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Primary is decision day for school board

September 8, 2012

PAWTUCKET — With all 11 Pawtucket School Committee candidates running as Democrats, Tuesday's Democratic primary will be an important decider in the make-up of the school board for the next two years.
All seven incumbent School committee candidates are seeking re-election: Michael Araujo, Joanne Bonollo, David Coughlin, Raymond Noonan, Nicole Nordquist, Raymond Spooner, and Alan Tenreiro. They are facing a challenge from Sandra Cano, Gerard Charbonneau, Joseph Knight, and John Tellini.
The top seven vote-getters in the primary will be virtually assured a seat unless someone else prevails through a write-in campaign in the November 6 general election.
• Michael Araujo, who lives on Pawtucket Ave., is a manager at Flint Group, General Technical Center. He is married with five children who range in age from 27 to 14. Araujo, seeking his second term, said he wants to continue the work that the School Committee has started to improve the schools' financial health and educational performance. He believes one of the keys to the city's financial wellbeing is having a top-notch school system . He also said a collaborative effort is needed to brign about change, particularly in boosting the garduation rate. addrucualrty in addessing the low so wants public recognition for individuals who are having a positive influence on the school system as well as student improvement records.
• Joanne Bonollo, a resident of Grand Avenue, is married with four children who range in age from 34 to 18. She works as a finance associate for Atrion Networking. Serving on the School Committee since 2007, she has been chairman of the Wellness Committee. She says she continues to advocate for educational equality for students and issues of nutrition, health and safety. She has been involved in initiatives such as “Fuel Up to Play” and a back-pack program for at-risk students. Additionally, she said she wants to make sure that the elementary schools are equipped with up-to-date technology so these students don't fall behind, and supports the upcoming bond issue for school health and safety improvements.
• David Coughlin, of Armistice Boulevard, has been a member of the School Committee since 2007 and served as chairman from 2008-2009. He is divorced with four children ranging in age from 28 to 20. An attorney and former software consultant with an engineering background, Coughlin has been particularly focused on improving the school department's budget process and obtaining quality legal representation at an affordable price. He also said he wants to make sure upcoming collective bargaining agreements are done fairly and in good faith, and would oppose any efforts to reduce retirement pay and benefits for existing public sector retirees as a way to attract better educators.
• Raymond Noonan, who lives on Grotto Avenue, is seeking his third term on the school board and is chairman of its Facilities Subcommittee. He is divorced. As an attorney, he said he was opposed to the committee's decision to join with Woonsocket on an “adequacy” lawsuit against the state and will not support an appeal. He wants to ensure upcoming contracts are done fairly for school employees and does not support any attempts to cut retirement benefits of current employees. He is also focused on improvement to the school buildings and improving the student achievement and drop-out rate.
• Nicole Nordquist, a resident of Mount Vernon Boulevard, has been on the School Committee since 2004. She is single and is currently working as a substitute teacher in the Cumberland School Department. She said she is proud of her efforts to institute all-day kindergarten and will work to ensure this program continues. She also said she has been involved in negotiating two previous contracts and thinks her experience will be helpful in contract talks going forward. She also said she will fight to protect the quality of education in the city but working within the parameters of the budget and current fiscal situation.
• Raymond Spooner, of Benjamin Street, is married with two children, ages 20 and 18. He is general manager of Northstar Metals in Providence. He served on the School Committee from 1998-2005, where he was chairman for three years, and was elected again in 2010, where he did another stint as chairman. He said he is seeking another term because the committee has a lot of business to take care of in the way of improving education withing the confines of the budget. He said he also wants to support the efforts of the new principals at Shea and Tolman High schools as they undergo reform.
• Alan Tenreiro, who resides on Alexander McGregor Road, is married with two children, ages 7 and 3. He is the new principal of Cumberland High School and was previously assistant principal at Smithfield High School. Currently chairman of the School Committee, he served on the school board previously, including as chairman for two years, and was elected again in 2010. He said he wants to continue ensuring that the city's educational system moves in the right direction while being mindful that a balance must be struck between the taxpayers and the needs of the community. He also said he wants to help steer Shea and Tolman High Schools through the transformation plan and remain watchful of any achievement gaps at all grade levels. He also said he will work to maintain decorum and professionalism at School Committee meetings.

The challengers:
Sandra Cano, who lives on Pullen Avenue, is single. She works as a business and development officer at Navigant Credit Union in Central Falls and is a current member of Pawtucket's Juvenile Hearing Board. She said her financial experience, educational background in business and public administration and her involvement with several youth organizations and programs will be an asset to the school board. She also said she would work to ensure that all children are afforded the highest quality education possible while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. Additionally, she spoke of the need to expand opportunities for parental and family involvement.
• Gerard Charbonneau, who resides on Daggett Avenue, is married with two children, ages 7 and 8. He works as a general manager at BJ's Wholesale Club and is a member of the Pawtucket Business Development Corporation. He is active in the PTO of the Potter Burns School, where his children attend, and spearheaded safety improvements to the school's parking lot. He said that in lieu of campaign contributions, he has been asking residents to share their ideas, and believes a collaborative community approach is needed to improve the city's schools. He said his business experience at a company that has remained profitable in a difficult economy will also benefit the school board.
• Joseph Knight, who lives on Lyman Street, is married and has two children, ages 23 and 21. He is a retired correctional officer for the state of Rhode Island, and his wife is currently a teacher in the Pawtucket school system Formerly on the School Committee from 2008 to 2010, Knight said he is seeking a school board seat again because he is troubled by the actions and in-actions of the current School Committee leadership which includes two violations of the Open Meetings Law and a questionable decision regarding a vendor-sponsored dinner boat cruise during a national meeting of school committee members. He also cites the need for a more open and transparent budget and financial reporting process and said he will hold more informal parent meetings to discuss concerns.
• John R. Tellini, of Hand Street, is married with one child. He works as a senior accountant for Narragansett Jewelry in Providence. He said that as a financial professional, he will work to improve the budgeting process and will analyze each item to ensure that tax dollars are being spent appropriately and efficiently. He said he supports the upcoming school improvement bond issue and looks forward to helping guide the Shea and Tolman High School transformation efforts. He also spoke of the need to address the city's low graduation rates by creating and improving programs that will help children to make education a priority.


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