School Committee Approves Stage 2 Submission

by | Jan 31, 2024

Vote comes after the Town Council voted to deny the submission Monday

On Wednesday, all seven members of the East Greenwich School Committee voted unanimously to approve the stage 2 plan of the $150 million school construction project and submit it to the Department of Education (RIDE) prior to the Feb. 15 deadline.

The vote comes days after the EG Town Council voted down the same proposal after a recent Declaratory Order Request from Supt. Brian Ricca came to light requesting RIDE give the School Committee “ultimate control” over the school construction project.

If the Town Council does not approve the stage 2 submission by the February deadline, EG will lose out on up to 20 percent in bonus reimbursing funds from RIDE. The next opportunity to submit a stage 2 proposal would be Sept. 15. 

Before taking the vote, School Committee Vice Chair Nicole Bucka asked questions about the equity between an addition and renovation at Hanaford and a new build at Frenchtown. “I don’t want to see any haves and have-nots,” she said.

As previously reported, Bob Wilmarth, director of facilities,said, “Almost all of Hanaford gets knocked down” under the current understanding of the project, which could result in an almost newly built Hanaford on its existing site. 

Tim Munoz, School Committee and School Building Committee member addressed the question of equity among elementary schools when he said, “I think the move from stage 2 to stage 3 is where equity moves from desire and a high-level concept to very, very specific things.” 

Osterman reminded the group that the stage 2 proposal is not meant to provide final schematics or placements of buildings. Rather, this proposal would include a list of projects that RIDE would review and inform the town if they would likely be reimbursable. 

Some of the projects and aspects of these projects in the stage 2 submission are unrelated to the $150 million school construction plan (including repairs), which could potentially push the dollar amount above what the voters agreed to bond for. The additional projects being included in stage 2 but not the $150 million construction project would allow the School Committee to know if RIDE would be willing to reimburse other projects in the future.

Town Councilor Mike Donegan raised a concern via Zoom at Wednesday’s meeting that the “current estimates” might not “line up with the $150 [million]” project. Donegan asked for the “actual numbers.”

While Osterman admitted he did not “have that analysis complete yet,” he said, “It is very normal to receive estimates back and review them and need to modify things.” He explained to the committee that “we will need to work with the estimator and the architect very diligently over the next couple of weeks to make specific changes to the inputs on the estimates that don’t affect your ability to actually deliver the project.”

School Committee Chair and Co-Chair of the School Building Committee Alyson Powell asked Osterman if it was “irresponsible” for the committee to vote on the stage 2 proposal submission without “an exact number of the final cost estimates.” 

“I think ultimately you’re voting on the idea in which you want to invest $150 million dollars in teaching and learning and receive RIDE support for that,” Osterman said. “And you’re doing it now in this kind of expedient way because if you wait a little longer to continue studies you immediately lose 20 percent of state funds.” 

The School Building Committee meets next on Thursday (Feb. 1) at 8 a.m. at the Swift Community Center. 

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February 1, 2024 7:02 am

“If the Town Council does not approve the stage 2 submission by the February deadline, EG will lose out on up to 20 percent in bonus reimbursing funds from RIDE.” — is voting this proposal down just sour grapes from the Town Council? Seems very fiscally irresponsible and will end up shortchanging the kids if millions in reimbursements from the state are lost. Or am I missing something???

Catherine Rodgers
Catherine Rodgers
February 1, 2024 9:12 am

Missing from the article is Mr. Carney’s request that each School Committee member state whether they knew about Dr. Ricca’s letter to RIDE before it was sent (since the article about this topic has some contradictions about this). He also asked each SC member to state whether they agree with it now. This caused Ms. Powell to become visibly upset, and the matter was not addressed due to OMA. The topic was not on the agenda. Mr. Carney then asked when the topic could be discussed, and Ms. Powell stated that it may be discussed in the next executive session. Of course, the public has a right to know these answers, and I encourage the SC to add this to the next agenda for public comment.

February 1, 2024 12:22 pm

Not sure what this has to do with the meeting agenda here. The agenda item was to vote to approve stage 2 submission. Your comment seems like it just to get an argument going. The question should be on whether you want to build the schools or not. You are more focused on division and not the children.

