2008-06-26 / News

Resignation of NK superintendent may affect long term goals

By Michaela Kennedy

North Kingstown School Superintendent Priscilla Feir announced her resignation June 19, a mere eight months after securing the position.

Jamestown School Committee members spoke out to assure residents that the shuffling No rth Kingstown administration would have little effect on the high school's performance, at least in the short term.

At their meeting Tuesday night, The NK school panel appointed assistant superintendent Philip Thornton to serve as interim superintendent.

Committee members expressed confidence in th e ed ucation re sidents receive from North Kingstown High School. School committee member William "Bucky" Brennan dismissed worries that Jamestown students might be affected by top administrator turnovers. "In the short term, everyone is going to get a great education at N.K.," he said.

School committee chairwoman Cathy Kaiser expressed disappointment to see Feir leave, especially since she and the Jamestown schools superintendent had established a close working relationship. Nevertheless, she was quick to support the high school. "I am confident th at th e hi gh sc hool ad ministration and teachers will continue to provide our students with a stable learning environment during district-level transition," Kaiser said.

The impact of high school budget cuts remains Kaiser's biggest worry. She voiced concern that student performance might erode as a result of budget constraints. "As a 'sending' community, we need to monitor that very closely," Kaiser added.

Brennan was quick to criticize the politics of the North Kingstown School Committee, however, and called for close examination of the committee's structure. "People in Jamestown need to look at long term leadership in North Kingstown," he added. "Unless they (North Kingstown residents) do something about the school committee dynamics and the changing budget, they will continue to have a changing administration."

Nothing short of a charter change could make a difference in the school system, according to Brennan. The current sevenmember board disrupts the decision making process and weakens the quality of candidates the district can attract. A basic solution to the eroding administration would be to revise the committee's structure and go to a five-member board. "With seven people, decision making becomes stagnant on any committee," he said. "Why do they have more people on the school committee than on the town council?"

Brennan stressed that every community in the state is under pressure because of reduced expenditures and a struggling economy. He mentioned the property tax relief law, set in place last year, which imposes much stricter limits on local tax levies. He gave the elimination of the district's technology director position as an example. "Budget pressures and lack of leadership should have everyone concerned down the road," Brennan said.

Typically, not too many Jamestown parents show up to school committee meetings in North Kingstown. Anytime there are issues relating to high school, islanders should take notice, Brennan and Kaiser agreed. "I think Jamestown people need to get more involved and voice their opinions," Brennan said, adding, "High school is one of the most important times of a kid's education."

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