Portsmouth educator named to RIDE strategic plan team

The Council on Elementary and Secondary Education last night selected 26 Rhode Islanders to serve on the "Ambassador Design Team," which will develop and write the next strategic plan for elementary and secondary education in Rhode Island, according to a statement from the RI Dept. of Ed. Among those named is Portmouth resident Amy Mullen, who teaches in the Tiverton school district.

“I am very proud that we have selected such a diverse and talented group of people to develop and write the next strategic plan for Rhode Island public education,” said Eva-Marie Mancuso, Chair of the Board of Education. “I am so grateful to every single person who applied to join this team. The team has the balance, the talent, and the expertise we need to develop a great strategic plan. With this team in place and ready to begin work, I am confident that we will have a plan that will advance learning and achievement for all Rhode Island students.”

“The design team we have selected represents much of what is great about both our state and our educational system,” said Patrick A. Guida, Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education. “It is highly racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse. It includes people with many different educational and professional experiences. It includes people who have been educated internationally and people who have received all of their education in our public institutions. It includes elected officials, business people, and representatives of postsecondary education. And, perhaps most important, it includes students, parents, and educators from throughout our state.”

About 300 Rhode Islanders submitted initial applications to join the Ambassador Design Team, with 156 people completing the application process.

“I want to thank everyone who applied to serve on the design team,” Chair Guida added. “Everyone who applied is going to be invited to join in the process in another meaningful capacity. We are going to do our best to keep this incredible pool of committed individuals involved in this process.”

“As many of us have said from the outset, we want our next strategic plan to be a plan that all Rhode Islanders can embrace and support,” said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “The design team members whom the Council members have selected represent a wide range of views, but they share a commitment to our schools and to our students. We all have a role to play when it comes to improving our public schools, and the tremendous interest that Rhode Islanders have shown in the development of our strategic plan is very encouraging and heartening. I believe that the plan this team develops will guide our work and inspire us as we continue to transform education in Rhode Island.”

The members of the team will begin meeting this month, with the goal of presenting a plan to the Council for approval in June. The plan will guide public education in Rhode Island over the next five years.

The team will base its work in part on the results of the survey on public education, which is underway and will run through the end of the year. A link to the survey is here:


The survey is available in six languages in addition to English, and all Rhode Islanders are encouraged to participate.

The design team comprises two groups: a core team of 12 members, which will do the research and writing toward development of the strategic plan, and an extended team of 14 members, which will engage in school visits, outside research and readings, and other activities to support the thinking and the work of the core team.

David Moscarelli, the 2015 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year, and Jeremiah Newell, a doctoral student in education leadership at Harvard University doing a residency at RIDE, will facilitate the meetings of the design team.

A list of the members of the Ambassador Design Team (core team and extended team) follows.

The Members of the Ambassador Design Team – Core Team

Michael Barnes
Superintendent of Schools, Foster-Glocester Regional Schools
I hope to contribute to the creation of a strategic direction for RI schools that ensures each graduate is globally competitive, technologically fluent, and can demonstrate proficiency with 21st Century Skills and work habits needed for success in post-secondary education, careers, and life in a knowledge-based society. I hope to see a plan that strengthens, statewide, the focus on personalized, relevant, and collaborative digital learning experiences and the creation of flexible college and career pathways that purposefully prepare students for local and global labor markets.

Colleen Crotteau
Teacher of English Learners, Newport Public Schools
I am eager to contribute my 23 years of teaching experience to the Ambassador Design Team. Through my participation, I hope to help transform education in Rhode Island. As a parent and an educator, I think we can do better for our kids and I am 100 percent invested in Rhode Island schools.

Doris De Los Santos
Executive Director, Partnership, Development & Community Engagement, Providence Public Schools
It will be an honor to serve as an Ambassador Design Team to address one of the most important policy issues we face as a State and as a nation. As a mother of two, as a professional in the field, and as an active community advocate, I do not think there is a better way to affect systemic change than to be part of such a privileged team.

Adam Flynn
Assistant Director, Title I Coordinator, William M. Davies Jr., Career and Technical High School
As an administrator at Davies Career and Technical High School, a former classroom teacher, and more recently as a parent of a kindergarten student in the Cranston public schools I feel so

strongly about the need for a clear, well-articulated, ambitious, and attainable plan to continue the improvement of the public education system in Rhode Island. I look forward to the opportunity to work with others who are passionate about education and to have a collective positive impact on our students.

