I have served on the North Smithfield School Committee for six years. Our meeting in August became infamous based on the behavior of a small collection of people who tried to cajole the committee – and other audience members – into ignoring science and the safety of our students.

The School Committee heard everyone out, let everyone speak, and in the end made what I believe was the right decision to support a mask mandate in our schools. The overall rationale was and is to prevent school lockdowns, keep students safe, and try to get as close to normal as we could.

I hoped that would be the end of it, but the last Town Council meeting featured a bizarre detour. Councilor Corriveau hijacked the agenda with propaganda-driven fear mongering, and the entire affair was an embarrassment for our council and our town.

To say the councilor’s insinuations were out of line is an understatement. School Committee meetings are open to all, and even when things get heated or intense we stand by the unified conviction that everyone deserves to be heard. By pretending things are otherwise, and by suggesting the NSSC cut itself off from valuable state resources, presents evidence of misplaced priorities and a deep misunderstanding of our local government.

This seems driven by one person’s bitterness over the School Committee’s decision in August, and that person’s willingness to misuse his office to create division and throw aspersions on our local government institutions.

This is not just my concern. Although I am a member of the School Committee I am also the chair of the North Smithfield Democrats, and as one body we stand disappointed by the actions of Councilor Corriveau. We condemn this resolution, and appreciate the councilors who spoke out against it.

Vaccines are widely available, and have recently become so for children as young as 5. Our students are proving resilient, and there is – finally – a light at the end of the COVID tunnel. We need to put aside these willful attempts at replicating the same division we see at the national level and focus on real problems facing North Smithfield.

Paul Jones

N.S. School Committee; Chair, N.S. Democratic Town Committee

Note: The version of this letter that appeared in the Nov. 11 print edition misidentified Jones as the "N.S. School Committee Chair" due to an editing error.

(15) comments

Ryan Hutchins

Well, Mr. Jones, it’s good to know that you are the kind of person who writes hit pieces about your colleagues in the local paper. I will keep it in mind as the next election rolls around.

You are entitled to your opinion, so although I disagree that a mask mandate is the correct course of action, I do not take issue with your holding that opinion. However, your conviction that a mask mandate is somehow scientific and anyone disagreeing is a science-denying luddite that recklessly endangers the public is wrong. In fact, it betrays a few mistaken beliefs. First, it betrays your belief that there is a scientific consensus on the efficacy of masks or, indeed, on anything COVID-related. Second, it shows you assume we have some understanding of how masking kids (or any of the other measures we’ve enacted since the outset of the pandemic) will affect the overall health of society. We don’t. More generally, we have very little understanding of how any variable affects the overall behavior of any complex system, to say nothing of one as complex as all of civilization, and on top of that, COVID-19 is more-or-less clinically irrelevant to children.

Furthermore, I am uncertain whence your conviction about the science behind this derives, but I have a suspicion based on something you said. If I am wrong, please do disabuse me of it: my suspicion is that you are a conduit for the talking points of the Democratic party and their media arm. I have that suspicion because, in your letter, you said (and I quote):

“I am also the chair of the North Smithfield Democrats, and as one body we stand disappointed by the actions of Councilor Corriveau.”

To me, using your position and party affiliation to imply plurality to your finger-wagging is tantamount to an admission that you are a jersey-wearing partisan hack, who will cheer for his team whether or not they’re acting in the best interest of the polity. I have never met you, so I am willing to be convinced otherwise, but that is my current opinion.

If you wish, in actuality, to follow the science, go and subscribe to the correct keywords on bioRxiv to get the pre-prints of the studies as they come out, but I must warn you to be prepared for a constant deluge of extremely technical, self-contradictory drivel. Read a few papers, and you should realize that it’s not the sort of thing from which we can make policy. Science is being asked to unfold at the pace of the 24-hour news cycle, and it can’t. It’s horrible for science and hard on scientists.

Also, you egregiously misrepresented (mostly by omission) the goings-on at the August meeting, and therefore, I have resolved to write my own letter to the editor.

TruthsayerNS

Paul Jones could not be more wrong! The majority of parents and town members that attended the August 17th meeting were against the forced masking of children and many more not in attendance are/were also against it. It should never have been up to the Governor or the School Boards to make this decision. The “small collection of people” Paul referred to were the one’s touting lies. Paul had already made up his mind two days prior to this meeting with his own version of fear-mongering. He said as much on Facebook. Politics should never be in the school! Children are not political pawns or lab rats, but that is what Paul Jones seems to view our children as. I really wish he would take the time to research the true science and not that which is being pushed by mainstream media. I fully support the views, words and actions of courageous men, like Councilman Corriveau, especially as it relates to the NSSB. Our town should disengage from RIASC and hopefully RI will eventually disengage from the National Board.

Ariana Ramos

As a long time resident of the NS community and parent, I find this article deeply disturbing. Councilor Corveau clearly stated the intent of the resolution was to recommend the SC address the RIASC decision to report parents with opposing opinions at school board meetings to the FBI to be deemed domestic terrorists. Councilor Corveau was doing what a town representative is elected to do, represent their constituent voices. Whom in this case had expressed concern that the school would try to ignore this stance and in turn support the attempts to silence these parents. This attempted smear campaign to Councilor Corveau and the content he stated is clear evidence he as a SC member a) did not want this issue brought to light, to create pressure to add it to the agenda, and b) Paul Jones clearly supports the RIASC decision to stand with the AG considering these parents terrorists, by stating in this article NSSC withdraw our membership from RIASC like other RISC's have done in protest. This article is a disgrace to our SC and Jones should be ashamed.

