School Committee receives surprise gift
During last week's school committee meeting, local attorney Quentin Anthony revealed a surprise bequest to startled committee members.
Anthony was there to represent the estate of the late Jamestown resident Elizabeth Stone, who died recently at the age of 100. According to Anthony, Stone did not have any children or any close living relatives and so bequeathed her estate of approximately $160,000 to the Jamestown School Committee.
Stone's will indicates a desire for the money to be used to help finance Jamestown students' pursuit of higher education, Anthony said. She also indicated a desire for the money to be used by students seeking a fine arts education at the Rhode Island School of Design or some similar institution. "This is a preference of Elizabeth Stone's, but it is not a legal requirement of the will," Anthony said. Stone was not known to school panel members or to school administrators—most of whom expressed shock at the size and generosity of the gift. "There is no history of a gift of this size that I recall," said Lawn Avenue School Principal Kathy Almanzor.
Little is known about the benefactor or the reasons behind her very generous gift. "I represented Ms. Stone, but I don't know very much about her personally. I do know that she came to live here in Jamestown about 30 years ago and that she had an antique shop on Narragansett Avenue at one time," Anthony said.
Committee members and school administrators briefly discussed how best to use the money. "The money has been placed in an account with a 3-percent interest rate," Anthony said. Superintendent Dr. Marcia Lukon introduced the possibility of keeping the principal safe and using the yearly interest for scholarships. "We'll need to decide whether to use the bulk of the money for scholarships or as an investment with the profit reserved for scholarships," Lukon said.
School committee member B.J. Whitehouse suggested, "I think we should consider ways in which the money can be used to benefit as many students as possible." This seemed to be the prevailing sentiment as other committee members nodded their assent. The money will be used to establish a scholarship fund—The Elizabeth Stone Fund—to assist Jamestown high school graduates attending four-year colleges.
Anthony pointed out the need for some legal checks and balances. "We are going to have to establish some procedures regarding how the money is going to be used and distributed," Anthony said. "Potential conflict of interest issues and other concerns will have to be addressed." Anthony volunteered to assist with the resolution of these concerns and School Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser called for the appointment of a subcommittee. Kaiser and school board Vice President Julie Kallfelz agreed to serve on this subcommittee and work with Anthony on drafting procedures for fund management. The subcommittee will share their recommendations with the committee at an upcoming business meeting. According to Anthony, the money should be available for the fall of 2009.
In other business: Committee members agreed that the joint meeting between the School Committee and the Jamestown Town Council was productive. They expressed the hope that continued communication will result in greater cooperation at the budget hearings this spring.
Supt. Lukon led a discussion of strategic planning. The committee decided to schedule strategic planning sessions in March or April 2009. There will be two full workday sessions on a Friday and Saturday with an orientation meeting held prior. The district's focus will be on "rigor and relevance." The planning process will be divided into two stages. The first stage will involve a core group of no more than 20 members who are familiar with school policies and mandates. This group will create the base plan. The second stage will be comprised of a broader based group who will be responsible for implementing the action plans to meet the core group's objectives.