On Friday, March 16, I'll be playing at Sandywoods in Tiverton in the Rhode Island Songwiters Association semi-annual showcase, along with the awesome musicians Lainey Dionne, Kim Moberg, and Terry Kitchen. Sandywoods is a super-cool venue where you can BYOB/BYOF and have a great time listening to these singer-songwriters I'm thrilled to share the stage with. Doors at 7pm, tickets $15. 43 Muse Way, Tiverton, RI, 02878. This will be a fun evening!
John McDaid's blog
At a packed meeting of the Portsmouth High School parent organization last night in the library, Principal Joseph Amaral tried to allay parent fears about security and appeared to modify his position on allowing students to participate in a walkout next Wednesday, March 14. The first half of the two-hour meeting was led by district security coordinator Allan Garcia, then he and Amaral fielded questions from an audience of parents who expressed significant frustration with communications from the school.
One pressing question on the minds of many attendees was what was happening next Wednesday.
“So they’re talking about a walkout," one parent asked. "And I know you guys are anti-walkout, but having a conversation that’s student-led, which is what these kids want to do with this walkout, personally I think it’s a good idea.”
Garcia seemed as confused as some parents. "Anti walkout? Are we pro-walkout or anti-walkout?" He looked to Amaral.
Amaral responded, “We’re doing a walkout with all the students on March 14th to the new gym. Some students already came to me and said ‘I don’t want to be a part of that,’ so there are going to be options for those students to go somewhere else. The walkout to the new gym is working with the Student Council leadership. I’ve met with them at least three times already to ask what they need, how they want to work it, how they want to construct it, and there are students who would prefer to walk to the track. And what I’m trying to do is accommodate, and be sure that they’re safe throughout.”
That led to another parent commenting, “Okay, this is another example of communication that’s a little bit awry. Because the e-mail that I received says that you can’t do it. It’s not safe. So please, the overarching thing here: more words in the e-mail. Maybe more frequent e-mails. [If we had that]I think maybe half the people wouldn’t even be here.”
“We’re going to try to honor everyone’s preference to make sure that there is support," Amaral continued. "And I think that’s probably more generous than a lot of districts, other high schools that I’ve talked to in the last two days.”
That seemed like a shift in message to some parents. “I left that communication thinking that if they go down there, they’re liable to be suspended,” said one. “And that’s what they think, too,” another added.
Amaral attempted to explain his e-mail. “I think that the communication indicated that we’re going to have an assembly, and we’re going to do that, I’m still working with the Superintendent in terms of the consequence, because we have a policy in place. But I also feel this is an extraordinary event. What we don’t want to do is create a precedent. Because there will be situations where students will want to manifest their opinions in ways that are sometimes positive, sometimes negative. Suppose a student gets suspended and they want to protest that student suspension. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good idea. Especially when they leave. I’m still concerned. I have to be sure we protect those kids from doing stupid things. Getting out, getting into trouble.”
Approached for clarification after the meeting, Amaral had this exchange with a reporter:
Amaral: “What I don’t want to have happen is kids shaming other kids, making other kids feel bad. That’s why I’m offering all these things. Because as many kids as we know want to be involved in either the gym walkout or the track, kids have come to me and said, I don’t want to do this. And I want to honor those kids too. It’s not like it’s a unifying...I wish it was more unifying...but every kid comes from a different place. And I’m working with the Superintendent to make sure that because of the extraordinary effect of what’s happening nationally, with the students, and the things that we’ve been going through here, to be as flexible as possible.”
Reporter: “What was in that memo that said that people were going to be suspended...”
Amaral: “The policy was reiterated. That was not in the original memo. I’ll just say that.”
Reporter: “So that’s not operational now? If students walk to the track, if they take that option, will they be suspended?”
Amaral: “Is it possible because we have, because we have rules, is it possible that they will have to meet with me and have a deterrment, you know, say, hey, you did this, but it doesn’t mean that next week you do another walkout because you don’t like the lunch food.”
The clarity of communications from PHS was a major theme, as parents peppered Amaral with questions for most of the second hour of the meeting.
“My kids don’t feel safe here," one parent said. "The e-mail and the communication that has been given from the school — they’re inadequate.” [This received a round of applause from attendees] And to send an e-mail out to say that that child — and he needs help, to bring a weapon to school, you either feel like you need to defend yourself or you want to hurt something, either way, you’re reaching out and you need help — and to say that child had no intent to do anything is ridiculous, to even send that statement out. I feel like this was a great presentation, there was a lot of talking on your part, and fine, [but] I don’t think we’re really addressing anyone here. [Security measures that were discussed] I want to see that. But what are we doing...how can my kids feel safe tomorrow. Because they don’t.”
