COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — After announcing layoff notices will be sent to more than 350 teachers in town, Coventry Superintendent Craig Levis is taking the heat over something he, too, is frustrated about.
“As a superintendent, as an educational leader, this contradicts everything I believe in. But, I have to balance the budget,” Levis explained in an interview with Eyewitness News Tuesday night.
Levis sent a letter to parents Monday saying this year’s proposed budget was voted down by taxpayers, meaning the district is being forced to cut $2 million in school funding.
The Board of Canvassers said approximately 8 percent of voters in Coventry weighed in on this year’s budget. There are 26,322 registered voters in Coventry and since only 8 percent voted, 761 approved the budget and 1,449 rejected it.
“We can’t run the district minus 353 people,” Levis explained. “It’s really about giving us the flexibility to restructure the high school. That’s what we’re looking at doing for next year.”
Due to the new budget restraints, Levis said the district may be forced to drastically reduce or eliminate altogether school athletic programs, after-school activities, and clubs.
“Kids come to have a full experience,” Levis said. “And we’re going to eliminate that.”
The district would also look into offering double sessions at Coventry High School, meaning teachers would teach all day and the number of them would be drastically reduced.
In the meantime, under this model, students would attend either a morning or afternoon session to only get their core required classes.
“I had an email today from a young junior and she was angry… angry at me,” Levis said. “How I’m destroying her high school experience… How do you respond to that?”
Levis said none of the possible actions on the table are threats — they are the reality. He said he hopes that means more people will come out this week and stand up for Coventry schools.
“If this is the true sentiment of the community, think about what that says for the future of Coventry,” Levis said. “Would people with children want to move here? How do you wrap your head around that?”
Residents in town will have two opportunities to voice their opinions about the education crisis this week. They can either attend the Coventry Town Council meeting Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Town Hall Annex or the school committee meeting on Thursday at 7 p.m. inside the auditorium at Coventry High School.
This story has been updated to clarify 380 Coventry teachers have received layoff notices, but they are not necessarily being laid off. That decision will be made after Coventry residents vote on a new budget June 13.