JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Melrose Avenue School
October 6, 2005
Present: Catherine Kaiser, Chairperson David Long
William Brennan Julio DiGiando
Julia Held William Kelley
Julie Kallfelz Michael Schnack
Present: Dr. Robert Power, Superintendent Bruce Keiser, Town Administrator
Elizabeth Pinto, Director of Pupil Services
Maria Alfred, Business Manager
Louis Kitts, Facilities Manager
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the joint work session to order at 6:40 p.m., led the Pledge of Allegiance, and welcomed Town Council and administration members to the joint meeting.
Members present: Kaiser, Brennan, Held, Kallfelz.
Members excused: Filkins
Open Forum: None.
Presentation on Infoworks: Mrs. Alamanzor explained that the State of Rhode Island compiles data from InSite, assessment, and SALT data from each school. There is more information on the DOE website. She solicited questions rather than making a formal presentation.
Mr. Keiser said there is general interest in Jamestown’s education. He knew that Jamestown was rated very highly. He wanted to know what the School Committee thought needed to change or needed pursuing. Ms. Kaiser explained that the two SITs took the Infoworks data to analyze it. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that high school assessment is included in this report, but elementary and middle school assessments are not. She explained the process by which testing is being done now.
Ms. Szepatowski asked how children with learning disabilities are tested. Mrs. Alamanzor said that there are accommodations, but testing is still required. If accommodations are made, it must be noted. Mr. Kelley asked about how the school works with higher level students. Mrs. Alamanzor discussed differentiated instruction and gave an example of how higher level students are challenged with more abstract learning in a subject.
Mr. DiGiando commented that Jamestown students should do well. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that the school always wants to do better and are continually trying to improve. She noted that in RI, suburban districts do better than the U.S. average, and urban districts do worse than the U.S. average. Ms. Kaiser noted that a parent survey was done last spring, and parents are interested in a rigorous education. Improvement is always on the forefront. Mrs. Held added that the SITs recognize the test scores as the percentage of students meeting the standard and the percentage who are below standard. Mrs. Alamanzor noted that teachers looked at individual results to see whether students did or didn’t do well and whether this was related to instruction. Mrs. Kallfelz said that the labels “improving” and “high performing” are very broad. When Jamestown looked at the results, they saw that some students were not performing up to Jamestown’s level, even though the school was labeled “high performing”.
Mr. Kelley asked about the overall strengths of the school system and what areas need improvement. Mrs. Alamanzor said that the district tries to give students a voice and does not teach them rote answers; it encourages them to be thinkers and problem solvers and to ask questions, and this is a strength. She noted that the district needs to work on making students see that, in terms of testing, there are certain things that are expected. Ms. Held said that a strength is that staff and teachers know their students and know whether they are working to their potential. She called attention to the curriculum maps in K-8 as a strength. Ms. Held thought that the district needs to do a better job with differentiated instruction; the district is very good with students who need extra help but not as good with students who need to be challenged. Small class size helps.
Ms. Szepatowski asked about the number of students who are home schooled. Ms. Pinto said that there are about five families who home school. Mrs. Alamanzor added that families have the option to test. Ms. Kaiser noted that the district used to offer a lot more oversight but does not do as much now because schools don’t have the right. Ms. Held added that some states do not require anything, In RI, no science is required. The law requires that parents prove attendance and curriculum but does not require testing. Mrs. Alamanzor said that students are invited to come for testing but they don’t attend. Ms. Kaiser said she was comfortable with the quality of home schooling. Mr. Brennan noted that home schooling numbers have been steady in the past few years.
Mr. Schnack asked how many students go to private schools and Mrs. Alamanzor answered about 19-20%. Ms. Kaiser added that a percentage of Jamestown students would go to private schools no matter what. Dr. Power added that the percentage is about the same in Newport, and the rate in Providence is 18-19%. Mr. Kelley said that perhaps students go to parochial high schools.
Mr. Brennan commented that Infoworks is good for perspective; however, the figures are back-dated by two years. For example, Infoworks shows that Jamestown in #4 in per-pupil cost now. Mr. Brennan said that on his wish list is the goal of beating both East Greenwich and Barrington’s test scores with a budget that stayed flat. He noted that the socioeconomic statuses of the communities are about the same, but both East Greenwich and Barrington have lower per-pupil costs. He added that Jamestown is at the top of special education per-pupil costs. Mr. Brennan said he thought there should be a strong focus on math.
Mr. Brennan noted that Infoworks does not show data on high school in Jamestown, because it is aggregated with North Kingstown’s. Mr. Brennan thought that if the data were disaggregated, it would show that Jamestown is doing very well. Mr. Kelley asked about whether Jamestown high school students were tracked to see if they went to college. Ms. Held answered that Jamestown can get data from North Kingstown while the students are in high school, but North Kingstown does not track students who leave. Mrs. Alamanzor added that private schools are not tracked. Mr. Brennan called attention to Jamestown students who were valedictorians and salutatorians in the past few years.
