2007-02-22 / Front Page

Proposed school budget nearly $12 million

Staff, classroom expenses trimmed in 4.26% increase
By Michaela Kennedy

At its Feb 15 meeting, the School Committee voted unanimously to approve its proposed school operating budget for the 2007-2008 fiscal year totaling $11,947,000, up 4.26 percent from last year's expenses.

Superintendent Robert Power presented the proposed spending plan, which had been pared down .93 percent from the originally proposed 5.19 percent increase in spending. The approved budget includes a decrease in certified staff and reduced allocations for classroom computer equipment at each school totaling $5,000. Power noted considerations were given for building maintenance and enrichment programming.

"We're coming to you with a budget that's pretty low. I would caution you about cutting it further," Power said. "We are one of only five districts out of 36 to see a decrease in our special education costs."

School Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser complimented the administration for "taking us out of the triage and actually funding this budget." She asked the Budget Subcommittee to meet again to consider the possibility of going over budget for food service.

Committee member William "Bucky" Brennan showed support for the budget, but noted his disagreement with one line item, student assistant services, for $30,000. Brennan read from a letter he wrote, detailing his objections to the student assistant counselor position previously supported through a grant from the Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force.

"There is no real concrete way to measure and provide statistics for what keeps kids off drugs. What will keep kids off drugs in the long run is good parenting, keeping your kids engaged, some municipal programming, sports and quite a bit of luck," Brennan said.

Other board members voiced support for the line item. Kaiser saw two benefits. One was the structure of the program, which works with kids outside of school, and the other was the cost to society. "The reality is that kids use drugs," she said, adding that societal problems and costs escalate if teenagers are not counseled early enough.

Committee member Julia Held maintained that a need for counseling existed, "and the position is fulfilling that need."

Committee Vice Chairwoman Julie Kallfelz also showed support for the position, but went on to suggest that the School Committee contact the Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force "and throw our weight with them for funding on this issue."

The school budget will now go before the Town Council for its approval.

In other business, the committee discussed and approved its home schooling policy.

In a public forum, Michelle Wagner of Lawn Avenue praised the transition process for her child who would enter the pre-school summer program this year. "We were actually asked what we wanted, what was best for Josie. I can't tell you what it's like to give your child over to this school," she said.

Tracy Shea of Standish Road also expressed gratitude to the school. "What these folks are doing here they are doing really well," she said.

Regarding teachers affected by non-renewal of contracts, Power read a statement explaining that the teachers would have the opportunity to speak at the pre-deprivation hearing. Peter Gingras of the National Education Association of RI said no teachers requested to speak at the hearing.

In his report, the superintendent said he met with other superintendents in South County to discuss ways to save money, including a more efficient use of substitutes.

He also reported that Building Superintendent Lewis Kitts had prices on air conditioning units to address the problem of overly hot classrooms during the summer months.

In the principal's report, Kathleen Almanzor noted the proficient levels of results from the New England Common Assessments Program, which is in its second year of implementation. Almanzor noted that the results provide teachers with better understanding of individual student needs. She invited any parent or community resident to visit the school on School Report Night, March 28, when the NECAP results will be discussed in detail.

Almanzor also said that the third grade held its annual Native American show. The fourth grade is preparing for its May trip to Ellis Island, and the sixth grade enjoyed its annual trip to Alton Jones, she noted. A display of Melrose school student artwork would be exhibited in the Jamestown library from Feb. 17 through March 1, she said.

Kaiser asked Power to put Rolling Agenda, the committee researching possible bicycle routes near the schools, on the agenda for Feb. 27

In correspondence, the School Committee received letters from:

+ The Youth Art Month Committee, asking Jamestown to recognize March 2007 as Youth Art Month.

+ Andrew Snyder, president of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, expressing concern about the Heritage Rhode Island curriculum to be taught in public schools. The AAP objects to the required content area regarding abstinence, and urges curricula that teach about both abstinence and contraception.

+a memorandum from the state Department of Education, announcing information sessions on Feb. 28 about grade span expectations for government, civics and historical perspectives.

+a letter from Ginny Perry suggesting committee recognition of the high academic performance and extra curricular and athletic achievements and awards earned by North Kingstown High School, with significant contributions from Jamestown students.

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