By ALEX MALM
On June 15 when all three district School Committee incumbents announced they would not seek reelection, it appeared two seats could go uncontested and there wouldn’t be a …
By ALEX MALM
On June 15 when all three district School Committee incumbents announced they would not seek reelection, it appeared two seats could go uncontested and there wouldn’t be a candidate for the third. That’s all changed with as many as 11 potential candidates running for the seats. Those declaring for the 4-year non partisan seats in the past week are:
Aside from Tara Levasseur who previously announced her candidacy running in the District 1 race, four other candidates have emerged since Monday.
One of the candidates making a run for the seat is Shaun Galligan a 2007 graduate of Pilgrim High School.
“Public schools provide our children an essential foundation to set them up for success in life. Since becoming a father to three young boys, my mindset has changed,” said Galligan. “I am now concerned about the education they are receiving and the resources that are made available to them. I believe we have the best teachers in the state; teachers who genuinely care for the growth and well-being of our children. However, we are not setting the kids nor the teachers up for success when we: eliminate essential resources, spread our teachers too thin by requiring them to 'wear multiple hats', shortsighted fiscal investments, and not establishing a clear vision for the future of Warwick Public Schools.”
Galligan said his top two priorities if elected would be to have a long-term strategy developed for the schools, and to address the mental health of students.
“We need to make sure that our teachers are not playing the roles of 'Psychologist' or 'Counselor', while trying to balance teaching in near capacity classrooms,” said Galligan. “Our teachers and students should have these resources within each school. We are coming out of 2+ years of 'not so typical' lifestyles, and/or learning methods. I believe this will weigh heavily on the children from a mental health standpoint. We need to make sure that these specialists are staffed at the appropriate levels, especially within the elementary and middle schools, so that the kids have a strong foundation for their next level of education or life.”
Also in the running is Frank Brown who works as a Coordinator of Community Residential Services for individuals with developmental disabilities and has worked for the state for 32 years.
“I truly believe and love our great city; I also believe a great city deserves great schools. I will work hard to make our school district the best in Rhode Island and a district that other communities seek to follow,” said Brown. “I vision a great school district that provides the safest environment for our students, has highly developed Educators, and is sustainable for years to come. I look forward to meeting and introducing myself personally in the near future, and for you to see firsthand that I am the right candidate for district 1 on the Warwick School Committee.”
Brown has been involved with a number of different youth organizations across the city including being the former President of West Side Little League and also serving as member on the Board of Directors.
“I am proud to have been recognized as an influential advocate for Little League Softball in the State of Rhode Island. Additionally, I was a Director of Girls Basketball at St. Peters and shared involvement with the Warwick Boys and Girls Clubs Basketball program,” said Brown. “I then assembled the first girls’ basketball ‘Travel’ team for the Warwick Warriors Program.”
Most recently Brown served on Warwick’s Juvenile Hearing Board and coached Pilgrim’s girl’s basketball team.
William Okerholm who previously worked in public education started his career as Director of Buildings and Grounds for the Tiverton School Department where he had “extensive dealing with the Tiverton School Committee. “Presenting my annual operations budget each year. I was also involved with the AFSCME Council 94 union on some of the union contract negotiations,” he said in a release. Okerholm then went to work as the Director of Facilities & Grounds for the William M. Davies Career and Technical High School where he worked for 17 years.
“I worked extensively with the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE). Developed our annual operations budget, and five year plan,” said Okerholm. “We had to present our annual budget to the Education Commissioner and the Board of Regents each June. I also worked closely with RIDE working on the construction regulations for building upgrades and projects, also how to maintain a safe, clean environment in the school for the health and well being of students and staff. Also worked closely with the Davies High School Board of Directors on many Facilities issues. My experience also includes being a part time Adjunct Engineering Instructor for the Community College of Rhode Island. I believe that with twenty years in education would be an asset to the Warwick School Committee and the Warwick School Department and the Warwick Tax payers.”
Asked if he worked with Ward 1 Councilman Bill Foley who also worked at Davies, Okerholm said that he did for 17 years.
“I think we will help each other get elected,” said Okerholm.
William Hockenhull, a 2005 Pilgrim High School graduate, said “I decided to run for Warwick School Committee having witnessed the beloved system I grew up in become a nearly unrecognizable shadow of its former self. There are persistent problems that interfere with the future of this school system if left unaddressed. Personal issues between committee members, parents feeling invalidated by the committee and teachers not having adequate resources are a few.”
Hockenhull said he has worked with students with special needs as a 1 to 1, a behavior therapist, therapeutic mentor, and now a home-based mental health clinician based out of Warwick. His wife works within the North Providence school system and he is a father of a young daughter who will soon be attending the Warwick Public Schools.
“I believe I am the best candidate for the job because I have had the unique experience of being both someone who has worked in a school predominately with children with special needs, was a student in the WPS system, and have been an advocate for parents and students on the other side of the table,” said Hockenhull. “This has given me a greater understanding of the needs of the educators, staff, parents, and students. My clinical background will serve me well in separating politics from educating our students as political issues should never come in the way of their education.”
Running in the District 2 race is Leah Hazelwood, a teacher assistant at Pilgrim High School; Danny Hall who has ran multiple times for office in the past; Stephen DiPalma, and Christopher Daigneault.
In the District 3 race former Ward 7 Councilman CJ Donovan is facing off against Toll Gate High School graduate Michelle Kirby Chapman.