Mike Grey
Vice President of Operations, Northeast Region, Sodexho School Services, member of Governor’s Workforce Board
As a member of the Ambassador Design Team I hope to offer my support and skills to help create strategy for public education improvement. Our public education system is the best resource and most important lever for improving the quality of life and well-being of Rhode Islanders and Rhode Island communities.

Candace Harper
Family Engagement Coordinator, College Crusade of Rhode Island
Quality education is important to ensure a successful future for all children. Through my participation on this Ambassador Design Team, I will strive to help to shape an opportunity for generations of future students. It will be an opportunity to grow professionally and to connect with others in pursuit of a common goal that will have a lasting, positive impact on our community and state.

Yolanda Nazario
World-languages teacher, Lincoln Public Schools
I am eager to be part of creating a plan that promotes the success of both our students and teachers. Through my service, I hope to have meaningful and achievable goals that will inspire our teachers and students to strive for their best.

Brian Rowe
Student, North Smithfield High School
I look forward to contributing a strong and well-informed student voice to the strategic-planning process. Serving as a member of this team will also further prepare me to be an educated voice in my school community; I look forward to devoting my time and energy to improving public education in Rhode Island.

John Santangelo
Mathematics teacher and vice-president of the Cranston Teachers’ Alliance
I hope to bring the voice of practitioners to these very important deliberations; I’ve had a 25+ year career as a teacher, union leader, and parent, and I am committed to the successful implementation of the plan we will develop together.

Earl N. Smith III
Assistant Dean – Student Affairs, University of Rhode Island
I hope to share my experience of marginalization as a student and administrator so we do not continue to exclude and/or oppress others. More significantly, I expect to set an example by taking responsibility and not just complaining.

Lisa P. Tomasso
Served on Coventry School Committee, in House of Representatives, on Race to the Top Steering Committee
Fifteen years ago, I volunteered to help in my son’s kindergarten classroom; I fell in love with public education and discovered the importance of success for all of the students. As a member of the Ambassador Design Team, I hope to provide strategic input and guidance on issues facing our public schools, educators, and students. Our cooperative effort will ensure that all children will be prepared to lead successful and fulfilling lives as productive members of a global society.

One additional student member to be announced.

The Members of the Ambassador Design Team – Extended Team

Brian Baldizar
Assistant Principal, Classical High School Providence
As a member of the design team, I hope to help shape the future of Rhode Island public education. From my first-hand knowledge of youth and community engagement, my time as a teacher, my work transforming schools, and now as a school administrator, I am aware of how urgent and critical this work is for our young people, cities, towns, and our state as a whole.

Ana W. Barraza
Adult Basic Education instructor, Providence
I hope to gain a better understanding of Rhode Island’s vision for serving our Pre-K through grade-12 population and to impact that vision through my own knowledge and experience.

Dana Borelli-Murray
Executive Director, Highlander Institute
As a native Rhode Islander with deep family ties to the city, I hope to contribute my personal and professional expertise and passion to the Rhode Island educational landscape: creative thinking, innovative design, social justice, and a deep belief in dismantling convention in order to meet the changing needs of all learners in this digital information age.

S. Kai Cameron
Facilitator for Community Partnerships, Providence Public Schools
As a native Rhode Islander and long-time resident of the city of Providence, I believe that my personal and professional experiences with students and parents will offer insight that may be “missing” at the table. I strongly believe that each and every day is an opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute; participation on the Ambassador Design Team provides me a means for living this credo.

Christopher Haskins
Head of Paul Cuffee School
I hope to contribute my knowledge, experience, and vision for what a great public K-12 school system can do for Rhode Island students.

Robert Jones
North Kingstown School Committee, Director of Strategic Planning and Research at Bryant University
As an ambassador, I hope to play a part in developing a strategic plan for our state that reflects my passion and commitment to our public school system. I hope to learn from other team members and bring new expertise back to North Kingstown.

Piedade Lemos
World languages teachers, Providence Public Schools
Being part of the Ambassador Design Team will give me the opportunity to share the knowledge that I have accumulated these past years in my role as a teacher and parent, along with an understanding of the issues facing urban students. I hope to contribute to the creation of a cohesive plan with achievable, aggressive results and, at the same time, learn from others on the team.

