District 3 Town Councilman Joseph Polisena Jr. will introduce a resolution at Monday’s meeting that seeks to pay tribute to Janice Mele, the former School Committee chairwoman and District 3 representative who passed away unexpectedly in April at age 69.
Polisena’s resolution would rename the Johnston High School library after Mele. It would be a fitting tribute for a woman who spent her life working as a librarian at the St. Thomas School in Providence, he said.
“It’s a good way to remember her by,” the councilman said. “I’ve known Janice for quite a while. I’ve been around politics for quite a while. I don’t know anybody that had a bad thing to say about Janice. Especially in the school system, she was just so well liked.”
Mayor Joseph Polisena echoed that sentiment during an interview with the Sun Rise on Tuesday morning. He said that, since his political career began in 1992, he never encountered anyone nicer than Mele. He said that since Mele was an alumna of Johnston High School, renaming the library would be an especially appropriate way to honor her memory.
“I miss her every day, and we would talk probably every other day,” the mayor said. “Just on different issues, if not she’d call [and say], ‘How are you doing? How’s the family?’ I’d do the same thing with her. You just don't find people like Janice Mele anymore. It’s a big loss for this town. It’s a huge loss for this town.”
Polisena said he was discussing the matter with his son, who had told him he wanted to name something in Mele’s memory. The conversation led to the high school library, where Polisena said there will be a plaque dedicated after the resolution is approved by the council.
Polisena said he will be in attendance during the May 13 Town Council meeting to speak in favor of the legislation.
“There’s not a thing you can say bad about Janice Mele,” he said. “She was always there for the children, and as I said, being the chairwoman, she didn't just care about her district, she cared about the entire town.”
Polisena said he admired Mele’s dedication to the whole school district, as well as her no-nonsense attitude in accomplishing tasks. He said Mele, who served for more than a decade on the School Committee, displayed her leadership capabilities while at its helm.
“She would get the thing done,” Polisena said. “She never hesitated helping anybody and she would be out there from 7 o’clock in the morning till 8 o’clock at the night when the polls close for anybody. She’s going to be sorely missed. As I said, you don’t find too many people like her that are kind and compassionate all the time.”
Polisena sent a letter to Johnston Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bernard DiLullo, who called the concept a “fabulous idea.” DiLullo said that there is a plan to honor Mele “in some way” during the first School Committee meeting without her on Tuesday, May 14.
He said that “definitely the void will be felt” when that meeting is called into session.
“I thought it was a nice connection in terms of her career as a librarian at St. Thomas School, and then to name the high school library after Janice Mele is a great tribute to someone who put a lot into Johnston Public Schools, and put a lot into education in general through her career at St. Thomas,” the superintendent said.
Polisena Jr. said it was evident how much time and effort Mele poured into the entire school district. It was easy to tell that Mele really cared for students, and renaming the high school library will allow that commitment to the town continue on in perpetuity.
“Janice dedicated so much of her time to Johnston,” the councilman said. “All the lives she impacted – it takes a lot of time to do what she did and she was well liked by many. I think it’s a great way for her name to live on.”