City Councilman Paul Archetto, who has reached his term-limit, wants incumbent Ward 3 School Committee member Domenic Fusco’s seat in the November election.
Fusco, who is running for his third term, said Tuesday that Archetto should have done more for schools during his time on the council.
“My opponent talks a big game but he hasn’t done a heck of a lot,” Fusco said. “He makes a lot of promises.”
Fusco also said that during this past budget cycle Archetto made public comments that he wanted to find an additional $200,000 in the city’s budget to allocate for schools, but then never made an amendment to the budget when the time came.
Archetto said that he has tried to increase school funding in the past, specifically when he was finance chairman and “appropriated an additional $3 million to schools.” He also said that in this past cycle he did try to get extra money, but it “wasn’t there.”
“I had to weigh that and get the extra for police officers to patrol the schools,” he said. “So I did come through with $120,000 extra to get two police officers to patrol schools.”
He said that in some cases the money just isn’t there because of how lean the budgets are, and there are “times when you just can’t do it.”
“There was no tax increase this year so there wasn’t enough money,” he said.
The two candidates agree that funding should be increased in order to improve a variety of school issues, most notably school safety and school buildings upgrades.
“I would love to see the budget increased, but I understand the economics of things, and you have people on the council that promise stuff and don’t deliver,” Fusco said, adding this additional comment about the school committee: “We’ve been very fiscally responsible.”
Fusco said that increased funds should be used first and foremost to “bring our schools to the 21st century.” He said Cranston is taking a “step beyond” Governor Gina Raimondo’s “Warm, Safe, and Dry” initiative” by trying to blend more technology into the classroom. But he said that’s difficult to do with the buildings today.
“Our classrooms are set up lecture-style and it’s difficult to do more of the group work,” he said. “With an open floor plan, it’ll allow for a lot more of that blended learning.”
He also added that some school buildings, especially on the Eastern side of the city, are outdated, and many of the classrooms have only one outlet in them, which isn’t conducive to more technology.
Fusco said that the buildings are safe but have “outlived their usefulness,” and the Fielding Nair International report coming in October should help the schools in deciding how to go about this.
“It’s a really exciting time to change the culture of school buildings,” he said.
He added that through this process, it’s important to be fiscally responsible, saying that his current job as a business architect for Sun Life Financial helps him in this regard. He also said he helped push for better transportation in schools as a member of the committee, which resulted in a grant that paid for 10 new busses in the last two years.
“That’s being fiscally responsible so the cost doesn’t outweigh the benefits,” he said about that project.
Archetto, who is a professor at Community College of Rhode Island and a former high school teacher, also mentioned more hardware issues at the schools, such as the boilers at Cranston East, and windows and roofs that aren’t us up to date as they should be.
“I would support increased funding, depending on the reasons for it,” he said. “If I want to upgrade the buildings, I perceive I’m going to need more money. And we need to upgrade our buildings for safety.”
Archetto also said school safety was a major concern of his, and was glad to have gotten the money for two additional police officers who are patrolling Cranston’s schools this year. He also said he’s voted for resolutions at the City Council to try to ban guns in school, such as a resolution that banned trigger-crank and bump stocks.
The recent philosophical school change to get more students “career-ready” is supported by both Archetto and Fusco. Fusco lauded Superintendent Jeannine Nota’s work to improve the career and technical programs, as well as introduce pathways at the middle schools.
“Anything we can do to expand the opportunity for our kids, I’m 100 percent in,” Fusco said.
Archetto issued a similar sentiment:
“We want to get the student as prepared as possible,” he said. “Now they have portfolios, community service, some internships in the business community. I’m in favor of all of that.”
He also said he would like to hear directly from schoolteachers when making these changes and if he were elected.
Fusco said he’s been involved in Cranston schools for 13 years since his daughter started kindergarten, and through being active as a parent he’s gotten more and more involved. He said he loves helping kids and helping people, which is why he wants to continue his run as the Ward 3 School Committee member.
Archetto said aside from wanting to improve Cranston schools, he’s also running so that the people have a choice, saying that he’s disappointed there are a number of unopposed candidates in this year’s local elections.