WEST – School committee members and the school district administration are defending themselves against criticism, “accusations and fabrications” launched primarily by a resident over a period of several months.
Superintendent Mark Garceau and each member of the school committee, at Wednesday’s committee meeting, addressed comments made by Robert Chiaradio, the brother of school committee chair Diane Chiaradio Bowdy, and two other residents.
Robert Chiaradio, who looked and looked more enraged than in the past, has appeared before the committee periodically for more than a year, claiming that students in the district are learning to adopt aspects of critical theory of race. On Wednesday, for the first time, Chiaradio used the names of two of the teachers who he said teach students “white shame.”
Critical race theory originated in law school. He argues that many of the nation’s institutions and laws are based on prejudices against blacks and other minorities.
Garceau defended one of the teachers targeted by Chiaradio as “one of the best educators and, quite frankly, one of the best people I have met in 35 years in this field” and called the other teacher a “exceptional”.
Chiaradio claims that one of the teachers “shamed, intimidated and silenced a student for having a political opinion different from his own.” Garceau said a week-long investigation found that the incident alleged by Chiaradio never took place.
Robert Chiaradio was joined on the podium by two other very critical residents. Kim Suminski ridiculed some committee members for wearing face masks during the meeting and said, “I want half of you removed.”
Suminski also referred to a “whipping tree” which she said was used by the school district when she was a student. The other resident, Joanne Gray, has called for the resignation of an administrator and a member of the school committee.
Diane Chiaradio Bowdy said some people who approach the school committee do not provide evidence to support their claims.
âYour credibility is destroyed when you keep getting on the podium and not supporting anything. Never,â said Chiaradio Bowdy.
Instead of facts, said Chiaradio Bowdy, the committee received opinions.
âFor some, the truth and facts are irrelevant, and negativity and destruction have become a way of life. At the same time, my commitment to serving this community faithfully, proudly and relentlessly has never been stronger. “said Chiaradio Bowdy.
School committee member Mariane Nardone questioned Robert Chiaradio’s approach. While she respects the district’s teachers, Nardone said, she also agrees with Robert Chiaradio’s stated hope that the district’s standardized test scores improve.
Giuseppe Gencarelli, a school committee member and school principal from another district, said one of the teachers criticized by Chiaradio was his daughter’s hero and one of the best teachers in the district.
âI wear a mask because I am a role model in school. Calling us to be part of the school committee is ridiculous and frustrating to hear. I am a 22 year old educator. I am an educator because I want it. better for kids, âGencarelli said.
School committee member Robert Cillino, who also works as a school principal in another district, offered a similar perspective. âI hate wearing a mask. I don’t want to wear it, but if the kids have to wear it, I’ll wear it,â Cillino said.
Robert Chiaradio’s rehearsal is detrimental, school committee member Rebecca Fowler said.
âI worry every time I see you Mr. Chiaradio. I try to empathize with what you say and try to be in the middle of the road, but it’s hard when we listen to the same words and phrases over and over again, âFowler said.
Micheal Ober, a member of the school committee, said he had not seen evidence that critical race theory was part of the district’s curriculum.
School committee member Christine Cooke said the COVID-19 pandemic had taken its toll.
âIt’s a sad night for our city. We have a very divided city – economically, politically and in terms of health. It’s very sad to see this hatred and animosity between all these different groups. that something positive will happen, âCooke said.
Carmela Sammataro, the district’s English language arts coordinator, asked the committee to prevent speakers from referring to specific teachers. She also promised to continue to attend committee meetings to provide a counterpoint to criticism.
“It’s disgusting – putting a teacher’s name in there is inappropriate. It’s wrong,” she said.
Lisa Fusaro, a counselor in the guidance department at Westerly High School, defended the teachers appointed by Robert Chiaradio, saying one of the teachers loves his students more than any other teacher and praising the other for his “passion and knowledge. “.
William Nardone, counsel for the school committee, speaking towards the end of the meeting, said public comments on the work performance of school district employees “are not appropriate.” In the future, he said, he would recommend that Chiaradio Bowdy “shoot down loudspeakers” that expose the committee to legal action. He also called for an “element of civility” when individuals address the school committee during the open forum portion of its meetings.