2010-05-13 / News

Schools sign on for ‘Race to the Top’

By Eileen M. Daly

The Jamestown School Committee voted 4-0 to support Superintendent Marcia Lukon’s request to sign on to the federal Race to the Top memorandum of understanding during its meeting last week.

Committee member Dana Long was absent from the meeting.

The MOU is the document signed by school districts to indicate their willingness to participate in the reform initiatives developed by the R.I. Dept. of Education and State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist as part of the state’s application. Race to the Top is the $4.3 billion education reform fund made available by the U.S. Dept. of Education as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

R.I. is applying for the second round of funding after placing eighth out of the 41 states that applied for round one funds.

In discussing the MOU for the round two application, Lukon said she was “very comfortable” with signing on.

“It’s not substantially different [from the round one MOU],” she said. “We lost six overall points by not having approval across the board from schools and unions.”

Lukon indicated that the current focus is not so much on changing the initiatives as it is on gaining the support of school districts and unions.

“The union has some objection to the material on teacher evaluation, but David Abbot [R.I.’s Deputy Commissioner of Education] made it very clear that evaluation is going to happen. Our union reps understand that. I don’t know if the state reps will object,” Lukon said. “According to David Abbot, we have to meet these guidelines anyway.”

Jamestown is unlikely to receive any actual cash benefit from participating, Lukon said, but there will likely be other benefits, including professional development and a “number of things that will likely move us along with our BEP [basic educational plan],” she said.

Lukon also suggested that Jamestown would benefit from participating in trainings offered as part of the reform process, as well as from data collection and analysis, support services and system design discussions made possible through the funding.

After reviewing the district’s responsibilities and benefits with the administrative team, the superintendent signed the MOU to indicate Jamestown’s commitment to participate.

After the committee voted to endorse, committee chair Cathy Kaiser added her signature.

For Jamestown to be an offi- cial “participating district,” the superintendent, school committee and local union leadership must all endorse the MOU prior to the May 14 deadline, Lukon said.

Kaiser and Lukon reported attending several statewide meetings with the Jamestown union leadership and both said they are hopeful that the union will add its endorsement.

In other business:

• The school committee voted 4-0 to deny a request from the Jamestown Teachers Association to hold a job fair. The committee agreed that a job fair would not be in the best interest of students, and that the current process – in which the superintendent consults with teachers prior to making assignments – is working well.

• Town Council member Mike White read the council’s proclamation for Jamestown Teacher Appreciation Week, May 3-9, 2010.

• The committee heard a first reading of several policies, including the BCI checks for volunteers policy, to which revisions were made and a second reading was scheduled for the committee’s May 20 meeting. The committee also heard the policy for residency/admission of non-resident students, to which revisions were made and a second reading was scheduled. Additional changes were also made to the student travel policy, and approval was granted for the student nutrition and physical activity policy and the transportation policy, with editorial changes.

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