Catherine Rodgers
Catherine Rodgers
February 1, 2024 4:49 pm
Reply to  EGResident

I was explaining why the important topic of transparency could not be addressed on this occasion. While I have faith that both elected bodies are seeking a resolution, my concern is the public’s right to know where our elected leaders stand. I am also interested in readers who could not attend another meeting during the workday knowing everything that happened. If those things are not important to you, that is fine. They are important to me, as are our schools and our children.

Clare Cecil Karb
Clare Cecil Karb
February 1, 2024 7:49 pm

It can be a point of frustration – the OMA-because to protect everyone it requires that the SC submit advanced notification of the topics that will be discussed.

And that’s to ensure that everyone in the community gets a chance to hear and be heard.

But that (valuable!) law also means that SC members can’t respond to questions or comments about things that aren’t on the noticed agenda.

And not responding sometimes makes it feel like the SC is being unresponsive or withholding.

I’m NOT representing the EGSC or any other authority here – and this wouldn’t be the right place to discuss any specifics about our town- but I know that it can be frustrating to ask a question and get no answer and it seems right to acknowledge that.

Catherine Rodgers
Catherine Rodgers
February 1, 2024 10:22 pm

I don’t have a problem with the OMA. It should be discussed at the next opportunity after it is added to the agenda. Would you please ask that it be on the agenda, Ms. Cecil-Karb? Thank you.

Chris Lamendola
Chris Lamendola
February 2, 2024 12:52 pm
Reply to  EGResident

EG Resident, if you can’t see the elephant in the room, come on, talk about deflection. The Town Council was ready to vote for Stage 2 of the project when the SC and Ricca tried to back door the TC by sending a Declaratory Order letter to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) to take total control of the $150M bond without even notifying the TC. All the SC members claim the Sgt Schultz syndrome. You don’t think that’s a BIG DEAL? What subordinate send such a controversial letter without the whole SC knowing? Really? Talk about division, from which side? No reasonable person would move forward on spending $150M of taxpayer’s money until knowing what and who will control the project. We will just “wing it” doesn’t cut it. It’s the taxpayer’s money they are spending! The TC already passed the “Bond Act” and nearly a peep from any SC members or the public! If it was so important, why didn’t you speak up?

Well, I think it’s a big deal and have filed an APRA for all pertinent information surrounding these actions by the Supt and SC. Don’t you want to hear from each SC member, what they knew and when? Don’t we as the “public and taxpayers” have a right to know who knew what and when? Was SC business being done outside the OMA? Why was this done NOW?  Where is the talk about collaboration, transparency, honesty and integrity. Hopefully we ALL get to find out! I hope you will support finding out! ……so much of the needed infrastructure can move forward!

Christian Hartman
Christian Hartman
February 2, 2024 7:45 am

Who is Mr. Carney? Is he involved with this bond decision?

Catherine Rodgers
Catherine Rodgers
February 2, 2024 9:38 am

Peter Carney is an active participant in the School Improvement Team and an applicant for the Facilities Committee. He ran for School Committee and continues to advocate for transparency.

Christian Hartman
Christian Hartman
February 2, 2024 10:12 am

I see it now…he’s one of the three parents appointed to the team. Does the entire team have a position statement vs an individual team member? I only know the parents in my kids circles so I’ve never met this parent.

February 2, 2024 5:58 pm

I believe Peter Carney is the guy who ran twice for the school committee and lost both times. And he’s the one who refused to debate his opponent, so it’s a big stretch for anyone to say he advocates for transparency. Since then, the only times I’ve seen his name are when he’s instigating or complaining. Feels to me that it’s sour grapes since he lost, so he’s always gunning for the current elected officials.

Peter Carney
Peter Carney
February 3, 2024 11:25 am
Reply to  Chris

What’s your full name “Chris”?…impressive to throw stones anonymously. I attach my name to every concern I’ve raised … all of which are done in public at SC or TC meetings, or directly with elected officials by phone call or text, before I share concerns on social media. And so you have your history correct, I took part in the election “debate” / forum in Fall 2022, but did not in special election forum Fall 2021. Chalk that up to a rookie mistake.


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