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Editorial: NK School Committee needs to come together

January 6, 2011

When news broke last week that School Committee member Melvoid Benson was going to resign from the North Kingstown Democratic Committee, the first response many had around town wasn’t shock or surprise. Instead, it was a simple shake of the head, an acknowledgment that the move wasn’t completely unexpected given how much in-fighting had occurred both in the School Committee itself and the party as a whole.
And that’s the problem.
In the two months since the November elections brought about wins by Kimberly Page, Joe Thompson, Larry Ceresi and Bill Mudge , this latest incarnation of the NK School Committee has had an abundance of opportunities to come together and put party politics aside but has, instead, let personal animosity and personality conflicts get in the way of their chief objective: serving the people of North Kingstown.
The sad thing is, you saw this coming.
First came rumors of a clash between Benson and Ceresi on Election night. Then there was the backlash over a letter to the editor in the November 25 issue of the Standard Times written by a reader named David Melikan that said the school committee would be a circus. After that, there was the seemingly never-ending process of electing a chairperson and vice chairperson that occurred in the Committee’s first meeting back in December and, now, you have two School Committee members resigning from their own party.
From Day 1, the signs have all been there and have been very clear that the paramount obstacle this committee was going to face, first and foremost, was dealing with each other.
In no uncertain terms, the start this political body has gotten off to has been an embarrassment.
In fact, you’d have to go back pretty far to remember a time when any NK School Committee has spent as much time as this one has in just finding a way to co-exist.
Rhode Island General Law 16-2-9 explains in great detail the “General Powers and Duties of School Committees”. In that law, 25 of the basic tenets of a school committee are defined.
Three of the top four, meanwhile, go on to say that it is a school committee’s job to “identify educational needs in the community”, “develop education policies to meet the needs of the community” and “provide for the evaluation of the performance of the school system.”
If this Committee is having this much trouble dealing with personality issues, how is it suppose to handle the serious matters that come before it over the course of the next two years?
When members can’t even agree to be civil to each other, how will they ever learn to work together to tackle the pressing issues affecting this town on a day-to-day basis?
This is not a matter meant to single out any one person or take any one particular side.
Truth is, it doesn’t matter whether you agree or not with the Democratic Party’s decision to censure Benson.
What we can all agree on is that there’s still plenty of time for this committee’s members to swallow their pride, check their egos at the door and find a way to work together.
And if they can’t? Well, then they are doing a disservice to the people of North Kingstown, the very same people who voted them into office and the very same people who can vote them out.

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