These four can get Portsmouth schools back on track

To the editor,

Why did you choose to settle in Portsmouth?  Many people have a simple answer to that question: for the schools.

Have you noticed that there is quite a bit of literary and political license being taken by the unendorsed School Committee candidates Angela Volpicelli and Marilyn King? Let’s look at their claims and then the actual facts.

I know the voters of Portsmouth have already figured this out but for the record let me state that it is impossible to end up with an overage of almost $2 million, as claimed by the unendorsed candidates. Let’s look at this more closely: They claim that by tweaking curricula and maximizing classes they were able to save all that money.  We would have to cut approximately 30 teachers to reach $1.5 million in savings. Not only that, but the School Committee has absolutely no role in curriculum development as the School Committee charge is to set policy. The truth is that the money that was “saved” came almost exclusively from the residual savings that should be directly attributed to the very difficult decision made by the previous committee, that decision being the closing of Elmhurst school which Angela and Marilyn voted against but are happy to take the credit.

As you know, we have not yet bottomed out from the state funding formula reduction. I naively thought that the School Department would be allowed to keep some funds to prepare for the funding cliff instead of handing it over to solve the town-side’s issues. I would have liked to have seen the School Committee replace some of the programs that have been reduced or eliminated with that savings. Also, reduction of class size would have been a good move.

Next, let’s look at the claim that Portsmouth continues its status as a high performing or the new equivalent of high performing. Remember the frequent praise over the years from all over the state and region for our individual students, and all of those high performing school designations we used to receive.  In contrast, we are now being listed by RIDE as only making “adequate progress”. Here’s another indication that our system is in deep trouble: I call it the “brain drain” and by that I mean how in the recent past we have lost the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and two financial directors (three if you count the one we hired who just turned the job down). At the High School we lost two assistant Principals, plus the athletic director. We have also lost a Middle School vice principal and a Melville principal, not to mention the many experienced teachers fleeing the system. I think this is indicative of a school system with very poor leadership at the elected level.

The candidates brought forward by the Democratic Town Committee are certainly poised and ready to right this ship. First, we have Terri Cortvriend who has four years of School Committee experience, including years as clerk.  She successfully took on the task of finalizing the funding of the new gym. Emily Copeland and John Wojichowski both have extensive personal and professional qualifications and have many years and countless hours of volunteering for our system  working closely with our staff. Volunteers have really been the unsung heroes of our schools. Without them, field trips, basic supplies, and even some major items would be even more difficult to provide. Last but not least, Andrew Kelly brings a uniquely important perspective as one of our own PHS graduates. He has been a student leader, a dedicated volunteer, and an active participant in the political process serving on many committees and associations to keep Portsmouth a town he and the other endorsed candidates are proud to call home.

Please vote for our endorsed Democratic candidates on Primary Day, Sept 11, and get our school system back on track.

Marjorie Levesque

Portsmouth

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