2013-02-14 / News

Budget includes funds for textbooks, server

School board is expected to vote on proposal Feb. 28
BY NICK PEREIRA

Tackling Superintendent Marcia Lukon’s proposed budget for the second meeting in a row, School Committee members learned last week that the spending plan includes a request for a new server.

Purchasing a new server could cost upwards of $6,000, but would result in long-term savings, Lukon said at the Feb. 7 meeting. The new server would back up the school’s current one and relieve the department from outsourcing that service. A new server would also allow students to save more items on the school database.

Under the proposal, supplies for foreign-language courses will increase in fiscal year 2013 because North Kingstown has decided to use different Spanish textbooks than Jamestown. Lukon’s decision to buy new textbooks is because the School Department is trying to align its Spanish program so that students can seamlessly feed into North Kingstown High School.

Providing textbooks to private school students will also cost more in the upcoming year. A number of private schools have changed to new first-edition textbooks, therefore, Jamestown is unable to use traditional cost-savings measures by buying used copies. By law, the School Department must provide the textbooks.

As mentioned at the last budget meeting, despite the increases, the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year dropped 2.78 percent. According to the School Committee Action Notes, a vote on the spending plan is expected at the board’s Feb. 28 meeting.

In other news, the School Committee voted to approve three different resolutions, all three directed to the state General Assembly.

The first resolution opposes legislation that would mandate that expired teacher contracts continue at the existing terms and conditions. The resolution passed 3-2, with committee members B.J. Whitehouse and Ryan Conlon voting against it. The second resolution urged lawmakers to oppose all binding-arbitration legislation currently being considered for school employees. It passed unanimously, with Conlon abstaining. The final resolution advises the General Assembly to pass legislation to move the layoff-notice deadline for teachers from March 1 to June 1. The bill was introduced by Rep. Deb Ruggiero, a Jamestown resident, and it passed 5-0.

On a lighter note, the School Committee was joined by Lawn Avenue School students who took part in the recent robotics competition at Roger Williams University. The kids gave a presentation.

“The first rule of the project is to have fun,” said coach Jack Hubbard.

This year’s theme was solutions to problems ailing senior citizens. Students competed in teams of four to construct robots capable of navigating obstacles inspired by common problems experienced by seniors, like poor lateral balance.

“It’s not about winning,” said Hubbard. “It’s about doing well.”

But, Hubbard added, Jamestown did do well. The town sported four teams in a statewide field of 40, and two Jamestown teams qualified for the five-team final.

Jamestown’s four teams were named the Silver Creepers, the Six-Pack Seniors, the Bearded Builders, and a team whose name was a number of letters put together in order to be unpronounceable. Teams competed on three levels: the game board, research and core values.

Hubbard thanked the School Committee, parents, coaches and mentors for all the help rendered to the teams. An owner of a business that constructs devices for the elderly also came in to speak with the students.

Two teams then gave short presentations about their projects. The Bearded Builders focused its project around taste. “If seniors can’t taste, they loose interest in food and that can lead to medical issues,” said one of the students sporting the team’s trademark fake beard.

The Six-Pack Seniors’ focus was Alzheimer’s disease. In order to better understand the disease, the students participated in a conference call with Dr. Mariana Figuerio from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The kids ran their ideas by the expert.

After discussing their projects, the two teams demonstrated their robots in action. The Bearded Builders’ robot successfully bowled and drove across a wobbly ramp. The Six-Pack Seniors’ robot pushed a scaled chair under a table and operated a ball-dispensing machine. Both robots were about the size of a shoebox. To build their automatons, each teams received a kit that featured parts, motors and a programmable “brain.”

“I’m blown away,” said Whitehouse.

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