2009-01-15 / News

School Committee back to business in the New Year

By Eileen Daly

The topic on everyone's mind at the first School Committee meeting of the new year was President-elect Barack Obama's proposed economic stimulus package.

Town Council member Mike White addressed the school committee at the Jan. 8 meeting to remind its members that local economic requests are due soon. White said that the Town Council was scheduled to address the same issue at its Monday night meeting.

White suggested to committee members that wind turbines might be a good thing to request as "this area has been designated one of the better areas for wind energy." White also said the Narragansett Avenue downtown improvement project would make a good request for funding.

Superintendant Marcia Lukon said that she received notification about the stimulus package from the Rhode Island School Superintendants Association (RISSA.) "We were told to e-mail our requests to our senators and congressmen. Of course, no one wants to miss this opportunity," Lukon said.

The committee also discussed how to handle the recent bequest by Jamestown resident Elizabeth Stone. Committee members Cathy Kaiser and Julie Kallfelz reported meeting with attorney Quinton Anthony to discuss procedures for scholarship applicants. School committee members are the appointed fund trustees and cannot delegate decisions concerning the scholarship fund. They may, however, appoint a panel to evaluate applications and make award recommendations to the committee, according to discussions with Anthony.

The school committee discussed appointing a three-person panel for this purpose. Committee members agreed that the panel should consist of one school committee member, one member from the school community (parent or teacher), and one member from the broader community. They further agreed that the application procedure should include an essay, that financial information will not be required, that scholarships will be one-year awards, that several smaller awards (for example, in amounts that might be used for book purchases rather than tuition) are preferable to one large award, and that awards will be financed with fund interest in order to preserve the principal.

The committee also discussed giving preference to students who attend Jamestown schools, the high school of record, or an outof district placement. Committee member Kallfelz will draft a scholarship fund procedures policy for the committee to review.

The committee also reviewed two policies that were presented for a first-time reading: the hiring policy and the tobacco policy. The school hiring policy has been drafted as a replacement for several older policies that were written in separate versions. The superintendent and the administrative team have produced a comprehensive hiring procedures manual to accompany the policy and the committee commended them on that process. The second reading of the hiring policy is scheduled for the Thursday, Jan. 22, business meeting.

The school tobacco policy was also read for the first time. This policy is concerned with the maintenance of tobacco-free schools. Committee members discussed the opposing concerns of brevity vs. comprehensiveness in the policy wording. Committee member William Brennan argued for brevity, stating that it was not necessary to include the obvious reasons smoking is not allowed in schools (such as health concerns re: second-hand smoke and the addictive nature of nicotine). Committee member B.J. Whitehouse pointed out that students may have cause to look over these types of policies and the information should be available to them. The committee members ultimately agreed to trim some of the policy's wording while leaving the major points intact. The next reading of the tobacco policy is also scheduled for Jan. 22.

School budget workshops will be held on Thursday, Feb. 5, and Thursday, Feb. 12.

The next Jamestown School Committee business meeting will be held on Feb. 26. All meetings will be held in the Lawn School Library at 7 p.m.

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