2005-10-27 / News

Wellness panel to determine what’s healthy for island kids

By Donna K. Drago

Wellness panel to determine what’s healthy for island kids

The school department is looking for members of the community to be on a state-mandated Health and Wellness Sub-committee that will advise the school board on matters pertaining to stemming childhood obesity and encouraging healthy foods and attitudes in the schools.

Superintendent Kathy Sipala told the panel at its Oct. 20 meeting that the school nurse and members of the physical education team will brief the school board at its Nov. 17 meeting on what has been discussed to date, and that the next meeting will be on Nov. 30 at 3:15 p.m. in the Lawn Avenue conference room.

Community members, “with or without ties to the school,” interested in serving on the sub-committee can call Sipala at the Lawn school, she said.

Currently, the committee, which has been meeting since the spring, consists of administration, the school nurse, members of the physical education staff, teachers, and two parents, Sipala said.

The wellness committee must tackle issues pertaining to food, beverages, and physical activity at the schools, Sipala said, adding that each Rhode Island school must have a wellness policy in place no later than October 2007.

She said that the school has been given a model policy from the RI Healthy Schools Coalition, but that they have a lot of latitude in determining what to put into the Jamestown policy.

The mandate calls for a member of the School Committee to serve as chairman of the sub-committee, and James Filkins volunteered to take on the role.

Among the items that the subcommittee might tackle over the next few months are how children’s birthday parties — where parents typically bring in cupcakes and snacks for the entire classroom — will be handled, as well as if “food incentives” will be used as a reward for learning in the lower grades. In some classrooms, Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, and other small snack foods are used to teach math and then eaten by the budding mathematicians.

Sipala told the school board that she has recently extended the contract with the North Kingstown Food Service, which provides lunch to students in Jamestown, for one year only “to allow changes to be made if necessary” once the wellness committee has made its final recommendations.

In other business, the School Committee:

• Discussed its role in regard to responsibility for recreational facilities at the school gym and ball fields.

School Committee member William “Bucky” Brennan said that he felt it was the schools’ duty to maintain and clean the Lawn Avenue gym. “Based on everyday use, it’s a school obligation,” Brennan said.

He proposed doing away with the $20 fee charged to the town’s recreation department each time the gym is used by a group not associated with the schools in exchange for the recreation department taking full charge of the ball fields, tennis courts, and other outdoor recreational areas on the school grounds.

“Why take $20 from one pot to another,” Brennan asked rhetorically. “Let’s trade for in-kind services,” he suggested.

The other members of the school panel came to a consensus, but did not vote that they would waive the fee in exchange for services.

Sipala said she would have to work with the school custodial staff on overtime issues associated with cleaning the gym in time for the opening of the school day on the mornings after the gym is used the prior night.

• Granted tenure to teachers Jeana Calise, Joseph Ucci, Michaela Shoemaker, and Holly Langton.

• Accepted the resignation of longtime teacher assistant Joan Shaffer, who Sipala said was the schools’ most senior employee.

• Heard from Sipala that the Student Council is looking to change the school mascot because they “want more school spirit.” Sipala said that many teachers do not want the “Warrior,” a Native American in profile, as a mascot anymore because it is not politically correct.

The Student Council has written to Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas of the Narragansett tribe to see how he feels about using the warrior image, Sipala said. “If he’s okay with it,” the students will use the image as one of several they will have the school community vote on.

Return to top