From School Committee member Steve Stycos:
MEMORIES OF ED DIPRETE
The Pawtuxet River needs your help. Stop & Shop wants to build a store on the Warwick Nurseries property on Warwick Avenue in Cranston and is trying a back door maneuver to avoid zoning laws. The current zoning code would not allow a large grocery store on the site, so Councilman Richard Santamaria (Ward 5) is proposing to change the definition of the zone to help Stop & Shop.
This maneuver avoids a variance hearing that would require notification of neighbors and a careful examination of the construction plan. Friends of the Pawtuxet is opposed to the Stop & Shop proposal because 1) Our experience with Shawâ€™s is that supermarkets should not be put next to rivers because plastic bags and newspaper flyers blow into the river, 2) We are developing a trail along the river that could be blocked by Stop & Shop, 3) We are concerned about runoff from a big parking lot into the river, 4) Santamariaâ€™s proposal avoids the usual city zoning procedures. No specific plan for the site has been presented. 5) Nothing has been done to address the neighbors concerns.
If you oppose Santamaria’s move, please call members of the Cranston City Council and attend the Cranston City Council meeting Monday January 26 at 7 PM in Cranston City Hall.
CRANSTON SCHOOL BUDGET CUTS
Cranston School Superintendent Richard Scherza proposed a budget for the next school year, indicating major cuts were required to balance the budget under state law.
Starting July 1, 2009, Scherzaâ€™s proposal calls for elimination of the EPIC program, middle school sports, the elementary strings program, Cranston East boys hockey and girls cross country teams, the summer reading program for primary grade students, five technical assistants at the vocational school, an elementary guidance counselor and a social worker.
He also proposes a twenty percent cut in supplies. Major increases are projected for employee step increases and health insurance. Overall, Scherza proposes a budget increase of less than one percent, but because he projects a three percent cut in state aid, a four million increase from the city is required. Mayor Allan Fung, according to School Committee chairman Michael Traficante, has already said he will not be providing $4 million for the schools.
The school committee will now question and amend the budget before it is sent to the mayor and city council. The school committee will hold hearings, with opportunities for public comment, on Wednesday January 28 and Monday February 2 at Western Hills Middle School at 7 PM. We are scheduled to amend and adopt a budget February 9.
Prior the Scherzaâ€™s presentation the school committee approved a new custodial contract which calls for an increase in the employee share of health insurance costs from three percent to ten percent immediately, a two year wage freeze with a three percent increase in 2010-11, elimination of health insurance buy back, twelve percent employee share of health insurance costs for new hires starting in 2010-11, recall of laid off custodians and a no-layoff clause.
This contract is a good step forward. The custodians are now paying twice as much for health insurance as teachers (administrators pay 20 percent.). The teachers and other unions have not been willing to agree to similar agreements. Given the sinking economy, the school committee may not be willing to offer similar deals.
Last night I asked the Superintendent Richard Scherza about the cancellation of school last Thursday and Friday. He said the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency strongly advised school departments to cancel school due to expected wind chill. He was particularly concerned about exposure for low income children who often come to school with only a hooded sweatshirt for protection and children who stand out at bus stops. With hindsight, he agrees school should not have been canceled, but when there is a possible harmful situation, he would rather avoid possible harm to a child and extend school one day in June.
I know snow days are extremely disruptive to working parents, but I am not going to second guess him. We have much more serious education issues to tackle.