MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (SEPTEMBER 19, 2022) – One of the big selling points of regionalizing schools with Newport is the potential savings.

On Monday night at a meeting in Town Hall, the Middletown Town Council approved a resolution from the City of Newport committing to a discussion about reinvesting some — or all — of that money back into education. 

As part of the proposal, a new Academic Advisory Committee made up interested parents, educators and students from both communities would come together to “discuss potential educational improvements and make recommendations going forward.” Creating an endowment to place those funds was also discussed.

The resolution was forwarded to the council by Newport City Council Vice Chairwoman Lynn Underwood Ceglie and Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano.

A date for the Town Council to appoint members to the advisory committee was not nailed down, but local leaders said it was an important effort to get going as soon as possible. 

“I think it’s a step in the right direction to make sure those savings from regionalization go to education,” council President Paul M. Rodrigues said.

The news was the latest development in the ongoing push to merge the two school districts in an attempt to provide a higher quality education and more opportunities for all students while also saving money.

Over the summer, the councils of each community voted to put questions on the Election Day ballot, asking voters if they supported regionalizing school systems. Middletown voters are also being asked to back a $235 million bond to build a new middle-high school and combined elementary school.

The way funding that bond works, Middletown taxpayers would be responsible for pay 19.5 cents of every dollar for those buildings, or about $46 million. The state Department of Education would pick up the lion’s share of 80.5 percent of the bond, or more than $189 million.

In order to move forward, the regionalization questions must be okayed by voters in both communities on Nov. 8 as well as the bond question for Middletown voters.

If regionalization isn’t approved in Middletown, taxpayers are facing at least $190 million in repairs to the existing school building, with far less — if any — reimbursement from RIDE.

Previously, consultants have said in addition to offering more educational opportunities to every student, regionalization would help avoid duplicate costs in each school system. That total was projected at close to $5 million.

During an informational forum at the Knights of Columbus hall on Valley Road, Ceglie said she’d like to see a binding agreement be made that at least some of those savings be rolled back into Newport and Middletown classrooms. The Newport City Council voted formally on Sept. 14 to pursue a conversation on the matter with Middletown.

The Middletown council responded positively to the idea, with the group voting 6-0 to support the undertaking. Councilman Dennis Turano was not in attendance.

Council Vice President Thomas Welch III said he liked that the group’s efforts would identify and secure funding for classrooms across Newport and Middletown. 

“I think this is well written,” Welch III said. “From going to the regionalization meetings, this is one of the sticking points. I understand when people say ‘You can’t show me these educational enhancements,’ well, of course you can because we’re forming a committee in order to decide what they’re going to be.”

This story by the Town of Middletown originally appeared here.

Town of Middletown

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