Stephen Vowels

First, Deb G. I completely agree with you. Further, Paul Jones, the group of parents against the mask mandate and other senseless ideas was not small. I wasn’t there but I watched the video. Including your condescending behavior when a parent called you out for smiling, refusing to make eye contact and laughing while they were speaking. Mr. Corriveau fully understands that such a resolution is not a demand. It is a request. It was not propaganda driven. It was a passionate request from a tax paying parent who happens to serve as a Town Council member. He did not make this political, you did. By referencing that your are “The President of the NS Democrat Committee.” No science is being ignored here. Because “the science” changes daily. What is being ignored is common sense. Turn off your TV, do your own research and stop using our children just to get “desperately needed funding.” The only embarrassment here is you and your statements. Have the fortitude to stand for what is right and fight what is wrong. Based on your statements, I suspect you think our forefathers were wrong for throwing the tea in the harbor too?

Citizen Greg

Unfortunately Paul that small group of parents is actually the majority. Whether you like this or not it is the truth. Parents in town are fed up and disgusted with your dictatorial agenda. Inciting a coup within our school system to chastise parents you have different opinions than you. You're nervous and it shows. You attacked Steve who is an upstanding member of our community with multiple children within the school system. Juxtaposed to your zero children in the school system and your unwavering desire to control other people's families. It is rather disturbing. The funding to which you speak of is directly related to the ability for you and your fellow school committee members to report parents for "acting out of line". You chose to be divisive you chose to run to the paper to write this fake editorial piece on a man only trying to better the community he lives in while allowing parents to have free choice and will over their own children. You and anybody that panders to this disturbing precedent will be voted out.

TruthsayerNS

Paul Jones could not be more wrong as usual! The majority of parents and town members that attended the August 17th meeting were against the forced muzzling of children which is nothing short of child abuse. The “small collection of people” he referred to were the one’s touting lies. Paul had already made up his mind two days prior to this meeting to propagandize his own version of fearmongering with a liberal agenda. He said as much on Facebook. Politics should not be in the school! Children are not political pawns or lab rats, but clearly that is what Paul Jones and others on the committee view our children as. I wish Paul would take the time to research the true science and not that which is being pushed by mainstream media and the lies of Dr. Fauci, who has been under fire time and time again for lying to the public, lying to Congress on record and so forth. We know that the school committee is being paid to indoctrinate the children and we will not stand for it. Enough is enough! Our patience is wearing thin! I fully support the true words and actions of courageous men, like Councilman Corriveau. The light at the end of the tunnel will be when Paul Jones is permanently out of any political role.

Deb Gianfrancesco

The School Committee went against the majority and had their minds made up and speeches written before the meeting even started. There is ZERO science behind the mask mandate and vaccine. Our SC is there to serve the people that voted them in not their own political agenda. Even more disgusting than implementing a mask mandate for Government funding was allowing a group of teachers to go against a parent in town on our tax dollars. As a resident and parent of NS this needs to be investigated, was this done during work hours while they should be teaching our children? You’re all paid by our tax dollars and will be voted out next election. Jones is the “head” of the NS Democrat committee which tells me his decision was a political one. Steve Corriveau has always been professional and unbiased, I cannot say the same for our SC. This article and Mr Jones is an embarrassment to the town of NS. Typical “Cancel Culture” if you don’t like someone’s opinion bash their integrity!

MCC

Deb Gianfresco, just because you were part of the loud voice majority at the meeting does not mean that you speak for the majority of voters or taxpayers in the Town of North Smithfield. What’s next, Proud Boys at the School Committee Meeting. And by the way, masks are a state mandate.

Citizen Greg

Parents concerned for children=proud boys 🤦‍♂️

Typical liberal dog whistle

Stephen Vowels

Hey MCC. Stop hiding behind your keyboard and use your real name. And stop fear mongering and using “Proud Boys” to push that. Also, do some research. A “mandate” is NOT a law. Guess what? The majority is far greater than your narrow minded opinion.

Deb Gianfrancesco

Keyboard warriors like yourself that hide behind a fake user name are always triggered by the truth. Unless you have something to contribute you should learn to scroll on by. This isn’t the time nor place.

MCC

And Deb, Steven showing a ten minute congressional hearing, highlighting Jim Jordan, the Penn State sexual predator denier grilling Merrick Garland was political. So, let’s call a spade a spade. This is not unbiased behavior. Nor has Claire or John Beauregard’s behavior been unbiased. When they show you who they are, believe them.

Stephen Vowels

MCC, again you make no sense and fail to address the core issue. You ignore what is in front of you and hide behind your keyboard and acronym. Your comments are meaningless. But, go ahead and deny reality and truth. Must be sunshine and roses in your reality.

Stephen Vowels

And MCC. Not to be petty. But, my name is STEPHEN. As usual, you pay attention to nothing.

Deb Gianfrancesco

The video was showing how Garland wants to flag parents that go against their narrative “Domestic Terrorist”! What does Penn State have to do with any of this? Enough with the one sided political nonsense. John, Steve and Claire in no way treated this in a bias way. All your doing hear is driving people to watch the video themselves and realize the lies you’re spewing.

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