2012-08-30 / News

Jamestown children go back to school

Most significant change is a new standard for students
BY KEN SHANE

The school year has begun for Jamestown students, and to get ready, professional development has been going on all week for teachers and staff. There are some major new developments for the school system involving changes to curriculum as well as some new policies that are about to be implemented.

For the first time this year, Jamestown schools will implement a new math and English language arts curriculum. The new curriculum is aligned with the Common Core State Standards that have been adopted by Rhode Island. These standards are now in place throughout the country and are part of an effort to create a new national standard in education.

The schools will also continue to implement related initiatives in compliance with the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top. These initiatives are based on formative assessment strategies and data-driven instruction that stresses monitoring progress the of students.

Deb DiBiase is about to begin her first year as the principal at Lawn Avenue School. For the last couple of years she was at the Segue Institute, a charter middle school in Central Falls. Before that she spent time at the state Department of Education, and was chairwoman of the math department at Coventry High School. DiBiase is excited about her new job.

“I have always loved Jamestown,” DiBiase said. “When the position came open I really fell in love with the small community. I love how the community and the families are heavily involved in education. There are real partnerships, not just standing on the outskirts. It’s a close-knit educational community involving all of the stakeholders.”

DiBiase also appreciates the fact that although the Jamestown school district is high performing, the community is not satisfied and continues to seek ways to improve the educational experience for students.

There have been some changes to the physical aspects of both Jamestown schools this year. According to Lewis Kitts, director of buildings and maintenance, those changes include a new security system complete with cameras and keypad access for faculty and staff. There is also new LED emergency lighting throughout the hallways.

“I can tell you that our custodial staff has done an incredible job,” DiBiase said. “They have been working hard all summer long. Both buildings look incredible.”

Last week the Jamestown School Committee adopted a revision of the state’s bullying policy, and the new policy will be implemented in the schools. The School Committee also approved a new transportation policy that will help tighten security for the students. In accordance with this policy, students will only be allowed to ride on buses they have been assigned to.

DiBiase said that technology is playing an ever-increasing role in education. One element that is being employed at Lawn is the use of iPads for students with special needs. Each grade also has a portable laptop cart with computers that can be used in the classrooms. There are also smart boards in a number of classrooms. The sixthgrade science class is continuing to work on a hydroponics system that is funded by a grant from NASA.

“I would like to see us start to use more technology in the classroom, but associated with that, we need to provide professional development on effective uses of the technology in the classroom for the teachers,” DiBiase said.

On the first day of school, DiBiase told her students that she expects them to work hard and look forward to engaging lessons where they will learn a lot. She challenged them to do the best they can, and to use the skills that they have learned to deal with real-life problems.

Carrie Melucci is starting her sixth year as the principal at Melrose Avenue School. She is pleased that a new gate to the playground has been installed so that when students are dropped off and picked up, there is now a safer way in and out of the playground. In addition to that she pointed out that the crosswalks have been repainted, which will also help to create a safer environment.

Melucci complimented the custodial staff and said that her school looks “impeccable.” According to the principal, the school’s floors have been redone, and there has been some painting done around the school as well. She said that the improvements to the school’s security system are important.

Melucci also spoke about the new Common Core curriculum and said that it provides a clearer picture of what students need to learn. She said her teachers have been working diligently to implement the changes.

On the first day of school, Melucci addressed her students on the playground. She told them that she is looking forward to a great year full of exciting learning opportunities. She encouraged them to do their best, and to engage in positive behavior, being respectful to themselves, others and the environment.

Among the things that students have to look forward to, Melucci mentioned the afterschool programs that are run by the Jamestown Education Foundation. The programs will start at the end of September and provide enrichment activities for the students.

“Every year we try really hard to find new things and exciting opportunities for the kids to expand on what they’re interested in,” Melucci said.

Melucci will also speak to the parents. “I would like to send the message that we work together to achieve academic excellence for all students,” she said. “We are a community that celebrates each student’s unique diversity and strengths. We’re here to promote a positive school climate and a safe school environment.”

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