WARWICK, RI — Dean Johnson, 39, of Essex Road, lifelong Warwick resident and Army vet, ran for School Committee the first time in 2014 to make tough calls on School Consolidation, and hopes for a chance to take a shot at straightening out the re-organization of students and buildings two years later.
Johnson won 1,746 votes in the Sept. 14 primary, and his campaign can be followed on Facebook. The returning candidate has some credibility on courageous selfless service, as well — in 2000, Johnson swept an elderly couple and their 14-year-old grandson out the path of an 18-wheeler, losing his legs. The Army later awarded him the Soldier’s Medal (for heroism not involving combat) for the act.
Warwick Post has presented each School Committee candidate with the same series of questions for voters’ benefit in the days leading up to the election. Here are Johnson’s answers:
Why are you running for School Committee – What do you feel you can bring to the board that’s lacking there now?
I am running for school committee to ensure the children of Warwick have a quality education, fix the mistakes of consolidation and to bring accountability to the voters back to the committee.
What are your thoughts on the contract dispute between the teacher’s union and the district?
“I can’t believe we are repeating the mistakes of the past. We have to get a contract done before we can fix the things wrong with consolidation. A contract should be the first priority of any candidate who has the honor of being elected.”
What is your opinion on the long wait voters endured to view the Ragosta Report? Would you change anything about the School Committee’s practices regarding the body’s apparent tendency to err away from transparency?
In my opinion, it felt like the School Committee was trying to hide the fact in the case to cover something up.
One of the things I would change is that any report, study, or anything paid for by taxpayers’ dollar should be a matter of public record no matter of how damaging it is. Transparency is the first step in building trust.
After reading the Ragosta Report, What lessons do you see the School District should have learned about the power entrusted to its administrators and the ability of concerned parents and staffers to safely speak out?
My conclusion in the Ragosta Report was a lack of clear guidelines in how to handle a serious accusation. Anytime a complaint of inappropriate contact between a teacher and a child should automatically trigger the complaint being forwarded to the Warwick Police Department. Children, parents, and staffers should feel there concerns are taken seriously and complaints are investigated. We are trusted with every family most valuable treasure, their children, the families must have absolute trust in are ability to protect them.
What is your opinion of how school consolidation has been handled thus far? What would you do to improve the process?
I think this current round of consolidation was done poorly. It felt rushed and disorganized.
Yes, while we have new beautiful auditoriums and gyms, we should have been setting a priority of fixing more pressing issues. It seems to me that the consolidation of the schools could have been used to improve education in warwick, but was used to cram as many children into a classroom to make the bottom line look good. The first thing I would do to fix this consolidation is to negotiate the contract with teachers.
They, along with the children are the ones who feel the impact of this moment in Warwick schools the most. There insight and experience about how to move forward would be invaluable. As for capital improvements there are not enough buildings to shut down, savings to be found, or money to be shifted to pay for all the repairs we need to do. The bond is paramount to succeeding in fixing our crumbling schools.
We must add more people to the school committee who care about improving education. We already have enough yes women/men. We need someone else who will fight for what is right for our children and not just vote to get along.
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” -JFK