“Shea High School is like that beloved old junker you are desperately trying to get that last inspection sticker for … Hoping against hope that you can squeeze those last few years before you have to replace it with a new Unified High School” – Pat Ford at a recent news conference

Warning: The article below is not a rehash of a well publicized timeline. It is, however, the result of months of ongoing conversations with political leaders across Pawtucket, who, fearing retribution, chose to remain anonymous. The conclusions drawn are my own. As personnel changes continue to roil City Hall, secrecy continues to manifest itself in endless extensions to APRA requests, outright denial of well established facts, and a culture of secrecy.


Folks, It’s not about the interest rate bumps. It’s not about inflation. Have either of those factors contributed to the approaching demise of the Not-So-Fortuitous Partners/Tidewater Landing Deal? Of course. But, as they say, here is the rest of the story …


Shea High School. NEASC, the School Accreditation Agency, issued the Pawtucket School Department a formal warning earlier this year, citing school safety conditions at the ancient, crumbling high school.The School was scheduled to close in 2021 for 2 years to accommodate repairs, but RIDE, the Rhode Island Department of Education, issued a last minute stay of execution, citing Covid era concerns about distance learning. There are many who will allege that Hizzoner, Mayor Don Grebien, seeking to hoard financial reserves for the much-ballyhooed Unified High School, personally interceded in shutting down additional capital investments in Shea, and actually requested the Shea Repair Cancellation


Meanwhile, Tidewater Landing continued to loom large: As costs continued to escalate, the City of Pawtucket, in combination with the Rhode Island Commerce Corp, & investors Fortuitous Partners, were called on to put additional “skin in the game”. As has been well documented, members of the investment committee balked at the prospect of separating the development into Phase 1A & 1B, with stadium construction to precede the mixed used development that many had thought of as both the underlying economic development tool, and the real gateway to the type of ancillary development necessary to pay debt service. Bonds would be issued for additional capital investments for both the investor & city capital infusions.


The NEASC Warning, however, had upped the ante. 

In early January, the Pawtucket School Board formally requested RIDE approval for the necessary Shea repairs.

Back-channel attempts were made to find non bonded, if you will, sources of funding for the Shea Repairs. RIDE Commissioner Angelica Infante Green, discussing such attempts at an impromptu conversation at a Martin Luther King Day Public Service Event:


In February, the Pawtucket School Committee formally requested the immediate release of funds necessary for two phases: an initial 10 million dollar ask (see linked article), followed by a secondary ask for 12 million, totalling 22 million dollars.


In a post School Committee Meeting (At about the 10 minute mark) Interim School Superintendent Lisa Ramzi indicates that an “Open Approval” exits for Shea Repairs


Meanwhile, Mayor Donald Grebien, after a recent press conference at the Winter School, appears confused as to the “ask” from the Pawtucket School Department for Shea Repairs



Which brings us largely to the present day. On one hand, The City of Pawtucket & Pawtucket School Committee have largely agreed that at least 10 million dollars has been approved at the City level, for Shea Repairs … at roughly the same time when funds were anticipated to be bonded, then released for the construction of Tidewater Landing.

So, why the sudden issue?

The consistent line held, off the record of course, is that the confluence of the two bonding requests presented the heavily bonded City of Pawtucket, coupled with the ongoing construction costs at the Baldwin School, with too heavy a potential debt service. That the looming loss of accreditation finally forced the City of Pawtucket with a difficult choice … Invest the funds necessary in Shea, or finance the Stadium.

Shockingly, there are some insiders who claim that the City’s finances will allow for neither. At press time, there have been no commitments to City School Authorities for the timing of the release of funds. At the most recent Pawtucket School Committee Meeting, this past Tuesday, note was made by Interim Superintendent Lisa Ramzi, that no follow up meeting had occurred with the Mayors Office to formally release funds for Shea.


  1. Patricia A DeDora-St Germain says:

    Thank goodness for your journalism. Otherwise. no difficult questions would be asked. The City talks about transparency, yet the opposite is true, and other news venues fail to ask tough questions or dig a bit deeper than the surface. As a result, many who get their news from the free weekly or even The Times get a rose-colored view that obscures the reality of what is going on in Pawtucket. Voters do not get an accurate picture and their votes prove the dangerousness of that reality.

  2. Clovis Gregor says:

    Well done Pat. Absolutely genius………and funny too.

    Can’t say that I’m surprised. Interest rate hikes?……Really?
    More like financial miss-management! Over extended, maybe!
    Again, excellent writing Pat.

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