2013-08-29 / News

Board ties up loose ends before first day of classes

By Nick Pereira

The School Committee last week learned there are no major capitol improvements currently underway at the facilities, and the lack of work is in accordance with the board’s 10-year plan.

Committeeman B.J. Whitehouse gave the annual facilities report on Aug. 22 following an inspection with Lew Kitts, director of buildings and grounds for the School Department. While no major work is ongoing, he briefed the board on the new security procedures that are in place at both schools. He said they are functioning well.

Whitehouse also reported numerous energy-efficient improvements that have been installed for the new school year. Among them are greener light bulbs and environmentally friendly floor polish. Also, a new kitchen dishwasher was installed at Lawn School. The old machine was connected in 1955.

“That washing machine was put in the year I was born,” said Whitehouse.

Moreover, the playground at Melrose School was resurfaced over the summer.

In other news, the district has the highest enrollment in recent years. As of Aug. 22, Lawn School has 220 students and Melrose School has 293 kids enrolled this year. All told, the district has 513 students – 121 of those children are members of a military family.

The School Committee also heard potential changes to how the district will conduct other postemployment benefits. Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser read an excerpt from the policy.

“Given the current uncertainty about the impact of universal health care upon future medicalbenefit costs and thus OPEB liabilities, the School Committee deems it imprudent at this time to commit funds to an irrevocable trust.”

The policy said the School Committee would instead designate a portion of the department’s unreserved fund into a restricted account set aside for OPEB funding.

However, the drafted policy does not prevent the committee from moving all or some of the money in the restricted account to a trust fund if it is “deemed to be in the interest of the long-term fiscal health of the schools and community.”

Under the draft policy, each summer the school board will review preliminary year-end figures and decide whether to set aside additional money from the unreserved fund in the restricted OPEB account.

The policy can be found on the district’s website. The school board will revisit the matter on Sept. 19. A vote is expected.

In other news, the School Committee made a number of personnel moves. Anne Reilly, a teacher assistant, was given personal leave for the 2013-14 school year, while the committee accepted the resignation of another, Dory Vogel.

The board also hired Tom Carney and Jen Godwin to coach soccer, John Calise as a part-time behavioral specialist, Abigail Maiorano as a part-time clerk, and three teacher assistants: Valerie Perrotti, Lynn Farrell and Julie Westall. Nick Alfred was named athletic director.

One of the teacher assistants was hired at 5 p.m. the day of the meeting, fully staffing the district for the year.

Also, Kaiser briefed the committee on a meeting she attended with members of the Middletown Town Council. Along with Kaiser, in attendance from Jamestown were Town Administrator Bruce Keiser and Town Councilors Kristine Trocki and Mary Meagher. The meeting was to learn about a proposal from Middletown to develop a regional high school for Newport County teens.

“They want to gauge our interest,” said Kaiser. “The intent is simply to promote discussion.”

Middletown officials are suggesting one high school located centrally in their town can better meet the needs of students, instead of a high school at both ends of Aquidneck Island, one in Newport and another in Portsmouth.

The Middletown councilors asked the Jamestown delegation to support the idea, and the School Committee unanimously voted to accept the resolution. Committee members agreed that supporting a discussion was beneficial.

Lastly, Superintendent Marcia Lukon gave a short update on the district’s participation in Race to the Top, a contest created by the U.S. Education Department to encourage innovation and reform in schools. Districts that perform well receive federal funding.

“Participation was an exemplary level,” said Lukon, adding Jamestown’s status was “full participation.”

Lukon also recommended increased rates for both nonresident tuition and per-diem pay for longterm substitutes, and the committee unanimously accepted both. The tuition has been raised to $9,000, and the substitute rate was raised to $125 per day in order to be competitive with neighboring districts. The committee will review the rate for daily and shortterm substitutes during the next budget season.

In other news, North Kingstown is holding a welcome-back event for kindergartners at the high school. All Jamestown kindergarteners are invited. The youngsters from the two towns will eventually attend high school together, and the idea is to foster early relationships. The children are expected to graduate together as the class of 2026.

Finally, the School Committee canceled its Sept. 5 meeting. The board won’t meet again until Sept. 19.

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