School board extends Lukon’s contract
Superintendent of Schools Marcia Lukon will receive a 2.5 percent salary increase for the upcoming schoolyear,plusa2percent raise for the following year, the School Committee agreed at its May 23 meeting.
The school panel met behind closed doors to evaluate Lukon’s job performance and then voted unanimously in the public meeting to extend her contract for two years.
Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser said Lukon’s leadership has helped develop Jamestown into a high- performance district. She went on to say the committee remains committed to its earlier decision to save taxpayers money by hiring a part-time superintendent.
However, the committee also acknowledged Lukon’s part-time hours probably contributed to communication problems with the teachers. Those problems came to light at a meeting in January when Cynthia Cherney, co-president of the local teachers union, called for Lukon’s resignation. Cherney said the rank and file had taken a no-confidence vote in the superintendent.
Kaiser said the School CommitVoters tee had noted “the importance of continuing to strengthen the relationship between the leadership team and teachers.”
“Improving communication within the school community as well as with Jamestown’s citizens is something we must all work on,” said Kaiser.
Lukon’s salary increase will match the raises that all other school administrators will receive.
Kaiser said that administrators’ package was negotiated last year. In addition to the raise, Lukon will also be paid for up to 15 professional development days. The specific number will depend on the number of professional days for the teachers. The School Committee also changed the superintendent’s contract nonrenewal notice month from January to March.
“We’re getting her cheap,” said Committeeman B.J. Whitehouse, meaning Lukon’s compensation was a bargain for the school district.
Also, the panel approved a new three-year deal for the support staff. The vote was 4-0. Whitehouse recused himself from the vote to avoid any appearance of impropriety, he said. Whitehouse is employed as a teacher in Little Compton and said union steward Jane Argentieri represents both Little Compton teachers and personnel in Jamestown.
Under the new contract, all support staffwillcollecta2percent salary raise in 2014-15, and another 2 percent the following fiscal year. For the upcoming school year, the support staff will receive a one-time $600 payment. Bus monitors will receive a one-time $200 payment.
Other major changes impact health-insurance costs, with the support staff contributing more toward coverage, Kaiser said.
In other business, Lawn Avenue School was ranked the state’s top middle school, according to Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now. The organization recently releases its 2013 school and district report cards. The ranking was based on combined math and reading scores from the New England Common Assessment Program test, Lukon said.
Lukon also notified the School Committee of plans to install surveillance cameras on some school buses. The cameras were initially part of contract talks with the bus company, First Student, but ultimately, the school district decided to buy new cameras rather than rent from the company.
The cameras will not be on all school buses but will be used on a rotating basis, Lukon said, especially on the high school buses. The School Department does not have bus monitors on the those buses, she said.
School Committee member Sarah Baines asked if the purpose was for security or to deal with behavioral problems.
Both, Lukon replied. She confirmed she had received reports about “questionable behavior” on the buses when Committeewoman Julia Held asked if any incidents had happened. Lukon said both students and adult employees were involved in various reports.
Following the meeting, Lukon said, “Information about behavior or discipline of students and employees is confidential. Our main purpose in installing cameras on our buses is preventative. However, if an incident does occur on one of our buses we will have a record of what actually occurred.”
Baines asked if using cameras raised any privacy issues.
Lukon said there is an issue about special-education students, so no video recorders would be used to photograph those youngsters. Otherwise, there are no legal restrictions.
“We’re providing public transportation, and there isn’t any prohibition against us monitoring it using cameras,” she said.
In other business, the district has given the bus company a two- year contract extension, Lukon said. Costs will increase 2.25 percent next year and 2 percent the following year. The 2.25 percent increase was more than the district anticipated, she said. The schools hadbudgetedfora2percentincrease, but were unable to strike an agreement.
“This was the best we could do,” Lukon said.
Finally, the Jamestown schools will be able to continue using Aramark food service next year, according to Jane Littlefield, the School Department’s business manager. She said the company received a new state contract two weeks ago.
According to Littlefield, the schools are trying to collect $900 from students who owe money for meals. However, the program is on track to break even for the year.
“We’d love to have it break even,” she said.