The fight to keep the Henry Barnard Elementary School continued on Wednesday, September 16th, at the monthly meeting of Rhode Island’s PostSecondary Council. The meeting, which took place in a hybrid format, was the first meeting since March in which members of the council met in person, members of the public were able to watch via Zoom.
The meeting began with an open forum in which members of the public were invited to speak. Seven speakers registered for the meeting, however four speakers yielded their time to President of the Henry Barnard Parents’ Association, Scott Bromberg, allowing him 15 minutes to speak. Bromberg is a parent of two students who attend Henry Barnard, one in the second grade and one in the fourth grade.
While addressing the Post Secondary Council Bromberg claimed that before the announcement of the closing of the Henry Barnard School, the Parents Association had previously reached out for an update on the status of the school but, “neither the administration or representatives from the state would provide information.” Bromberg also referred to an article from July in which parents from the Elementary School expressed concerns for the future of the school. He stated that the parents had to utilize a media story in order to obtain information from the Rhode Island College administration.
Erik Christiansen, who is a History professor at Rhode Island College and serves as the President of the RIC Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers also spoke at the open forum. Christiansen asserted that he did not believe that President Frank Sanchez had the right to abolish existing institutions.
A council member later assured the general public and his peers on the council that a July 2014 decision allowed a college president to consolidate departments, courses of study and divisions. Because the President acts as the CEO of an institution, the council member argued that President Sanchez was within his rights to abolish the elementary school.
Following the open forum, President Sanchez presented a powerpoint in which he documented each attempt his administration has made to save the Henry Barnard School. He cited the hiring of a Director of Institutional Advancement in an attempt to drive endowment and enrollment in 2017 as well as an attempt to seek public funding in 2019, both of which were unsuccessful.
President Sanchez also cited two instances in which members of his administration met with both Faculty and Staff of the Henry Barnard School to develop a plan to pursue charter options earlier this year.
In his presentation President Sanchez claimed that the school “requires a significant subsidy to maintain operations,” which would have to be covered by the college. According to President Sanchez, from FY2015 to FY2020 Rhode Island College has provided HBS with nearly $9.8 million in subsidies to maintain operations. The closure of HBS would result in approximately $1.6 million in yearly savings for the college.
Addressing the future of the Henry Barnard School, Scott Bromberg assured the council that the Parent’s Association would continue to fight. He stated, “After being left rowing toward a waterfall the administration could see, but would not share with us, the families decided to get together and attempt to save this school. We are taking steps as we speak to reinvent Henry Barnard and keep it operating for children in RI for the next 120 years.”