opinion Newport Rhode Island

This is NOT a vote on regionalizing the schools in Newport and Middletown. This is merely a vote on creating a central district office. Don’t be fooled by this ballot issue.  Newport and Middletown schools will remain separate. In fact, if this ballot item is passed, and Middletown passes its bond question, there will be little incentive to regionalize because of the new schools being built in each town. Since both administrations in Newport and Middletown are already running lean, it is even doubtful we will see any savings resulting from a combined office.

The time for true regionalization was in 2019 and 2020. Newport needed to replace Rogers High School. Newport tried to appeal to Middletown to build a new high school that would accommodate both towns in order to receive a possible 80% reimbursement from the State.  Not only were Newport’s efforts rejected, but they also were met with hostile remarks and behavior by the Middletown Town Council. In an interview with Newport Life in 2019, Middletown’s Town Manager discussed the difficulties unification poses, specifically mixing urban and suburban profiles, making it challenging to achieve the envisioning that everyone is talking about. In a Newport Daily News guest article, one Middletown council member felt the academic and economic risks of Middletown merging with Newport are very high and there are too many unknowns. 

So why is Middletown so eager to “merge” now? Because they want to build three new schools and get a possible 80% State reimbursement to do this. This proposal is purely based on money. The State established Title 16, Chapter 3 as a framework for regionalization., but the planners behind this proposal did not follow these guidelines. There has been no discussion or agreement between the towns on the academic value to the students. There have been no commitments to put the “saved” money aside for any education improvements in the towns.

We cannot have Newport lose local control of its school committee, school administration, and school budget. We know we need to continue improving the quality of Newport Schools, but we already have made progress in learning opportunities for our students. We know what our students need. Newport voters overwhelmingly approved a new high and an extension to the elementary school. The schools have fantastic programs for students to follow many possible pathways. Newport schools have the most amazing community partners to help the schools. This will all be lost if we pass this ballot question. 

We can always return to the possibility of true regionalization, but the emphasis needs to be on how this will improve education and how it will help the students in both towns.

Donna McCarthy, Newport resident

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