Ahead of the curve, North Providence hosts rally on statewide school bond question

Ahead of the curve, North Providence hosts rally on statewide school bond question

In North Providence last week, Gov. Gina Raimondo rallies in support of the statewide school bond question on the Nov. 6 ballot. (Breeze photos by Nicole Dotzenrod)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Though the town is one of a handful of local communities without a local school spending question on the ballot Nov. 6, it is being held up as an example of what could be if voters approve $250 million in borrowing for facilities.

State and local officials gathered at the site of the future Stephen Olney Elementary School on Douglas Avenue last Thursday, Oct. 25 for a rally in support of Question 1, hosted by “Fix Our Schools.” At the construction site, Gov. Gina Raimondo implored Rhode Islanders to “vote yes on one.”

Raimondo, along with Mayor Charles Lombardi, noted that North Providence is “ahead of the curve” on improving school facilities, which the governor said will pay off for teachers, students and families in North Providence when the town’s two new elementary school projects are complete next year.

Lombardi said he calls the construction “Project 75” because it received 75 percent taxpayer approval for a $75 million bond, and because the mayor earned almost 75 percent of the vote that election.

“The result is what you see in back of me,” he said, pointing to the two-story, “state-of-the-art” school rising up from the dust of an outdated facility that was razed last summer. “Thank you to Fix Our Schools for choosing to come to North Providence so we can impress upon all of our state voters to support the $250 million school bond on Nov. 6, which is the best choice for our state’s future and the future of education here in Rhode Island.”

Janine Napolitano, principal at Olney for the past five years and a Milken Educator, said the elementary school projects are a “symbol of the community’s commitment to the children,” and that by supporting the statewide bond, voters would be making a commitment to education in Rhode Island.

“How can we expect students and teachers to meet rigorous standards under deplorable conditions?” she asked, adding that she has lost sleep some nights worrying about the day after a rain or snow storm because of the poor condition of the roof. “Do we have enough buckets to catch the leaks? All educators and students deserve better,” she said.

Also speaking at the rally, General Treasurer and former educator Seth Magaziner said he’s worked in a public school building that was falling apart, seeing the impact it had on the ability of teachers to teach and young people to learn.

Raimondo said students across the state deserve the opportunity to be educated in an environment that’s “warm, safe and dry.” She noted that Massachusetts residents have seen seven statewide bonds in the past 10 years, while this would be Rhode Island’s first one in 25 years.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, who attended McGuire Elementary School as a child, said “Question 1 is Question 1 for a reason.”

“A quality education is transformative for students,” he said. “We have schools that are over six decades old … we’re trying to get into the 21st century.”

Stephen Olney Elementary School principal Janine Napolitano, left, shakes hands with Gov. Gina Raimondo at a rally for ballot Question One last week.