“The kids are afraid," said another parent. "They have real reason to be afraid. There was an intruder with a knife that came into their place. And hurt a teacher. In front of them. So, yeah, we’re uptight because of the Florida shooting, but we were attacked here. These kids were attacked here. A teacher was attacked. They need help. The kids in this school need help. And I don’t know when that’s coming.”
“Something bad is happening and I think a joint communication from the administration and the police department to the parents is absolutely, positively, a necessity," another parent added. "[We need you] To say, ‘we’re on everything.’ We’re giving them all this information [that] it’s going to be okay, but if they don’t see you, Principal Amaral, and the police chief stand together united saying, ‘we’re chasing, we’re following, all these things that are going on in this community, we’re on it. We’re the professionals.’ They need that. They need it badly. So support us as parents, and do your job. Stand up in front our kids. Look them in the eye. Old school communication. Pull them in a room. Get together. Side by side. And say, ‘This sucks. This is tough. But we got you. We’re going to do everything within our power to protect you.’ They need you guys to do that.”
One parent raised the issue of getting professional help to assist the schools with structuring their messages. “Do you have a crisis communications consultant?" they asked. "Because if you don’t that’s the person you probably need most. [T]here are ways to communicate confidence. I’ll give you just one example. The phrase, ‘we found no evidence to,’ repeated many times in the communications. As we all know, Snapchat is virtually untraceable. So telling us you found no evidence of something is poorly phrased. And I mean that in a very constructive way. There are things you’re trying to communicate that a good crisis communications professional might help you with. And I do think that a more rapid response mechanism for the school system, with communications, would help damp down the social media.”
Another parent stressed the importance of involving the students. “At this point, you have a real credibility issue," the parent said. "So what you need to think about doing is whatever you construct in terms of this crisis communications, [you need to] get student leadership to partner with you. To disseminate that good information. So that all the students are talking to each other and spreading good information that’s positive. And that might get your credibility back.”
This reporter followed up on another concern that had been raised by the wording of the initial memo from PHS. This reporter had sent an e-mail to the Superintendent, principal, and school committee, copying in the RI ACLU, questioning what appeared to be an attempt to limit student expression in last week's e-mail from the school.
Reporter: "To be clear, you’re going to allow the students to determine the content of what they do on that day?
Amaral: "That was never a question."
Reporter: "That was a question based on how it was written in the e-mail."
Amaral: "The students are the ones that are creating...if you you notice the e-mail, it was written by myself and the students. They approved...every single student that was in the leadership of the executive council approved that statement. And that statement was done from the conversations that we’ve had about how we’re going to move forward as a school and how we can do it in a safe fashion. The content is something that the students are going to have to determine, and that’s one of the things that’s in progress right now. They’re going to determine what the fashion of the meeting is going to be like. Are they going to do the 17 minutes of the moment of silence, are they going to have songs and a tribute from their peers, those are the things that they’re determining. I’m not going to edit them any more than anyone else here. As long as it’s not disrespectful or hurtful to another student. That was the purpose. Nothing in that e-mail that I saw indicated that I saw indicated that we were trying to sanction or subvert student messages. That was something that...you can interpret that, but that’s not the message.”
After the meeting, this reporter followed up.
Reporter: “I apologize if I misinterpreted what was in that e-mail, that was just how I read it.”
Amaral: “I understand. But there was more information to come. I have to give the students a chance to meet. Today was the earliest we could meet, with the Student Council. I gave them until Monday to come back. And I don’t know, other than, individually, some kids saying that I’m going to do that walk to the track, [there has been] no leadership from that area has come to me and said, ‘I want to do this.’ If they had come to me before, I could have said, look, let’s do a sign-up sheet, do something, so I know who’s going, so I know how many people to assign there. None of that happened. I had to go to student leadership to say, look, this is important, we should do it, just the opposite of what you stated in your e-mail is happening. I approached student leadership and said, look guys, this I think is important to do, what do you think you should do. And then they debated it, and they took it to Student Council general membership, which is elected by the student body, and then they came back to me. Today was our third time meeting to come up with a plan that they want to entertain. It’s not about censorship.”
Reporter: “Then the e-mail could have been written a bit better, because that is what that e-mail said. That recommendation for a crisis comms person, that’s a real job.”
