EAST PROVIDENCE — In a 3-2 decision at its last meeting, the East Providence School Committee voted to continue the paid administrative leave of Schools Supt. Mario Cirillo. The committee then voted unanimously to send a “notice of non-renewal” to Cirillo for the fourth year of his contract.
While parents, teachers and peers expressed support for Cirillo and asked the school committee to rescind its decision, School Committee Chairman Charles Tsonos and committee members Stephen Furtado and Ryan Tellier remained steadfast in their decision.
Retiring Head of Facilities, Joe Tavares, stated that there have been six superintendents in the last 17 years and that under Cirillo, the last two-and-a-half years have been the most exciting and rewarding for him.
City resident William J. Murphy asked for justification for Cirillo’s leave, stating that the majority of the fiscal deficit the city schools face is the result of prior administrations and not due to Cirillo’s leadership.
School board member Chrissy Rossi voiced her disapproval in the decision, stating “there is no just cause” and that she has yet to be provided with documentation of the list of Cirillo’s work deficiencies. Rossi stated that she is still unsure where this issue evolved from and that it took her completely by surprise.
Tsonos provided a prepared press release: “In supporting the motion to continue the superintendent on administrative leave, I believe that we need to set a new course to constructively address the difficult and unresolved issues that lie ahead for our school.” It continued, “We need to work cooperatively with the city in arriving at a deficit reduction plan that produces positive results. The necessary close relationship between the school committee and the superintendent require the utmost of trust and confidence in the superintendent. At this time, I believe we would be better served with new leadership in the superintendent’s role.”
When interviewed after the meeting, Tsonos told The Times that at the heart of the issue is deficit spending by Cirillo. A review of minutes from past committee meetings offered little insight of the committee's displeasure with Cirillo.
On May 24, the committee approved phase I of Cirillo’s reorganization plan for the city’s schools, which recognizes overall savings of approximately $241,000 even with the addition of all-day kindergarten.
The committee unanimously voted to appoint Assistant Superintendent Edward Daft as acting superintendent. However, the school board failed to appoint Tony Feola to replace Joe Tavares as Head of Facilities. The committee opted instead to further investigate consolidation of this position with City Facility Manager Ed Catelli.
Rossi stated that Mayor Bruce Rogers felt that the city would be up to the challenge of such a consolidation. However, Rossi said she also wanted reassurance from the city’s legal team that there are no laws in the city’s charter preventing this and that provisions are in place to address the schools' priorities over the needs of the city in times of emergencies.
In other business, Rossi asked that any further discussion of deficit elimination is postponed until there is a full-time superintendent in place. Earlier in the evening, resident William Murphy reminded the committee that RIGL 16-2-9(f) requires the school committee to develop a corrective action plan within five days of discovery. Citing recent issues in Woonsocket, Murphy suggested that the city is exposed to major complications such as termination of school department purchase orders as per RIGL 16-9-1 and a city lawsuit against the school department.