Gubernatorial candidates look toward future with education plans

BRISTOL, R.I.– A tight gubernatorial race in Rhode Island is only going get tighter this week with the primary elections on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

As voters begin to think about who they’re going to cast their vote for, they look at important topics such as health care, environmental rights and the economy. Education is another significant issue that candidates focus on that both directly and indirectly affect the state’s employment rate and overall economy.

“I think [the subject of education] is extremely important,” said Roger Williams University first year law student Daniela O’Regan.

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The issue of education is important to O’Regan because her mom is an educator.

In Rhode Island, according to the 2017 State Report Card, the high school attendance rate is 90.9 percent. In standardized testing, their students scored higher than their targeted proficiency in both mathematics and reading. However, they did not reach their 88.6 percent graduation rate. For the four year statistic, they only graduated 82.8 percent.

Gov. Gina Raimondo, the incumbent, has been involved in Rhode Island’s educational reform since her election in 2014. Her policies have both received positive and negative attention. She has implemented the all-day kindergarten program and free PSAT and SAT testing, which has encouraged more high school students to take college entrance exams.

Her most popular policy is free tuition for students at the Community College of Rhode Island. At a speech in Lincoln, R.I. on July 23, she said that she would push her free tuition program to the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College if she is reelected.

Raimondo’s Democratic opponents are Matt Brown, former Rhode Island Secretary of State, and Spencer Dickinson, who served multiple terms in the state House of Representatives.

Brown, who has been vocally critical of Gov. Raimondo’s lack of attention to the infrastructure of schools, has formulated a three-part educational reform plan, according to the Providence Journal. A few highlights of his plan is to establish “community learning centers” focused on mental-health care for students and also to work toward improving the education of Latino students.

Dickinson, a father of four children, believes that he has been a type of educator.

“Whether you are a parent or not, you might agree that educating the next generation is one of the most important things that we do as a community,” Dickinson said at a press conference in August 2018.

Although he does not have a set plan for education reform, there are some areas of education in Rhode Island that he would like to attack if he is elected into office such as the pension reform and the growing number of charter schools.

The Republicans who are looking to take control of the Ocean State are Allan Fung, Giovanni Feroce and Patricia Morgan. Fung and Feroce have not announced their stance on the education issue in Rhode Island., but Morgan, who was a special education teacher in Mississippi and Cranston, R.I., has focused throughout her legislative career to improve education.

Her plan to give a $250 tax credit to teachers who purchase their own school supplies has received much attention. She also hopes to encourage schools to embrace more technology in the classroom.

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The Roger Williams University School of Education molds future teachers who could be affected by any educational reforms or policies passed by Rhode Island’s next governor. 

According to the WPRI/Roger Williams University Poll that was published in July 2018, it appears that the leading candidates of gubernatorial primaries on Wednesday will be the incumbent Gov. Raimondo and Fung. The results of the poll showed Gov. Raimondo with 48.8 percent of the vote and Fung with 46.6 of the vote.

 

 

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Title IX Issue has Visibility, but Needs Solution

BRISTOL, R.I.– The female coaching problem throughout the NCAA may now be visible, but there is still a long way to go to reach gender equity. At Roger Williams University, the female coaches are banding together in hopes to help that national percentage.

The number of female coaches coaching female sports has been on a downward slope since Title IX’s passage in 1972, when the percentage of female coaches coaching female sports was around 90%, and the percentage has leveled off at around 40%.

At RWU, Kiki Jacobs, director of athletics, is hoping everyone chips in to fix this problem. At an administration level, she feels that she can do her part by taking a chance on a female who might not have as much experience as the male candidates.

Joyce Maudie, head softball coach, thinks it is important for female student-athletes to have female role models. As someone who played and coached through the passing of Title IX, Coach Maudie has seen vast improvement for females playing and coaching, but she would like to see the percentage of female coaches spike back up to previous numbers.

One barrier female coaches are beginning to break down is coaching men’s sports. Danielle Soubliere, head coach of the women’s volleyball team and 2017 Commonwealth Coast Conference Coach of the Year, has helped with the men’s club volleyball team the past few years and has noted that men are easier to coach than women, in her opinion. She mentioned that the game is the same for both genders, a coach just needs to adapt their style to what athletes they have.

