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UPDATE: Candidate Forum Question 2

Here is my initial thought on question #2.
I will be waiting for input via my email and may choose to alter my answer as information comes in to me.

2. As has been reported, the school department has entered the current budget year facing a projected $4 million deficit. It appears trimming such an amount from operating expenses can’t be done without affecting personnel and as a result programs. What programs would you cut, or how else would you balance the budget?

On Friday afternoon, after receiving the questions, I immediately went to the Warwick School Administration Building and visited Mr. Leonard Flood's office and requested a copy of a line by line budget for last year. I also visited the personnel office and requested a copy of the current teacher contract and the current W.I.S.E. contract (I am aware that the WISE contract is in negotiations). There were many questions that I had but with time constraints, but I broke it down as follows.

1. I wanted to find out exactly what programs were currently operating in Warwick and which were mandated.
2. I wanted to know how many people were in each program and who would be directly and indirectly affected by the changes
3. I wanted to know how much money would be saved by changing or cutting a program.

I always want to make an informed decision so I made phone calls, sent out emails, and posted queries online.

While sitting in the Administration Building parking lot, I made a phone call to a city council member to get an opinion regarding the questions. If I was a school committee member, I would talk to the entire city council to get their opinions. I would also like to talk with the Mayor to get his opinion. On Saturday, I made a phone call and sent an email asking for input and the opinion of the Teacher’s Union. On Sunday I received an answer from the Teacher’s Union. I also received information directly from teachers. On Sunday and Monday, I was able to talk in great length to the Parent Group who had their public forum last week at the Sandy Lane Library. I also posted my questions online at the Parent Forum website and I received much valuable information. Here is the link to the parent forum:

In short, to go on record in making a decision to cut programs and what programs I would cut in the time frame of a long weekend is short sighted and will cause panic among all of the people who would be directly and indirectly affected by my opinion and ultimate decision.

I will look at everything, make a decision to save the most amount of money that I can and affect the least amount of people that I can. I will make sure that I involve all city departments who have information to help me properly make a decision. I will look at programs that other cities have cut and examine the results and consequences that occurred as a result of their decisions. I will listen to the public and I will ask for input from anyone who would be directly and indirectly affected. I will make sure to keep the public included by updating my own website and I am committed to restructuring the current Warwick Public School website so that information can be more easily obtained.

Ultimately, when it comes down to it and with the state of our budget the way it is, there will need to be cuts. When I make a decision it will be in the best interest of the Warwick Schools and the students.

Any cuts that are made will be with the thought that it will get us out of our current situation and will make all of our schools stronger for the present and in the future. Every decision that I make will be thoughtful and will take courage because any cut that is made affects people. It is not just a number; there are peoples lives attached to the numbers.

When elected, changes will occur. There will be some that are satisfied with the changes and there will be some who are very upset with the changes. No one is able to make everyone happy all of the time.

I will be able to say with honesty and conviction, "Here is the information that I had. I worked very diligently and left no question unasked and no input went unheard. I truly listened and made sure that I understood the consequences that would occur as a result of my decision. Here is the decision that I made and this is how I went about making the decision. It is unfortunate that this is the course of action that needed to be taken but it will make for a stronger school system today and tomorrow."

At this point, I know this is not the answer that the Warwick Beacon may want to hear. It might not be the answer that many people want to hear. Some people may be thinking... "Here is another politician walking the fine line and getting around answers, and telling me what I want to hear." This is not the case. This is a hard working parent and citizen of Warwick who has seen first hand how decisions are made, who has lived through decisions that have affected his family and his neighbors families and will not make a decision lightly.

My Suggestions for cost savings

I will be looking very closely at the duplicity of personnel in administration.

I will be looking closely at technology and using it to save money and time. I will look at how efficiently tasks are being performed and looking for ways to accomplish tasks quicker. I will always keep in mind that the numbers represent people. I am determined to get the Warwick Public Schools website to be the place our community goes when they need information. I am determined to make it easier to find information on the website.

Utilizing the already built website

We have over 11000 students and if each student brought home the amount of paperwork that my children did on the first day of school then we sent home over 176,000 pieces of paper in the first day alone. That is also 11000 folders. That is also the time it took our staff to separate properly and assemble into packets the information for each child. If I gave you 176,000 pieces of paper and told you to separate it into 11000 packets, how long would it take you? Remember that you had to copy all of the information onto the packets using toner. Toner is expensive too. Don’t forget that the copy machines jam and overheat from overuse, so we have to wait for them to cool down. This is a lot of time and energy expended for only 1 day.

Here is an area specifically set aside on the Warwick Public schools website for important notices, none are posted. read more

Check this online school information area, why are no functions or meetings listed here for each school? read more

Check out the Elementary and Secondary Menus at school, nothing listed. read more

According to a technology document online, called Focus 2008, created in May of 2005, there are 3000 computers in the Warwick School system.
read more

Check out the other Technology documents, especially the Technology Action Plan. We are supposed to be ready for Grading by Proficiency by 2008 according to this 2006 document but the last time the document was updated was in June of 2007 with one note that one thing was done in December of 2007. There is nothing noted about progress towards grading by proficiency. Of the 21 steps in the action plan, there are only 5 that have been started according to this document, with 7 noted as ongoing. Fourteen of these are listed as having not been started at all and have no end in sight. Check out Pages 36 to 39 of this document for full details. read more

If action has been taken regarding the technology plan, then this document should have been updated. It is critical that all areas of our city government are up to date on information. I am only using the technology department as an example and am not criticizing the work that these individuals have accomplished. According Focus 2008 (May 2005) there are only 10 people taking care of all of the technology needs of the school department.

At the time of the document, each computer was running Windows XP and the Microsoft office suite of Applications. I know everyone is becoming more familiar with Macintosh computers. Macintosh runs an operating system that is based on UNIX and Linux. Linux is an operating system that works the same as Windows and supports many applications including web applications. Linux is free and has free updates. It is called an open source operating system. There are many free applications already developed for Linux and more are being developed everyday.

Linux is just as easy to deploy as Windows and is, I believe, actually more secure. Linux requires much less powerful hardware to run. According to Focus 2008, the 3000 PCs were approximately 6-7 years old and were reaching the end of their lifespan. This would not be the case for Linux. Linux will run great on these older Pentium 4 machines. Instead of upgrading to the newer version of Windows on Microsoft’s 3 year Upgrade plan, at a cost of approximately $200 per machine, I would suggest switching to the Linux Operating system, we could save $600,000. The MS Office suite will normally also be upgraded according to Microsoft’s 3 year upgrading plan at a cost of approximately $250 per machine. If we switch over to the open-source software that is free and runs on Windows OR Linux called Open Office, then we realize a savings of $750,000 instead of upgrading. If you are using Windows now, you can download Open Office for free and see how similar it is to Office. Our students will even be able to save their documents in a Windows Office format if they need to be sent to someone that does not have Open Office. Linux and Open Office are very easy to use. Most people can switch between the 2 different systems with very little training.

I would see the creation of a new strategic plan for Warwick Public Schools for 2008 and beyond. The current strategic plan listed on the links at the left on the Warwick Public schools website is for 2001-2007. You can see that document by going here and clicking on the link to the left.

In closing, I will not list any programs that I would cut at this time as I do not have the proper information to make an informed decision and without calculating the consequences of these cuts. I also do not want to create an unnecessary fear for the public. I guarantee only that cuts to programs will need to be made and I will look at everything before making a decision. I will look at the duplicity of administration staff, and will use technology properly to realize a savings.

Thank you for your time.
Patrick Maloney