Amy Mullen
President, Tiverton Teachers

Tyler Nettleton
Student, Chariho High School
As a current student, I hope to gain more knowledge about the public education system and the ways it can support students. As a Rhode Island high-school senior, I look forward to giving back to this system by contributing the knowledge I have as a student and to bring the voice of students to the team.

Jeannine Nota-Masse
Assistant Superintendent, Cranston School Department
I am completely invested in public education as both a parent and an educator. As a member of the Ambassador Design Team, I hope to contribute a tenacious work ethic, honest and thoughtful opinions, and the perspective that spans the full breadth of my experiences as an educator, and look forward to devoting my time to making education better for all children in our state.

Jo-Ann Schofield
Co-chair, The Mentoring Partnership
Now is the time to work toward creating a meaningful strategic plan for Rhode Island public schools. I will contribute my passion for and enthusiasm in the belief that every student is capable of success with the help and guidance of a positive adult in their lives. As a dedicated team member I will embrace the shared goal of an improved public education system that will build a brighter future for Rhode Island, its children, and its families.

Chris Semonelli
Co-director Newport County Mentor/Co-Op Group
I want to improve Rhode Island’s economy by supplying a well-trained and interested workforce that meets our business needs while at the same time providing a rich, rewarding, and fulfilling education for our students.

Andrea J. Spas
Assistant Director of Special Education, Chariho Regional School District
I want to be a part of a team that considers the unique and varying needs of all students and, in particular, students with disabilities. I look forward to helping craft a strategic plan that focuses on closing achievement gaps and providing all students with a rigorous educational experience.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Full disclosure: I was an applicant in this process, and while I wasn't selected for either of the core teams, I'm delighted to have been picked for the "Strategy Review Team" which will be reviewing the documents produced by the core team at several points.

"Week of action" takes aim at RI pipeline expansion (and the PUC)

