URI student elected to tackle Warwick Schools' budget crisis
Warwick Public Schools are staring down a $6 million budget deficit and one of the people in line to try and fix that is a 20 year-old college student who was elected to office last week.
At this point the school committee needs a bailout from the city, but Nathan Cornell believes it is not the way to go.
Cornell first ran for school committee when he graduated from Toll Gate High School in 20-16, but this time around he won. Cornell beat out Corey Smith, a college professor and accountant by a slim margin.
At 20 years of age, Cornell is the youngest elected official in the history of Warwick.
Despite his youth and lack of life experience, he's determined to turn the struggling district around.
"I care about our schools and I believe they can be run better," Cornell said. "I believe students should have a voice at school committee meetings."
His credentials are surprising for someone his age, as Cornell has not missed a meeting since he was a junior at Toll Gate High School when he started noticing big changes.
"When the consolidation was happening, when talks started happening, I was at those talks and that's when things really started to get heated," he said.
It all came to a head this year when the committee approved cutting 15 janitors and more than a dozen teachers and library workers to fill the multi-million dollar budget hole. Cornell's plan is to increase communication with the city council and turn to the state for help.
"There's a lot that needs to be done," he said. "We have a whole budget deficit that needs to be balanced and that should've been balanced in July. It's now November."
Warwick's Ward One Councilman Rich Corley believes Cornell is extremely qualified for the position.
"Nathan is inheriting a financial mess," Corley said. "Nathan is involved. Nathan is excited and Nathan is a part of our future and I'm optimistic about our future."
Cornell and Corley are on the same page when it comes to the city bailing out the school committee and its high-priced budgets.
"[Cornell] understands that the city does not have its own bank," Corley said.
"I will not let them down. I'm going to work as hard as I can," Cornell said.
Cornell's first order of business is to create an advisory committee to the school committee to increase input from students, staff, and parents to help make more informed decisions.
He will be sworn in in January.