Business voice must be heard from more often in Gist debate

Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to R.I. Board of Education Chair Eva Marie Mancuso on May 24. More

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OP-ED / LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Business voice must be heard from more often in Gist debate

Posted 6/3/13

Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to R.I. Board of Education Chair Eva Marie Mancuso on May 24.

Dear Chair Mancuso and Board Members:

I am the executive director of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, a position that I have held since early 2012. Prior to that I held a number of top management positions at several Rhode Island and Massachusetts manufacturing companies.

I was born and raised in Rhode Island and come from a family of educators (McCourt Middle School in Cumberland was named after my late father, who was also instrumental establishing the adult education program in Rhode Island many years ago). I am also a parent with two children currently in high school (a third graduated last year and is in college).

Given the importance of a sound educational system and the recent groundswell of opposition to our present education commissioner, I, along with a number of Rhode Island business leaders, attended last evening’s Board of Education meeting at the University of Rhode Island. While I was not surprised that the room was filled with individuals who oppose the renewal of Commissioner Deborah A. Gist’s contract, I was pleased that some of us actually got a seat in the main hearing room.

I do, however, have a couple of concerns. First, I went out of my way to help ensure that I, along with local business owner and RIMA Board Chair Bob Nangle, had an opportunity to speak before the education board. I believe there were 20 names ahead of us on the list. A number of other business leaders also signed up to speak, but they were much lower on the list, and we knew going in that it was doubtful that they would be heard. Despite being on the “short list,” however, none of us were afforded the opportunity to speak. While I understand that time did not allow all to be heard, Mr. Nangle and I certainly thought we were low enough on the list to have been called.

My second concern is perhaps much more significant. Certainly the teachers’ union was afforded the opportunity to make sure its voice (and displeasure with the commissioner) was heard. And, while you went out of your way to ask for teachers and students, you somehow failed to recognize the other important party in this equation – the business owners who will be employing these children someday, whether they go to college or not.

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