East Providence School Committee stands firm on timetable for city aid dispersement

Discusses meals payment strategy, updates peanut allergy policy, MMS renovations

By Mike Rego
Posted 12/12/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — The School Committee, following a brief discussion at its December 10 meeting, affirmed its stance on procuring the some $6.5 million in aid money its owed from the …

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East Providence School Committee stands firm on timetable for city aid dispersement

Discusses meals payment strategy, updates peanut allergy policy, MMS renovations

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — The School Committee, following a brief discussion at its December 10 meeting, affirmed its stance on procuring the some $6.5 million in aid money its owed from the city.
Finance Director Craig Enos told the body last week he and Superintendent Kathryn Crowley sat down with Mayor Bob DaSilva and city side Finance Director Malcolm the day prior to the committee meeting. Then, the school administrators reiterated the position of the committee, which voted three weeks earlier at a joint session for it and the City Council to have the money directed into the school account in equal installments over four years.
The city was long in receipt and possession of monies due to the schools from state and federal sources. It would then disperse the cash as needed to the schools. Mr. Moore explained recently the city holding the money allowed it borrow less each year in Tax Anticipatory Notes (TANs), necessary because East Providence’s fiscal year does not match that of the state. However, upon splitting of the city and school accounts approximately two years ago, the school administrators determined the money should be placed in its coffers once and for all.
Mr. Enos said the mayor hesitated on committing to the committee’s timetable, instead instructing Mr. Moore to conduct and fiscal impact statement. One thing the admins did agree upon was a date for the money to be dispersed, in July when the city annually starts receiving tax payments. The meeting of the administrators ended with the intention of getting together again prior to the first School Committee of January 2020.
Ward 2 Committeeman Tony Ferreira balked at the city’s seeming reluctance to turn over the money according to the school side’s wishes.
“(The mayor) ain’t going to get five, six or seven years. We’re not going to discuss this over the next four years,” Mr. Ferreira said. “Let’s put this to bed.”
In attendance last week to discuss another matter, Ward 3 City Councilor Nate Cahoon, who served the previous five-plus years on the committee, said he was of the belief the rest of his colleagues on the council were in agreement with the four-year plan approved by their school counterparts. He said he would put the matter to the council at its next meeting scheduled for December 17.
School meals
Mr. Enos also broached the committee on the topic of payments for school meals, better yet the lack thereof to date in the 2019-20 term.
The director said families in the district began the year with an outstanding balance of $25,000 for meals. That number through the first quarter of the school year has already grown to $47,000.
Mr. Enos said the district has sent out automated emails and a mass conventional mailing to families who owe money, but he suggested the committee consider hiring a collection company to procure the money. He noted Cranston has done something similar and while collections there are relatively flat, it did increase the numbers of applications for the government assisted meals program. If those who can qualify for the aid submit the proper paperwork, then the district would be compensated commensurately.
Allergies update
The committee updated its policy on peanut allergies, allowing parents to determine where their child is allowed to sit during meals.
If a child has a documented allergy by a physician, then they are usually required to sit at a so-called “peanut-free” table. Now, according to the revision, if parents decide their child does not need to sit there, the district will accept a note declining the requirement.
More actions
The committee accepted the recommendations of Director of Technology Ben Russell awarding a three-year contract to replace laptops used by district staff as well as an agreement to upgrade the intercom and safety systems at Riverside Middle School. Mr. Russell said the RMS upgrades will be made by the same company contracted to put in the same system at the new high school.
Mr. Enos recommended a pair of awards eyed for the automotive program at the Career and Tech Center, which were accepted. The first was a for a student training device on climate control features in vehicles and the other was for the purchase of a car wheel alignment machine. Both devices will be paid for through federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act grants.
MMS notes
One other item of note, the committee tabled a proposal to award Ai3, the same architectural firm handling the new EPHS project, a substantial contract to oversee improvements at Martin Middle School. The proposal, at a cost of some $440,000, would have seen the firm come up with comprehensive plans for MMS renovations taking it through Phase 1 and 2 requirements set forth by the Rhode Island Department of Education. The needed improvements at MMS according to a state-backed Jacobs Report issued two years ago are expected to exceed $40 million in total.
Committee members were taken aback by the amount of the Ai3 proposal and wondered if it were responsible use of district dollars considering the money spent would not be reimbursed by the state and the likelihood the city would not have the ability to bond the entire amount of the renovations.
After the meeting, Superintendent Crowley, who said she shared the committee’s concerns, explained the upgrades at Martin would likely be done on a yearly basis through the district’s existing Capital Improvements budgetary line item. The first renovation project at the school, window replacement costing over $1 million, has already been approved. The next likely to be tackled is the HVAC system, which is estimated to cost somewhere between $7 and $10 million.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.