Mrs. Kallfelz said that information has improved dramatically. School Maps helps with data collection. As an example, Mrs. Kallfelz said that the district had heard anecdotally from parents that Jamestown students were not prepared in math or Spanish. The 7th -8th Grade teachers sat with the Math Chair, who brought data about adequate preparedness. The Chair showed that Jamestown students are well prepared and sometimes outperform North Kingstown students. She pointed out areas for improvement.
Update on Feasibility Study of Shared Services: Ms. Kaiser explained that the Feasibility Study now has a draft of preliminary results that will allow communities to prioritize. She noted that she is on the RIASC board, and they have recommended several areas for sharing services and for legislation. 1) Regarding transportation, the committee recommended the use of vans for special education transportation and a regional study of transportation to discover needs and possibilities for collaboration. Ms. Kaiser explained that regional bus runs are not full, and use of a small bus or van would save money. However, use of vans is not possible right now because of DOT regulations. 2) The committee recommended that private and parochial school purchase their own texts. 3) Regarding food service, data is being collected now. 4) Regarding medical/dental costs, a small committee has been sent to work with Bob Walsh, because there can be no collaboration on this issue without union concessions. 5) Ms. Kaiser explained that there is now an aggregate that saves on both utilities and supplies. Mr. Keiser added that the League of Cities and Towns purchases utilities together, and this saves a substantial amount of $25,000 per community. 6). Ms. Kaiser explained that the committee is looking at what is the best size for school districts to be. The ideal size is 6,000 students. She noted that there has been discussion about this with South County, and she thought this would be explored in the future. Mr. Kelley asked whether this would mean that the middle school students would go off-island. Ms. Kaiser explained that this discussion was just looking at the size of districts administratively in terms of economies of scale. She added that Jamestown is looking for savings outside the walls of the district.
Mr. DiGiando asked whether the committee had looked at contracting services for the Superintendent, business manager, and personnel services to see what it would save. Ms. Kaiser explained that Jamestown had talked with Narragansett about sharing services, but there was no interest. Mr. DiGiando said he had heard otherwise during the summer. Ms. Kaiser said Jamestown is always interested in talking with communities about shared services. She explained that, regarding business services and special education, Ms. Pinto sat with Narragansett and South Kingstown, but they were not ready. Ms. Held added that she was on the committee, and it couldn’t have been clearer that Narragansett had no interest in direct collaboration with Jamestown. Mr. DiGiando thought this avenue should be investigated.
Ms. Szepatowski asked about Bristol/Warren collaboration. Dr. Power explained that Bristol does not have a middle school. Bristol students were sent to Warren for middle school, and Warren students were sent to Bristol for high school. He noted that one has to be careful what one gives up. Because of economies of scale, as districts get larger, there are better costs; however, there are advantages to getting things done in a smaller district. Ms. Szepatowski discussed the difference between Barrington and Jamestown. She noted that the community of Barrington is about the same as it was 40 years ago, while Jamestown has changed a lot. She thought Jamestown was now on the same level as Barrington. She thought Barrington should be striving to be more like Jamestown.
Discussion of Teen Center Location and Hours: Ms. Szepatowski reported on a meeting that took place last week and said there is so much positive about the teen program. She explained that the children had an area in the Recreation Center originally, and probably within the next year, they would return there.
Discussion and Vote on Generator Installation Payment: Mr. Brennan recused himself from this discussion. Mr. Kelley explained that there has been misinformation in the Press on this issue. He noted that the town got a grant for $40,000 to pay for the generator; however, there is a $16,000 installation fee to place it in the school. He suggested that, as there are times when the school might use the generator, the School Committee consider sharing the installation cost with the town.
Mr. Kitts said that the generator needed to be checked once a month, and Mr. Kelley suggested that town staff could do this. Mr. Keiser explained that Town Council is looking for a 50/50 cost share, in the amount of $8,145. Ms. Kaiser suggested that the school be responsible for monthly checks, and all other costs be paid by the town. Mr. Brennan was asked for information. He said that yearly maintenance is about $450-1,000, but cost would be less if the town bought its own parts and did the work themselves. He suggested that someone competent should take a look at the system at least once a year. Mr. Kelley asked about warrantee, and Mr. Brennan said it was for 1-2 years. Mr. Brennan added that belts and batteries would need to be replaced every few years. Contracted services are much more expensive than having the work done in-house. Mr. Keiser said he would cost out the options. Mr. DiGiando suggested that if the generator were for emergency management issues, then why was there talk about shared costs. Ms. Kaiser added that if the cost of installation were shared, funds would have to be taken from the school’s capital reserve fund rather than the regular budget.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion that the School Department share the cost of installing the generator with the town as discussed. All approved. So moved.
Pre-Budget Discussion with Town Council:
1. Food Service Costs: Ms. Kaiser explained that Jamestown is contracting with North Kingstown for food service. For this year, Jamestown was asked to share administrative costs of $20,000-25,000. The cost was renegotiated, and Jamestown’s food service profits will be applied to that cost. This will be an ongoing additional expense. Ms. Kaiser said North Kingstown may be contracting their food service next year. Ms. Szepatowski asked whether the School Committee would consider using people here, and Ms. Kaiser said yes.
