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School Board Candidates Talk Lawsuits, Start Times at Forum

Four candidates for the North Kingstown School Committee discussed contentious school issues at Thursday night's candidate forum.

North Kingstown’s four contenders for three seats on the School Committee took to the stage Thursday evening for night two of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce and NorthEast Independent’s candidate forums.

Democrat Lynda Avanzato, the lone incumbent on the panel, sat beside a trio of According to Manocchia, the three meet on a regular basis as of late to discuss school issues.

“I know for a fact that if you elect the three of us, you will have a significantly improved unit in terms of cooperation, collaboration, etc.” said Manocchia.

The topic of collaboration and cooperation, both within the School Committee and with the North Kingstown Town Council, was heavily addressed during the one-hour forum. All candidates agreed the current discourse of the committee needs major improvement.

“We can’t have any more public outbursts by school committee members,” said Clarkin, who suggested that members attend professional development or team building workshops.

According to Avanzato, five of the seven members of the current committee “conduct themselves courteously” while the remaining two are “disorderly.” Jones proposed employing Barrington’s policy of having a student sit on the committee.

Tensions between the School Committee and Town Council came to a head this year when the town took the school department to court after school officials projected a possible revenue deficit late last year.

“It’s an embarrassment and a lot of my neighbors feel it’s a disgrace,” said Manocchia, chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

Litigation with the town isn’t the only legal battles for the School Committee. The school department is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the North Kingstown Education Support Professionals union following failed contract negotiations and the controversial outsourcing of the school district’s custodians.

“The amount of money we spend litigating is unfortunate,” said Jones. “We could probably fund the hockey team and other programs if we weren’t litigating.”

According to Jones, his work with Gary Sasse in creating the Bryant Institute for Public Leadership (educating towns and city officials on “collaborative decision-making) would benefit the School Committee if elected. 

As for the outsourcing of custodians, Clarkin, Manocchia and Avanzato agreed with the decision to outsource the district’s janitorial services to outside company GCA.  Jones, who did not directly support or disagree with the measure, said that decisions, such as outsourcing personnel, should be looked at in a cost-effective manner and done with transparency.

Candidates also discussed another contentious move recently made by the committee – the change of start times. This academic year, school start times were altered after two buses were cut from the school’s fleet. The change resulted in earlier start times for the high school and later start times for most elementary schools, causing outcry from many parents.

“Although busing is an important issue with parents and their lifestyles, everyone has to sacrifice,” said Avanzato. “We’re asking people to sacrifice their jobs and benefits. We’re running out of options.”

For the other three candidates, the busing issue should be a higher priority. Clarkin pointed to studies that showed a correlation between students with early start times and low test scores.

“What is a little disconcerting is we make some decisions and we make them for budgetary reasons but don’t analyze the impact,” said Jones.

