East Providence School Committee approves architects for Martin renovations

Council members express support for district’s initial FY19-20 budget request

By Mike Rego
Posted 10/9/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — The School Committee at its meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 8, approved the architectural firm of Ai3 recommended by the administration to begin the process of redesigning the …

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East Providence School Committee approves architects for Martin renovations

Council members express support for district’s initial FY19-20 budget request


EAST PROVIDENCE — The School Committee at its meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 8, approved the architectural firm of Ai3 recommended by the administration to begin the process of redesigning the learning areas inside Martin Middle School.
The move is the first in a years-long series of upgrades deemed necessary at Martin by the Rhode Island Department of Education in a report it commissioned from the Jacobs Group, reviewing the viability of all buildings throughout the state.
In addition, the committee also backed a proposal associated with window replacement at MMS. Because the project will cost over $1.5 million, RIDE requires districts to hire an outside firm to oversee construction. City-based Peregrine Group, which is like Ai3 performing similar duties for the new East Providence High School build, was approved as the district’s project manager.
Due to some ongoing deliberations about the scope of the effort there, the committee opted to table briefly a corresponding item to replace the windows at Riverside Middle School.
District Finance Director Craig Enos told the committee the administration was still “working out the details” of the RMS portion of the project with Peregrine, but he expected it to be ready for consideration at the body’s next meeting scheduled for October 22.
ALICE presentation
District Human Resources Director Cheryl Mammone presented the committee with a review of recent ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) safety training undertaken by employees.
The training has become commonplace in recent years because of the alarming rise in the number of active-shooter terror acts across the country, especially at schools and places of worship. Participants were presented with demonstrations and a variety of other instructions on how to react to potential situations, providing them with multiple possible responses.
“I think most of the people like the idea that it felt like you had options,” Mrs. Mammone said.
Crowley award
Superintendent Crowley has had quite the run of accolades recently, having been named as the Rhode Island Superintendents Association administrator of the year and also having received the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council’s local service award winner.
Mrs. Crowley was presented the latter award at a dinner on October 7. The next night at the committee meeting, RISA representatives appeared to present her their award in a community ceremony.
“I’m incredibly honored to receive this award,” Mrs. Crowley told the audience of residents and district staff. “First and foremost I have to say I am not accepting this award alone. Rather, I’m accepting this award on behalf of an outstanding team from the East Providence School Department.
“I am grateful to be recognized by my peers, but we all know a superintendent can succeed only if she is surrounded by a top-notch team.”
Mrs. Crowley went on to note the aid she has received from assistant supers Sandra Forand and Celeste Bowler, her entire central administration contingent, building principals and staffs, teachers and residents.
Budget support
City Council president Bobby Britto, At-Large member Bob Rodericks and Ward 3 representative Nate Cahoon each appeared before the committee to acknowledge their support of the district’s Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget, which Mayor Bob DaSilva is attempting to alter.
Mr. DaSilva proposed moving $950,000 from the schools’ capital budget and place it into a line item designated to pay down debt associated with the construction of the new East Providence High School. Superintendent Crowley and Mr. Enos vehemently opposed the change, saying it would hinder their ability to meet the district’s financial needs and obligations in the next fiscal year.
The council, at a previous meeting of its own, unanimously backed a resolution authored by Mr. Cahoon calling for the return of the monies to the district’s initial proposal.
And as a means of reiterating its stance, the committee, likewise in a 5-0 count, once again proclaimed its support of the district’s initial FY19-20 budget request via a confirmatory vote.
State reimbursement
Mr. Cahoon also discussed the recent discovery during the city’s annual audit by an outside accounting firm of as a much as $6.5 million in state reimbursement monies earmarked for the district being held in the city’s coffers.
Mr. Cahoon said the council has yet to receive documentation explaining the matter and suggested all interested parties await the formal findings of the audit before taking up the situation in any more detail.
Committee chairman Charlie Tsonos applauded the efforts of the council, saying he appreciated its forthrightness in acknowledging the money is the district’s. He also reminded the audience all state and federal allocations for the schools go through the city first, not directly to the district.
Mr. Cahoon suggested upon receiving the audit, the council and the committee hold a joint meeting to review the matter.
“I think that would be helpful in figuring out, first of all, how that happened and how to keep it from happening in the future,” Mr. Cahoon added.
The discovery of the money was one of the factors Mayor DaSilva used in deciding to trim the near million dollars from the School Department’s budget.
“May I just say that Craig (Enos) and I wrote a letter to the mayor and CCd (city Finance Director) Malcolm (Moore) right after our last meeting requesting the $6.5 million and we did not receive a response,” Superintendent Crowley said.
Facilities update
Facilities Director Tony Feola informed the committee district representatives were scheduled to meet with their counterparts from RIDE last week to finalize plans to redesign entryways at Whiteknact Elementary and RMS entry ways. Similar discussions are also being held address access points at the Francis, Orlo, Kent Heights elementary buildings as well as Martin.

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