South Kingstown School Committee leaders resign amid influx of public records requests

South County

This article has been updated to clarify which committee members stepped down from their current positions. WPRI 12 previously incorrectly identified a different member of the committee.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The head of the South Kingstown School Committee has opted to step down as the district works to respond to what they’re calling an “overwhelming” number of public records requests.

Emily Cummiskey resigned as chairwoman late Tuesday night, as did vice-chairwoman Christie Fish.

Cummiskey said she’s not leaving the committee altogether and is just stepping down as chairwoman.

The resignations come nearly one week after the committee met to discuss how they would respond to an influx of recently-filed public records requests.

Nicole Solas, whose child will be a kindergartener in the district this fall, began filing the requests as the committee was considering whether to add equity and anti-racism education to the curriculum.

At the time, Cummiskey claimed Solas was part of a “nationally organized, racist group” and filed the requests in an attempt to intimidate the district.

But Solas, who was the first to speak during public comment at that meeting, argues the committee is “obsessed with treating students based on their skin color” and should instead focus their attention on treating them all equally.

“This meeting was meant to publicly humiliate me,” she told the committee. “It didn’t work.”

Prior to her resignation, Cummiskey took full responsibility for approving last week’s agenda, which she admitted was “inflammatory.”

But she also stood her ground and reiterated the importance of anti-racism education.

“I believe to my core that every single person has potential,” she said. “I believe in equity and I believe in anti-racism.”

After Cummiskey and Fish stepped down, the committee voted to elect Paula Whitford as the new chairwoman and Michelle Brousseau as vice chairwoman.

“I feel that I can take this position and move us forward in the right direction,” Whitford told her colleagues.

Last year, Whitford was the first woman of color to be elected to committee, meaning she is now also the first to serve as its chairwoman.

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