Did you know one of the other candidates on the November ballot running for Governor is from Woonsocket. Do you recognize any of these names: Thomas Davis (Independent), Kate Fletcher (Independent), Leon Kayarian (Independent), Christopher Reynolds, (Independent), James Spooner (Moderate) and Anna Winograd Vrankar (Compassion party). The answer is Leon Kayarian. He told Channel 6 reporter Mark Curtis "I was born in Woonsocket Rhode Island and I moved to Warwick so you can say I am a true Rhode Islander... It's a gorgeous state, I love this state." A Cranston businessman - who made his millions in the automotive trade - his big concern now is the student loan debt being run up by college students in the Ocean State. Kayarian outlines his issue positions from his smart phone, and says his website www.leon4governor.org has his solutions for student loan debt and other policies. Kayarian class picture shows up page 84 of the 1945 Woonsocket High School Quiver Yearbook.
The city that keeps on giving. Ten days ago, National Grid cut power to the United Methodist church and their ministry The River which assists the homeless and poor who get regular meals and clothing from the church work. After reading a Russ Olivo story on the church's plight, Dick Bouchard of WNRI started a local fundraising campaign the next day on the radio station. Then after hearing that The Church couldn’t afford to keep its lights on and appliances running, the Italian Workingmen’s Club decided to give the church a check to pay the overdue bill. On Monday of this week, Dick Bouchard handled over $610.00 to Pastor Rebecca Lambert in an on the air interview. Another $200.00 in checks came in on Tuesday. Right now 1810.00 has been donated and power should be restored this morning.
Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patrick McGee visited WNRI Tuesday to report on the state of affairs in the education system. McGee has submitted an application to become permanent superintendent and even received notice that he will be interviewed for the position next week. I asked if Woonsocket schools get a "bum rap" when it comes to image.
McGee says both outside and inside the community, the school departments deserves a better image. "We made a lot of improvements in the last few years." McGee says there's been improvement in reading scores in the elementary grades but math needs improvement. In the middle school, Woonsocket has moved from a close call with state intervention to continued progress to avoid state involvement. At the high school, reading scores are improved, math is improving with curriculum adjustments. McGee was particularly complimentary to a dedicated and professional teaching and support staff that populates the school system. "We've turned the corner and we are starting to gain momentum", McGee concluded.
On full day kindergarten, the new program started flawlessly. Crediting coordinator Donna Coderre with attending to details this summer, classrooms, teachers, aids, materials were all in place from day one. There are 19 kindergarten classrooms citywide.
McGee was cautious on more charter schools coming to Woonsocket. Saying he was for parental choice of school options, he also underscored that charter schools remove a percentage of dollars from the district. McGee notes that the district offers " a very strong, solid and effective education with an extremely dedicated staff. I would take the staff we have here in Woonsocket against any other in the state. We have some very challenging students that we have to educate and its not always easy. Some of the most affluent districts do not have that!"
McGee has singled out attendance as an improvement goal identifying select administrators to find tardy students and correct their patterns. McGee correlates regular attendance and learning as co-dependent factors.
Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt has made a point on numerous occasions that she doesn't listen to AM radio and to use her words last Saturday "And I'll be honest with you, I don't get the opportunity to to be listening to AM local radio and talk shows during the day. If I'm doing that, I'm not doing my job." but she has no problem finding time to speak to AM radio audiences when it helps spread her message. And we commend her for calling at least. Last Saturday she called Larry Poitras and clarified several issues.
On the non-profit tax treaty recently approved by the budget commission, the Mayor defended the move to finalize the deal before too much of the fiscal year elapsed. The leadership of the clubs were disappointed that a city council workshop did not get scheduled but they wanted closure on their tax liability. The said it was time to act, workshop or no worship. Council President Albert Brien says the budget commission may have violated state law but not having a public hearing on the matter.
On the communication between the mayor and the city council president, she says it is non-existent. She wants a " point person I can communicate with." She listed all council members except Albert Brien as people who contact her regularly about city business. The conversation suggested that another move to replace Brien would be something she would be comfortable with. As far as working out a relationship she added " I am in my office everyday....so I am very accessible mayor and the other councilors can tell you that."
Poitras asked about the vacant land at Diamond Hill Road and Mendon Road where Vermette's Restaurant used to be. The Mayor said the state still plans to make intersection improvements. She also expects ground to be broken for a new Dunkin Donuts to be constructed at that site. Poitras also quizzed the Mayor about the Mendon Road vacant land leading into Highland Park. Baldelli-Hunt expect Cumberland Farms to build one of their new premium retail store designs.
From Tuesday night's city council meeting the Mayor revealed a new plan to create an athletic campus next to the high school on Cass Avenue. This change would provide space closer the school using land from Cass Park, Renaud Field and The Dionne walking track. A design plan is underway to create a possible layout. The mayor hopes to use Barry Field to generate revenue and use that money for school specific purposes. She also has a $250,000 "allotment" to improve the Cass Avenue fields she said came through the General Assembly. She did not say how Barry Field land would generate money. More to come on that idea.
Mayor Baldelli-Hunt also revealed plans to relocate the RIPTA bus stop under the train trestle to another location. A new shelter structure once used at Kennedy Plaza in Providence has been placed in storage for Woonsocket. The shelters have a copper roof, etched glass and jewel sided. The new location is set for the lower Clinton Street. If and when this happens, Baldelli-Hunt would accomplish something two earlier mayors talked about but were never able to bring about. Larry Poitras, local talk show host, has complained about the traffic bottleneck and eyesore the site has created and can now sleep peacefully that one of his pet peeves is about to be solved.