School panel responds to budget trim efforts
The Jamestown School Committee received notification at its May 20 meeting of a warrant filed by the Jamestown Taxpayers’ Association to reduce the school budget by $115,288.
John Pagano, president of the JTA, indicated that the warrant is based on the association’s identifi cation of potential savings in health insurance, dental insurance and retiree health benefits.
School Committee Chair Cathy Kaiser reported that she has already met with Pagano to provide him with information on health benefits for the district’s retirees, most of whom are over 65 and therefore not eligible for Plan 65 – a Medicare/Medicaid gap plan that would save the district money if retirees agreed to switch from their current plans.
The other cost-saving measure that JTA identified is higher copays for current employees. But Kaiser said that this is a contract issue that must be negotiated with the union.
Since the cuts identified by the association cannot be immediately implemented, the school committee reported that a budget cut of $115,288 would necessitate direct reductions in the services provided to Jamestown’s school children.
Superintendent Marcia Lukon confirmed the committee’s assessment of this request and agreed that a reduction of this size would absolutely have a direct impact on the educational services provided to students.
In other business:
• Superintendent Marcia Lukon identified two bids that were received regarding the transportation contract for Jamestown’s school children. Bids were received from First Student Inc. (Jamestown’s current school transportation provider) and from Ocean State, Lukon said. Bids were submitted with and without parking of buses included.
The cost savings for accepting responsibility for parking the buses was immense and Lukon indicated that, in order for the transportation contract to be viable, the town will have to find somewhere to park the buses. According to Lukon, there are a number of potential places to park the buses that are currently being considered.
After the committee reviewed a breakdown of the costs, comparing First Student and Ocean State, they voted unanimously to continue to use First Student Inc.
• In other transportation news, Lukon reported a successful resolution with the R.I. Dept. of Education regarding the additional expenses Jamestown incurred as a result of participating in the statewide student transportation system. According to Lukon, RIDE has agreed to restore to Jamestown the $120,000 it cost the town to participate in the state program.
• Lukon also reported submitting written testimony supporting the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. This proposed legislation seeks to address the significant educational challenges faced by military children due to frequent relocations to different school systems.
In the principal’s report, Melrose Principal Carole Melucci reported on teachers’ professional development presentations and outlined the many events taking place at both Melrose and Lawn Schools in May. These activities included Island Treasures Day, which Melucci reported was a great success. Students were able to choose between 22 different workshops across the island. Melucci also reported that some music students went to the R.I. Solo and Ensemble Festival on Saturday, May 8. Students who compete are expected to learn a piece of music and perform that piece for an adjudicator at Rhode Island College. Students who receive high marks will be given a medal that will be presented at the school concert in June, Melucci said.
Other activities at the schools, reported by Melucci, include:
• The school talent show will be held on Friday, May 28, at Melrose School.
• Grades 5 and 6 chorus attended the R.I. Music Educators Association Choral Festival on May 12. The chorus received a superior rating, Melucci said, and a plaque is on display in the main hallway.
• The Rooster Games were held on May 14.
• Grade 6 attended Alton Jones on May 13 and 14.
The Financial Town Meeting will be held on Monday, June 7, at 7 p.m. in the Lawn Avenue School gymnasium.
The next workshop meeting of the Jamestown School Committee will be Thursday, June 3, and the next business meeting will be Thursday, June 17. All school committee meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are held in the Lawn Avenue School library.