2007-03-22 / Front Page

School Committee welcomes new member

By Michaela Kennedy

The Jamestown School Committee continued discussions on a new food service provider and welcomed a new appointee, David Dolce, at its meeting last Thursday, March 15.

In an update on food service providers, committee member Julie Kallfelz said two vendors showed up at the mandatory prebid conference last week in response to the request for proposals. Bids are due and will be opened on April 2.

Kaiser reported on the Town Council's first budget workshop for fiscal year 2008. She said the school budget was "pretty straightforward," and also noted plans to continue to address rigor and declining enrollment.

Kallfelz said that tightening the budget would "only get more difficult as this cap comes down," referring to a new bill by the State's General Assembly that lowers municipal spending caps by a quarter of a percent each year for the next several years. The cap this year is 5.25 percent, down from 5.5 percent in recent years. Superintendent Robert Power agreed, adding the deputy commissioner warned at a meeting at the state level that districts were "not to see more money towards education."

In new business, the superintendent told the committee that North Kingstown contracted a retired special education director to complete the school year, and was interviewing for a permanent replacement. Power asked that Jamestown's Special Education Director Beth Pinto be given the opportunity to participate on the interview committee. "We have a number of students at North Kingstown, so we have a legitimate reason for being on a search committee," Power said.

The school panel agreed that Jamestown should have a voice in the selection and agreed to continue to investigate the possibility of providing special education oversight to North Kingstown. "We are looking at long term collaboration," Kaiser added.

In his report, the superintendent said that Barrington School Department representatives visited Jamestown Schools to offer insight on multi-age classrooms and looping. The educators left impressed with the integration and inclusion of special education students in Jamestown. "When they saw team teaching and the willingness of the teachers to bring students in, they said we are a model. Self-contained classrooms are a thing of the past," Power said. "Jamestown is way out in front."

Power went on to praise the Barrington School programs. "They've spent a lot of time on looping, and we will do looping at seventh-eighth grade." Principal Kathleen Almanzor explained that looping assigns one teacher to a class for two years.

Power noted a significant number of students in Barrington who are tutored. "If you have a lot of kids getting private tutoring in addition to public schooling, it would bolster the grades," he noted.

He also said that a parent raised concerns about traffic flow during the drop-off and pick-up of students and also about the presence of dogs on school property. Power said he would work with the police "to study traffic patterns in order to ensure student safety." In addition, parents would soon be notified, by letter, of a town ordinance prohibiting dogs on school property.

Almanzor said she talked with the chief of police and learned that an ordinance already prohibits dogs from the school grounds, leashed or unleashed.

In the principal's report, Almanzor said she would go to a SALT (School Accountability for Learning and Teaching) meeting in Smithfield next month, doing it as part of professional development "in order to prepare for our SALT visits next year."

Almanzor also said two students from North Kingstown High School were running afterschool programs, through the Jamestown Education Fund enrichment program. Jason Gorelick teaches violin, and Alicia Lane instructs a drawing class. "It's really neat to have kids come back and teach," Almanzor added.

In her report on the Melrose Avenue School Improvement Team, Kallfelz said she met with faculty members about how to challenge an upper-end learner. She also announced a yard sale on May 12, to raise funds for the Peyton Watson Medical Fund.

From the Lawn School Improvement Team report, Almanzor announced Community Day, to be held May 24. Community members will team up with grades five to eight and present their interests to students. She also announced the spring session of after school enrichment programs will begin the week of April 9.

In a discussion about finding a new school committee lawyer, Almanzor suggested writing a letter to the editor advertising for someone to sit on the search committee.

In a legislative report, Kaiser shared the Department of Municipal Affairs' response to her testimony on the interpretation of law S-3050 regarding unfunded mandates. She also shared the interpretation by the Department of Education that rules and regulations established prior to January are not eligible for reimbursement.

In a public forum, Kaiser assured concerned parents that special education services would not change unless to benefit, despite the committee's investigation into possibilities of shared services. "It's simply an exploration. There is no intention to change the model," Kaiser said.

Tony Rafanelli, co-chairman of the Special Education Local Advisory Committee, stood up to say he has been a part of the investigation, and assured those present that "everyone's concerns will be considered."

In correspondence, the school committee received:

+ A letter from Harrison Wright, vice president of the Jamestown Historical Society, proposing the renewal of school and society joint efforts to secure a grant to support a Jamestown history room and related programs at Lawn Avenue School. Power noted he met with the historical society regarding the use of the space near the library, "but this was before program sharing." He also noted the mutual benefits, including staff development and behavior intervention, as well as financial benefit to the town. Power agreed to tell the society about the committee's consideration of leasing the room to an outside special education service provider.

+ An e-mail from a parent expressing opposition to drug testing of students.

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