Nathan Cornell took his first shot at earning a seat onto the Warwick School Committee during the 2016 election, the same year he graduated from Toll Gate High School.
He ultimately fell short of his goal for an at-large seat, but managed to accrue a respectable 1,547 votes (13.3 percent of the total vote), and garnered praise on his campaign page for taking the time to campaign door-to-door and for his dedicated attendance to monthly school committee meetings, where he regularly speaks out during public comment to voice his opinion on school-related issues.
Now, at 20 years old, Cornell is gearing up for another shot at the committee. He announced his candidacy for the District 3 spot on the school committee at a March 12 fundraiser event at Dave’s Bar and Grill.
“I learned a lot last time, I learned what not to do. I take lessons from my mistakes and won't make those mistakes again. I know more now and have more information,” Cornell said on Monday. “I’ve gone to even more school committee meetings. I’ve been to every monthly school committee meeting for last three years so I have a good grasp on the issues and I definitely feel like I’m more ready this time.”
Cornell said that the school committee needs to be more transparent in its operations and needs to be more mindful of the public’s concerns, as well as the thoughts of the teachers and the students who must occupy the school buildings throughout the year.
“The school committee should speak with constituents and read their emails and make decisions that are best for constituents and the students,” he said.
Cornell believes that the school committee is guilty of wasteful spending and budgetary mismanagement, pointing to the hiring of a public relations firm that hasn’t been effective and spending $40,000 on a district website redesign that he felt was unnecessary and failed to improve the functionality of the site.
He also criticized the committee’s willingness to consolidate teaching positions to fill budgetary shortfalls, saying that they should be willing to look into cutting higher administration positions as well.
“The higher administration is too inflated,” he said, adding that “I think there needs to be better fiscal management.”
Cornell also criticized the administration for cutting programs he believed to be beneficial to students, including reading programs for elementary students and guidance counselor positions for the elementary schools. He said that he would make it a goal to improve special education programming within the schools.
As a graduate of the class of 2016, Cornell certainly has a more recent perspective on what life is like for a student in Warwick than those who may run against him, an element that Cornell believes – in addition to his keen attention paid to educational issues in the city – should make him a viable candidate come the fall.
“The students are not happy with what’s going on right now with the schools,” he said. “As a former student…I know what it's like to be a student and know how to reach out to them and make sure their opinions are valued.”
Cornell serves as the Co-Chair of the Warwick Community Outreach Educational Committee, Secretary of the Warwick Charter Review Commission and was formerly Chairman of the Warwick Students’ Advisory Committee. You can visit his campaign Facebook page at “Nathan Cornell for Warwick School Committee District 3 2018.”
The District 3 seat is currently held by committee chair Bethany Furtado. She has not announced whether she will seek reelection.