(HIGH) There was encouraging news last week on the four-year graduation rates posted by our local high schools. The state Department of Education released 2017 results for schools across the state and the performance of Westerly and Chariho students was notably better than the state graduation rate of 84.1 percent. Think about that for a second: What kind of future is in store for a young person who doesn’t finish high school? And yet 1 in 6 Rhode Island students did not cross that threshold within four years of entering high school. In Westerly, 93.8 percent of students graduated, compared with 90 percent a year earlier. Chariho’s graduation rate was 92.5 percent, compared with 88 percent in 2016. Westerly Superintendent Mark Garceau said the school district was pushing to get its students “across that finish line by any means necessary” and was working with students, families and educators to make it happen. “Until we are at 100 percent, we’ve got to keep after it. The diploma is the most basic entry card into a successful adult life and opportunity,” he said. Chariho Superintendent Barry Ricci said his goal, too, was 100 percent. “There are two parts to this story. One is the graduation rate and the other is readiness for college and careers,” he said. Big achievement gaps remain in the state’s school system, primarily because of socioeconomic factors, and the dread in educational circles has to be that even with a diploma, many students are still unprepared for careers and college.
(LOW) We noted with interest that Save the Bay had filed a Superior Court complaint on Friday asking for guidance on the governor’s appointments to the Coastal Resources Management Council. It’s supposed to have 16 members, but because of constitutional problems, the General Assembly lost its authority to name eight, and all 10 members now, including the director of the Department of Environmental Management, are the governor’s appointees. The environmental group’s concern, aside from the pure question of law, is ensuring that “Rhode Island’s coastal communities and coastal users are properly represented,” said Jonathan Stone, executive director. The majority is supposed to represent coastal communities. As a matter of background, the ecoRI website stated Saturday that Gov. Gina Raimondo had replaced three environmentalists last year with what it described as business- and government-oriented appointees. On another front, changes in the composition or sympathies of the council might help some communities in their dealings with the agency, which has taken a muscular approach in Westerly to the formulation of a harbor plan. Long-term holders of “unauthorized” moorings here have reason to fear CRMC’s rigidity on public access requirements.
(HIGH) The star of the week was Andrew Dionne, a 2007 graduate of Westerly High School. Dionne ran track and cross-country in high school and now is a sixth-grade teacher and assistant running coach in Liverpool, N.Y., a town on the east shore of Onondaga Lake. Sports Editor Keith Kimberlin interviewed him last week after finding out that Dionne — whose best finish for the Bulldogs was ninth in the 3,000-meters at the state outdoor meet — had finished 36th out of 25,746 finishers in the Boston Marathon. He was the 30th American man across the line on a day when icy rain and a strong headwind contributed to the slowest winning time since 1976 (2 hours, 15 minutes, 58 seconds, by the “People’s Marathoner,” amateur Yuki Kawauchi of Japan). Dionne’s time was 2:33.18, and to put that in perspective, consider that the best time from local competitors was that of Mark Olivier, 33, of North Stonington, 2:39:33, who finished 135th. Dionne, 29, said he found out as he grew older that he was “definitely geared toward the longer distance.” His improvement was gradual: “Running is a very cumulative sport. Everything adds up over time.” His goal was to finish in the top 100, but he kept passing groups of runners who were even more fatigued than he was. We’ll be watching for how he does in 2019.