2008-07-17 / News

School panel eyes cost-saving alliance with North Kingstown

By Michaela Kennedy

A sub-committee of members from the Jamestown and North Kingstown School Committees might reveal paths to saving money, committee members from Jamestown agreed at its July 10 meeting.

The committee instructed Superintendent Marcia Lukon to send a request to North Kingstown's interim superintendent Philip Thornton to form a sub-committee of two members from each district. "With tough budget times, it would make sense to set up a sub-committee that could meet, quarterly or yearly, with some representatives from administration and committees," committee member Julia Held said. "We need structure."

The committee agreed that consolidation of services and sharing resources would be goals of the inter district meetings. School committee member Julie Kallfelz spoke in support of keeping lines of communication open, adding, "I think it's fine to continue looking for these opportunities."

School committee chairwoman Cathy Kaiser added a suggestion for Lukon to pass on to North Kingstown, "to tuition out students from over-capacity schools, as long as parents provide transportation."

Kaiser reminded panel members they had talked about meeting the Narragansett School Department to discuss sharing of resources. Kaiser and Held volunteered to visit Narragansett High School.

Committee member William "Bucky" Brennan said that Narragansett struggles with some demands of inclusion, the streamlining of special needs students into a regular classroom. He suggested that Jamestown might support needs from Narragansett, "if we could work out an arrangement, and it makes sense to bring a student here."

Brennan said a review could be a discussion at the school committee level focused on "a five-year basis, at least," and include the Narragansett Special Education Local Advisory Committee. "Their SELAC rep has always spoken highly of Jamestown."

Although absent from the meeting, committee member Bruce "B.J." Whitehouse provided a written report on the Model Schools Conference attended by a Jamestown team last month. The school panel discussed the conference, sponsored by the International Center for Leadership in Education, which highlighted key stages of learning that led to a deeper level of thought and understanding, according to the report. The ICLE works with more than 600 schools in the United States and Canada, and will be increasing that number to accept an additional 200 schools in the Model School community.

In hopes of joining the community, Lukon started the Model Schools application process for Jamestown schools. She said the team of eight educators from Jamestown were "extremely energized" by the conference. Students across North America are getting to proficiency despite socio-economic challenges, thanks to the efforts of the ICLE. The center looks for commonalities that need to be in a school to finetune success. "This is about moving the schools from good to great."

Before going to the conference, the math coach position was vacated, Lukon added. After hearing ideas from the conference, Jamestown administrators decided the current math coach position would be split into two part-time positions for the upcoming year. Half of the position would be filled by a consultant and half by a professional development facilitator. "We are not creating a position, just changing the title."

Principal Kathy Almanzor emphasized that a facilitator would address a need to build on the current curriculum to foster higher order thinking skills, as noted in the School Accountability of Learning and Teaching report. The report also pointed to the need for diverse professional development.

Almanzor added that it was diffi cult to find time for teachers to observe other teachers and then sit down and reflect on the lesson. A better time schedule within the schools would allow teachers to take advantage of the experienced personnel. "We have a lot of talent here. We need that direction and focus, and I feel it's coming through strategic planning."

The school committee approved the one-year appointments of Dawn Moore Huff as English language arts teacher in grade seven, and Lori Rush as speech and language pathologist. The panel also appointed William Catrone as part-time school psychologist, Jennifer Caswell as summer school teacher, and Norman Marsh as summer bus monitor.

In old business, the committee voted unanimously to accept the $31,800 bid from Coastal Electric to upgrade the Lawn Avenue School fire alarm system.

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