Citizens Exploring School Unification forms, announces petition drive targeting Middletown Town Council

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Citizens Exploring School Unification (CESU) has officially launched and is circulating a petition regarding Middletown Town Council’s decision on June 17th to end talks of school regionalization with Newport.

CESU was incorporated in Rhode Island as a nonprofit on August 12, 2019, shortly after the Middletown Town Council declined to discuss or consider unification of Rogers and Middletown High Schools. 

According to the organization, its vision is to explore, define, and consider potential educational, extracurricular, and financial benefits of Middletown High Schools and the organization is made up of a “group of Middletown and Newport citizens who think the Middletown Council’s decision was short-sighted and condemns our students to a small school of very limited educational opportunities for the foreseeable future”.

On June 17th, the Middletown Town Council – by a vote of 5 to 2 – declined to explore potential educational, extracurricular and financial benefits of Middletown and Newport school unification. 

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The Petition

Dick Adams, President of CESU said in the announcement, “Regarding the petition – we are shooting for approximately 1,500 signatures by the end of September so you can expect to see us at many local events as well as canvasing door-to-door in Middletown neighborhoods in the coming weeks. We are asking all our local parents, neighbors, residents, concerned citizens, and registered voters to join us by signing to this petition to “Support comprehensive, non-binding discussions of school unification in Middletown, RI” 

The petition, “Support comprehensive, non-binding discussions of school unification in Middletown, RI”, can be viewed online at Change.Org.

The petition states;

“A PETITION of Middletown, Rhode Island Residents:
The Middletown Town Council declined to explore potential educational, extracurricular and financial benefits of Middletown and Newport school unification.

We the undersigned respectfully ask the Middletown Town Council to reconsider its decision and support comprehensive, non-binding discussions of school unification.

This petition is sponsored by Citizens Exploring School Unification (CESU). As a grass-roots group formed to promote discussion of school consolidation. 

We are:

  • Asking for your input
  • And your support
  • Working to explore unification issues
  • Working to develop the political will to confront the realities of old schools with declining school populations”

Background

According to CESU, “On November 6, 2018, Rhode Island voters approved a new Statewide School Construction Bond. The bond activated six new temporary bonus incentives and access to $250 million in upfront funding to support the state share of foundation school housing aid. Funding for the school construction program is governed by Rhode Island General Laws 16-7, sections 35 to 47, 16-105, sections 1 to 9, and 45-38.2″. 

If a regional school district were formed for kindergarten through 12th grade, the two municipalities could have been eligible for up to an 80.5% state reimbursement rate on any school construction project that began by December 2022. Beyond December 2022, the long- term incentives for a regional district would have been capped at 66% .

The state’s figure includes a base rate of 35 percent, 26 percent as a regional bonus, and 19.5 percent if the project maximizes a series of incentives offered under the $250 million bond.

A vote by the Middletown Council to move forward with a discussion on unification talks would have only authorized a feasibility study, not approve regionalization. The plan, as suggested by Newport, and in large part required by the state, would begin with the development of a Regional District Planning Board to study the feasibility of regionalization.

A day after the Middletown Town Council rejected even the suggestion that Middletown and Newport explore merging school systems, Newport Mayor Jamie Bova has vowed to find a way to “build a school our children need and deserve.”

On late June, Portsmouth Town Council voted 7 -0 to approve a motion to “discuss the possibilities of working together to provide the best educational opportunities for all of our students”.

More From CESU

Dick Adams, President of CESU continued in the press release from CESU, “It is inconceivable to me, and an assault on my common sense that Middletown and Newport will choose to build or massively renovate two separate 500-600 student, mediocre high schools within 6 miles of each other. We can and should do so much better.” Dick Adams went on to say, “We think that to arbitrarily limit our students’ educational horizons without considering the opportunities offered by unification of these two small schools housed in 60-year-old building is a dereliction of public duty and responsibility.” Additionally, Dick Adams commented that “We believe that the status quo is not good enough and reflects a failure of imagination and an inability to recognize the possibilities of a unified high school.” Additionally, Dick’s emotional appeal to Middletown residents included his sentiment that he hoped Middletown voters would join together and “…Don’t shut the door on the future of our children” 

Dick Adams went on to explain “To meet the requirements of Rhode Island Law municipalities we will need to submit the Voter Initiative Petition to the Middletown Town Clerk by May 2020 with a minimum of 1,200 Middletown registered voter signatures.” 

Dick Adams emphasized “Therefore, we are actively seeking and recruiting local volunteers, parents, residents and voters to help us with our petition drive.” 

To learn more about Citizens Exploring School Unification (CESU), visit http://cesu.news.


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