Panel hears about potential projects
Lew Kitts, the building and grounds superintendent for the Jamestown School Department, briefed the School Committee last week on how he planned to spend the $195,175 capital projects budget.
Kitts told the panel at its Feb. 9 meeting that he would use the money, which was transferred from the district’s unreserved fund, for ongoing maintenance costs. These projects include refurbishing and painting the interior of the schools, renovating the exteriors, and resurfacing the Melrose Avenue School parking lot.
Kitts also plans to replace the keypad entry security systems with swipe card systems at both schools, upgrade the security camera systems, replace the synchronized clock systems, and upgrade the Lawn Avenue School gym and stage lighting, as well as install a projector. Kitts also said he will replace the 20-year-old dishwater at Lawn Avenue School.
Superintendent Marcia Lukon reported on the technology capital improvement budget, saying it was time for the district’s regularly scheduled replacement of teacher laptops. She also told the committee that the district needed to purchase an iMac for the Lawn Avenue art room, and document cameras for the kindergarten and the seventh- and eighth-grade social studies and English language arts classrooms.
Committee member Sav Rebecchi asked if the district saves money for anticipated future capital expenses. Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser answered by saying that the policy of funding those one-time costs from the unreserved fund serves as a set-aside. Kitts added that he would like to expand the current five-year capital improvement plan to cover 10 years.
Jane Littlefield, director of fi- nance, clarified how state aid to the schools was being reported. She said that the dramatic increase in state aid in Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s proposed budget is nothing more than the result of changes to the category reporting format.
In other news, Lukon discussed the proposed curriculum director position. The proposal is to eliminate the current half-time position of professional development facilitator and replace it with a full-time position responsible for curriculum, assessment and professional development. She added that the new position would demand a three-year commitment to help transition the district from the New England Common Assessment Program to the National Common Core Standards. Following the transition, the position would then be re-evaluated each year to determine if it should be reduced to a part-time job.
The committee also discussed the issue of preschool tuition in more detail. At the Feb. 2 meeting, Amy Gallagher of the Taxpayers Association of Jamestown suggested that the Melrose preschool tuition should increase. At the time, Ken Duva, Jamestown’s director of student services, said that the island’s preschool was already more expensive than those in neighboring communities. At last week’s meeting the committee reviewed the figures and concluded that a 10 percent increase would provide less than $4,000 in additional revenue. The panel decided to make no changes in tuition.
Another issue raised was by an anonymous source related to teacher absences and the cost of substitutes. Committee members said they were concerned with the issue of absences and that it was a valid question, but it didn’t require a response because it came from an anonymous source.
The next time the School Committee meets will be Thursday, Feb. 16, when the committee is expected to vote on Lukon’s $11.9 million budget proposal.