Grassroots groups from four states along the proposed route of Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline expansion, which cuts through New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, have joined together to host a coordinated “Week of Respect and Resistance”, with actions from December 13 through December 19 in opposition to the project, the groups said in a joint press release.  The project includes the expansion of  a compressor station in Burrillville which organizers note is already “a major source of hazardous air pollutants”, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee.
The actions are planned in anticipation of the release of the final Environmental Impact Statement by the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) due on or about December 19, 2014. The week of action will target local, state, and federal legislators and government agencies, all of whom have direct roles or influence in the approval of the project. These actions will build on the numerous rallies, vigils, meetings and call-in campaigns that have been happening across the states for the past several months, organizers said.
“We are calling this a Week of Respect and Resistance: respect, because it's important to honor the other struggles for justice that have come before us, and those that are taking place right now around the world. It's also time for Spectra and our elected officials to respect our power and respect our desire to see a world powered by community owned renewable energy,” FANG organizer Nick Katkevich explained.
Fossil Free Rhode Island, a grassroots group promoting divestment from fossil fuels, will kick off the week with an event on Saturday, December 13th, at the Alternative Food Co-op inWakefield, RI, to highlight the need to build a localized, worker-owned economy and rein in the power of multinational corporations that perpetuates fossil fuel dependence.
Fossil Free Rhode Island will follow up with a call-in campaign next week to ask elected officials and state agencies to intervene to stop the AIM project. 
Rhode Island groups will also be present at the meeting of the Public Utilities Commission next Tuesday, Dec. 16th, to protest the 23.6% electric rate hike proposed by National Grid, a corporation headquartered in London, Great Britain.  The meeting will be held at 10 am at 89 Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick.
Visit this website for updates on the actions planned for Rhode Island:  http://peoplesclimate.org/rhodeisland/
Late last month, Fossil Free Rhode Island launched a campaign urging the Rhode Island Department of Health to block the expansion of the compressor station in Burrillville, citing elevated asthma rates in the surrounding area.  “We are outraged that Rhode Island’s political leaders — both Republicans and Democrats —are ignoring threats to our children’s health, and instead are siding with the fossil fuel industries,” said Tony Affigne, chair of the Green Party of Rhode Island, a signatory to the campaign. “This week will show the state’s leadership that people and the environment are more important than Spectra’s profit margin.”
Rhode Island Clean Water Action, the Sierra Club of Rhode Island, Occupy Providence, and the Voluntown Peace Trust have also signed on.  As Peter Nightingale, Professor of Physics at the University of Rhode Island, stated: “We need an immediate end to uncontrolled experiments that threaten public health in Rhode Island and the habitability of the planet.” 
Many elected officials in New York, including Congresswoman Nita Lowey, wrote to FERC requesting an independent risk assessment of a massive 42" new segment of pipeline that would run 105 feet from critical structures at the Indian Point nuclear facility.
Pipeline expert Rick Kuprewicz stated: "[I] cannot overstress the importance of performing a full and complete process hazard safety analysis, independently demonstrating, especially to the public, that there will be no interplay between a possible gas transmission pipeline rupture and the IPEC facilities to failsafe shutdown or cause a loss of radiation containment in such a sensitive and highly populated area of the country."   
“We are at a critical juncture. Expanding the Spectra Algonquin pipeline will lock us into a reliance on fossil fuel infrastructure for decades to come. Communities across the region are coming together to oppose this pipeline and call for clean energy alternatives, energy conservation and efficiency,” said Michelle Weiser, Community Organizer with Toxics Action Center. 
If approved, Spectra would begin construction as early as March 2015, and the project would be completed in November 2016. Another Spectra expansion, the Atlantic Bridge, is planned to follow right after the AIM Project with additional expanded segments of massive 42" diameter high-pressure pipeline and compressor station expansions, and a third project is also in the works.  
Organizers say that these expansions would be devastating to the entire northeast region and much of the gas would be shipped overseas to foreign markets. "If the governmental agencies fail us and approve this project, our nonviolent resistance will only escalate. This week will be a demonstration of our commitment to stop this pipeline at all cost," says Katkevich.
Groups involved with the action include: Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (NY); Sierra Club (CT); Greater Danbury MoveOn.org Council (CT); Capitalism v. The Climate (CT); Occupy Danbury (CT); Fighting Against Natural Gas (RI); Burrillville Against Spectra Expansion (RI); Fossil Free Rhode Island (RI); Green Party of Rhode Island (RI); Occupy Providence (RI); Toxics Action Center (MA & RI); Mothers Out Front; No New Fracked Gas Infrastructure in West Roxbury, Dedham, or New England (MA); Flood Boston (MA) and Better Future Project (MA).

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Doctorow's "Information Doesn't Want to Be Free" now in audiobook

idwtbfsmall.jpgInternet activist and sf author Cory Doctorow has produced an awesome audiobook version of his latest nonfiction book, Information Doesn't Want to be Free: Laws for the Internet Age." Read by Will Wheaton, with incidental music by Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls, the audiobook is available for $15 on Doctorow's web site. In an e-mail sent to his mailing list, Doctorow explained:

Both Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman contributed forewords to this one, and Will reads them, too (of course). I could *not* be happier with how it came out. My sincere thanks to Will, the Skyboat Media people (Cassandra and Gabrielle de Cuir and Stefan Rudnicki), John Taylor Williams, and to Amanda for the music.

The book is $15, is DRM free, and has no EULA -- you don't need to give up any of your rights to buy it. It should be available in Downpour and other DRM-free outlets soon, but, of course, it won't be in iTunes or Audible, because both companies insist that you use DRM with your works, and I don't use DRM (for reasons that this book goes to some length to explain).

Audio edition:

I've got it on the speakers right now, and it's Doctorow in classic form: informative, accessible, and very smart about the issues around copyright, intellectual property, and surviving as an artist (or, really, anyone who does stuff with their computer) in the Internet age. If you're looking for something to listen to on plane rides or car trips over the upcoming holidays, this is fifteen bucks well spent.

Here are a couple of reviews of the print version:
Wall Street Journal
Boston Globe

Full disclosure: I have known Cory for years; I paid for this book and received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

Portsmouth motorist heads-up: construction on Boyd Lane today and tomorrow

The Portsmouth Water and Fire District will be doing water main work on Boyd Lane on the southeast side of the Rt. 24 northbound off ramp today and tomorrow from 7:30am, according to a release. Boyd Lane traffic will be shifted into two narrow lanes, and motorists are advised that there may be delays, especially during morning and evening commutes.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

"Reasonable" seasonal ads appear across RI

Members of the RI Coalition of Reason at their North Kingstown billboard.

