Candidate statements – School Committee
The cost of sustaining high-performing schools remains the greatest challenge facing the School Committee. Under the funding formula, Jamestown’s state aid will decrease by 51 percent over 10 years.
To minimize the impact of this loss, we need to actively oppose legislation that would add to the burden on our taxpayers; establish strategy and procedures to address federal mandates concerning the district’s other-post-employmentbenefi ts liability; work with the school administration and unions to achieve greater efficiencies, both systemic and contractual; and continue our commitment to zerobased budgeting in order to meet the needs of both our students and the community.
I am running for re-election because I would like to continue to be part of this crucial ongoing effort.
Since 2001, the School Committee has reduced the increase in the town’s share of the school budget from double digits to single digits – or even partial digits. The town contribution has increased only 1.5 percent since fiscal year 2010.
During this same period, we increased curricular rigor without a comparable increase in cost. Going forward, the School Committee needs to support the administration and staff as the district transitions to the internationally benchmarked Common Core Standards.
As School Committee chairwoman for the past 11 years, I have actively promoted an education agenda at the State House. I testify regularly on issues important to Jamestown and have represented statewide interests as a working member of three legislative commissions: unfunded mandates (2007), the education funding formula (2009), and unified heath insurance benefits (2010). It is more important now than ever for Jamestown schools to have a voice at the state level.
I hope to be part of the ongoing conversation about how best to use our resources to ensure the continued delivery of the quality programming that our students and community deserve.
My interest in and involvement with the Jamestown schools began 23 years ago when my oldest child began kindergarten. My husband, Randy White, and I have lived on this remarkable island since 1981, and our three children, Alex, Owen and Madeleine, enjoyed the benefits of growing up here and attending our schools and NKHS.
Since being elected to the School Committee in 2005, I have worked to support the primary goal of providing Jamestown’s students a challenging, relevant education that will prepare them well for whatever direction they choose, while keeping close watch on the resources we utilize in pursuit of that goal.
In recent years, the School Committee, under Cathy Kaiser’s strong leadership, has had a role in some meaningful accomplishments, including administrative reorganization, the adoption of zero based budgeting, and contract negotiations that have enhanced our fiscal stability and given us greater flexibility to deal with enrollment shifts.
Jamestown can be really proud of its schools. The tireless efforts of a very capable faculty and staff, under the intelligent direction of a talented administrative team, have resulted in tremendous progress. I want to continue my participation in the ongoing effort to make our schools even better as we navigate some significant educational and fiscal challenges.
I believe that my experience on the School Committee is extremely valuable as we approach these challenges. I am currently the vice chairwoman, our liaison to the North Kingstown School Committee, and on the policy subcommittee.
My professional training in research science provides me with the right tools to evaluate evidence objectively to form conclusions, and the resourcefulness to deal with logistical and budgetary considerations. My educational training and 25 years of teaching have made me creative and openminded in seeking solutions to educational challenges.
The mission of our public schools is critically important not only for our children, but for our local and extended communities. I hope very much to be re-elected to the School Committee so I can help to make educationally sound and fiscally sensible decisions about how we carry out that mission. Jamestown continues to experience change, and I am confi- dent that the people of this island will meet the attendant challenges in positive, constructive ways. I think I work effectively with different constituencies, and if reelected I will continue to provide a carefully reasoned, thoughtful approach to every issue. I respectfully ask for your support and your vote.
I have been asked often to explain my comments about why I placed a priority on reversing the trend of parents taking their children out of the Jamestown schools and sending them to private schools.
Let me begin by saying that this is an individual choice that all are obviously entitled to make. It is clear that some parents are going to send their children to private schools no matter what is being offered locally, but when children who start in the school system are taken out, that is a concern. When this happens we potentially lose good students and involved parents.
In many Massachusetts towns, and in Rhode Island towns like Barrington and East Greenwich, parents are relieved to know that they have an excellent publicschool option and can focus on saving for their child’s college education. It should be that way in Jamestown. I am not sure whether it is just a matter of perception, or if this trend is somehow based on reality.
Certainly the recent decline in science results are a concern, but so might be that nine districts rank above Jamestown in elementary school reading proficiency, while seven districts’ middle schools rank higher. Balancing this out to some degree, Jamestown does extremely well in math testing. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement and Jamestown should not take comfort in knowing that Newport families move here for the better education. That’s not a high enough bar.
High-performing school systems like Barrington, East Greenwich and North Smithfield annually publish a chart that shows how their students rank academically compared to the rest of the state and what they spend per student. Barrington even chooses to compare itself to schools in Massachusetts. It is no surprise that high-performing schools rank well not only on academics, but they also do well financially. This sort of benchmarking creates accountability, and ultimately results. Jamestown should do the same.
While the results from around Rhode Island show that the amount of money spent per student does not seem to impact the quality of education on offer, it is worth noting that Jamestown does not skimp in this area. When adjusting for the tuition we pay for our high school students to attend North Kingstown, our cost per prekindergarten through eighth-grade students is $19,200. The state average is $15,500, and Barrington, East Greenwich and North Smithfi eld are well below the state average. We are a small school system and lack economies of scale, and this distorts the per-student costs. However, Little Compton, with 40 percent fewer students, spends $17,200 per student
In highlighting the cost per students, I am in no way suggesting that we cut spending. That could be harmful. However, when savings can be found they should be reinvested into the schools in a way that directly benefits the students and ensure Jamestown families can have the utmost confi dence in sending their children to Jamestown schools.
I have been asked why voters should elect me to be a member of the Jamestown School Committee, and I would offer the following for your review. As I have stated throughout my campaign, I intend to utilize my skills and abilities to help strike the necessary balance among the needs of the students, their valued teachers, as well as the budgetary concerns of the community. As a fairly recent graduate of the Jamestown schools, I believe that I would offer a unique perspective to those elected to the committee. Lastly, I will do my very best to serve our community in a thoughtful and reasoned manner, and would ask for your consideration on Election Day. Thank you.