2005-12-29 / Front Page

Jamestown school panel leads state effort to reduce burden of mandates

Last January, legislators and school committees from around the region gathered at North Kingstown High School to discuss the state and federal education mandates that are raising everyone’s taxes without necessarily providing added value at the schools.

The discussion was led by Jamestown school panel chairwoman Cathy Kaiser, who began doing clever, often comic, demonstrations to illustrate how the mandates break the banks of cities and towns, at statehouse hearings and to anyone who would listen.

At the January session, Kaiser had school board member William “Bucky” Brennan dressed as a sacred cow and had him kicking education initiatives off an imaginary bus to make way for the mandates.

Comedy aside, the Jamestown school board has continued to stir up the education funding pot, and is now undergoing a series of workshops to determine the best plan for the future of Jamestown’s school in light of increasing costs and a declining enrollment.

Wellness on the menu

A sub-committee on Health and Wellness has been formed to come up with a set of school policies that will help kids make healthy food choices and stay fit. The state Department of Education has told schools that they must have a plan in place by 2006.

Among the items that the subcommittee is tackling at its meetings are what is on the hot lunch menu, 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.

The committee is headed up by School Committee member Jim Filkins and school nurse Renie Sullivan, and includes members of the administration, the physical education staff, teachers, and parents.

Teen Center debuts

A coalition of Jamestown groups received a $50,000 grant last winter for the formation of a teen center that would provide activities and trips for teens on the island.

The Newport County Fund of the Rhode Island Foundation gave one of nine Youth Opportunity Grants, to the Jamestown group that is comprised of the Parks and Recreation Department, as well as the Jamestown School Department, Jamestown Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force, Jamestown Education Foundation, Jamestown Philomenian Library, Friends of Jamestown Seniors, and the Jamestown Police Department.

Since receiving the grant, a coordinator, Melissa Minto, has been hired to develop and oversee programs, which have included holiday parties, volunteer programs, and trips to places like Six Flags amusement park.

The Teen Center is housed in the Senior Center building on West Street during afternoon and evening hours when the seniors are not present.

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