By Hope McKinney
With three wide open seats on the School Committee, five Democrats and one Republican – all political newcomers – have declared their intention to run. The three open seats are because School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark and Committee members Matt Plain and Jeff Dronzek announced earlier this month they would not run again. The School Committee is made up of seven members serving four-year terms.
The Candidates (in alphabetical order):
Michael Goldberg, 38, Democrat
Goldberg, a lawyer, is from Cranston and moved to East Greenwich last year. He and his wife chose EG because they wanted an excellent school system for their three children, ages 1, 4, and 7.
He said he felt very motivated to run after helping his children with remote learning in recent months due to the COVID-19 crisis, alongside his wife, who also works.
Goldberg said he recognized the amount of adaptations that will need to be made in the school system because of the health crisis.
“It’s literally my children’s future,” he said. “It’s even more important to be involved right now because a lot of decisions are going to be made. It’s no doubt going to be difficult and I want to be there to help, make sure that the kids are in the best position possible given the circumstances, and parents as well, frankly, because we’re all in it together.”
Will Hangan, 37, Democrat
Hangan is a certified financial planner for Citizens Bank. He has lived in East Greenwich for four years and currently sits on the EG Board of Canvassers. He and his wife have two school-age daughters. He said they chose to move for the school system, to provide his daughters with the best education possible.
“I believe East Greenwich Schools are the lifeline of East Greenwich,” he said. “I just want to be more involved with the decisions and directions our schools are faced with, especially during what’s going on right now. I want to be a fair and positive voice for my daughters and be a fair and positive voice for all the other students in East Greenwich.”
His experience teaching his daughters at home also brought to light the difficulties of remote learning. “Helping my daughters at home was a big challenge,” he said. “I can speak to a lot of these hurdles that the students have gone through this past year. I’m someone who’s up to date with technology and I can speak to that.”
He described himself as someone approachable who can listen, as well as someone who doesn’t want to be partisan – for him, it’s about the schools and the students.
Monica Mason, 49, Republican
We were unable to reach Mason before we posted.
Kevin Murphy, 46, Democrat
Murphy, a lawyer, has three children, ages 2, 11 and 13. He has lived in the town since 1977 and said he felt like it’s his turn to give back to the town.
“This is my home,” he said. “I’m intimately familiar with East Greenwich and the community, the school system, the sports and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in East Greenwich. I’m now in a position to be able to give back to East Greenwich, in so many ways East Greenwich has given to me.”
Like the other candidates, Murphy worries about the effect of the current health crisis on the school system.
“I want to be in a position to review the important issues and collaborate with the School committee members to make important decisions that impact not only my children, but everyone’s children,” he said. “This isn’t just my situation. This is a very important time for the School Committee and for our community.”
Timothy Munoz, 62, Democrat
Munoz is a private investor and advisor to financial technology and health care companies who has lived in EG for three years. Although he has no children in town schools, he said that isn’t a bad thing.
“I have no ingoing biases and can look analytically and dispassionately at how to make East Greenwich schools consistently better,” he said. “I can help to build on the historic strengths of East Greenwich schools but bring new ideas to both the School Committee and to the administrators and teachers in the town.”
Munoz has taught as a visiting lecturer at Wharton and Stanford business schools, as well as taught middle and high schoolers in Manhattan and Baltimore. He said he also has experience with virtual teaching and how best to incorporate technology.
He also strongly believes the town can do more to become the best school system in the state, emphasizing that national metrics for testing should attempt to be reached.
“For a town with the material advantages, history and culture of East Greenwich, we can and must evolve our educational models and practices and prepare students for a changing educational and career landscape,” he said. “This starts with early education, and a commitment from parents and caregivers to give each child the tools and the encouragement to learn and thrive.”
Claire Steggall-Murphy, 38, Democrat
Steggall-Murphy has lived in the town for 4 years. She has a 5-year-old son in the school system.
An engineer by education and trade, Steggall-Murphy said she is an analytical thinker and good at research. “I’d like to believe I can be pretty effective being faced with a decision to make, or vote to make; that I can really weigh all of the facets of it and not let an emotional response take over,” she said. She’s also worked in education, specifically with a non-profit organization called SMILE which is a STEM-based after-school program. Through this program, she has been present in seven school districts in the state. Due to this, she has seen what goes into each school system and how school committees impact outcomes.
“I personally think the School Committee’s been doing a great job and, knowing there’s going to be three vacancies, I felt like the people who are leaving have done their part and we all have to contribute to our community – maybe this is the way I can contribute,” she said.
She said she also feels compelled to serve her community and advocate for all of the kids in the school system during this time of crisis.
“I think what we’ve been facing with COVID has really lifted the curtain for a lot of parents, as far as all the decisions that have to be made for the district,” she said. “Before, you dropped your kid off at school, or they went on the bus and then they came home. This has really put this process and this part of our community in a different light for me.”
For candidates to stay on the ballot, they must pick up their nomination papers by June 30, get 50 signatures and turn them in by July 10. Because there are only three seats up for election, if all five Democratic candidates earn a place on the ballot, there will be a primary in September.
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East Greenwich has become a transient town where it appears that parents of school age children come in with high expectations for their education. I would like to see the statistics for how many families come in and how many leave yearly. How many families actually commit themselves to the growth of the community?