Nobody can foresee what the future holds, but those most interested in what the state of education should look like in the coming years and decades in Warwick – the residents, parents and school personnel who have a stake in that future – will at least have a hand in designing and conceptualizing it.
Last week marked the hopeful beginning of a collaborative process by which Warwick’s stakeholders are being asked to explore what concepts the city should consider for the next phase of its educational evolution, which took place during sessions on Wednesday and Thursday at the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center.
This is a good thing. With something as crucially important as designing and implementing the future of our children’s educations, it’s best to measure a few times before we cut. There are more of these meetings planned in the future, including a session starting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at the Toll Gate cafeteria, which is open to the general public. A second such meeting has yet to be scheduled but will take place prior to March 30, when plans will be presented to the Warwick School Committee.
We’re not under any illusions that deciding the future of education in Warwick is easy, or can be figured out over the course of a meeting or two. What we do believe is that the students and teachers of Warwick will benefit when more people are engaged in such a process – providing their insights, opinions and expertise to an arena which requires as many perspectives as possible to partake, in order to create an environment of learning for as many unique individuals as possible.
Conceptually, the area of consensus we should be rooting for here in this process is to land on a plan of action that most agree will do the most good for the community. Whether that’s tearing a high school down and building a new one in its place to service that same community, or building a super high school complex to serve the whole city, or doing repairs on what we have – all options should be put on the table and discussed, as they were during last week’s sessions.
The community meetings are not only crucial to crafting a road map of where we hope to go – they also provide an informational opportunity to learn more about how education is delivered in Warwick, straight from the source, rather than from second or third-hand sources in places like Facebook groups.
The importance of answering questions and giving a forum for those questions to be asked in the first place cannot be understated. We see encouraging signs of our local government bodies – primarily the school committee and city administration, including the mayor’s office and city council – all seeking to work together for the betterment of Warwick’s students.
However, this is also not something that will become a perfect process overnight.
This district still has fresh wounds stemming from contractual strife, budgetary close calls, administrative overturn and conflict, primarily between school officials and a general public that has grown wary of those in charge of making decisions – some of which have been unforced errors which landed Warwick in a negative news spotlight, and others where widespread public misinformation spread throughout online forums led to misunderstandings of the administration’s worthwhile goals.
These types of conversations are what should be happening. They offer a seat at the table to discuss the most important issues among us. They offer a chance to shed cynicism and criticism in favor of putting heads together to find out what the best path forward really is. It’s a step towards actually implementing meaningful changes, versus just resigning ourselves to a reality defined by lowering expectations.
We implore all those who consistently voice their opinions on Warwick schools – whether positive or critical in nature – to attend the upcoming public session on Feb. 12. The future of our city’s youth is literally in your hands.