Mary Ellen Winters has served on the School Committee for two terms and is seeking a third. She responded to questions via email:
1. Why are you running again?
I would like to continue the work of the past eight years. We have laid a strong foundation for our students to be successful. We have addressed our physical structures with new and improved school buildings and fields. We have made major IT infrastructure upgrades in all of our buildings. We are constantly looking at programs that will continue to benefit our students.
2. What would you say are your proudest accomplishments while serving on the School Committee?
Serving on the Building and Fields Committees. I worked with a dedicated group of taxpayers who saw the needs of our school community and were committed to working with the School Committee to restore our facilities and fields. We made nightly phone calls to residents and spoke to dozens of community groups to explain why it was so important to the town of EG that the bonds get passed to build Cole Middle School. When the bond did pass, by a two-thirds majority, it was very gratifying.
Most of the members of these groups had older children who would never use these new facilities. That didn’t matter to us. You do it because you are happy to give back to the town you live in and that has educated your children.
I am also proud to have been on the school committees that have forged a more congenial relationship with the town leaders and the council. It’s important that the School Committee and Town Council can work together. We have worked on consolidating and sharing services, which is good for all taxpayers.
3. What would you say are the biggest challenges facing the School Committee in the coming years?
Keeping our schools moving forward is our number one focus. We will be considering a change in school start times, an all day kindergarten program and class size as we move ahead. These are just some of the many issues which could have significant impact on our children’s education in future years.
All of these programs cost dollars that are supported by our taxes. Because we are in East Greenwich we do not receive significant funding from the state or federal programs as others across R.I. do. Our biggest challenge is to find ways to pay for new programs while not cutting others. There are many districts across the state that have cut music, art and athletic programs because of mandates and budget constraints. I am not willing to do that. We speak of a “world-class” education for our children – as far as I am concerned, you cannot have that without athletics, music and the visual and performing arts.
We have an intelligent, thoughtful group of individuals serving on the School Committee now with a collective 32 years of experience and willingness to continue to work through these challenges.
4. Anything you think voters would like to know?
I have happily served the town of East Greenwich for eight years. My family moved to East Greenwich 25 years ago because of the reputation of the schools. My four children were educated here, K-12, many years with 4 children in four different schools. We took advantage of all of the programs that East Greenwich offered.
I think it is important to be involved in the community you live in and I am grateful for having had the opportunity. Being on School Committee is not about one program, it’s about educating all of the children, whether that be our special education population, college prep or those that would like to pursue a trade. It is the School Committee’s job to see that all of our children get the best possible education while being mindful of the costs to the taxpayer.
Mary Ellen Winters was unable to attend the East Greenwich News Candidates Forum Oct. 16. Here is a link to videos from that forum.