Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mayor for a day

September 22, 2010
Cranston Herald
All text and photos by Jen Cowart

NEW JOB DESCRIPTION: Mayor Allan Fung poses with the authors of a book that outlined possible job responsibilities that the mayor might have on a day-to-day basis.

The pre-kindergarten students at Learning Brooke Early Childhood Education Center had a special guest in their classroom on Monday morning. Stemming from a series of conversations between the teachers and their students this past summer about ways in which to help the community, Mayor Allan Fung was invited into the classroom so that the students could learn more about what his job entails.

When the mayor arrived, he was first taken on a tour of the building, which services children from 18 months through kindergarten. At the end of the tour, he was welcomed into the pre-kindergarten classroom, where the students were waiting in anticipation of his visit.

The children had worked cooperatively to create a book for Mayor Fung that showed their ideas about what responsibilities he might have as the mayor of Cranston.

“We’re very interested in learning more about the broader community,” said owner Brooke Brown. “They’re very interested in studying local architecture and learning about our community’s dignitaries. The first step in doing that was to invite the mayor to come.”

The school prides itself on its emergent curriculum in which the teacher’s role is one of co-learner. They guide the students’ learning through a series of conversations and questions that help to bring about the next topic of study.

“That is why this summer, as the children began to discuss ways to help the community, the teachers listened. They took notes as children discussed ideas and then read those notes back to the children proposing that we choose some of those ideas to make it a reality to help others,” explained Brown.

Fung read aloud from the book that the students had made, stopping to recognize each child when their page was read, and to comment on their guesses about his job responsibilities.

When one student hypothesized that Mayor Fung might live at his work, he joked that sometimes it feels that way. Another student guessed that Mayor Fung probably smiled a lot in his job.

“I do smile a lot. I try to be happy all the time,” Mayor Fung told the children, as he smiled.

Many of the students’ guesses were not far off from reality. They discussed the fire and police forces, the city workers, schools, grounds and maintenance with the mayor. They were fascinated by the topic of paperwork and the amount of paperwork he must have as the mayor. They asked questions about the people he works with on a day-to-day basis.

“I have a lot of helpers in my job,” said Mayor Fung. “In my office alone, I have six helpers. I also have 200 firefighters, 150 police officers, more than 600 city workers and more than 1,000 school teachers in the city.”

In addition to learning about Fung’s job, the children wanted him to see the results of a food drive they had sponsored over the past two months as part of the community service project that they developed.

The children have been collecting and sorting the food, which will be donated to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

“It means a lot to me that you did that, it will help a lot of people and it will help me help others,” the mayor said.

Brown said that the students’ exploration of their community is far from over.

“Naturally the children are not finished and continue to be interested in other aspects of the community. We are not sure where our inquiries will lead us next, but this is an exciting start,” she said.

Police partnership works to keep schools, community safe

September 22, 2010
Cranston Herald
All text and photos by Jen Cowart

POLICING THE SCHOOLS: At the Glen Hills Elementary School open house, Lieutenant Bob Brothers explains the new model of community policing that Cranston uses.

As part of a joint effort between the Mayor’s Office, Cranston Public Schools, the Cranston Police Department and Ward 6 School Committee member Andrea Iannozzi, the city’s Police Department will have a representative at all of the school open houses during the back to school season this fall.

"As part of our Community Policing initiative, we feel it is important that parents get to meet members of our police department who have direct involvement in their neighborhoods,” said Mayor Allan Fung.

At the Glen Hills Elementary School Open House, Lieutenant Bob Brothers introduced several members of the police department who are responsible for the Glen Hills district. He spoke about the new community-based police department model that the city has begun using, which divides the city up into four different districts.

He stated that the new model gives a sense of ownership for the police officers that are consistently responsible for a particular area of the city. He said that it also creates a strong partnership between the community and the police, and it provides geographic accountability as well.

Lieutenant Brothers stated that the police department is down by 15 officers, with no relief in sight for several years to come.

“We need you as much as you need us,” he said.

“A lot of times, people want to get involved but are skittish,” he continued, noting that by putting names to faces people may be more comfortable being involved.

School Committee member Iannozzi said connecting the schools with the police force is part of an ongoing commitment to keep the community safe.

“Mayor Fung and I both began our legal careers as juvenile prosecutors in the Attorney General's Office. We have used our experience to protect Cranston's children, from fighting the influx of sex offenders at Harrington Hall, to cracking down on narcotics in our schools, and now ensuring that our school communities know who their local police contacts are,” she said.

Glen Hills Principal Jay DeCristofaro warmly welcomed the community police into the Glen Hills community.

“We are fortunate to have an excellent relationship with the city, and especially with the police department,” DeCristofaro said.

Mayor Fung emphasized the importance of such a relationship.

“School Committee member Iannozzi understands the importance of having local law enforcement work hand in hand with our School Department to ensure that both parents and students have a strong rapport with the people who are out their protecting their neighborhoods,” he said. “At the secondary level, we have seen the benefits of the School Resource Officer program. These officers interact primarily with students and faculty. This program will now give a chance for parents of all school age children to get to know members of our fine department as well.”