By Meg O’Neil
Newport School Committee vice-chair Jo Eva Gaines is one of Governor Lincoln Chafee’s 11 nominees for the new Rhode Island Board of Education. Her nomination now awaits approval from the Senate.
Gaines described the new board as a “super school committee for the state,” saying the Board of Education would essentially be responsible for all decisions and policies regarding education in the state ranging from kindergarten through high school and higher education.
Last year, the General Assembly voted to dissolve the Board of Governors for Higher Education and the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, and combine the two with a newly formed Board of Education.
Gaines, a previous member of the Board of Regents from 1985 to 2005, said the governor, legislature, and the two education boards wanted to combine into one, all-encompassing board.
“When I was on the Board of Regents, we talked a lot about articulation between the two boards,” Gaines said. “There was always one pointing the finger of blame … the higher education would blame the lower education. Secondary education would blame elementary education for things and we need to stop that. If there’s going to be any meaningful articulation, it’s only going to come from one combined board.”
Gaines said she became aware of her nomination (she has an idea of who nominated her, but isn’t positive) after she returned home from a recent Newport School Committee policy meeting and saw she had a voicemail on her answering machine.
“It said, ‘This is Linc Chafee…’ and I said ‘Yeah, right!’” Gaines initially dismissed the message as a prank phone call. “But the more I listened to the message, Gov. Chafee said he wanted to talk to me about the new Board of Education. So I called him back, and the rest is history.”
The Senate Education Committee will begin hearings for six of the 11 appointees on Wednesday, Feb. 6. Those six are: Colleen Callahan of Cumberland; Patrick Guida of Barrington; Lawrence Purtill of Narragansett; Michael Bernstein of East Providence; Michael Grande of Warwick; and William Maaia or East Providence.
Hearings for Gaines and the four other nominees, including chairwoman Eva Marie Mancuso, have not yet been scheduled.
In other school news, the Newport School Committee will meet for their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. in room 924 of the Newport Area Career & Technical Center at Rogers High School. Among the topics discussed that evening will be the school committee’s goals for the next two years, and initial steps in the hiring process of a new school superintendent when John H. Ambrogi retires in Jan. 2014. As always, the public is invited to attend.