open letter newport ri

With coronavirus fears now shredding parts of the global tourism sector — including hotels, cruise ships, and airlines — it’s vital that Newport’s leaders move beyond the easy talk about becoming a more economically resilient city and begin putting words into actions. I’ve submitted my name to fill the Newport school committee vacancy because the fastest road to boosting resiliency centers on significantly boosting grade K-12 academic achievement across all student cohorts, especially the lower-income, non-white segments.

I applaud those Newporters who verbalize a vision of a city with a more diversified economy built around more high-wage, high-growth jobs that get filled organically, using graduates from Newport Public Schools. There are four major categories of skills and experiences that I bring to the table: (1) a strong understanding of 21st Century career opportunities and economic development; (2) a solid understanding of 21st Century curriculum models that will boost student interest and relevancy, which is sorely lacking; (3) a strong understanding of city and school finances; and (4) as an active and passionate volunteer supporting Newport Public Schools, and the city in general, since 1994. 

Over the last 25 years, Newport taxpayers have funded our small school system with over $500 Million. Student achievement has consistently been grim for the majority of students passing through its doors. Now, we’re being asked to fund over $100+ Million in new questionable construction without serious discussions about how this huge investment will directly improve student outcomes.

I look forward to responding candidly to probing questions from the council members and putting the vital lifelong interests of all Newport students and parents ahead of the predictable, “get along” interests of staff.  We find ourselves at the crossroads. This is the time to either “put up” or “shut up” when it comes to building a resilient Newport, now, and for generations to come.

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Mike Cullen

Newport, RI

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