NK WATCH October 29, 2012 at 04:57 AM
@ we r NK Talk about a Johnny-come-lately! Where have you been for the past 10 years? Now that something affects you personally you want to get involved? The school committee members had a choice to make save $1 million by outsourcing janitorial services. Cut $1 million of student education and extracurricular activities Or ask the taxpayers to fork over another million bucks.... I think the students and the taxpayers would agree the school committee did their job and made the right choice. The only people who disagree are yourself and your fellow union members. Stop trying to change the issue or distract from the issue. The taxpayers are paying 85% of your healthcare you're being asked to pay 15%. Do you think that's fair? Do you want the taxpayers to pay more than 85% of your health care cost?
Politics Sheriff of NK October 29, 2012 at 05:02 AM
So it's acceptable to have that language, but not "AFTER" a "warning"? HUH? Wow. Seems a bit childish to me. Either certain language is acceptable or it is not. Period.
Politics Sheriff of NK October 29, 2012 at 05:43 AM
Should have been a lot more, that didnt come close to covering the necessary legal work in a case like that. But you'll throw even a victim, a mom, of a sick child, under the bus because you dont like a decision made democratically? wow. Thats some ethics.
Politics Sheriff of NK October 29, 2012 at 05:45 AM
Watch, I think the janitors are showing that they were in fact "overpaid at any price".
Dave October 29, 2012 at 10:36 AM
Yes, WRNK did say they were not a school employee, but he or she is. Under the letter from the neari president, WRNK talks about being an esp employee, but has now apparently lost track of saying that.
refreshandreplenish October 29, 2012 at 12:23 PM
As a NK tax payer with children in this system, it is becoming more and more apparent that it really is time for a change folks. The antics of between the SC and TC is unbelievable to say the least. I was tempted to send some video to Saturday Night Live. Enough. We are fortunate to have quality candidates running for SC. One MD, a West Point/Harvard grad, and a lawyer. Here is the really good part, no axes to grind and no drama. I'll match this slate against any in RI!
Samantha Turner (Editor) October 29, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Politics, If you read my initial comment, I clearly state it's my last warning before I start to take action. To all: please stay on topic and keep it civil or I will shut down this thread. Thanks.
Dave October 29, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Unfort u nately, they are also members of the nkgop, the group that overspent and allowed misspending for ten years, and recently put up turbines (they intended to put up 40 of those monsters) against the will of the people, put up develoments where they make no sense, increased taxes for the past four years, along with many other problems, such as violating bidding laws repeatedly . Resume isn't everything, we need people who have ethics and can stand up to any special interests, including political party.
Dave October 29, 2012 at 01:04 PM
I'm not saying theses candidates did any of that or are unethical, but their message of " the Gop team" sticking together is not a good one. Cheryl Clarkin seems to be independent minded though.
MeanE October 29, 2012 at 01:32 PM
@ Tired - I understand the code. Which only talks about replacing said candidate. It doesn't address for how long. My point being that whether it is in the code or not, I would prefer that if a member is replaced by a candidate that was not voted in for any reason, they should only remain in that seat until the next election and if they want to retain a seat, they should have to run again. I just don't think it is fair to someone like Lynda, correct me if I am wrong, who beat John in the election to have to run again, and he does not. It's not a huge deal, just something that I think would be more fair, that's all.
MeanE October 29, 2012 at 01:36 PM
@compass I don't consider you an uniformed voter as you are posting here. It's the voters that will be voting that have not kept up with the elections, that I am speaking of.
Dark star October 29, 2012 at 02:04 PM
@MeanE, I am pretty sure Boscardin ran two years ago, Avanzato ran 4 years ago. SC is a 4 year term.
We R NK October 29, 2012 at 02:05 PM
I never said that, people can look for themselves. It becomes more apparent as Dave, Politics, and NK Watch continually try to prove themselves that they are digging deeper into the land of fantasy. As far as you all saving a million from your union I have read numerous letters that state (truthfully) that you were offered 1.7 mil when all was said and done and you walked away from the table. Thanks for the trip through fantasy land I am now returning to reality. Have a great day!
Politics Sheriff of NK October 29, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Wasnt the NKGOP (nk repubs) the ones who kept covering one school scandal after another which included ripping off special needs pupils for steak and lobster, even despite public outcry, and it wasnt until the NKDEMS got as school committee (and town council for one term) majority that halley was released and whistleblower law added and audiut committee (useless as it was) convened, etc.Looks like team nk-gop has one area of expertise to offer, obfuscate and rewrite history.
Politics Sheriff of NK October 29, 2012 at 02:10 PM
And it was the nkgop on the school committee that kept renewing Halleys 3 year contract EVERY YEAR so in the end we had to pay hundreds of thousands to get rid of him. Wow. Not to mention the legal bills and paying back the feds a quarter million dollars of the special needs funds misdirected on lobster steak, travel. Nk republicans on the school committee again? Yeah thats just what we need.
