2007-12-28 / News

New lunches for school district in 2007

By Michaela Kennedy

The Jamestown School Committee has worked diligently in 2007 to address federal and state mandates for public schools, ensuring a safe and top-performing environment for our island's children.

Topping the list of improvements is the school district's revision of its food service nutritional standards, which now exceed the federal requirements. Jamestown is the only district in the state to have eliminated the sale of snack items, high-profit items that help offset the cost of lunch programs but contribute to childhood obesity. Students who want to buy lunch now have only healthy choices. The school committee hired a food vendor willing to work with the district towards implementing healthy goals. The committee and administration report they are closely monitoring the program. "It's a test year," School Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser said. "We need to determine that the program is financially feasible as well as beneficial for our students."

In August, the committee successfully completed contract negotiations with teachers.

One significant change was a revision in the health care deductible. The adjustment represented a cooperative effort by the two sides to share the burden of the district's health insurance premium increase, a problem that weighs on school districts nation-wide.

Also in August, the committee hired Marcia Lukon as part-time superintendent. Panel members continue to be impressed with Lukon's work. She has not only addressed personnel and facility details within the Jamestown Schools but has also bolstered relations with North Kingstown High School. One highlight the committee is pleased with is the access to high school student data, which until recently has been a struggle for the district. "She came to us with extensive experience and hit the ground running," Kaiser comments about Lukon.

The committee agreed that another coup for the district was the appointment of Robert Fricklas as special education director. Fricklas has successfully taken over the position vacated by Beth Pinto, who moved on to the Narragansett school system after many years in Jamestown. Parents and staff feared that Pinto's shoes would be hard to fill, but Fricklas quickly displayed his expertise and is now strengthening communication between state offices and the district, and working closely with administration and school support staff.

From a government perspective, Jamestown continued its efforts to be a voice for education at the state house. "I was particularly pleased to have a seat last spring on the statewide committee drafted by the legislature to work on a funding formula, and to serve currently on the legislative commission reviewing mandates," Kaiser said.

No review of the past year would be complete without acknowledging the community's loss with the February death of school committee member Jim Filkins.

"We miss Jim's soft-spoken presence and insightful contributions," Kaiser reflects. The committee showed deep gratitude to David Dolce for completing Jim's term.

The committee wraps up the year with a welcome to B.J. Whitehouse. "We are delighted with the election of B.J. as the school committee's newest member" Kaiser says.

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