2010-05-20 / News

N.K. School Committee balks at Jamestown tuition vote

By Eileen M. Daly

The North Kingstown School Committee refused to vote on the one-year rollover clause in the contract between North Kingstown and Jamestown during its May 11 meeting, leaving some Jamestown School Committee members shaking their heads.

Jamestown School Committee Chair Cathy Kaiser expressed her frustration with the process.

“I was disappointed to learn that the contract rollover language that was originally proposed by N.K. Business Manager Ned Draper – and was approved months ago by the Jamestown School Committee – remains an item of contention for the N.K. School Committee,” Kaiser said. “The two districts’ negotiating subcommittees met last fall and agreed at that time to wait a year, until the full impact of the chart of accounts was known, to discuss to what degree the tuition formula would need to be restructured.”

Both subcommittees agreed that the only item currently under consideration is rollover language and a simple clarification of language concerning the process for ending the agreement, Kaiser said.

“I am perplexed and frustrated that a rollover proposal originating with North Kingstown should now be a stumbling block and that the members of the N.K. subcommittee have failed to convey to the broader committee the rationale for tabling discussions of the full contract for a year,” she said. “If the N.K. School Committee wishes to instead discuss the terms of the full contract now, then Jamestown needs to be notified in a timely manner so that we can discuss and present changes that we deem necessary to any continuing agreement.”

Jamestown School Committee member and liaison to the North Kingstown School Committee, Julia Held, expressed similar frustration at the May 11 meeting.

At several points during that meeting, Held said that she was confused by the North Kingstown School Committee’s process.

Following a discussion by the North Kingstown School Committee regarding how the per-pupil tuition cost for Jamestown students attending North Kingstown High School is calculated, Held said, “I thought the tuition and formula discussion was going to be a separate agreement.”

North Kingstown School Committee Chair Larry Ceresi, backed by committee members Lynda Avanzato and April Brunelle, said that he was uncomfortable voting on the contract when he had just received information that evening – though that information did, in fact, concern tuition costs.

Held again reiterated her belief that the vote, as she understood it and as the Jamestown vote reflected, concerned only the language regarding the one-year rollover clause and that tuition discussions were to be held off until the uniform chart of accounts could be utilized.

Held then stated that if – in fact – the vote was to concern more than the one-year rollover stipulation, then the Jamestown School Committee would need to rescind its approval vote as it did not include these other factors.

North Kingstown School Committee member Kim Page expressed her own frustration with the process at the May 11 meeting.

“I am frustrated with this. We met in December, we met in January and we’ve had this on the agenda a number of times. Now we’re postponing the vote because there are more questions. We should have had those questions answered when we had Cathy here,” Page said, referring to the two separate visits made by Kaiser to the N.K. School Committee for the purpose of discussing the one-year rollover clause.

North Kingstown Superintendent of Schools Phil Thornton, in comments made after the meeting, expressed his support of the current tuition formula.

“I’m quite happy with the current formula – what’s in it and what’s not in it. I think it is fair to both sides,” he said.

As for the North Kingstown School Committee’s refusal to vote, Thornton said he felt they were “exercising due diligence in response to questions raised by community members.”

He also expressed great confi dence that the two committees would resolve any concerns easily in upcoming meetings.

Avanzato expressed similar confi dence.

“I don’t want anyone to think that we don’t appreciate and value the presence of Jamestown students because they are great students who add a lot to the high school,” she said.

She also expressed frustration that the North Kingstown School Committee had not received enough information to understand that the requested vote only concerned the one-year rollover clause.

The clause, according to Avanzato, is not an issue for anyone and is supported by the North Kingstown School Committee. Avanzato echoed Thornton’s belief in the likelihood that these issues will be addressed and resolved in a positive way over the upcoming weeks.

Jamestown Schools Superintendent Marcia Lukon and other members of the two committees did not respond to requests for comment.

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