With ten distinctive ads on the sides of RIPTA busses — and a big billboard in North Kingstown — the newly formed RI Coalition of Reason, comprising six atheist, agnostic, and humanist groups, has launched a public awareness campaign to foster recognition and acceptance of the growing number of non-believers across the state.

"We want to make our presence in the community known," Tony Houston, coordinator of the RICoR said in a prepared statement. "Non-theistic people are your family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. We may not believe in a deity or the supernatural, but we are compassionate, ethical members of this community. We would like to encourage local atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, skeptics, secularists, and humanists to stand up and be counted. If you are a Rhode Island nonbeliever, know that you are not alone."

The local campaign is part of a nationwide effort to reach out to non-theists. There have been similar billboards, bus ads, and Internet campaigns in more than 30 states, according to the group.

"The point of our national awareness campaign is to reach out to the millions of humanists, atheists, and agnostics living in the United States," explained Dr. Jason Heap, national coordinator of United CoR. "Non-theists sometimes don't realize there's a community for them because they're inundated with theistic messages at every turn. So we hope our effort will serve as a beacon and let them know they aren't alone."

"Being visible is important to us," Heap added, "because, in our society, non-theistic people often don't know many like themselves.

In a web posting, Houston explained the special local significance of non-theism. "Separation of Church and State is an integral part of Rhode Island’s heritage, The state’s founder, Roger Williams, was a religious man who championed 'soul liberty' and despised the 'monstrous partiality' of sectarian dogma. Religious Rhode Islanders often overlook Roger Williams the secularist, but Williams knew that you couldn’t have freedom of religion without freedom from religion. He knew that heresy assumed that the accuser is the one who got it right. He also concluded from the prosperity of Muslims and Catholics that God did not play favorites."

The group has received substantial media coverage of the recently launched campaign, and while much of the feedback has been positive, Houston says, there has been some pushback.

"Naturally, some people were offended," said Houston, "But that just shows you that religion has been exempt from scrutiny by social convention. We can’t have a civilization in which the best ideas prevail if certain viewpoints are exempt from scrutiny."

According to Houston, the group also plans to participate with an entry in the annual holiday display at the State House.

Media coverage
Warwick Online
RI Future
Friendly Atheist (Patheos.com)
RI Coalition of Reason

Editorial note: Written substantially from a press release.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Humanists of Rhode Island, one of the constituent groups of the RICoR.

RI Dept. of Ed seeks input on strategic plan process

The RI Dept. of Education and the RI Board of Education have kicked off the process of creating the next state-wide education strategic plan, and you can provide your input on the web. Here's the note announcing the process that went out from Commissioner Deborah Gist this morning:

Dear Friends of Education,

We want to hear your voice as we begin to develop Rhode Island's new strategic plan for public education!

Our new plan will be for, from, and about all Rhode Islanders, and we will build this plan through a statewide conversation. The first step of this conversation is underway: we are asking all Rhode Islanders to share with us their views on education through a short, anonymous survey that will take no more than five minutes to complete. In the first two weeks, we have received a tremendous response of more than 4,000 participants - but we have another six weeks to go and want to hear from as many Rhode Islanders as possible!

I am seeking your help to ensure that your voice is part of this conversation. You can see the overall results in real time on our web site at www.ride.ri.gov/Strategic-Plan-Survey-Results.

I would be very grateful if you would please take the survey and share this link with everyone in your networks: www.ride.ri.gov/Strategic-Plan-Survey

Here is a link to the Spanish-language version of the survey: www.ride.ri.gov/Strategic-Plan-Survey-ES

A brief summary of the entire design process for the strategic plan is posted on RIDE's website at www.ride.ri.gov/Strategic-Plan

We have embarked on an ambitious project, and, with your help and participation, I know that we can develop a dynamic and ambitious strategic plan that will improve the lives of our students and their families for years to come.


Deborah A. Gist

Editorial note: Written from an e-mail.

Portsmouth reps oppose National Grid rate hike

Two of Portsmouth's state representatives — Dennis Canario (D-71) and Jay Edwards (D-70) announced their intention to press the RI Public Utilities Commission to reject a proposal by National Grid to hike electricity rates by nearly 24% next year. In a joint statement this afternoon, the two reps expressed concern for the effect of the increase on both homeowners and commercial customers.

