EAST PROVIDENCE — At its meeting Thursday, July 26, in Room 306 of City Hall, the East Providence Budget Commission adopted a resolution which would grant a soon-to-be confirmed sub-committee the authority to select and appoint an interim school superintendent to replace the departing Edward Daft.
Diane Brennan, the new Budget Commission chairman, Charlie Tsonos, the current School Committee chairman, and an as of yet named designee from the Rhode Island Department of Education will serve on the sub-committee. In short order, the trio is tasked to find a replacement for Mr. Daft, who is leaving his current position for a job in the Barrington system as the assistant high school principal.
“I am trying to keep things simple so we can hit the ground running,” Mrs. Brennan said, recognizing the matter’s urgent nature. “We’re looking for someone who is competent, has the fiscal knowledge and an understanding of the community.”
Mr. Tsonos is on record as having reached out to potential qualified candidates in the area. One highly-regarded person Mr. Tsonos spoke with expressed an interest and desire to take the position. In addition, John Pini, Executive Director of the Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association, has already submitted a lengthy list of other suitable names.
“We’re looking to get a new interim superintendent in the city as soon as possible,” Mrs. Brennan added.
She continued, “It’s very crucial we get started on that process. There are a number of items that need to be looked at on the school side. There are a number of changes implemented by the Budget Commission that need to be addressed. As soon as possible, we need to look at a pool of candidates, likely retired superintendents, who are familiar with the system and know state law while at the same time are able to respond to the citizens of East Providence.”
The resolution did not gain a consensus without some dissent. Bruce Rogers, the City Council’s representative on the Budget Commission, requested he represent the commission on the sub-committee. Mrs. Brennan, respectfully though forcefully, rejected Mr. Rogers’ suggestion out of hand, saying it was her responsibility as the chairman to be the commission’s representative.
The new sub-committee is expected to act aggressively with Mr. Daft’s last official day on the job reportedly being Thursday, Aug. 2.
More school notes
A resolution submitted by Mr. Daft and Interim Human Resources Director Heather Martino giving one or the other the authority to fill openings in the School Department over the next six weeks was granted, once again after some discussion.
With Mr. Daft’s imminent departure and in lieu of a replacement, Ms. Martino was seeking the ability to continue the process of replacing those positions within the school system that are mandated by law or contract.
Mr. Rogers, at one point, said he trusted Ms. Martino but wanted to make sure she or the interim superintendent didn’t “sneak” any hires by the commission. That comment drew the ire of Mr. Daft, who said he “resented” the implication of Mr. Rogers’ remark and that the commission had already given its approval to fill the positions in question. Mr. Rogers snidely responded to Mr. Daft, “you’re leaving anyway,” and the subject was eventually closed.
Shared services update
Commission member and City Manager Peter Graczykowski updated his cohorts on the progress of the Shared Municipal Services Task Force upon which he sits as East Providence’s representative.
Mr. Graczykowski said the first opportunity for the so-called “distressed” cities of East Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls to likely find some shared savings is in recycling. Preliminary analysis shows by going to an every-other week pickup schedule, the cities can use the same vendor and reduce their costs. Another potential area of savings could come in consolidating the purchasing departments of the three cities.
Of note as well, Mr. Graczykowski said the ratings agencies have already expressed their approval of Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s executive order creating the task force. Sharing of services, they said, would be seen as credit positive for East Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls.
The next meeting of the Shared Municipal Services Task Force takes place Aug. 16 at 2 p.m. at Central Falls City Hall.
The commission gave East Providence Fire Chief Joseph Klucznik, Mr. Graczykowski and acting Finance Director John Cimino the ability to send out a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking to replace three of the department’s most aged Advanced Life Support Rescue vehicles.
The RFP comes at no cost to the city. It allows Chief Klucznik the chance to work on the specifications and requirements of the vehicles with Fleet Manager Bill McMahon and EPFD Director of Emergency Services John Potvin.
Chief Klucznik said, start to finish, the best-case scenario would see the vehicles delivered to the department by this time next year.
Each vehicle comes at a cost of roughly $250,000. Federal grants are being sought to offset the price tag. There’s a chance the rescues could cost the city only about 10 percent of the total expense or approximately $25,000 apiece if the EPFD receives the maximum amount of grant dollars available.
Thursday’s meeting was the first run by Mrs. Brennan as chairman. As she had during her previous time on the commission, Mrs. Brennan showed an erudite, calm and commanding demeanor in her initial effort.
Former chair Michael O’Keefe ran the last gathering, July 12, in Mrs. Brennan’s absence.
The next Budget Commission meeting takes place Thursday, Aug. 9, at 3 p.m. in Room 306 at City Hall.