School Committee candidates: Everything is not OK

School Committee candidates: Everything is not OK

NORTH PROVIDENCE – While leaders of the North Providence School Department grapple with the fallout from an untimely and unexpected superintendent search, those vying for positions on the School Committee in the upcoming election say the situation unfolding now is unacceptable.

“Everything will be fine with the district. We are in good hands,” said School Committee Chairman Anthony Marciano, pictured, after accepting the resignation of Supt. Bridget Morisseau in July.

“Everything is not ‘fine,’” said Anthony Mariorenzi Jr., who is running for the at-large seat on the North Providence School Committee presently held by Marciano. Mariorenzi was responding to allegations that Morisseau spent thousands of taxpayer dollars using a school credit card.

Documents previously obtained by The Breeze indicate Morisseau used the card to purchase airline tickets, a trip to a Connecticut spa and other personal expenditures. Her lawyer, David Abbott, said the charges were completely “inadvertent.”

“This is not fair to the taxpayers, teachers and, most importantly, the students,” Mariorenzi said. “What are the criteria for valid purchases of the credit card held by the superintendent? Who else within the school department has a taxpayer-funded credit card? Who is responsible for monitoring credit card statements and approve purchases made on the superintendent’s credit card?”

Members of the School Committee said they did not know about the credit card, which had been taken out by former Finance Director John McNamee, who has since been named school business administrator in Lincoln. The account contained two cards, one for Morisseau and one for McNamee, and has since been closed, according to school officials.

Charles Pollock, who is running for the District 2 seat held by the departing Donald Cataldi, said if elected he would “work diligently to ensure strict financial policies are in place.”

“I believe there should be no credit cards issued to any member of the School Department for any reason,” he added. “I will examine current fiscal polices to ascertain their status and alignment with state law. Such policies should and will exist to make certain there is no future mismanagement of funds.”

He said he would advocate for quarterly audits so that “no financial discrepancies, such as what the superintendent was involved in, will happen on my watch. … We can never allow irresponsible financial actions that have recently occurred to slip through the cracks again.”

Catarina da Silva, who is running against Pollock for the District 2 School Committee seat, said the resignation of the superintendent speaks to a larger issue of administrators leaving the district. Da Silva, who currently serves as principal of a middle school in Fall River, said she was “surprised to see so many vacancies and administrative issues heading into a new school year. Three new principals starting this year alone will be a change for students at such an impressionable age. Whelan, Greystone and Marieville will all see changes at the top as the new school year begins.”

Birchwood Middle School Principal Melissa Goho is also set to leave the district for a job in Lincoln.

Da Silva said the high turnover at the administrative level is “problematic and reflects poorly on the hiring process. Are the most qualified candidates being selected? Are the decisions being made in the best interest of the students and the schools they attend? How does a school district make progress without continuity? We need the people making these decisions for our schools to understand that sustainable transformation takes time.”

Frank Pallotta Jr., running unopposed in District 1, and Arthur Corsini, in District 3, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Comments

Said Kevin Bacon in "Animal House", before the stampede at the Faber College Homecoming parade went amok..

It appears common sense has run amok in North Providence, when a sitting member of the School Committee indicates that all is ok... wow!

Methinks tis time for the madness to end, no accountability, its pathetic. I urge voters to stay tuned and vote accordingly.