“There just doesn’t seem to be any concern on the part of National Grid as to what a horrendous impact this proposed rate increase will have on Rhode Islanders, both residential and business,” said Rep. Canario. “Rhode Islanders who are already struggling to make ends meet will be facing what is expected to be an additional $240 or more for electric next year. Businesses that are struggling just to stay open will also face significantly higher costs. This is just too much at the wrong time.”

Rep. Edwards agreed. “As our state works to improve its economic status, this enormous rate hike is going to be a major impediment to growth in the business sector and is going to put further financial pressure on families across the state that are trying to hang on. I understand the dynamics of this increase — commodity prices rise at this time of year, there is insufficient pipeline availability to bring enough gas to our region. People expect to see utility prices rise, but the size of this proposed increase is well beyond reasonable.”

National Grid filed its request for a 23.6 percent rate hike with the PUC earlier this week, saying the commodity price spike it is seeing is due, in part, to lack of capacity in pipelines bringing natural gas to New England. When there is insufficient capacity to move more natural gas to the region, the price to use the pipes gets higher.

Reps Canario and Edwards said they understand the pressure on National Grid to maintain service to their customers in the face of rising commodity prices. But with the colder months rapidly approaching, consumers are already expecting to see higher utility bills as they try to keep their homes warm. A hike of this size, they said, is excessive.

Editorial note: Written from a state house news release.

Broadway "Side Show" offers poignant, powerful revival [update]

14nov16_side_show.pngBack in 1997, the musical Side Show, based on the life of conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, ran for just 91 performances on Broadway, but received four Tony nominations and created a devoted following. Now Side Show is back, in a dazzlingly theatrical reboot at the St. James Theatre, directed by Academy Award winner Bill Condon and featuring a rewritten book and new songs by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger.

The Hilton twins occupied a weird cultural niche in the 1930s — abandoned as infants in the UK, they were exploited as a curiosity, brought to the US by their manager, toured in vaudeville as a musical act, and eventually appeared in Tod Browning's infamous film Freaks. The revived Side Show offers a deft, compelling biography of Violet and Daisy's challenges that illuminates fundamental human issues of acceptance, othering, and the fraught duality of attachment and escape.

Every moment of show — the majority of which is sung — is packed with bravura performances from an excellent ensemble cast, and intense, vivid theatrics. Krieger (Dreamgirls) displays a gift for haunting motifs, and paired with Russell's clever, twisty lyrics, provides a richly complex score that bears repeated listening. A new cast album is in the works for early in 2015.

The opening number, "Come Look at the Freaks," is a marvel of prosthetics and makeup as we meet the members of the sisters' traveling show: Dog Boy, Three-Legged Man, Human Pin Cushion, Bearded Lady, two Cossack little people, a Lizard Man, the Cannibal King, and "Sir," the sisters' owner and manager. A recent Wall Street Journal photo essay captures the amazing special effects, which were stunningly effective even from the front row.

Erin Davie as Violet and Emily Padgett as Daisy offer utterly riveting performances. It is difficult to imagine anyone pulling off such a span of complex, synchronized movements, but they make it look effortless. Davie is tragically compelling as the introverted Violet, complemented by Padgett's brash Daisy. Together — and they are almost always joined at the hip, aside from a few startlingly effective frame breaks — the pair offer a heartbreaking character study. The 11-o'clock number, "I Will Never Leave You," is a beautiful ballad that was featured on the 1998 Tony broadcast. Their end of Act I duet, "Who Will Love Me As I Am," is an aching lament that will reduce you to tears, even in recollection. You have been warned.

Ryan Silverman as Terry Connor and Matthew Hydzik as Buddy Foster are wonderful as the would-be impresario and song-and-dance man who coax the sisters to move to vaudeville. Their complex relationships — Terry with Daisy and Buddy with Violet — provide much of the energy and tension. Silverman's darkly introspective internal fantasy "Private Conversation," and Buddy's over-the-top vaudeville number "One Plus One Equals Three" could not be more different, yet both perfectly capture the inner lives of this duo caught in the orbit of the sisters.

