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Archive for February, 2007

School Board meeting tonight

The School Board meets at 797 Westminster tonight at 6:30.  The main item on the agenda is the West Broadway Elementary School closing.  There seems to have been a change in the proposal:

2-42-07 Recommendation for West Broadway Elementary
School

Resolved, the School Board approves the relocation of
the West Broadway Elementary School with the existing
students and faculty to the Pell Complex. It is
further resolved that West Broadway Elementary School
will operate as a school within a school in the
DelSesto-Springfield Building for the 2007-2008 school
year.

Whether the WBES parents will accept this compromise remains to be seen.  It has the advantage of keeping the kids together, but it still means the loss of the school. We are very interested  in seeing that the appropriate procedures and established criteria for closing schools are followed.

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(This post was just sent as part of our email update. If you got the email, skip the post. If you didn’t get the email, get on our mailing list by emailing me at tschmeling@ric.edu or espec@earthlink.net.)

Thanks to your support, we are getting much closer to reopening Nathan Bishop as a high quality middle school. In the last week, however, we have learned of some potentially serious roadblocks ahead. We would like to share what we’ve learned and ask, once again, for your help in moving Bishop forward.

Since Nathan Bishop was slated to be closed ten months ago, we’ve made remarkable progress. We now have a strong and effective organization dedicated to creating and supporting strong public schools. The Superintendent has recommended reopening Nathan Bishop, and the current DeJong plan recommends keeping Bishop open, as well as both King and Gregorian elementary schools. Our goal thus now seems to have support from both the School Department and the City.

The next step is for the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and the Board of Regents to approve the pending application for state construction aid for the New Nathan Bishop. On Wednesday, Feb. 28, the Finance Committee of the Board of Regents will consider all pending school construction aid applications across the State, including Bishop.

It is unclear at this point whether the Finance Committee will recommend further consideration of the Nathan Bishop application as part of this year’s batch of decisions. We obviously hope it will. Recently, however, we have heard that there may be issues with the application that will prevent its further consideration. If so, the reopening of Nathan Bishop could be significantly delayed.

A decision by the Finance Committee that the Bishop application is incomplete or unacceptable is not the absolute end of the line. We understand that there would still be hope for approval at the vote by the full Board of Regents on March 22. However, if the Finance Committee recommends against the Bishop proposal, it will be necessary once again for the East Side to mobilize to demonstrate the strong demand for public education in our neighborhoods.

The Finance Committee meets on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 4pm, at 255 Westminster Street. The meeting is open, and ESPEC steering committee members plan to attend, but we are not sure that a large demonstration of support by our group would be productive at this point. We will promptly report to you with what we learn.

In the meantime, we’re preparing for phone, email and letter campaigns directed to state-level officials, possibly including the Regents, the Governor, and members of the General Assembly representing the East Side. We may need a strong turnout of people at the March 22 Board of Regents meeting.

We know, from the 125+ people who turned out for our last meeting on a cold February night and the 360 people on this email list, that we have enough resources to influence decision makers. We are nearing our goal, so please prepare to be part of this next push to restore Nathan Bishop and East Side Public Education.

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Post-Meeting Survey Responses

Following our Feb. 7th meeting at ML King, we solicited responses to an on-line survey of opinion regarding the future of Nathan Bishop.  We’ve now closed the survey.

112 people responded to the survey. 60 respondents said they attended the meeting, 29 said they did not, and 13 did not answer this question.  Nearly all of the respondents were from the 02906 zip code.

60% said they preferred new construction to renovating the existing building. 28% said they preferred renovation.  The remainder answered “other” and mentioned various concerns such as promptness in opening, safety and energy efficiency.

When asked what factors you thought were most important to consider in reopening, the following factors were rated “crucial” or “very important”.

74% Prompt review process and opening
73% Design compatible with surrounding neighborhood
64% Cost considerations
63% Energy Efficiency/Green building
25% Historical preservation

You can download a PDF file of the complete survey summary.

Long-form comments on open-ended questions can be found here:

Comments on new construction vs. renovation

General open-ended question on what people found important

Comments from the comment cards returned at the meeting 

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The Board of Regents will meet on Feb. 28 and March 22. The Feb. 28 meeting is a budget meeting. March 22 will see a decision about the proposal for Nathan Bishop. We have some reason to think that the Bishop proposal is in trouble. We’re not yet sure whether the Feb. 28 meeting is the critical point. If so, we’ll be asking east siders to come to the meeting at 4pm at 255 Westminster on that day.

[update: Please note the post above on “concerns”. It doesn’t look like a big turnout on Feb 28 will help, but it might well be needed for the Regents meeting on March 22]

If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of ESPEC’s more committed members. We’re going to do some fast heavy-duty organizing to get people to this meeting. If you can volunteer to help do this, I encourage you to contact me at tschmeling@ric.edu, and pass the word to people who you think can help get others out.

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WBES on Citizenspeak

The West Broadway group has taken a page from ESPEC and opened up a citizenspeak email campaign at http://citizenspeak.org/node/999

Citizenspeak is how EPSEC got started last March.  It’s an effective organizing tool.  It’s also the creation of ESPEC steering commitee member Jo Lee, so consider this a plug for Jo.

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Survey Closed

We got 112 responses to our survey but, after 10 days, the responses stopped coming in, so we closed it down. Expect to see results here in a day or two.

If you didn’t get to put your 2 cents in on the survey, feel free do it in the comments of this or any appropriate blog posting,.

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WBES parents met with Mayor Cicilline on Thursday. He apparently said he would not second-guess Dr. Evans’ decision to close the school. The report is in a ProJo article here.

I talked to several east siders at the DeJong meeting who expressed interest in this, so here is how you can participate:

There will be a public meeting in the cafeteria of WBES at 6pm on Tuesday, Feb. 20th. This is the hearing that School Board policy requires before a school is closed.

The School Board will vote on the closure on Monday, Feb. 26. School Board meetings are also open to the public.

Bryan Principe of the Coalition to Save West Broadway spoke at the Dejong meeting at Hope. He noted that in the DeJong report, only Bishop has a note that the decision on new construction vs. renovation would depend on community involvement. Bryan said he hoped that ALL communities would have a voice in regard to their children’s schools. We agree.

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