2009-10-22 / Front Page

Jamestown students ‘fit in well’ at North Kingstown High School

Potential change in leadership won’t affect committee’s decision
By Eileen M. Daly

As Jamestown’s High School Review Committee continues to evaluate options for the island’s future high school students, a new consideration has come to light: A potential change in leadership at North Kingstown High School.

The North Kingstown School Committee recessed into executive session during last week’s meeting to address the final item on its agenda, “disciplinary action regarding an administrator.” When the committee reconvened in open session, committee member Richard Welch made a motion for a vote of no confidence in North Kingstown High School Principal Gerry Foley. The motion passed in a 5 to 1 vote, with committee member Kim Paige dissenting.

Principal Gerry Foley, however, remained in his position as of last Friday.

“The school committee made a statement after a hearing they held. I was in that particular statement. Now, I have not heard from the school committee about that meeting or since that meeting,” Foley said.

He acknowledged that he works for the school committee and the superintendent, but stated that he had not heard from anyone.

According to Foley, it is “business as usual,” at the high school.

“This is my 21st year in North Kingstown and my 18th year as principal. I’m really busy doing my job here. It’s all about kids. It’s all about teaching and learning and making sure we are doing a good job and doing the right thing for them. I continue to be at my job and doing this while awaiting direction from my superintendent and the school committee,” Foley said.

Repeated calls to North Kingstown Superintendent Phil Thornton were not returned.

Jamestown School Committee member Julia Held, who is also on the High School Review Committee, commented on this latest development, saying that personnel issues are only one of a number of factors the committee will consider in completing its review.

“Our high school review process is a comprehensive one, and the team is examining many factors as it works to determine what is in the best interest of our students. That decision should not hinge on the presence or absence of any individual, as personnel changes are likely, for many different reasons, over the span of years we must consider,” Held said.

Foley described the high school as providing a comprehensive education to students in grades 9-12.

“I think we offer a very good program for all of our kids,” he said. He acknowledged that North Kingstown High School is quite large in comparison to Narragansett High School, with approximately 1,650 students compared to Narragansett’s approximately 500 students, and that class sizes are somewhat larger at North Kingstown.

“Some of our classes are at maximum at 28 students, especially in the required courses,” Foley said. But personalization is provided through the advisory process, he said.

“We are in our ninth year of advisory and we address the size issue and the issue of personalization through advisory. I think that we’ve been very effective and we do a good job of networking kids to get them what they need,” he said.

North Kingstown’s size is a solid advantage in athletics, and in the availability of advanced placement and elective courses, Foley said.

“There is not only a rich academic experience here with the basics: English, social studies, math, science and world languages, but we have a very extensive elective program because of our size and our nature that possibly other schools just don’t have because they’re not as big or as resourceful as we’ve been over the years,” he said.

The school usually offers between eight and 13 AP courses, depending on enrollment and how many kids are interested, Foley said. He emphasized that North Kingstown High School has been offering AP courses for so long (approximately 35 years) that it has built a solid program of teachers and successful students.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve won three Siemens awards,” Foley said. The Siemens awards are given to schools that show outstanding progress in math and science, he said, adding that the Siemens award is a national recognition award.

Advanced placement courses can also translate into college credit, Foley said.

“At the end of the year, students take AP exams. If they receive a three, four or five on the exam, it allows them college credit. Most colleges will accept these credits,” he said.

AP courses are also available in elective areas such as art and music.

“A lot of our Jamestown students do well in AP art and AP music theory,” Foley said. Many other creative electives are also offered, including video communications, digital photography, forensic science, Narragansett Bay studies, robotics, engineering, journalism, advanced journalism (producing the school newspaper), as well as yearbook, Foley said.

An internship program run through the school-to-career coordinator is also offered. Students can participate in different internships for part of the day to learn whether or not they would like to pursue a career in the area, Foley said.

Concurrent enrollment is also offered at North Kingstown High School.

“If a student has enough credits in their junior year, they can enroll in college and concurrently transfer the credits back for their senior year of high school,” Foley said.

Students may also have the opportunity to study abroad as part of a partnership with the local Rotary Club.

“The program allows a junior to study abroad and it is paid for through the Rotary Club. The student only has to pay the cost of their ticket there and back,” Foley said.

Another area where North Kingstown High School shines due to its size, according to Foley, is in its athletic program.

“All of our sports programs are Division One programs,” Foley said. James Marcello, who took over the position previously held by Keith Kenyon, now leads the athletic program.

“If the program is a good program – and I think that ours is a good program – then another person should be able to step in and lead that program,” Foley said in reference to the change in leadership. Foley also pointed out that the girls’ sports program at North Kingstown High School is every bit as competitive and accomplished as the boys’ program. That is something the school and Foley are proud of, he said.

Another added benefit of attending high school in North Kingstown, according to Foley, is that the building is the most state-of-the-art building in Rhode Island.

“It is nice to note that this high school, the new North Kingstown High School, is still the newest high school in Rhode Island because although some other schools have had additions put on and been modernized, this whole building was done in 2001,” he said.

Finally, according to Foley, Jamestown students have been attending North Kingstown High School for at least the 21 years that he’s been there and for a number of years prior to that.

“The Jamestown kids fit in very well here. They are viable, contributing members of our student body. They’re actively involved in lots of pursuits. They are noted not only for their academics, but also for their extra-curricular activities. They are noted for their art, their music and their theatrical talent. In years past, we’ve had both the salutatorian and the valedictorian from Jamestown. I think they’ve added a lot to our school over the years,” he said.

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