With the guidance of Newport County League of Woman Voters President, Susan Wells, Lisa Olaynack’s 6th grade English Language Arts (ELA) students conducted “meet and greet” sessions with the Newport School Committee candidates. All candidates were invited to visit their Thompson Middle School (TMS) classroom to offer personal viewpoints regarding the importance of “public service.” They answered questions in a mock-forum format.

Lisa Olaynack, explained why she encourages students to learn from the political process: “My hope is that if parents, Newport School Committee candidates, and citizens hear from students’ perspectives they will vote with this future generation in mind. It also empowers our students to take a more active role in their education and in their civic duties as a citizen.”

Left to right: Ray Gomes, Matt Mullins, Susan Wells, Maeve Crowley, Dellicia Allen, Reese Prater, Jennifer
Jackson and Felicity Jackson (photo credit: Lisa Olaynack)

Following a lively discussion led by community leader, Beth Cullen, where the 6th graders shared thoughts about what types of characteristics are best for public officials, and brainstormed topics critical to them, they developed the following questions to ask each candidate:

● Tell us why you want to serve on the Newport School Committee.

● How can our schools be more eco-friendly?

● What are your thoughts on “Ability Grouping” here at TMS?

● If you had a magic wand and could create three important changes in Newport Schools what would they be and why?

As of Thursday, four school committee candidates have visited the classroom, two more are expected on Friday, and all others have been asked to send in their response via video or email.

Here, in their own words, is what they have learned from this “Ask the Candidate” experience:

● “Candidates really care about our education.” – Dellicia Allen

● “Our school environment is important to them.” – Jaylianna Fernandez

● “Candidates want us kids to have a better education because we are the future of America. They have inspired me to try to make a difference in my community and in the Newport schools education system.” -Maeve Crowley

● “I learned that these candidates want us to have better test scores and get a good education. They want us to have a good future. They want us to grow up and maybe want to help our community with education or possibly becoming an activist. They have inspired me to help my community and make a difference in life so maybe our children can have amazing futures. The children are our future of the United States of America. We can make this world a better place for the future.”- Danaysha Cherry

● “My 6th grade classmates and I learned that we need our moms and dads to vote.”- Joshua Marte

● “I learned that when you vote it can make a difference in everyone’s lives, including your own.” Nieema Knight