Another fine thematic doubling is offered by David St. Louis as Jake, the freak show African "Cannibal King" who makes himself the sisters' protector and Robert Joy as the heartless "Sir" who literally owns them. Jake's soulful warning about leaving the show, "The Devil You Know," comes as the sisters struggle to free themselves from Sir's protectorship. Joy's creepy, malevolent Sir contrasts beautifully with St. Louis's nuanced performance as stalwart ally and friend. "I wasn't always the king," he notes in a moment of mordant humor. "I had to eat my way to the top." His confrontation with Sir in the court battle to free the sisters is a rich, dramatic moment.

The courtroom, like the rest of the show, is executed within David Rockwell's spare, elegant set, comprising mobile structural pieces augmented with bold, clever banners. The lighting, by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer combines unobtrusive effectiveness with bravura effects (the "Private Conversation" sequence is a real standout.)

Without having seen the original production, it's difficult to quantify how much Bill Condon's direction and additional book material shaped the show, but the result is nothing short of magical. Right from the opening number, the audience is immersed in a richly imagined, thoroughly compelling vision, executed to the highest technical standards. Whether it's the terrifying shadow doctors in a childhood flashback, the appearance (and disappearance) of Harry Houdini, the romping vaudevillian numbers, or the eerie final sequence with Tod Browning, Condon surprises, delights, and chills the audience. And the book and music are just a continual delight. Krieger and Russell have tweaked the original material and composed several new numbers that are wonderful additions.

Side Show is not really about "freaks," unless it's about the way in which all of us experience the isolation of being alive in a world of difference. It is ultimately, and beautifully, about the things that connect us to each other as people — literally embodied as blood vessels and tissue for the sisters — and the continual challenge of growth and autonomy.

This is a dazzling, high-impact revival of a wonderfully, deeply human show, and an absolutely engrossing theatrical experience. You will come away changed. Highly recommended.

Opens Monday, Nov 17 at the St. James Theatre. More informtion and tickets at SideShowBroadway.com.

Editorial note: Review based on the preview performance on Saturday, Nov. 15. I paid for my tickets and did not receive anything of value in exchange for this review, although I did get to meet Bill Russell afterward and gushed like a fanboy.

Update, 12/12: After weeks of less-than-stellar ticket sales, Deadline.com reported this morning that the show is set to close Jan 4, 2015. I feel bad for the whole creative team (the Times had a good piece on how the revival came together; Broadway.com had a cool video) and depressed by what this says about Broadway as an institution.

Portsmouth school leadership to meet residents

The Portsmouth school district's new leadership team — superintendent Anna Riley and assistant superintendent Thomas Kenworthy — will be holding two "meet and greet" sessions to provide residents an opportunity to meet and talk informally, according to an e-mail sent to parents by the district.

Riley and Kenworthy will be at the Portsmouth Free Public Library, 2658 East Main Road, on Wednesday, November 12, from 10:00 – 11:00am and on Wednesday, November 19, from 4:00 – 5:30pm.

For more information, please call the district office at 401-683-1039.

Editorial note: Written from an e-mail.

DEM catches bad dirt at Portsmouth landfill cap

On Monday, RI DEM released information on two recent issues with the ongoing capping project at the former Portsmouth landfill. An e-mail from RI DEM principal environmental scientist Mark Dennen included attached letters to Arthur Palmer Enterprise and their site manager which detailed two episodes where soil with greater than 7 parts per million of arsenic were identified, the remedial actions required, and in one case, the threat of fines. Here's what Dennen said in his cover e-mail:

As you may know, the Department routinely takes split samples of soils received at the former Portsmouth Town Dump to verify sample analyses done by generators.

The enclosed Notice of Intent to Enforce was issued today regarding soils from Newport that were sampled as part of a routine inspection. As explained in the Notice of Intent, our sampling found that arsenic levels were above both levels reported and criteria set forth in the BUD (40 mg/kg). As these levels are not acceptable, soils will have to be delineated and removed. The Department also reserved the right to take additional enforcement action.

Also enclosed is a letter regarding soils accepted from East Providence sampled relative to a complaint. Although arsenic levels are within allowable levels for the BUD, they were significantly higher than reported. These soils will have to be appropriately managed.

You can read the documents here:
590 Bellevue Avenue, Newport
Omega Pond Fish Ladder