Editorial: The discord begins right at the top in this district

Posted 10/28/21

Here we are. Again.

It’s a good thing Bristol Warren Regional School Committee meetings are not entertaining enough for the majority of Bristol Warren students, because the kids should not …

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Editorial: The discord begins right at the top in this district

Posted

Here we are. Again.

It’s a good thing Bristol Warren Regional School Committee meetings are not entertaining enough for the majority of Bristol Warren students, because the kids should not be watching these meetings. There are few lessons to learn there.

Continuing a very tired trend, Monday’s meeting brought another small matter, that became another divisive issue, that ended with another, divisive 5-4 vote. This time, much like the issue of starting the school year on a Jewish high holiday, this one was a fabrication of the school committee.

Members brought outside influences, political leanings and a trunk load of society’s controversial baggage into a decision of whether to allow an outside consultant a chance to teach Bristol Warren teachers. Specifically, there were asked to approve a $7,000 expenditure to allow consultant Simona Simpson-Thomas to lead 10 days of professional development with the Mt. Hope High School faculty.

It seemed like a fairly routine and innocuous decision — allowing the highly respected high school principal and her team to continue a process they’ve been engaged with for several years to improve the ways they teach and prepare their students for success. Except the consultant has an agenda. In defining her career and her background, she passionately advocates for changing systems, and specifically school systems, in ways that empower and lift up minority students of different colors.

To her supporters, she is inspired and inspiring. To some others, she is a giant red flag, with a hidden agenda to infuse “Critical Race Theory” into Mt. Hope classrooms and minds.

Based on that fear, a majority of school committee members — and yes, it’s the same gang of five, Marge McBride, Tara Thibaudeau, Sheila Ellsworth, Karen Cabral and Victor Cabral — voted against allowing her into the district, after an hour of divisive conversation, anxiety, drama and debate. Not that it was even their money to spend or not spend. All of the funding was from an outside donation and a national grant. This would not cost Bristol Warren taxpayers a dime.

Issues like this are passionately divisive throughout society. Facebook groups are waging war over Critical Race Theory and whether, or how, it is incorporated into American classrooms. This group of school committee members obviously decided they did not want it to get any kind of foothold into Mt. Hope High School, so they obstructed this school initiative. And “obstructed” is the key word.

Like it or not, agree or disagree, the leadership of Mt. Hope High School decided this woman — highly educated, highly accomplished — would be an asset to their school community. They felt they could learn from her, make changes in their school, and build in a positive direction.

Instead of trusting their own team, empowering them to move forward, and rewarding their hard work, this school committee stomped on Principal Deb DiBiase and her leadership team. They did not trust what the Mt. Hope faculty would do, some day in the future, once exposed to the teachings of Simona Simpson-Thomas. It must be deflating to all involved.

So these five drew their line in the sand. They made a decision based on philosophy and ideology — but at what cost? Was it really worth it? Does anyone feel good about it the next day?

The outcome was divisive and deflating, approved by a 5-4 vote.

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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.