2006-01-12 / Front Page

School board mulls change in administrative structure

By Donna K. Drago

Former Chariho School Superintendent John Pini, now a volunteer consultant to the Jamestown School District as they go through a process to reorganize and restructure, has proposed several different plans to slim down the schools’ administrative budgets.

At their Jan. 5 worksession, Jamestown Superintendent Kathy Sipala introduced Pini’s presentation by telling the School Committee that there would be “a lot of emotion” around making the decisions that Pini was proposing.

At a prior workshop with the school board, Sipala brought up the pressing need for a principal in the Lawn Avenue building, and then immediately withdrew her proposition due to budgetary concerns.

But she said on Jan. 5: “It’ll be on the table again, and we’ll wrestle with it again.”

The administrative changes are “what we can do about the future” in light of a diminishing student population and rising costs due to salaries, benefits, and governmental mandates, she said.

Pini made several charts showing a total administrative budget of $380,606 per year, and then six different scenarios to reduce that number.

Option A showed the elimination of the dean of students position in favor of hiring a full-time principal at the Lawn Avenue School. This was the only one of the scenarios to show a budget increase, which was $14,700.

In Option B, which Pini called “better,” there would be a savings of $8,631 by eliminating the dean of students and hiring instead two half-time assistant principals, which would come from a pool of recently retired Rhode Island school principals. They are “very valuable resources and they come inexpensively,” Pini said about the retired principals. The only issue with the municipal retirees is that they can only work a maximum of 90 days per year without jeopardizing their state pensions, Pini said.

The chart showed that the two assistant principals would cost a total of $76,000 and would not need any benefits. A full-time principal costs $99,331 this year, according to Pini’s charts.

Option C reduced the director of student services, who manages all of the schools’ special education needs, to a half-time position and proposed full-time principals at each school and a full-time superintendent. This proposal would save the schools some $32,889.

Option D makes the superintendent a half-time position and keeps the director of student services and two principals at fulltime for a savings of $38,355.

A savings of $85,944 can be realized by Option E, which proposes to reduce both the superintendent and the special education director’s positions to half-time with full-time principals at both Lawn and Melrose.

Finally, Option F, which Pini called “the bare bones plan,” proposes to reduce both the superintendent and the special education director to half-time, and uses two retired principals, as assistant principals instead of hiring a fulltime principal for the Lawn school. This plan would save the system more than $109,000 per year.

Currently, the towns of Little Compton and Block Island have half-time superintendents, Pini said.

The Lawn Avenue School, for which she serves as both principal and superintendent, is missing the “instructional leadership” that a dedicated principal would provide, Sipala said. She said that because she does both jobs for the Jamestown system, in her role as principal, “I just sign things”

Both she and Pini noted that the role of superintendent has changed dramatically over the last decade, and it has become so laden with paperwork and keeping up to federal and state laws that most larger districts now have assistant superintendents to help handle the workload.

Concurrently, the Jamestown School Committee has received an invitation by the superintendent of the Narragansett School District, which is in a fiscal bind similar to Jamestown’s, to meet with the Narragansett School Committee to discuss a possible merger of administrative services between the two communities.

That meeting will take place this Saturday, Jan. 14, from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Narragansett School Department, Third Floor, 25 5th Avenue, in Narragansett.

School Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser said that the panel will consider the options presented by Pini in conjunction with the upcoming discussions with Narragansett.

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