2007-12-28 / News

School district gets arts grant and becomes eligible for federal aid

By Michaela Kennedy

The Jamestown school district has received a Rhode Island Council on the Arts (RICA) grant of $1,700, aspiring principal Carole Melucci reported to the School Committee at its Dec. 20 meeting. The district is also eligible for Impact Aid from the federal government, according to Superintendent Marcia Lukon.

Grant money approved from the state arts council will be used in the third grade, Melucci said. Community members will be invited into the school to share stories of Jamestown, and students will subsequently write their own Jamestown stories. Local author Kelly Easton will assist the students with the project, and Island Moving Company will help the students put the stories to dance.

In the superintendent's report, Lukon reported that 11 percent of the students at the Jamestown schools came from military families, making the district eligible for Impact Aid, which is government

financial assistance to school budgets affected by federal activities.

Lukon went on to show the committee standardized test scores of Jamestown students at North Kingstown High School and ongoing enrollment data. Committee members praised Lukon for providing them with student data. "This is a gigantic step forward to have access to this," School Committee chairwoman Cathy Kaiser said. Committee member Julia Held asked Lukon to continue checks on student performance in Spanish, math and keyboarding, calling the areas "a perennial concern."

Lukon gave the committee a memorandum from Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Peter McWalters announcing changes approved by the Board of Regents to special education regulations. Student Services Director Robert Fricklas explained the changes, including class size and case loads to be decided based on the needs of students in each district. "Knowing there will be a monetary squeeze, it will be interesting to see how each district handles their situation," Fricklas said.

In the principal's report, Kathy Almanzor announced that the Survey of Accountability in Learning and Teaching (SALT) was complete. The principal noted that fewer SALT surveys were returned from parents this year. Teachers and students also participated in the written survey, and results will be reported from the Rhode Island Department of Education to the district in the spring.

Almanzor was praised by the committee for the proper handling of an incident where a student brought a pocket knife to school. She noted that the message of no tolerance "is being heard, and we are proud of the kids who came forth with the information."

Newly-appointed committee member B.J. Whitehouse noted that the committee was 100 percent behind the five-day suspension of the student. "We tip our hats to her effort," he added. The committee also noted that a more specific policy on the possession of weapons should be drafted.

In a discussion about North Kingstown High School tuition, Kaiser reported on a meeting with NKHS business manager Ned Draper to discuss the increase in special education tuition. Draper explained that the lower cost of tuition from the previous year and the seemingly high increase this year was due mostly to the correction of an error in InSite school data reporting. The new tuition formula has been reviewed by the new business manager and seems to be fair, Kaiser added.

In a review of policy changes, the committee unanimously approved the amended policy on tutor reimbursements and the policy on the use of school buildings by non-school entities. The committee also read a new policy draft on in-school distribution of materials from outside the school. The review will continue at the Jan. 17 business meeting.

In other business, the committee: Accepted "with regret and gratitude" the resignation of Pamela Allen, instructor of Physical Education. Allen taught in the district for 29 years.

Discussed hiring a .7 P.E. teacher to complete the remainder of the school year. The committee agreed that in future years the position should be advertised as a .5 position with an additional .2, or an amount to be determined based upon current need, for adaptive P.E.

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