2006-08-31 / News

Out-of-town students sought to bring up island enrollment

By Donna K. Drago

In his first meeting as superintendent of schools, Dr. Robert Power suggested to the School Committee that it consider taking in tuition-paying students to increase enrollment and school revenue.

"We have an operation that is not utilized to capacity," Power told the board, adding, "You might want to entertain taking in tuitioned students."

In previous meetings, the board members had discussed the subject, but they became stuck on how as a public school they could decide which students to take and how to charge for them.

Power said that specific rules should be given to potential students and their parents, like students must maintain a good attendance record and parents must provide their own transportation, and "if they don't abide by the rules, they don't stay here," Power said.

The way he looked at it, Power said, "It gives us a revenue stream" and "gives people a chance to take advantage of a terrific system."

He believed the Jamestown district could be an alternative to other, more costly private schools in the area, "like St. Michael's," Power said.

School board member Julie Kallfelz expressed concern about how the school would go about soliciting for new students.

"Do we advertise?" asked William "Bucky" Brennan, another member of the board.

"I won't go and solicit kids away from other districts," Power said. "The quality of Jamestown's education is no secret" around the state, and he was certain that once the word got out there would be several parents calling about sending their kids to Jamestown, he added. "I've been contacted by one parent already," Power said.

He did not want to flood the school with out of district students but felt that there were a few positions open in several grades, Power said. "We'll base our numbers on space and availability," he noted.

School Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser asked Power what he would do to get the ball rolling.

Power suggested starting with a policy, and then coming up with a two-tier tuition system that would account for both regular and special-education students.

"I can see this as a viable possibility," Kaiser said.

In other business, the School Committee:

+ Approved the resignation of teacher assistant Colleen MacIntyre, and leave of absence requests from Chris Kent and Holly McMackin. Appointed Kristen DeSantis as student council advisor and Nicolas Alfred as cross-country coach. Board members approved the transfer of Michelle Smith to the position of severe/profound teacher assistant, and the transfer of John Kenyon to the position of maintenance repair technician/custodian.

+ Learned from Power that the current enrollment figures were 272 students at Melrose Avenue School, 219 at Lawn Avenue School, for a total enrollment of 491 students in Jamestown.

+ Heard from Brennan, the liaison to the North Kingstown School Committee, that the town of North Kingstown was still having difficulties with the later high school starting time, which they voted to begin at 7:20 a.m. for the current school year.

"They just need more buses," Brennan said about the problem across the bridge that pits parents of elementary school students, who will be coming home near 4

p.m., against the high school students and parents who want to start classes later because current research suggests that teens need more sleep.

Kaiser suggested that when Jamestown puts its bus contract out to bid it ask to have a price that would give North Kingstown a chance to use the Jamestown buses that are vacant after 8:15 a.m. This would allow N.K. to make some of their runs without having to buy new equipment, he said. Unlike Jamestown, which pays a per-day rental cost for its buses to a transportation company, North Kingstown runs and owns its own bus system.

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