Forand's contract extension as EP super kicks in after motion fails

Committee doesn't move on matter, meaning superintendent gets year added to current deal

By Mike Rego
Posted 6/18/24

EAST PROVIDENCE — A special session of the East Providence School Committee, a considerably lengthier one by the body's most regular measures, was held in the high school auditorium Tuesday …

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Forand's contract extension as EP super kicks in after motion fails

Committee doesn't move on matter, meaning superintendent gets year added to current deal


EAST PROVIDENCE — A special session of the East Providence School Committee, a considerably lengthier one by the body's most regular measures, was held in the high school auditorium Tuesday night, June 18, to discuss and potentially approve nearly two dozen contracts of the district's top administrators, including an extension for Superintendent Dr. Sandra Forand.

For background, Forand just completed the second year of a three-year pact to fill the position, which she assumed from former super Kathryn Crowley as of July of 2022 after the latter announced her retirement from the post.

Forand, as did Crowley, has a roll-over extension clause in her agreement. If she is not formally notified by the Committee in writing prior to the end of her second year, in this case June 30, 2024, an additional year would be added to her deal, taking her through the 2025-26 term.

The community, especially on social media, was stirred when Tuesday night's agenda was published on the Secretary of State's site as well as that of the district on Friday morning, July 14.

The item which wound up supporters of Forand was the last of 21 proposed actionable matters during Tuesday's meeting: "Consider & Vote to Inform Superintendent of Intent Not to Extend Contract."

The matter also made public a previously low-key split among the district teachers and their union leadership. Several instructors either showed their support of Forand in person Tuesday or sent letters backing the superintendent.

The Committee spent some three hours in executive session, an inordinate amount of time by its usual standard, presumably talking about the contractual issues. Not once did any of the members emerge from a meeting room off the foyer of the high school near the main offices to update those in attendance.

Forand was part of those discussions for a period of time. When she emerged into the auditorium, she was greeted by a hearty cheer from the approximately 40 people in the audience, again an unusual amount of people in attendance for a Committee meeting, many of whom were staff mixed in with interested residents.

Out of the executive session, Ward 4 member Jessica Beauchaine made a motion to move up the Forand item, the last of 21 on the docket, to be decided immediately.

Upon approval by the body, Committee Chair and Ward 3 member Jenni Furtado requested a motion on the super's contract. She eventually asked three times without any response, which meant the item failed and that another year, in fact, would be added to Forand's agreement.

Knowing the impact of the failure to move a motion, the crowd erupted into an even greater round of applause than it had earlier.

One person shouted to the Committee, "Thank you for doing the right thing."

The lack of a vote did not prevent members of the audience from railing against the possible non-renewal of the super's contract as well as that of the 20 others up for discussion.

Those contracts the Committee considered included Forand's top central office aides like Director of Teaching & Learning Lindsey Reilly, Finance Director Craig Enos, Special Needs Director Leslie Anderson, Operations Director Diana Clarkin, Facilities Director Chris Murphy, Human Resources Director Mark Williamson and Administrative Assistant Sharon Corsi.

Other key central office staff with contracts up for renewal were Danny Carpenter, Emily Dias, Jeremy Deossa, Sandy Farias-Borges, Yanaiza Gallant, Michael Hubert, John Iemma, Patrick Irwin, Steven Laughlin, Cristina Lyman, Patrick McDonald, Jamie McKenzie, Mason Santos and Mark Williamson.

Among those who spoke publicly was EPHS Principal Bill Black, who asked the Committee to consider the need to maintain "consistency" among the top administrative staff members.

He likened the group to a family, which he noted is a close-knit unit that works together intimately on a daily basis. He concluded his comments with the following, "Please do what's right tonight and keep this team together."

After the public speakers were finished, various members of the Committee made motions for most of the contracts to be renewed, which all but two — those of Murphy and Williamson — were approved by unanimous 5-0 votes.

Williamson's renewal did receive the backing of the majority, however with one dissenting vote by Beauchaine, who did so without explanation.

Going into the meeting Murphy's contract renewal was expected to be the most contentious — He had allegedly run afoul of members of the custodial union as well as the teachers bargaining unit — and it proved to be correct.

No motion was moved on approving Murphy's deal, leaving his status in limbo, at the least, and likely out of a job, in the end.

Like with Williamson, and all the others for that matter, there was no public discussion by the Committee on the Murphy decision. The body soon after voted to adjourn, bringing the session to a close.

Following the meeting, which concluded after some three hours and 45 minutes, Forand said of the night's proceedings, "Our focus needs to remain on doing what best for the students in the district. I'm committed to doing that. My team is committed to doing that.

"We just need to make sure we're all going in the same direction. We need to concentrate on providing the best possible education we can, to support our students and families to the best of our abilities."

Of nearly all of her group receiving renewals, she added, "We have a great staff. We really do. The administrators, the teachers, the support staff, we just all need to keep working together to provide what's best for our students."

(Forand did decline to comment when asked specifically about Murphy's status. His last official day on the job at the moment remains June 30, 2024.)

Some of the public speakers suggested Forand would not be blamed for taking offense at the manner by which the Committee went about dealing with her situation and could possibly look elsewhere for future employ. The superintendent, though, said she pretty much took it in stride.

"I'm committed to this district. I always have been," said Forand, who has spent the majority of her over two-decade career in education in East Providence either as a building or central office administrator. She also spent a brief period in between a couple stints here working for the Rhode Island Department of Education.

"This is my home. I've lived in this city my whole life. Again, I've always been committed to this district. And I'm going to continue to be."

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.