Mother of two and head women’s basketball coach, Kelly Thompson, had recognized that she is the only mom in the athletic department while there is a significant number of dads. From this, she realizes that motherhood is a big reason why the percentage of females coaching is much lower than men.

For some female athletes, however, the low percentage of female coaches coaching is not a problem. Julia Akerman, women’s tennis captain, believes that a good coach is someone who can connect to their athletes and respects their athletes, regardless of gender.

 

Men’s Volleyball Could Be an Opportunity for Female Coaches to Raise Title IX Number

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A men’s club volleyball player checks the height of the net before an intramural volleyball game. The men use these games as informal practice and to have fun.

BRISTOL, R.I.– Throughout the Commonwealth Coast Conference, women’s, not men’s volleyball is a varsity sport. At Roger Williams University, the men who have an interest in competing in organized volleyball have the ability to participate on the club team. Up until this year, the men’s club volleyball team was coached by a woman.

According to NCAA statistics that were compiled during the 2015-2016 academic year, only 4.6% of  men’s team are coached by a woman while 59.8% of women’s teams are coached by men. This numbers are obviously unbalanced.

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The NCAA gathers annual data to see the progress of Title IX. While women’s athletic participation has gone up, there a downslope of female coaches. This graph is from the “45 Years of Title IX” report. Courtesy of ncaa.org

Danielle Soubliere, head coach of the Roger Williams University women’s volleyball team, embraced the opportunity to coach the men when the team was looking for a coach. When she got her first coaching job at Springfield College, she had never been exposed to men’s volleyball before. She felt confident picking up the responsibility of coaching the men’s team at RWU since she was able to observe the men’s game at the collegiate level.

While Soubliere, who was named CCC women’s volleyball coach of the year, does not coach the men full-time anymore and focuses mainly on the women, her coaching strategy adapted to the gender she was coaching. The gameplay and the fundamentals are the same, it was just a specific aspect of the game to focus on that was the difference.

Taylor Szemplinski, RWU men’s club volleyball player, has not noticed any difference with having a female coach opposed to a male coach, except that he realized the men on his team do not respect Soubliere as much as they would a male coach.

Soubliere disagreed. She has found throughout her years of coaching, that the men tend to respect her more right out of the gate while a female coach needs to earn the women’s respect. When she has a male assistant coach, she has noticed that the women listen and respect him more right away. It baffles her why.

With these accounts in mind, men’s volleyball might be an open door for female coaches looking to coach men’s sports. If men volleyball players respect women coaches more than the female players, then the percentage of women coaching males might begin to increase.

The graph below shows the gender of women’s volleyball coaches in the CCC by school.

 

Parenthood Plays an Important Role in the Title IX Coaching Discussion

BRISTOL, R.I.– For most women, coaching takes a back seat when a female collegiate coach becomes a mother.

In addition to their coaching duties which includes office hours, practices, games and recruiting, a baby requires attention that only the mother can really give. Then arises the decision of staying in coaching while fighting through sleep deprivation, or step down from coaching and become a full-time mom until returning to the job market.

The process is usually different when it is a male coach becoming a dad.

Head coach of Roger Williams University’s wrestling team, Jon Egan, mentioned that he recently missed his newborn son’s birth because he was at practice and has not missed a practice or meet since. However, he plans to make up for lost time during his paternity leave beginning in March.

Kelly Thompson, head coach of the RWU women’s basketball team and mother of two, has noticed that she is the only mom in the athletic department, but there are a number of men who are dads.

Egan sees that the role of the dad and the mom are completely different, which is why there are more dads than moms in collegiate coaching. As a dad, he comes home and plays with the kids, while his wife takes the brunt of the work by taking care of the kids throughout the day.

While there is tension between the need for qualified female coaches and the falling number of female coaches, Egan believes that coaches who become moms should do what’s best for their student-athletes, and if that means leaving coaching, so be it. He feels that the athletes will hurt the most if a female has a baby mid-season and needs to leave.

Title IX Issue Stems to CCC

BRISTOL, R.I.– Of 75 possible head coaching positions of female or co-ed sports in the Division 3 Commonwealth Coast Conference, only 41 of those positions are held by women. That is only about 55%.