2. Playing Fields: Mrs. Kallfelz described the grass roots efforts by a number of groups over the last 1.5 years and their concerns for the conditions of the school grounds, fields, and bike safety. People have been meeting to identify issues, to find short-term solutions and to plan for long-term solutions. Carol Nelson-Lee suggested doing the project in stages. Stage 1 solicits funding to investigate Arnold Avenue fields with a land use planner’s assistance. The committee is now soliciting funds and looking for a planner, whom they hope to have in place by early 2007. By late spring, a usage plan would be in place for the fields, bike path, forest, and transportation issues.
Ms. Szepatowski added that work is projected to begin in 2008-2009. She noted that organizations that needed short-term assistance would have to speak for themselves. She said that the community has been very generous in the past, and she suggested that the Town Council could help with fundraising this winter. Mr. Keiser added that there will be a meeting this month to discuss needs for the next playing season. Bruce Long added that the Eldred Avenue fields were also discussed. He noted that Theresa Paiva-Weed had spoken earlier with a professor at URI who would take on the planning process with his class, but he was scared off by the Indians. Mr. Keiser noted that the planning project would cost about $3,000. Once planning is complete and both Town Council and School Committee accept it, then funds need to be raised. Ms. Szepatowski explained that it may cost $50,000-100,000 if an archaeological study is required. Mr. Brennan said that the school department has maps, and the planner could use them. Mr. Keiser said that the group is continuing to meet, and the first order is to find a planner.
Mr. Kelley thought the committees needed to be proactive about sports, and he said he was willing to bring back information to the Town Council. He said constant improvement is necessary. He added that the Rotary donated a scoreboard. Mr. Keiser noted that the group is also looking at who is responsible for what from the town and the school. A big issue is irrigation. He said that use of wastewater effluent for the school grass is being considered. Cost of implementation is negligible because the field is about 1,000 feet from the third fairway to Lawn and Melrose. He said the town has applied to DEM. Mr. Rafanelli said that he will meet with Mr. Keiser regarding needs for the next year. Mr. Keiser spoke with Mr. Patnaude in June and with Steve Goslee. Mr. Goslee is not looking for a whole new application but is asking the state to treat this as an amendment to treating the golf course. If this is not permitted, it would change dramatically the amount of review, and public notice is necessary. Mr. Brennan suggested that baseball infield be placed on the checklist for spring needs. Mr. Kelly noted that it was impressive to see how many children and adults participated in the sports program, and he said that it is important to look after the assets of the fields.
3. Cost Associated with North Kingstown Use of Jamestown-Contracted Buses: Mr. Brennan explained that North Kingstown struggles with high school start time, and they need a certain number of buses so that students don’t get home late. He suggested that, if Jamestown offered to ferry North Kingstown students after the high school drop-off, it might help in a number of ways. He noted that it would be very difficult unless Jamestown moved its school start time, and Jamestown needs to consider this. He explained that Jamestown would charge driver and fuel costs to North Kingstown, and Jamestown may have to talk with its bus company. Mr. Kelley suggested that perhaps someone from RIPTA might be willing to take a look at the problem and to make suggestions. Ms. Kaiser added that North Kingstown has a full-time transportation director. North Kingstown does not have enough buses. She noted that Jamestown is trying to work with them to see if our buses might be available to help.
4. Committee / Council Concerns: Ms. Szepatowski suggested that there be another budget planning meeting in December to finalize issues and to come to consensus regarding process. Ms. Kaiser noted that part of tonight’s meeting was to discuss concerns.
Mr. Keiser reported that he and Mr. Kelley and Mr. Brennan attended a symposium at CCRI last week regarding property tax cap. He explained the process by which the cap would be reduced to 4% by 2013. He explained some of the ramifications of this cap reduction and said that the purpose of it is to restrain the burden on property taxpayers. Mr. Keiser noted that a key piece of this legislation is that the state will move toward 50/50 funding for education and full funding for unfunded state mandates. Mr. Keiser added that Bob Walsh said the legislation needs significant change. Mr. Brennan said they spoke with Mr. Walsh on the way out, and he is in favor of a statewide teacher contract. Mr. Kelley noted that Theresa Paiva-Weed said she would work harder to get unfunded mandates back.
Mr. Kelley asked to hear overall comments from Dr. Power. Dr. Power said Jamestown has a terrific school system with lots of great things going on. He said his impression was that Town Council and School Committee members were working together to bring the community forward. Dr. Power said that one of the strengths of the school system is class size and what the students look like as an end product. He called attention to Jamestown students’ successes. Dr. Power said that if one takes students into a bigger schools system and they come out on top, the proof is in the pudding.
Adjourned: Ms. Held moved and Mr. Brennan seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:25 p.m. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date