From the Superintendent: Everyone Is Welcome

by | Mar 9, 2024

By Brian G. Ricca, Ed.D.

February 26 through March 1 was designated Public Schools Week. On the heels of the National Conference on Education, sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), I reflected on what that meant in East Greenwich Public Schools. I was proud of the many things that came to mind. Some of the highlights: 

  • Five of the six schools in EGPS are designated as five-star schools. The sixth earned a fourth star, up from the previous year. 
  • We are one of the few communities in Rhode Island that are seeing both steady (if not increasing) enrollment in the schools, as well as steady (if not increasing) community growth in the town itself. 
  • By an almost 70 percent margin, the community supported an investment of state and local dollars to breathe new life into buildings for the future of education in our community. 

An investment in public education is an investment in the infrastructure of the town itself. We work together, hand in hand. While not always perfect, it works for East Greenwich. What’s good for the schools is good for the town. What’s good for the town is good for the schools. 

As I thought more about it, the beauty and gift of public schools is that everyone is welcome, regardless of who you are. Regardless of how much your family earns at the end of the year. Regardless of any of the labels that we are fond of using to distinguish one person from another. 

When I graduated from the College of the Holy Cross, I was gifted a book by Marian Wright Edelman. Ms. Edelman, a graduate of Yale Law School in 1963, founded the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973. Her entire life has been in advocacy of children, regardless of any of the means we have tried to use to classify them. However, as someone who was involved in the Civil Rights movement, clearly, Ms. Edelman has a soft spot in her heart for children of color, children who live in poverty, and children with disabilities. I still have this book on my shelf. 

From the book Guide My Feet comes what I believe is the heart of and the mission of public schools in the United States and East Greenwich. This is from a prayer by Ina J. Hughes and encompasses the title of the EGPS Strategic Plan, All Means All. I have framed it for all the employees of the East Greenwich Public Schools as follows: 

As the humans who work in EGPS, we take responsibility for children: 

  • Who sneak popsicles before supper, 
  • Who erase holes in math workbooks, 
  • Who can never find their shoes. 

And we take responsibility for children: 

  • Who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire, 
  • Who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers, 
  • Who never “counted potatoes,” 
  • Who are born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead in, 
  • Who never go to the circus, 
  • Who live in an X-rated world. 

As the humans who work in EGPS, we take responsibility for children: 

  • Who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions, 
  • Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money. 

And we take responsibility for children: 

  • Who never get dessert, 
  • Who have no safe blankets to drag behind them, 
  • Who watch their parents watch them die, 
  • Who can’t find any bread to steal, 
  • Who don’t have any rooms to clean up, 
  • Whose pictures are not on anybody’s dresser, 
  • Whose monsters are real. 

As the humans who work in EGPS, we take responsibility for children: 

  • Who spend all their allowance before Tuesday, 
  • Who throw tantrums at grocery stores and pick at their food, 
  • Who like ghost stories, 
  • Who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub, 
  • Who get visits from the tooth fairy, 
  • Who don’t like to get kissed before drop-off, 
  • Who squirm in church or temple, and scream into the phone, 
  • Whose tears we sometimes laugh at, and 
  • Whose smiles can make us cry

And we take responsibility for children: 

  • Whose nightmares come in the daytime, 
  • Who will eat anything, 
  • Who have never seen a dentist, 
  • Who aren’t spoiled by anybody, 
  • Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep, 
  • Who live and move but have no being, 

As the humans who work in EGPS, we take responsibility for children: 

  • Who want to be carried, 
  • And for those who must. 
  • For those we never give up on, 
  • And for those who don’t get a second chance. 
  • For those we smother, 
  • And for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it. 

The Leadership Team in EGPS can point to a child (or, in some cases, multiple children) that fits every single point that Ms. Hughes raises. There are children who come to school in EGPS for whom our schools are where their only consistent meals will be. For some of our students, this is the place where they feel safe and free from the harm of physical trauma. For some of our students, one of our six schools is the only place where they feel seen. 

We have more than 2,500 students enrolled in our district, with more than 250 educators working diligently to ensure they learn to their potential and have the courage to make mistakes along the way. We turn no one away. If you live in East Greenwich, we would love to have you as a part of our PK-12 educational community. All of our employees promise to make you feel safe, welcomed, and included in our buildings, no matter who you are. 

Because we are your public school. 

Brian G. Ricca, Ed.D., is the superintendent of East Greenwich Public Schools.

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