2011-06-23 / News

School panel looks at options for food service, high school

By Geoff Campbell

Caia Diepenbrock, Eric Holtzman, Jena Cabrera and Christian Teixeira were recipients of the Elizabeth Stone Scholarships for 2011.

Selection Committee Chairwoman Julie Kallfelz presented scholarship checks to both Christian and Jena, who were in attendance for a brief ceremony at the start of the June 16 meeting of the School Committee. Kallfelz reminded the gathering that Elizabeth Stone, a longtime Jamestowner, had bequeathed a portion of her estate to generate annual scholarships. The scholarship is a one-time award for expenses associated with freshman year at an accredited four-year institution of higher learning.

Superintendent Marcia Lukon made a recommendation to the School Committee to “rescind the non-renewals notices” for eight faculty members. The teachers had received notice of non-renewal in March as required by law. Lukon explained that the March date is early in the budgeting process but because there are so many financial unknowns, both locally and at the state level at that time of the year, “Generally we have to inform far more people than it’s actually likely to affect.”

Failing to make notification before the deadline can result in mandatory hiring for positions that are not budgeted, according to Lukon. She added that, “The reduction of a special education position, because of the shifting needs of the students,” remained in force.

The committee unanimously approved the recommendation to rescind the non-renewal notice of Christine Antidormi, Andrea Brayman, Gilda Bullard, Laurie George, Tara Higgins, Jayson Juhnowski, Jamie Ordway and Lisa Wholey by way of the consent agenda.

The food service update included further evidence of Sodexho’s apparent lack of ability to meet the needs of the district. Lukon and Finance Director Jane Littlefi eld met with representatives of Aramark, a food service company that currently services 12 districts in the state. Lukon said that she would continue to vet Aramark and report her findings.

She also reported that she has written letters of inquiry to the East Greenwich and Portsmouth high schools “asking if they are interested and if they have the capacity to accept our students, and explaining that if their answers were positive that we would do some preliminary analysis, and perhaps, based on that do a more thorough review.”

She also said that a letter was sent to Narragansett’s superintendent “asking them for a financial proposal.”

The committee members shared the general content of two pieces of correspondence received, following the conversation at the last meeting regarding the high school review. One suggested the addition of a fourth school to the list and another expressed disappointment that the issue had been raised. The committee also engaged in a brief discussion of the comparative distance between Lawn Avenue School and several area high schools as it relates to the review. Lukon pointed out that should the process reach a point of decision making, then she would drive the distances at the time buses would be on the road to ensure the viability of transportation to and from each high school.

The Superintendent’s Report focused primarily on two requests, which were received from a current Jamestown family and a military family who will be living in Jamestown in the fall. The requests are to provide three international students who would be living with the families and given admission to North Kingstown High School for a year.

Given the financial hardship that three unbudgeted tuitions put on the district, Lukon sought legal advice from both the state Department of Education and the district’s attorney. While formal opinions are pending, attorneys at Rhode Island’s Department of Education indicated that the fi- nancial hardship that would be incurred by the district would not require the district to pay the tuitions. The committee supported the superintendent’s actions to this point. Lukon explained that while she is supportive of programs that allow families to host international students, these particular opportunities do not include reciprocal arrangements for Jamestowners. She said that the tuition contract would cost the district at a minimum of $25,000, and if special services were required, such as English Language Learner Services, the costs could exceed $125,000.

The committee accepted the request by the superintendent to place the item on the next agenda. Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser said that the matter falls in the operational prevue of the superintendent. Committee member B.J. Whitehouse expressed concern about the precedent set by the district should they agree to these unbudgeted costs.

The Principals’ Reports included descriptions of a multitude of year-end events, such as the second annual Trivia for Charity event at Melrose Avenue School, movies now on display at the Jamestown Historical Society, a successful study of the history of Watson Farm by the sixth grade, and two successful overnight field trips: one with the seventh grade to the Boston Museum of Science and the second with the eighth grade to Washington, D.C.

Brief standing committee reports concluded the meeting.

The School Committee will meet during the summer recess at Melrose Avenue School on July 12 and August 25, both at 7 p.m.

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