Editorial: School board has been stumbling lately

Posted 7/1/21

It seems the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee grows more dysfunctional by the week. In yet another 5-4 decision (these are quite common lately), the committee decided it would not entertain a …

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Editorial: School board has been stumbling lately

Posted

It seems the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee grows more dysfunctional by the week. In yet another 5-4 decision (these are quite common lately), the committee decided it would not entertain a discussion about opening the 2021-22 school year on Rosh Hashanah, a high holiday in the Jewish religion.

In May, the school committee adopted a calendar that placed the first day of school as Tuesday, Sept. 7. Two weeks ago, a representative of a Jewish organization asked the committee to reconsider that start date, arguing it places an unfair burden on staff and students to decide whether to attend their first day of school or honor their religion. The committee wouldn’t even open the discussion, so the calendar remains the same.

Many school districts, including neighboring Barrington, have always closed for Rosh Hashanah. That’s why only five districts in the state are opening school on Sept. 7, with Bristol Warren being one of them. So not only is this district in the minority on a sensitive religious issue, but it stumbled right into the bad optics of refusing to even host a conversation about the topic.

That comes a few weeks after an embarrassing string of events when one member accused another of “mansplaining” his vote on an issue, and then the district’s attorney refused to allow a private citizen to speak in public session.

This is the same committee that hired a consultant to review district finances because it lacked faith in its own administration; that revealed more than a dozen significant shortcomings or failures in financial management; that spends an inordinate amount of time arguing over motions and procedures; that employs hundreds of teachers who have been working without a contract for nearly a year; and that is clearly divided between “old school” and “new school” members, often with veterans of the young Bristol Warren Education Foundation pitted against veterans of the old Bristol and Warren school systems.

Instead of instilling confidence in what was considered a “district on the rise” not long ago, this committee can’t seem to get out of its own way. It would have been a simple matter to push the start date back one day. It would have been even simpler to entertain a discussion and listen to arguments for or against. Simple seems to elude this group lately.

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