Amaral: “I’ve never heard of that, but I will mention it to the Superintendent. [...] That was one of the things that Sue Lusi said that we needed in our district, and we still need that communication piece, maybe that’s something that the Superintendent will put forward in future budgets.”
You'll notice that nothing from the first hour of the meeting is described in this reporting. The following exchange with Garcia took place at the beginning of the event, after he told a student with a video camera to turn it off and not record the proceedings.
Garcia: "Anybody here with the media? (Reporter raises hand) Okay, and what are you going to do with the information I provide today?"
Reporter: "That depends."
Garcia:" I just, and, uh, no offense, I cannot give away the playbook, obviously, to some of the safeguards we have here. So..."
Reporter: "But you’re going to discuss it with parents openly?"
Garcia: "Uh, yeah."
Garcia: "I just...do you understand that I don’t want this published in any type of periodicals about certain capabilities of certain things because it would, you know, if somebody’s reading it that shouldn’t be reading it, you know, it could be a bad thing."
Reporter: "You realize that’s prior restraint."
Garcia: "Okay. You call it what you want."
To be clear: If there was anything in the first hour of the meeting that deserved to be reported, I would have included it here. And the district's safety consultant needs to understand the implications of government attempts at suppression of press freedom. When a government official speaks at an event at which the general public is present, there is no expectation of confidentiality. Prior restraint exceptions need to be narrowly scoped. Much of what he said in that first hour had no security implications whatsoever, and his request of this reporter — and demand that a student not record — was, in my opinion, inappropriate.
The Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus announced the results of their first elected board of directors Tuesday morning, and according to a news release, Portsmouth's Michelle McGaw and Daniela Abbott were voted into leadership positions.
The new officers elected by the membership are Sulina Mohanty, Chair; Bridget Valverdi, Vice Chair; Jessica Vega, Secretary; Darlene Allen, Treasurer; Michelle McGaw. Congressional District-1; Jordan Hevenor Congressional District-2; Joanne Borodemos, Kent County; Tracy Ramos, Bristol County; Abby Godino, Washington County; Tracy LeBeau, Providence County; and Danielle Abbott, Newport Country. Also elected: Abigail Altabef, Town Committee 1, and June Speakman, Town Committee 2. The Board will serve an initial one-year term; subsequent terms will be for two years, per their bylaws.
Said founding co-chair Sen. Gayle Goldin, “Over the past year, the Women’s Caucus has grown to over 160 members, thrown a successful fundraiser, held monthly meetings, voted on a resolution to support reproductive rights, connected with women who are ready to run for office, and made sure our voices have been heard in Rhode Island. I cannot wait to see what great accomplishments this next year and this new board will bring.”
The Caucus — led initially by Sen. Gayle Goldin, Rep. Grace Diaz, Rep. Shelby Maldonado, and Rep. Lauren Carson — has engaged hundreds of women in monthly workshops about the political and election process.
The Caucus was reorganized in early January 2017, in the aftermath of the historic presidential election and outpouring of women voters looking to get politically involved.
Editorial note: Written from a news release.
Sen. James A. Seveney (D-11) has introduced legislation that would ban ‘bump stocks’ on semi-automatic firearms.
A bump stock is an attachment that allows the shooter to fire a semi-automatic weapon with great rapidity. It replaces a rifle’s standard stock, freeing the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires.
“While federal law bans fully automatic weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986,” said Seveney, “The bump stock does not technically make the weapon a fully automatic firearm, even though it allows a weapon to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun. This law would effectively ban these horrific devices in Rhode Island.”
In last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, 12 of the rifles in the gunman’s possession were modified with a bump stock, allowing the weapon to fire about 90 shots in 10 seconds — a much faster rate than the AR-15 style assault rifle used by the Orlando Nightclub shooter, which fired about 24 shots in nine seconds.
The legislation would make it unlawful to possess, transport, manufacture, ship or sell a bump stock, regardless of whether the person is in possession of a firearm. Those violating the provisions, would face imprisonment for up to five years, or a fine up to $15,000, or both.
Editorial note: From a state house news release.
I think PHS parents -- and the citizens of Portsmouth -- deserve a comprehensive explanation for what happened this morning. This storm was no surprise, and yet PHS seems to have been totally unprepared, holding students for 45 minutes with no information. I have heard that it was known that power was out in the building as early as 5:45am, according to communication from an administrator to a student.
