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City gives up right to elect school board

November 6, 2012

WOONSOCKET — House aspirant Stephen Casey and incumbent Reps. Robert Phillips and Lisa Baldelli Hunt were all winners last night, but the biggest loser of all wasn’t a person.
It was an institution: The School Committee.
By a margin of 57-42 percent, city voters decided last night to end forever the practice of seating members of the panel by election. Voters approved a referendum question that gives the mayor the power to choose the next members of the school committee, with the consent of the City Council, beginning in the 2013 election cycle. Woonsocket now becomes only the second city in the state, after Providence, with an appointed school committee.
Even supporters of the measure were skeptical it had the oomph to pass, but by the time the polls closed 5,880 city residents were on board compared to 4,424 residents who voted for the status quo.
“I voted for it,” said Chris Bouley, a local investment adviser and part-time radio pundit. He says there’s a lot of untapped talent that could turn the Woonsocket Education Department around, but they’re reluctant to step forward because they’re turned off by the often harsh public vetting that comes with elective politics.

Read more in our print edition.

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