MeanE October 29, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Yes Sheriff, the individuals on the school committee were nkgop during the Halley fiasco. However, I choose to believe that not all NKGOPers are robots and feel the same way as those SC members did. Just as I did not like Gus talking about party politics, it doesn't make sense to talk party politics about 3 people who I don't believe have ever run for political office before. I don't care if candidates are R, D, I, G, C, L, or any other party. I will judge them on their own merits.
MeanE October 29, 2012 at 02:49 PM
From thenkgop.org site : Note: On "election day," you will find Cheryl Clarkin listed under the "Independent column." She is a registered Republican, but a timing issue with election board filings caused her to be on the "Independent" column. She is definitely one of us, so use one of your three votes for this "great Republican" unhappily in the Independent Column. :-)
Dave October 29, 2012 at 03:12 PM
I agree meane as far as judging each person on their merits, but sorry, you cant ignore what the Gop has done on the tc (and I mean right now, not in the distant past).....there isa tendency for newbies to get sucked in. andand they have no idea its the Gop responsible for a lot of the ex
Dave October 29, 2012 at 03:14 PM
excessive spending and runaway government in this town. I don't care if someone is an R a D or an I, but I am leery of the Gop in this town.
MeanE October 29, 2012 at 03:22 PM
@Dave - Not ignoring any of what has gone on with the TC or the SC. It is easy for Candidates, committee members, union members, friends, etc..., to get "sucked in". One reason why I would like to see a balance of power in both the TC & SC, with individuals making informed decisions based solely on how they perceive what is right for NK and not what others in a party or alliance may feel is right. We need a balance in NK, one that will work respectfully together to make this town better! I will be voting for Independents, Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians come election day.
Dave October 29, 2012 at 03:34 PM
MeanE, def agree! Balance and working together is a must. That's why we are in such trouble at the state level....Dems have had overwhelming majorities for too long up there.
MeanE October 29, 2012 at 03:36 PM
You ave every right to be leery!
Politics Sheriff of NK October 29, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Wow sounds like we all kinda get it. We'll see at the ballot box, too many vote for the wrong reasons because they dont know any of this stuff.
Dave October 29, 2012 at 09:05 PM
We r NK, you referred the the union leadership as "our leadership" in your comment under the neari letter....As far as any 1.7 mil in savings, why don't you tell the whole story? The savings offered by the union was 1.7 mil over two years, when the sc needed to save that in the first year. I heard that the union lawyer not just walked away, but stormed away from the table. You have a wonderful evening and stay safe!
We R NK October 29, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Dave, Thank you for the well wishes, hope all is well with you to. You are mistaken or again twisting people's words for your purpose. My quote was "Your right Support NK, it's the entire ESP that has suffered for the blunders of our leadership, and it's not over yet! What they fail to see is that the school department will suffer too!!" If you read the context of the conversation the "leadership I am referring to is you (the SC) and the SD. I'm sure your reading comprehension skills are on target. Good try though, had me going! Signed, a 30 year resident taxpayer and parent/grandparent.
NK Taxpayer, too October 29, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Dave: Get your facts straight. You are all wet when you mention needed SC savings in one year. In fact Richard Welsh posted Thursday, August 16, 2012 on PATCH, that “outsourcing (the custodians) will save the SD $1.6 million over three years” . The ESP’s final offer was $1.7 million in concessions over two years which the SC foolishly chose to ignore. Richard Welch 10:53 pm on Thursday, August 16, 2012 Do the math, savings projection by the SC by outsourcing - $533K per year. The ESP’s final offer would have saved $850K per year. Now we as town residents are facing multiple lawsuits which will further diminish the projected savings while causing significant labor unrest and dissatisfaction within the school community. Why don’t YOU tell the whole story? Better yet, why don’t you tell the truth for once!
NK Taxpayer, too October 29, 2012 at 11:46 PM
@Dave- Since you need help getting your facts straight: http://northkingstown.patch.com/articles/letter-nix-24-hour-shifts-for-firefighters#photo-9573717 You're welcome
Dave November 01, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Nk taxpayer and union member, the last offer by the union was NOT 1.6 million in savings over 2 years. I spoke to several sc members and that offer never amounted to that.
MeanE November 01, 2012 at 02:06 PM
As I have said previously, I sure wish that these negotiations were broadcast online so that we could see what is being said and done in these meetings. There is so much finger pointing and he said she said going on, it sure would be nice to have some transparency into this situation. Can anyone tell me why these meeting need to happen behind closed doors? We the people of NK elect the SC members, we the people of NK pay the salaries of the union members in our district. Why can't we be provided with the truth, whatever that may be? I don't want to hear what happened from the Super, SC members, Union leaders, or union members. I want to see it for myself. Is that too much to ask? Maybe so, but someone please explain to me why?
Politics Sheriff of NK November 01, 2012 at 02:19 PM
MeanE there is NO REASON why we paying public should not see every minute of negotiations deciding how our millions will be spent and huge contracts that lock us into are decided.

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