2009-12-10 / Front Page

School panel hears from Navy liason

By Eileen M. Daly

A visit from Janet McCarthy, M.Ed., school liaison officer at the Newport Naval Station, during last Thursday’s school committee meeting prompted a discussion of one of the most difficult challenges facing Jamestown’s school community – simply not knowing how many students from military families will be enrolled until after the creation of the annual budget.

All of the school committee members, along with Superintendent Marcia Lukon, expressed their awareness of how much the presence of military families enriches the educational community here in Jamestown. The only significant concerns raised by the committee involved the delayed notification of how many children will be attending Jamestown schools in any given year, and the per-pupil costs for incoming high school students.

“Right now, our budget will be passed before they know they are coming,” Lukon said.

Not knowing how many children will be attending and what grades they are in is a difficult issue in terms of planning, School Committee Chairperson Cathy Kaiser said.

Committee member Dana Long asked whether it was possible to have military families enroll their children earlier in order to give the schools more time to plan, but Lawn Avenue School Principal Kathy Almanzor said that currently, schools are unable to ac- Continued from page 1 cept registrations until residency can be officially documented.

McCarthy acknowledged that she is aware of this problem and is striving to address it.

Another significant and diffi- cult issue concerns the number of military children who will attend high school here, Kaiser said. Unlike other communities that can absorb these students into the high school, Jamestown must pay tuition costs of $11,000 per student, per year, Kaiser said.

With the number of military students increasing and the level of state aid decreasing, the school committee expressed concern about the impact on existing programming. The committee acknowledged that there is no easy answer to this concern. The relief rate offered by the government is inadequate to the costs, Kaiser said, but when they’ve been approached in the past, the only answer they’ve offered is regionalization.

“I don’t see us regionalizing any time soon,” she said.

During the meeting, McCarthy presented a comprehensive overview of the services she provides to military families with schoolaged children and expressed her desire to establish positive partnerships with local school districts.

The school liaison officer program originated with the Army and was found to be so successful that other branches of the military adopted it, McCarthy said. The program offers a variety of services, including:

• Supporting families with inbound/ outbound school transfers

• Providing information on local schools and boundaries

• Assisting with school choice

• Helping families understand the special education process

• Providing information about graduation requirements

• Making military and community agency referrals

• Supporting families with the home schooling process

• Assisting with post-secondary preparation

All of the committee members expressed their pleasure with having McCarthy available as a resource and expressed a willingness to work together toward resolution of enrollment concerns.

In other business:

• FY2011 budget: The committee agreed that the administrative team should once again budget for a number of possible scenarios, ranging from level state funding to zero state funding. The committee also agreed that the administration should use the strategic plan to guide budget decisions and priorities.

• Tuition contract revision: Kaiser reported that she and Lukon have drafted rollover language that they will ask the North Kingstown administration to review before seeking legal input. The new language extends the contract via automatic rollover, while preserving each party’s right to end the agreement per the current language.

• JTA contract negotiations team: Cathy Kaiser and Julie Kallfelz will represent the committee on the negotiating team for the teacher contract.

• Shared services roundtable: Cathy Kaiser attended the second meeting of the shared services roundtable and reported on the results. Committees in attendance included Jamestown, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, Coventry and West Warwick. Potential areas discussed for shared services included: IT, food service, a regional teacher contract, a regional labor attorney, regionalized special education services, special education consolidation based on strengths/needs of districts, coordination of professional development days/speakers, a regional clearinghouse for non-public school textbooks and regional purchasing.

The next business meeting of the Jamestown School Committee will be held on Thursday, Dec. 17. The next workshop meeting will be held on Thursday, Jan. 7. All meetings are held at 7 p.m. in the Lawn Avenue School library.

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