Polls open to decide two school panel seats on Nov. 8
On Tuesday, Nov. 8, two open School Committee seats with be up for grabs, and islanders will have the choice between Sarah Baines, Lowell Thomas and B.J. Whitehouse.
Baines is a Democrat who grew up in England but has lived on the island for 17 years with her husband Alan. She has watched her two children – Leah, 21, and Sam, 19 – go through the Jamestown school system. They also both attended North Kingstown High and are currently in college.
Baines has been involved with schools for more than 15 years. She has been involved with the PTO, and was also part of the Lawn and Melrose Avenue school improvement teams from 2002 to 2010.
Along with being active in schools, Baines has been active in the community – she sat on the library board from 2001 to 2003, and was also a deacon at Central Baptist Church.
Baines graduated from Solent University (Southampton, England) in 1987 with a diploma in yacht design. She uses her studies in her current position – for the last nine years she has owned and managed Ship to Shore LLC, a yacht crew employment agency in Newport.
When asked why she is qualifi ed to sit on the School Committee, she points to the fact that she has watched her children go through the system, and also that her involvement with the schools over the years helps her understand policy.
“I have been a consumer of the schools for 15 years,” she said. “I have seen examples of good and bad school committees, school administrators, teachers and fi- nancial decisions. I understand the complexities of the No Child Left Behind legislation, NECAP testing, and Graduation by Proficiency requirements. I am a business woman and I know the pressures and difficulties of the economy on the taxpayer and would like to offer this accumulated experience to the Jamestown community.”
She added that the biggest problem facing the schools is balancing a “quest for excellent in education with the financial realities” of the state.
The lone Republican, Thomas, 51, has lived on the island for just four years but has owned a house in Jamestown for 12. Although he wasn’t in Jamestown full time, he frequented the island, visiting each weekend during his time working for Citigroup in Boston.
In January 2008, Thomas, along with John Recca, purchased the Narragansett Café. He helped run the restaurant for a little over a year, and then founded his company, the South Shore Capital Advisors. Time constraints with his new business forced him to sell his share of the ’Ganny. Along with his brother Taylor, Thomas is a principal of the investment firm located in Newport.
Although Thomas is a bachelor with no children, he has sat on the advisory board of Kieve-Wavus Education Inc. for 12 years. Kieve Wavus provides year-round educational and experiential camps for middle school-aged children in Maine. Thomas, who holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Tufts University, attended the camp as a child.
Thomas is also an avid sailor, and is a member of both the Jamestown and Conanicut yacht clubs. He also delved into public service for the first time last year, when he was asked to sit on the Committee on LNG Threat. He said that he could bring a lot to the School Committee table with his financial background.
“With me, not only do the residents get someone who is free of conflict, but I come with an open mind,” he said. “I bring more than 25 years of experience in financing and budgets. That is needed during this difficult economic time and doesn’t currently exist on the committee. It’s needed because the current state of affairs in Rhode Island, especially with the pension issues. I can help navigate through the financial issues.”
The third candidate is the Democratic incumbent, B.J. Whitehouse. He has sat on the school committee for the last four years and is proud of what it has accomplished.
“I’ve shown up for four years,” he said. “I’ve been to 95 percent of the meetings, including all of the subcommittees. I’m very proud of the work that we’ve accomplished over the last four years.”
Whitehouse, 55, has lived in Jamestown for 22 years with his wife Christine. The couple has no children. He has been director of the Jamestown Community Chorus his entire time on the island.
Whitehouse’s background in education is a long one. He grew up in Ohio an avid fan of the Cleveland Indians. “I’m a huge Indians’ fan, but I hate the Yankees as much as anyone,” he said. He added that no one should hold being a Cleveland fan against him. “If anything, I should get some pity votes for that,” he laughed.
Following college – he studied music education at Bowling Green and earned his master’s at Rhode Island College – he taught in Ohio, Block Island and Tiverton. He currently teaches music in the Little Compton school system, a post he has held for more than two decades.
“It’s all about the children,” Whitehouse said when asked why he is running again. “The great reward is graduation. When you see the eighth-graders graduate, it’s wonderful.” Whitehouse has never missed a graduation since he has been on the school board.
Whitehouse continued: “It’s all about service. It’s not about money and fun. If you want to do this, you have to show up, you have to read everything. You have to be willing to put up with everyone with an opinion. You have to stay focused on the 6-year-old and make sure that the child has a future.”
Along with the two committee seats, there will be one referendum item on the ballot: Whether or not to close the landfill. The item will ask Jamestowners if they support a $1 million dollar bond issue to close the landfill on North Main Road. Jamestowners will have the opportunity to vote at one of three locations: the Jamestown Recreation Center, and the Lawn and Melrose Avenue schools.
This year will also mark the first town election where the polls close at 8 p.m. Until this year, polls closed at 9 p.m., but legislation passed in January giving islanders 10 hours to vote instead of 11. Polls will be open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at the three locations.