they actually accomplish. A smaller SC might make meetings much easier however, as having 7 people weigh in makes for some very long meetings for those of us watching as citizens, and probably more so for members.
Crystal Ball July 24, 2012 at 05:01 PM
An effective school committee plays an important watchdog role in keeping our local school on track, and setting policies that affect our children and our schools. The school committee sets the vision and goals for the school district, and holds the district accountable for results. Effective school committee members contribute their unique talents while collaborating and working as a team with other board members. There is only one member of the current school committee that is unable to collaborate with any other member. He is too busy trying to create arguments rather than paying close attention to the district's priorities for academic achievement. The Town Council and only the Town Council adopts how much the the School Committee can spend with our local taxes each year. The TC will play politics and state that the schools are spending too much money while at the same time they are the only ones that approve the amount budgeted (bottom line) for the schools. The TC has raised taxes every year. It’s not the amount of members on the SC or TC rather than some of the members on SC and TC. Stop thinking that just because someone has an "R" after their name that they are conservative. This town has been controlled by “Republicans” for 40 years and our taxes are the highest around us. EG just lower their tax rate! Which is controled by real "R's" School Committee please focus on improving our schools. Town Council please focus on spending our money wisely.
Common Sense July 24, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Good suggestion Crystal Ball. If only the T/C were as dollar wise as the S/C our taxes could be reduced as well. Their record shows that they know how to spend and not conserve. Look at the revenue for the past year that increased about $1 million yet the schools received hardly any increase but we taxpayers received one. BTW did anyone ask the S/C for their opinion? I asked if it had been on an agenda for discussion and it wasn't. What or whose motivation is this anyway? Based on recent T/C & T/M actions it looks like and smells like and walks like a duck so it is probably just another power play by them...Can't we all get along? It can't be to save money cause the T/C hasn't figured that out yet...just look at all of their progress consolidating operations with the school department...LOL.
NK Taxpayer, too July 25, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Welcome back CS. Have U been on a vacation? Did U go to Europe? I heard it’s pretty inexpensive to travel abroad these days. Why would anyone asked the SC or the Super’s for their opinion? We now know they have been lying to us all year. BUDGET DEFICIT! SCHOOL PROGRAMS & SPORTS-CUT, CUT, CUT! LOWEST PAID EMPLOYEES- FREEZE WAGES, INCREASE HEALTH CONTRIBUTIONS & FIRE, FIRE, FIRE THE CUSTODIANS AND HIRE GCA , A COMPANY WHO HAS A TERRIBLE REPUTATION AND TRACT RECORD FOR HIRING UNDESIRABLES BECAUSE THEY PAY VERY LOW WAGES. This company will be hiring new people because 35% of the 26 custodians have left. GCA’s new employees will be in our buildings with our children & school employees. GIVE RAISES oh I’m sorry, MERIT INCREASES to many of our administrators. Oh, that's right, it’s in their contracts. And who negotiated those generous contracts over the last couple of years during a recession? Why it was most of the members of the SC!
E July 25, 2012 at 01:16 AM
What is the rationale behind decreasing the size of the NKSC from 7 to 5? Having the 9th largest student enrollment in RI, at 4,500 pupils, and a 90% graduation rate, why decrease the size of the collective body that makes decisions for the NKSD? Surely 7 intelligent, diverse minds coming together to discuss and decide upon school- related issues is better than 5. The problem is not that the committee is too large. The problem is that several of the current members lack the appropriate interpersonal skills necessary to make the SC a success. Strict time limits are not adhered to by varying members. And, the general negative tone of all the meetings hampers any real progress this committee could make. If this question DOES make the Nov. ballot, I'd like to at least fully understand WHY it is there. Dave - It is easy to use Benson and Mudge as scapegoats for all the negative SC public relations "challenges". Yes, they are OVERTLY problematic. However, I really wrestle with placing all the blame solely on them.
Govstench July 25, 2012 at 05:08 PM
7 intelligent, diverse minds coming together to discuss and decide upon school- related issues is better than 5? Not sure about going down that road.....Dropping two off the board would save taxpayers money. There is no correlation between enrollment and committee size however. That is a reach.
E July 25, 2012 at 09:45 PM
I disagree, and have yet to understand what the rationale behind the change would be. Yes, saving taxpayer money, but surely there are other ways to save money that should be considered besides this! I'm sure political afficionados could think of MANY other ways to save tax dollars.
Govstench July 26, 2012 at 12:14 PM
North Kingstown is in the top ten ranking of highest property taxes. Granted, over 75% of that bill goes to the school system. Having seven on that committee is large and when you have some of the members not showing up to the meetings, you have to wonder why bother having seven. The committee has started to implement cuts to the school budget and more will be needed. I don't believe this town should go through another two years of political grand standing that has turned the taxpayers off. Some of those who would not bend to change have decided not to run which may produce some positive results and hopefully the newcomers will bring a restore a positive climate to this committee and something can finally get done. The budget is still too fat and needs cutting. It's the political will of this committee that will be put to the test next year.
NKGOP Watch July 26, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Gov, NK is in the top 75% thats great!, RI is in the top of a bunch of categories, top DUI, top Drug use, and top hostility to business (great for reducing traffic during the commute). I'm sure our sister state is Albania, another failed Communist enclave that will never change. Oh wait, they did! That puts on top of yet another category! Did we elect that "Rolling Green" <=what a name! guy yet?
Govstench August 05, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Erin, there are a host of ways to save tax dollars - municipal as well as school. When you start the process, the howels begin. "Don't cut my program, don't cut music, don't cut sports, don't cut the library. Or don't cut the town services as we need them. How high do the taxes have to get before people wake up? Government, whether it is municipal or state CAN and SHOULD be trimmed. You had better hope the pubic unions lose their pension case in superior court as there is no way cities and towns can pony up $100 Million dollars in this environment. There would be NO services and even some school shut downs if they prevail. The numbers do not lie.

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