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Voters to Decide on Size of School Committee, Term Limits

Reducing school committee members, instituting term limits and more will appear on the November ballot.

North Kingstown voters will be faced with a series of local questions on the ballot this November, including how many members should serve on the North Kingstown School Committee.

On Monday night, the North Kingstown Town Council approved several changes to be voted on this election, following a . Among the changes is a proposal to decrease the number of school committee members from seven to five; to institute term limits for elected officials in town and those appointed to boards, committees and commissions and to give the town manager free rein to hire department heads.

The majority of the discussion was devoted to the size reduction of the school committee, with the council opinion split on the issue. Councilor Carol Hueston favored the current configuration of seven members while Chuck Brennan pointed to the benefits of five.

“I’m looking at this as an opportunity for the voters to fix the problems on the committee and creating a five-member committee could achieve consensus and be a better working committee,” said Brennan, who was confident that voters would approve the change.

According to the Charter Review 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). The majority of the commission favored the current configuration and recommended against reducing the number of members.

During public comment, three members of the North Kingstown School Committee took to the microphone to speak against the proposed reduction, including Vice Chair Richard Welch, Lynda Avanzato and John Boscardin.

“The makeup of our committee is very diverse and quite frankly it’s needed because of the range of issues we handle,” said Welch.

Boscardin added that decreasing the number of members would also make it more difficult to fill spots on the school board’s subcommittee’s – a task that is already difficult to accomplish. Additionally, Boscardin warned that a smaller committee wouldn’t necessarily result in a consensus.

“If you were to reduce it to five, you very well could get a group of five with two people who are not cooperative, similar to what you have now,” said Boscardin. “A smaller number does not mean a consensus.”

The measure passed the council 3-2, with Hueston and Council President Elizabeth Dolan dissenting – mirroring an earlier motion to authorize the town manager to appoint department heads. (Both Dolan and Hueston voted in opposition to that measure.)

Ed Cooney, a former member of the council, told members of the council that this change would be a “big mistake.”

“If you pass this, this could change the character of North Kingstown,” said Cooney.

Michael Bestwick favored the motion, citing that numerous municipalities follow this model.

On the topic of term limits, the council unanimously approved a question to institute at 12-year limit, similar to the restrictions imposed on elected officials in East Greenwich. Elected officials or appointees to committees/boards/commissions would not be able to serve for more than 12 consecutive years – unless an exception is made by the council. 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.  

These questions will be put before voters at the general election on Nov. 6.

E August 04, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Richard- intelligent thoughts! I agree w/ all.
E August 04, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Don't know ALL the candidates running for SC yet, but Cheryl Clarkin and Lynda Avanzato will definitely have my vote come Nov..... If I had to vote for two more, I'd have to learn about who would work best with these two candidates. I identify most with traditional Republican views, however, I like to look at each candidate independent of their party affiliation.
Govstench August 05, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Term limits are necessary as it will force a change and bring new ideas to government. The General Assembly and Congress are prime examples why it is needed. Regarding allowing the manager to appoint department heads, the consent of the council should be required as a double check. This proposal will diminish transparency which everyone wants. I see no logical reason why the school committee could not be reduced in size. Boards and sub-committees should be made up of people from the public. Some of the school committee could be on this board but only in an ex-official capacity with no vote. The results of those sub-committees have to be approved by the school committee anyway so I don't see the arguement against reduction. We need smaller government.
Dave August 05, 2012 at 03:37 PM
"Jim Lawrence", a.k.a Sherlock Holmes:...what do you do when you're not insulting handicapped people and attempting (and failing) to out identites on this blog?? See a previous "Jim LAwrence" comment at the bottom of this post. Frankly I'm flattered you think I'm Lynda, She's pretty sharp...and I'm sure she could get way more attention doing other things than running for big time North Kingstown School Committee member.... You, on the other hand, are despicable, hope you don't run for anything! Jim Lawrence 1:33 am on Sunday, December 4, 2011 Darn tootin! And the cripples sure have a right to their fair share of quality killin' time!
JB August 05, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I don't know why less members would be viewed as more efficient by some. I would imagine the more viewpoints that participate in policy matters the better. And I agree with Richard the idea of having district representatives is a good one as well. Equal representation I think would help reduce the chances of selfish agendas being pursued. How can we get that onthe ballot?

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