To the Editor:

As a member of the Regionalization Steering Committee, I urge the voters in both Middletown and Newport to support the questions related to school regionalization that will be on the November 2022 ballot. This legislation is about improving educational opportunities for all our students. 

There are those who would ask why we are giving so much attention to the money. The answer is that approving this legislation will be less costly for the taxpayers. The majority of the taxpayers in both our communities no longer have children in the schools; we need to assure them that there is benefit for them in both the high rate of state reimbursement as well as in limiting the tax burden going forward. 

Therefore, we are committed to complete transparency in regard to the finances – the costs, the savings, and the anticipated results. We encourage you to visit our home page (https://www.middletown-newport.us/) and/or attend the public meetings so you can fully understand the financial implications in both our communities.

But this letter is also intended to address the educational issues that many of you have felt are not getting the attention they deserve. We want to assure you that every one of us engaged in this effort is focused primarily on the educational improvement for our students. But the fact is that, in order to make those improvements, you – the voter – must approve the legislation in November.

It is natural for you to ask us to identify those improvements so you can evaluate them and assess their value. Unfortunately, only a Regional School Committee – to be elected in November 2023 – can make those decisions and implement them. But you are right to be concerned that we identify the goals and share them with you so you can understand that this train is heading toward a destination that you will want to support.

Where are we going? We can only tell you our long-range goals which will generate as much discussion as the finances are doing now. We cannot make promises because the Regional School Committee – who will make the decisions – is not yet in place. But we can provide you with a sense of our direction.

First, although we will be 2 separate communities bound only by a common school administration and budget, our goal is to eventually merge our programs so that all our students will have the same opportunities. 

Some of you may remember that there was a time when all the students on the island attended Rogers High School and experienced the same educational opportunities. Many of you believe that we missed the boat in the previous attempts to similarly join together and that this new regionalization initiative is ignoring the most important need. We understand and appreciate your concerns. But that was then. This is now. 

We need to open the door of regionalization before we can build a unified program. When the voters approve regionalization in November, we can begin serious discussions that will result in recommendations to the Regional School Committee to be elected in November 2023. Action by the Regional School Committee will result in implementation in 2024. 

So we ask you to be patient. We care as much about the kids as you do. But there is a path we have to follow, and getting there depends on you. Please put aside previous disappointments and work with us to begin the journey. The quality of our children’s education – and the future of our community – depends on you.

Barbara A. VonVillas

Middletown Town Council

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

Belmore currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals. He previously served on the Board of Lucy's Hearth and the Arts & Cultural Alliance for Newport County.

Belmore and his wife, Jen, currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, a move they made in 2021. Read more about that here - https://whatsupnewp.com/2021/09/letter-from-the-publisher-some-personal-news/

Belmore visits Newport every couple of weeks to support the 12+ paid contributors What'sUpNewp has on the ground across Rhode Island, a place he called home for 39 years.

Belmore is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, Society of Professional Journalists, and the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.

In 2020, Belmore was named Member of the Year by LION and won the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Newport County's Dominque Award.
Belmore can be contacted at ryan@whatsupnewp.com and 401-662-1653.