2010-02-04 / Front Page

Narragansett argues for island H.S.

By Eileen M. Daly

The School Committee heard an impassioned plea from the Narragansett School Department last Wednesday night not to rule out Narragansett High School as the high school of choice for Jamestown’s students.

Members of the Narragansett School Committee, Narragansett Superintendent Katherine Sipala, Narragansett High School Principal Dan Warner, Administrator of Student Services Elizabeth Pinto and Athletic Director Rich Adham all expressed their opinions about Narragansett High School and why it’s the best fit for Jamestown’s students.

The special meeting of the two committees was held at the request of Sipala, who opened her talk by recalling her time in Jamestown. Sipala served as the district’s superintendent for four years before leaving in 2006 to assume her current position in Narragansett.

Sipala recounted participating in the last high school review conducted by the Jamestown School Committee five years ago.

Narragansett High School was also considered during that review, Sipala said, adding, “Narragansett High School is a different school today.”

She talked about the physical differences and said that Narragansett High School has undergone major renovations since the last review. She also talked about the leadership differences in Nar- ragansett, including her own extensive experience in Jamestown.

Her familiarity with the Jamestown school system would enable her to form relationships and to “partner” with the Jamestown School Department, Sipala said.

She talked about having a representative from Jamestown participate in Narragansett School Committee meetings and offered to provide a full-time director of curriculum – to be shared by the two districts – as part of a potential tuition agreement.

Sipala then turned the discussion over to Principal Dan Warner. Warner, the 2009 R.I. High School Principal of the Year, offered his sincere characterization of Narragansett High School, adding that although Jamestown’s High School Review Committee did a great job of reviewing both Narragansett and North Kingstown High School, he took exception to some of the wording in the report.

He referred to the physical descriptions of the two high schools contained in the report: Narragansett High School is described as “compact, quiet and intimate,” while North Kingstown High School is described as “spread out, lively and high energy.”

“We’re lively, too,” Warner said.

Warner said it is “difficult to compare high school to high school” because of the differences between the two schools. He emphasized the personal relationships that can be developed between staff and students at Narragansett High School because of the smaller size of the school.

“I can’t say enough about the faculty,” Warner said, describing them as “warm and caring.”

Warner also said that Narragansett High School has a “rigorous program of study,” and emphasized the growth in NECAP scores at the high school during the past four years.

Again emphasizing the “apples and oranges” comparison between the two schools, Warner discussed the number of advanced placement course offerings at both schools. Warner said that the ratio is similar if one considers the size of each school. “Narragansett has 500 kids and six AP courses, and North Kingstown has nine,” Warner said.

North Kingstown High School actually offered 11 AP courses for the 2009-2010 school year, according to the High School Review Committee report.

Warner’s main focus was on what he called the “personalization” available to students in a school the size of Narragansett High School.

“We are able to develop longlasting relationships and to work as a team,” he said.

Administrator of Special Services Elizabeth Pinto also noted this factor when she spoke to the school committee about the special education services available at Narragansett High School.

Pinto, who worked as the director of special services in Jamestown for six years before following Sipala to Narragansett, said that her experience in Jamestown would translate to exceptional service for Jamestown’s special education students, should they come to Narragansett High School.

“I know your kids,” she said. Pinto, along with Sipala, reiterated the value and availability of individual service at Narragansett High School.

Athletic Director Rich Adham spoke about the “fully comprehensive athletic program” at Narragansett High School.

“Kids have more opportunity to play,” Adham said.

Although it is a relatively small school, Adham said the school has chosen not to compete at the bottom level, but to challenge all of its athletes to strive for excellence.

“All the sports teams have moved up a level,” Adham said, adding that he is “extremely proud” of the program.

The Jamestown School Committee thanked the presenters and restated their collective belief that Narragansett High School is a great school.

“You don’t have to tell us that Narragansett High School is a great school,” said Jamestown School Committee member Julia Held.

The committee agreed to take the presentation into account when a final decision is made regarding the high school of choice for Jamestown.

Chairperson Cathy Kaiser acknowledged that the committee “will be considering a number of factors” when making its final decision. The decision does not need to be made immediately and will not affect next year’s entering freshmen, who will attend North Kingstown High School, as the deadline for changing schools has passed, Kaiser said.

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