With questions on Rogers shortfall, Newport School Committee leadership vote split

NEWPORT — At an informal public caucus on Monday, the recently-elected School Committee chose Rebecca Bolan as the next chair of the committee and Louisa Boatwright as the vice chair.

“It’s very exciting to head the school committee and I promise to do whatever it takes to bring everyone together,” Bolan said.

Unlike last year’s unanimous caucus, however, this year's committee was split 4-3 on the votes for both positions.

Rogers High School shortfall:Rogers High School project hits $20 million funding shortfall. How it got there.

Bolan, who received the second-most number of votes during the 2022 election, said she was unsurprised by the split vote because she was informed by colleagues ahead of time that this would be the result of the caucus.

“I think some people have some strong feelings on regionalization and how that went down, the vote and the timing,” Bolan said.

As co-chairs of the School Building Committee, Bolan and Boatwright were recently accused of withholding information pertaining to a $20 million increase in the cost to build Rogers High School until after the Nov. 8 election. The committee received news the high school building project was over-budget and would need cuts on Nov. 1, but the co-chairs said they never received the value-engineering documents until Nov. 10.

Rebecca Bolan
Rebecca Bolan

The accusation suggests Bolan and Boatwright kept the project’s shortfall from reaching the public so it would not affect the city’s vote on whether to approve or deny combining school districts with Middletown, which would have increased the amount of state aid allotted to the project, decreasing the amount of money taxpayers would be responsible for paying. However, both Bolan and Boatwright deny this was the case, stating they shared information on the same schedule they always have for School Building Committee meetings and that, at the time, they did not think the budget shortfall would have impacted the results of the election.

OPINION/GUEST VIEW: The timeline behind the Rogers school project $20 million shortfall

Although Bolan was the sole nominee for chair, the position for vice chair received two nominations: Boatwright, the top vote-getter during the 2022 election, and fellow committee member Sandra Flowers. Flowers said she had expressed desire to be in a leadership position on the committee for a while and decided to vote against Bolan and Boatwright in light of Bolan and Boatwright’s actions as co-chairs for the School Building Committee.

“I have many reasons for doing what I did, in view of the recent events that have been in the news… concerning the unexpected overage and how things were handled,” Flowers said. “Everything will all probably level off. I’m pretty confident about that, but I will continue to do my level best for the kids of Newport.”

Newport School Committee candidates Louisa Boatwright, left, and Rebecca Bolan appear at a forum at Innovate Newport on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.
Newport School Committee candidates Louisa Boatwright, left, and Rebecca Bolan appear at a forum at Innovate Newport on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

All three votes were split the same way, with those who voted against Bolan and Boatwright voting in favor of Flowers as vice chair: Flowers, James Dring and Robert Leary.

Boatwright declined to comment.

This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: Newport School Committee: Bolan, Boatwright elected as chair, vice