2009-06-25 / Front Page

State mandates, NECAP scores top School Committee concerns

By Samantha Emrich

Members of the Jamestown School Committee raised their voices in a farewell ballad for retiring administrator Dr. Robert Fricklas before taking their seats in the Lawn Avenue library last Thursday for the School Committee meeting. The lyrics instructed him to ‘Be rested and tranquil and acronym-free’ as he steps down from his position as director of student services.

After the melodious start, the committee got down to business, with major topics of discussion revolving around a new statewide busing mandate, North Kingstown High School NECAP test scores and food services.

Dr. Marcia Lukon said in the superintendent’s report that the legislature has mandated a transportation system for special education, parochial, private and charter schools. According to Lukon, seven districts will participate this summer, followed by eight more districts in September, including Jamestown.

TransPar is the management company that will be mapping the routes and calculating efficiency, relieving the districts of those responsibilities and saving money, Lukon said. “It (the mandate) was initially passed because it promised big savings with the state covering costs for districts,” Lukon said. “Savings projections are estimated to be 10 to 15 percent.”

However, Dr. Fricklas mentioned that the start-up of the new busing system could initially be more costly than the current system. “The first or second years might cost more, but over the long term there could be substantial savings,” Fricklas said.

“We’ll see where it goes,” said Chairman Cathy Kaiser, in reference to the new mandate. “I think the idea has merit.”

Committee member William “Bucky” Brennan reported on the North Kingstown School Committee meeting he attended, which discussed a decreased performance on the NECAP test.

“The high school did do worse in the three categories of the test across the board,” Brennan said. “At the meeting, there was a bunch of discussion on why this happened.”

Superintendent Phil Thornton said in an e-mail that he plans to improve NECAP scores at the grade 11 level by using “benchmark assessments.” According to Brennan, “they want to hone in on what they’re not getting” through the assessments in order to fill gaps in understanding before the NECAP test is taken.

Brennan also applauded the efforts of NKHS teachers, such as social studies teacher David Avedisian, for their recommendations to revise the student calendar in order to improve achievement.

According to Brennan, Avedisian said religious holidays, professional days, assemblies, drills and other interruptions limit time for learning.

“When they get the test in October, because of all of the interruptions, David Avedisian has only seen one of his block classes three times,” Brennan said.

Brennan, along with committee member B.J. Whitehouse, said that revisions should be considered. “The schedule is definitely the most important thing,” Whitehouse said.

The school committee also endorsed a plan with Sodexho and Kids First to develop a menu day in September that features Jame stown foods.

According to Sodexho Representative Solange Morrisette and Chef Chris, the menu would be vegetarian, and would include locally grown fruits, vegetables and milk. “I think it’s a perfect idea,” Kaiser said.

As poultry presents hazardous health risks, Morrisette says the plan is to stick with what’s safe through a vegetarian menu. “I think it’s really doable,” she said.

The committee accepted a food vendor bid from Sodexho, the only vendor submitting a bid, by unanimous vote. “We will have a one-year contract for food service with Sodexho with the exclusion of the two bid options to be delegated to the superintendent,” Brennan said.

Principal Kathy Almanzor reported on the second-grade farm visits, preparations for preschool and kindergarten graduations, and visits from Melrose classes to the Jamestown Museum.

According to Almanzor, a new manner of celebration will begin this year as the graduating eighth graders will leave from Lawn Avenue School and will be escorted down Narragansett Avenue.

The eighth grade graduation dance will be at the Teen Center this year, instead of at the PAC Club. The graduation ceremony was scheduled to be held last night at 7 p.m.

The Lawn School Improvement Team reviewed the year’s accomplishments and presented a Powerpoint slide show that included frequently-asked questions about the standards-based grading system. According to committee member Julie Kallfelz, the slide show will be posted on the school website over the summer.

The team also made small revisions to the report cards for grades five and six, reinstated the Junior National Honor Society for grades seven and eight, and discussed the responses to a teacher technology survey.

In a report about the Special Education Local Advisory Committee, committee member Julia Held said SELAC discussed the current extended school year program in place for this summer, as well as new transition plans for eighth graders.

A discussion on staffing for the 2009-2010 school year also took place, including a “discussion about interviewing and filling possible special education department positions,” Held said.

A video about a comprehensive study about Smartboard technology was presented at the SORICO meeting. Kallfelz says the video covered optimum usage of Smartboard technology and compared traditional instruction versus whiteboard usage.

According to Lukon, the video presented compelling data about the impact on student success using this new technology. “It was the first data I’ve seen that showed more than just anecdotes and opinions,” Kallfelz said.

The committee also accepted the retirement of Terry Guido with great regret, as she served the Jamestown School Department for more than two decades.

The committee also approved several incoming teachers and coaches for the upcoming 2009- 2010 school year. According to the committee, Thomas Carney was appointed to be the boys’ soccer coach, Sean McAdam as the girls’ soccer coach and Lisa Casey as Melrose tech coach.

The yearbook advisor will be Renie Sullivan and Andrea Brayman will return as the physical education teacher in a 0.5 position.

The committee, by a unanimous vote, approved a home schooling request and elected not to have a summer retreat. Instead, the committee will plan a postelection retreat.

The next School Committee meeting is scheduled for July 16. The time is to be determined.

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