Why was there no communication with parents? Why was there no contingency plan in place, other than to hold students in the cafeteria and gym, without taking attendence. This strikes me as a huge safety and accountability issue. The same goes for the dismissal, which I can personally testify was haphazard, with students visibly wandering off campus only moments after their parents had been notified.
I ask that the administration and school committee conduct a post-mortem on this event, including next steps to address identified gaps, at the next school committee meeting. If I need to formally request this at the Admin office, just let me know.
On October 30, 2017 at 7:57:22 AM, PORTSMOUTH HIGH SCHOOL (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
A message from PORTSMOUTH HIGH SCHOOL
To PHS Families,
Due to a late power outage this moring we will have to dismiss student early from school. Buses will pick up students beginning at 9:00 a.m. All students who drive themselves will be able to leave immediately. Students who will be picked by their parents will be supervised by staff in the new gym which has power.
Thank you for your understanding.
This e-mail has been sent to you by PORTSMOUTH HIGH SCHOOL. To maximize their communication with you, you may be receiving this e-mail in addition to a phone call with the same message. If you no longer wish to receive email notifications from PORTSMOUTH HIGH SCHOOL, please click here to unsubscribe.
At its regular monthly meeting on Saturday, September 16th, the Prudence Island Water District Board adopted a budget for fiscal year '18 which begins on October 1st, according to an announcement sent to local media.
The Board approved operating budget is $250,027. The Board also approved a capital improvements budget of $200,000.
Having decided this past February to implement the District's tax authority, the Board also set a tax rate as well as a water rate to fund the budget for the coming year. The tax rate was set at $0.67 per $1,000 of assesed value of property within the district with a total tax levy of $50,213. The annual water rate was set at $535.00 per connection.
The Board held two public informational workshops in July to discuss with the community the decision to implement the District's taxing authority. The Board also took public comment on the decision to implement a district water tax at its July Board meeting.
Editorial note: Written from a news release.
New England's "state fair," the Eastern States Exposition (aka, The Big E) kicks off in Springfield, MA soon, and I'll be one of the two dozen local singer-songwriters featured at the Rhode Island building. I'll be playing two 45-minute sets of original tunes, at 2 and 5pm on Friday, September 22, and at 1, 3, and 5pm on Saturday, September 23.
The RI Songwriters Association (RISA) stage will be set up right inside the door of the Rhode Island building on the Avenue of States. You'll want to come early and make a day of it (you'll also want to come early to avoid the traffic, which I've been told can back up as the day goes on.)
The Big E is an enormous, 17-day fair combining the best of 6 New England states, full of everything you expect: sheep shearing, butter sculpture, horse show, giant pumpkin contest, a midway, rides, agricultural demos, and main stages with top musical attractions in the evening. Of course, there's classic "fair" food — everything from burgers, waffles, vegetarian and gluten-free options to a "deep fried piña colada martini."
I'm delighted to have this opportunity to play alongside some of the best local musicians. A big thank you to RISA and RI Commerce, for this chance to entertain the thousands of folks who visit the Big E every year.
Here's the full schedule of local performers:
|Time||Fri 9/15||Sat 9/16||Sun 9/17||Fri 9/22||Sat 9/23||Sun 9/24||Fri 9/29||Sat 9/30||Sun 10/1|
12, 2, 4
|DB Rielly||Rich Eilbert||Morgan
Rhode Island’s top Democratic Party leadership gathered Tuesday to denounce the actions of President Donald Trump to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (D.A.C.A.) program, which safeguarded the rights of an estimated 800,000 immigrants who were children when they entered the United States. The news conference, according to a release, was held at the Segue Institute for Learning in Central Falls and led by R.I. Democratic Party Chair Joseph M. McNamara, included Governor Gina Raimondo, Lt. Governor Daniel McKee, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Mayors James A. Diossa (Central Falls) and Jorge Elorza (Providence,) and two ‘Dreamers’ — Javier Juarez, a Brown University graduate student, and Rodrigo Pimental, a member of the R.I. Progressive Democrats.
“Rhode Island was founded on the principles of tolerance and diversity," said Governor Raimondo. "Throughout our history, our state has been strengthened by the contributions of immigrants. President Trump’s plan to end DACA is nothing short of cruel, and it would be a disaster for the nation’s economy. As long as I am Governor of this state, Rhode Island will stand up for the American Dream, and the Dreamers who keep it alive.”