Granted the CCC does better in terms of percentage than the overall NCAA, but there is still room for improvement.

In the CCC, both women’s soccer and basketball have four male coaches, compared to six female coaches. In the other female sports, the number of female coaches significantly outweighs the number of male coaches.

The situation gets interesting when the issue enters sports that have men’s and women’s teams that train and compete together, like cross country and track and field. Some schools decide to hire co-coaches to focus on each gender, but most stick with one coach and it usually is a male.

Matt Emmert, head coach of the Roger Williams University Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving team, argues that when it comes to co-ed sports, he feels that there is no coaching difference when dealing with males and females.

His coaching philosophy involves looking at his team as individuals, not necessarily as male or female athletes.

He would, however, be open to adding a female co-head coach to help split up the pressure of coaching over 50 student-athletes, but realizes the budget constraints of hiring another coach.

Since he is coaching solo, he takes full advantage of his female assistant coaches. He is obviously not allowed in the girls’ locker room, so he relies heavily on the female assistants to be the eyes and ears in that locker room and help with tight, flimsy swimsuits during championship competitions.

Emmert believes that men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs should remain together in training and competition since that is how swimmers are conditioned since the beginning.

 

Title IX’s Failure: Female Coaches Outnumbered by Male Coaches in NCAA

BRISTOL, R.I.– Since its passage in 1972, Title IX has made great progress in terms of female athletic participation, but has fell short in another category– the number of female coaches coaching female sports.

Title IX states that there must be gender equity in educational programming that receives federal funding. This law is closely related to athletics because it requires schools to provide the same opportunities for female athletes as it does for male athletes.

The number of female athletes has risen which has caused an almost doubling of female sports teams and programs. This should create more opportunities for female coaches, but it has done just the opposite.

Among all NCAA athletics, 43.8% of student-athletes are female. In NCAA Division III athletics, which Roger Williams University is a member of, 41.8% of student-athletes are female.

However, only about 40% of those female teams are being coach by a woman. This is a significant drop since 1972, in which approximately 90% of female sports teams were coached by a female.

There are a variety of reasons that 59.8% of women’s teams have a male head coach, but women in the coaching field believe that this statistic can have a detrimental effect on female student-athletes.

Debate About NFL Protests Erupts During Panel at RWU About Race

BRISTOL, R.I.– The month of October has been acknowledged as Social Justice Month at Roger Williams University this year and has been filled with a list of fun events, panels, movie screenings and workshops.

One of these panels was held on October 17 and was titled, “Race, Memorialization and Legacy.” Calvin White Jr., Ph.D, head of the history department at the University of Arkansas, led the discussion and told his story about being a black man in the deep South.

“I can only talk to you about what I know,” White repeated throughout his account.

Once White opened the floor for discussion and questions, the topic of the NFL protests was brought up. The students, professors and visitors engaged in healthy debate about the current controversial topic.

Nick Jamrog, a junior Criminal Justice major, who attended the panel and spoke up against the protests, believes that the players represent their owners through their contracts and should not use their workplace as a political platform.

“This is their job,” Jamrog said. “If you were a teacher, you could not use your job to vocalize your political beliefs.”

One of the panelists, Aaron Allen, Ph.D, an associate professor of American Studies with a specialization of race studies in the post-civil rights period, supports the kneeling as a political act, but is afraid that if spectators do not learn the”original intent” of the act, the protests’ true meaning will get lost in translation.

“My position is a complex one,” Allen said. “It’s an opportunity to bring light to a serious issue, but I also think, at the same time, as its gained in momentum and popularity, I think the discourses around why players are kneeling seems to be a little bit muddled.”

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Professor Allen inserted his opinion during the panel Tuesday by saying that the debate around the NFL protests are “a symptom of a larger issue.”

Pawtucket, R.I. native, Sain Nieves, thinks that NFL players should be allowed to have a right to their opinion and should be free to protest.

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Nieves, a Mechanical Engineering major, discussed the diversity of RWU. From his experience, he feels that “we are a welcoming community.”

As seen throughout the discussion, students at RWU are well aware of this national issue. Like the country, their opinions are split. Many support the protests while some think that a nationally broadcasted game is not the time or place. This issue will most likely continue throughout the season and the debate will still be heated.