Board discusses methods to save Northern R.I. Collaborative

Board discusses methods to save Northern R.I. Collaborative. (WJAR)

More than two dozen teachers and staff of the Northern Rhode Island Collaborative attended a Board Meeting of the educational nonprofit Tuesday to find out the fate of their institution.

The Board is made up of Superintendents from local school districts that pay tuition to send their most challenging special education students to the Collaborative for a comprehensive scope of services.

"Education, we provide mindfulness, meditation, yoga, sensory supports, OTPT speech," said Nancy Duffy a teacher at NRIC for 29 years.

Also attending the meeting, Stacy Tallo of Woonsocket who says her son Matthew Simoes was struggling in a traditional classroom.

"I was on the verge of losing my job, they were constantly calling at work to come and get him, suspending him so I couldn't go in because I needed someone to be at home with him," said Tallo.

Now age 20, Tallo says Matthew has been a student at the Collaborative since tenth grade.

"Amazingbehaviors completely ceased once he started the Collaborative," said Tallo.

But now after thirty-one years, the Collaborative is in jeopardy.

At Tuesday’s meeting the new executive director, former Lincoln Superintendent Georgia Fortunato, outlined cost cutting measures she's taken, including not renewing some leases and eliminating part time positions.

But the Board also approved retaining special counsel to "explore insolvency matters", something that concerns the union representing teachers.

"The wiser course is to focus the efforts of the collaborative on building enrollment, increasing revenue," said Michael Mullane, Field Representative for the RI Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals.

Fortunato, who pointed out the Collaborative sought and received a substantial increase in tuition from participating school districts, said one of her top priorities was to increase enrollment, currently at eighty-eight students.

At one time, it was approximately two hundred.

The current Board Chair, Johnston Superintendent Dr. Bernard DiLullo, told NBC10 more districts are developing their own programs with the goal of keeping students within the district so they feel included and that NRIC should be exploring other services it can provide.

Duffy feels in many cases the Collaborative can provide an environment traditional classrooms cannot.

"Some children benefit from a setting like ours, where they feel confident about themselves, build self-esteem"

Fortunato, who told the Board she will be doing whatever it takes to keep NRIC afloat, also sent out a letter to families Tuesday assuring them no decision has been made on the Collaborative's future.

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