Come November 2013, new Woonsocket School Committee members will get appointed to the board instead of elected.
City voters agreed to make the switch, casting approve votes on Question 8 — Amendments to the Woonsocket Home Rule Charter:"Shall the City of Woonsocket Home Rule Charter, Chapter XIV, be amended to provide for an appointed School Committee?"
Voters approved the measure with a 57 percent majority - 6,098 in favor to 4,582 opposed. There were 1,455 "under votes" - people who declined to vote one way or another on the question.
With that move decided, said Mayor Leo Fontaine, "Next November, whoever is elected Mayor at that point would be responsible for coming up with the appointments for submitting to the council for approval."
WNRI's Roger Bouchard has a more detailed timeline of the appointment process.
"I think it's a positive step," Fontaine said, that's justified by the city's struggle to win the School Committee's cooperation in reining in school spending. City Finance Director Thomas Bruce, state auditors and Moody's have attributed the city's current $15 million deficit to that spending.
For those who criticize Fontaine and the City Council for not doing more to control school spending, he pointed out that the Council sued the School Department to force a limit on their spending - an extraordinary measure - to no avail. Earlier this year, the School Committee itself was at a loss to determine the full scope of its financial crisis.
If all was going well for the committee, Fontaine said, he wouldn't have supported the move.
"I was shocked it passed," said School Committee member Anita McGuire-Forcier. But, she said an appointed school board may lead to more focus on the children and community and less on political manuevering to curry votes. "I think it's stating that people are tired of politics," McGuire-Forcier said.
Though the need to lobby for an appointment to the board is a year away, McGuire Forcier said if she had to make the decision today, she'd go for it. "I want to continue to work with the community."