A Letter to the Editor

This appeared in tonight’s local paper as a Letter to the Editor.  It is my first on this issue, but it surely will not be my last.  The Ad Hoc School Building and School Committees have formulated a sound plan for the construction of a Pre-K through fourth grade school–something that is sorely, sorely needed in our community.   However, the City Council on Wednesday  night voted against holding a special election regarding the bond it would take to finance this project.  Sadly, we live in a city that at the moment does not seem to put a premium on education; and for this reason I am committed and resolved to working to try to effect change for the young students of Newport–who deserve infinitely better than this.

City Council proves it is not committed to education

As I sat at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, I watched the proceedings with eager anticipation. As a Newport resident for 34 years, a product of Newport Public Schools, a homeowner and taxpayer since 1997, and the mother of two young children, I hoped to see the Council honor the hard work of those who endeavored, on behalf of Newport’s children, to bring forward a financially reasonable and educationally sound plan. I wanted to see a Council that showed unanimous faith in our School Committee, unanimous gratitude to the Ad Hoc School Building Committee, unanimous belief in our children, and unanimous trust in the citizens of Newport.

Their charge Wednesday night was to decide whether to allow Newport residents the opportunity to vote in November 2009 regarding the bond. They did not have to support the bond. They simply had move to allow the citizenry to make its voice heard—as it did when it elected these individuals to office. And though three of the seven members did vote in favor of this special election, as a collective body they denied the motion.

I understand the many considerations: These economic times are harrowing; special elections do not always yield a substantial turnout; another opportunity may present itself if we give this issue even more time. But in the meantime our city’s elementary schools are in violation of current fire codes and are not meeting accessibility requirements—issues that will need to be addressed, expenses that will need to be incurred.

However, what matters most is what is best for our children. It is what should be at the forefront of every discussion regarding schools, and it is what many people volunteered to discern. Tonight’s vote was disappointing because the appearance, at least to this one citizen, taxpayer, and parent, is that the Council does not hold my children’s education as a priority. Admittedly, members of Newport’s City Council, like every one of us, have many responsibilities; but ultimately what is most worth investing in are our children.

I have watched my neighbors move from their home in Newport, rent it, and move to another community just to give their children what they felt was the best education possible. When residents abandon the homes they own in Newport so they can rent in communities they feel put a priority on education something is vastly wrong. But one can understand why: If your city does not value education to the extent that you do, you must act. My recommendation is that the City Council act—and act in the best interest of Newport’s youngest students—if it hopes to recover its reputation as a community that is committed to our children’s education.

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