By ANGELENA CHAPMAN
Special to the Standard
After the polls had closed in both Exeter and West Greenwich on Tuesday night, it was clear that the Exeter-West Greenwich Regional School Committee would see no changes this election. The two incumbents up for reelection, a Democrat and an Independent, both kept their seats despite a challenge from a Republican newcomer.
Independent Mark G. Rafanelli, the current vice-chairperson of the school committee, was the high vote getter in Exeter with nearly 40 percent of the vote. Democrat Valerie J. Zuercher got over 30 percent of the vote. Republican Constance A. Hathaway was not able to get a seat on the committee, receiving just under 30 percent of the vote in Exeter.
With just a handful of write-in votes in West Greenwich, meanwhile, incumbent Republican Lee K. Kissinger kept his seat as expected.
“I’m excited about the fact that what I learned in the first four years I can really start to apply now,” Rafanelli said after the results of the election were posted.
“I can drive some of the issues,” Rafanelli said, adding that “sustainable technology for the students,” would be a priority of his for the next term.
Rafanelli said he is looking forward to being able to “track and maintain the budget,” and said the school committee has to provide “something that’s manageable for the towns,” that also “gives the students what they need.”
Rafanelli remarked that he’d like to see more participation at school committee meeting and talked about being prepared for the new test assessments.
His goal is that parents know that there are “some new things happening,” and that those parents show their support for the schools, especially in volunteering when possible.
“The more people, the more ideas, the more we can progress,” he said.
Rafanelli feels the current committee has shown itself to be a “good team”, even if it doesn’t always agree on every issue.
“We have good diversity, different strengths,” Rafanelli said. “It keeps everyone very focused, but with enough different points of view that we can cover the bases that are required.”
While Rafanelli does not anticipate any reorganization on the committee at this point, he said it may be considered at the end of the year.
“This is an opportunity for us to really make sure the students have the backing of the community and that we prepare them for the future,” he said.
Zuercher, meanwhile, wasted no time turning her focus to the upcoming budget season.
“That will monopolize our time from now until March,” she said. “Again, the economic times are not good [but] we have been able to keep a level budget for four years and maintain all the services we have without increases.”
Zuercher said she would like to see more people at the individual budget hearings the school committee has as they prepare the budget each year. If they attend, she believes people “would understand why the budget we propose is needed and why we should vote for it.”
“I do think the current school committee works very good together,” Zuercher added, “We don’t always agree, but everyone on the school committee, I believe, has the best interests of the kids and is very mindful of the economic situation. We have a great committee right now.”
Zuercher’s goal is simple.
“We are going to remain a high achieving school district,” she said. “And that will be because I think our community wants that.”
Prior to Tuesday’s election, Kissinger said one of the most important tasks for the committee going forward it maintaining a “balance between the needs of the taxpayer and the needs of the school district.”
Kissinger, Zuercher and Rafanelli rejoin West Greenwich representatives Teri Maia-Cicero and Claudine Pande and Exeter’s Paul McFadden and Theresa Donovan on a committee that features three Republicans, three Independents and a Democrat.
The Exeter-West Greenwich Regional School Committee will be back in session this Tuesday night at 6 p.m. in the high school library.