Lt. Governor McKee said, “Here in Rhode Island, we have thousands of amazing young people who are protected by DACA, many who have only ever known Rhode Island as their home. These young people are studying, working, running small businesses, paying taxes, and building their own families. DACA protects the progress they have made and the many contributions they continue to make to the social and economic fabric of our state. Halting this program is inhumane and stands against everything Rhode Islanders stand for.”
Rhode Islanders seeking support with DACA or general immigration issues are encouraged to reach out to Progreso Latino, Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, or Roger Williams Law School Immigration Law Clinic.
“DACA children have known nothing else but this country as their home, they contribute greatly to the fabric of our community, and they deserve our protection from any attempt to undermine their rights as residents,” said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin on Friday. “This is one of the most heartless and immoral decisions the President has made yet. We are a nation built on the contributions of our many immigrant populations, and we are a stronger nation because of those contributions. Now the President is turning his back on children who have so much to give to this country. We cannot sit idly by as he strips DACA grantees rights they have been afforded and deserve.”
“Dreamers represent the best of the American spirit – young people going to school, working, and volunteering to build a better life. President Trump’s plan to expel these promising young people is cruel and un-American. We must all have the courage to speak out,” said Treasurer Magaziner.
“The elimination of DACA is a direct attack on the American Dream for 800,000 young people,” said Mayor Elorza. “DREAMers are Americans in virtually every way and it is deeply disheartening that they now face additional anxiety and uncertainty. Congress has the ability to bring hope back to DREAMers and we urge them to come together in a bipartisan way. We have 6 months to get the job done, let’s get to work.”
“President Trump’s decision today is going to hurt the progress of our country. Many of our kids benefitting from DACA are potential doctors, lawyers, scientists, and small business owners. They are creators, builders and innovators,” said Mayor Diossa. “The President has stopped the opportunity to make our country stronger – by having our kids paralyzed from seeking a better future.”
“DACA has affected my life drastically,” said Brown University graduate student and ‘Dreamer’ Javier Juarez. “Without DACA, I would have never been able to drive, get a decent paying job with benefits, graduate from Rhode Island College and get accepted into Brown University. Without DACA, everything that I have worked so hard for will vanish. I will continue to fight for DACA. I don’t need a set of papers to show the government that I am a stand-up citizen,” Juarez said.
Chair McNamara concluded, “It is so devastating to families and the impact it will have on them educationally and personally. These young citizens will lose the opportunity to fulfill themselves, and it will negatively impact our economic prospects for this generation.”
Editorial note: Written from a news release.
Rhode Island’s elected Democratic leaders joined today to condemn President Trump’s remarks Tuesday voicing support the ‘Alt-Right’ movement — White supremacists, neo-Nazis, and members of the Ku Klux Klan — and in a statement sent to reporters, called for Americans to unite peaceably to protect Democracy.
"The hateful and violent actions of white supremacists and self-identified Nazis this weekend leave no room for equivocation," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "President Trump responded to the events this weekend with dog whistles and muddled words. I stand with Rhode Islanders from across our state against hate, racism and white supremacy. I call on President Trump and all elected and community leaders to make a clear, unequivocal statement that white supremacy, Nazism, racism, and bigotry are evil and have no place in our democratic republic."
"All of our leaders have a responsibility to speak with one common voice against bigotry, hatred and prejudice," said Nicholas Mattiello, Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. "A failure to denounce such actions in Charlottesville and elsewhere is an implied acceptance of this intolerable behavior. Americans must stand united for decency, honesty and the shared common value of equality for all."
President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio said, “There can be no false equivalency between those who seek to subjugate groups of Americans and those who stand bravely against hatred and oppression. This isn’t about left versus right; it’s about right versus wrong. Rhode Islanders of diverse ideologies have fought to protect the American ideal that all people are created equal against the scourge of slavery during the Civil War, of Nazism during World War II, and of racism during the Civil Rights movement. We as Americans stand united against racism and intolerance, but the leader of this great nation must not equivocate on the fundamental American principle espoused by George Washington to a Jewish congregation in Newport: that we shall give to bigotry no sanction.”
“America is at a crossroads. Do we continue our experiment in democracy or do we return to the days of bigotry, racism, hatred, and condoned violence?” asked Party Chair Joseph M. McNamara. “This is not a Republican / Democratic issue – this is an American issue; our nation needs its elected and political leaders to unite to speak out now against this injustice, and to fight to protect our nation from this divisive presidency.”
Editorial note: Written from a news release.