JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Lawn Avenue School
February 26, 2009
Present: Catherine Kaiser, Chairperson
Present: Dr. Marcia Lukon, Superintendent
Dr. Robert Fricklas, Director of Pupil Services
Kathleen Almanzor, Principal at Lawn School
Carole Melucci, Principal at Melrose School
Michael White, Town Council Liaison
The School Committee returned to Open Session following a 6:00 p.m. Executive Session pursuant to RIGL 42-46-5, Exception 1, Personnel: Teacher Job Performance; and Exception 2, Litigation re: Appeal of Regents’ Decision. Ms. Kaiser announced that there was a vote to approve the Superintendent’s recommendation to suspend a teacher for a period of six days and to issue a final written warning. The vote was unanimous.
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the general meeting to order at 7:15 p.m. and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ms. Kaiser called the Roll Call.
Members present: Kaiser, Held, Kallfelz, Whitehouse.
Members absent: Brennan.
Public Forum: None.
Consent Agenda: Ms. Held asked to exclude the Minutes of January 8, 2009 from the Consent Agenda vote.
Ms. Held moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to approve the Minutes of January 22 and February 5, 2009 and Bills for January 22, 2009. All approved. So moved.
Ms. Held said that Mrs. Kallfelz is on the Scholarship Committee and asked that this be corrected in the January 8, 2009 Minutes.
Mr. Whitehouse moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to approve the Minutes of January 8, 2009 with the correction. All approved. So moved.
Dr. Lukon explained that she is recommending that Nicholas Alfred be appointed as the Track and Field Coach for Spring 2009 and Eric Bush be appointed as the Baseball Coach for Spring 2009.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Mr. Whitehouse seconded a motion to approve the appointments of Nicholas Alfred as Track and Field Coach for Spring 2009 and Eric Bush as the Baseball Coach for Spring 2009. All approved. So moved.
Correspondence: Ms. Kaiser received two pieces of correspondence: 1) an invitation to a RIASC legislative workshop this Saturday, which she will attend, and 2) an invitation from Stephanie Pamula to attend the Lawn School Art Exhibition at the Jamestown Philomenian Library on Monday, March 2.
Food Service Update: Dr. Lukon explained that year-to-date sales are following the same trend: Melrose figures are 450 more than last year, and Lawn figures are 1,200 fewer. Overall sales are down substantially. Ms. Kaiser added that the Food Service Subcommittee will be meeting in March and will discuss these figures.
Discussion of FY 10 Budget and Vote: Dr. Lukon explained that this version of the technology plan has been divided. If the total is something that cannot be approved, then she said she hopes to include smart boards in the technology budget this year. She said she hoped that whatever was not approved this year would be moved to next year. The district needs especially the update of licenses for Windows 2007 environment because everything the district gets from RIDE cannot be opened.
Mr. Whitehouse asked whether appropriate training and installation are included in the cost of the smart boards. Mrs. Almanzor replied that one of the teachers will be trained as a trainer in April. Teachers have all expressed interest in smart boards. Grades 5 and 6 will have one board per grade.
Mr. Whitehouse asked for an explanation of smart tables and said he wants evidence that they will be used by students. Ms. Melucci explained that the cost is high because the district would be supplying six classrooms. Mr. Whitehouse said he wanted to make sure the smart tables were worth the $7,000 each. Ms. Held asked if one smart table could be purchased as a trial. Ms. Melucci said that the Technology Plan looked at full technology at all grade levels. Ms. Held said she wondered why wiring at Melrose was lower on the list than smart tables if the district is having trouble with networks now. Ms. Kaiser said that the School Committee is comfortable with smart boards because they are already being used. She suggested that the district order one smart table per grade for Melrose and see how it is used before ordering more. Ms. Melucci said she and the Technology Committee supported this is because the smart tables could be integrated right into center time. There are now only three or four students that go around to interactive pieces of technology; however, the district could pilot one for a year. Mr. Whitehouse commented that he thinks it is better to initiate smart boards more slowly over a period of time. This would allow the district to upgrade the equipment rather than purchasing it. He added that this is a large amount of money in a lean budget. Ms. Held commented that there are other things in the budget that are lower on the list but are also needed. Dr. Lukon asked the School Committee whether they would approve the Technology Plan for this year and the revisit, evaluate and perhaps have a pilot project next year. Ms. Held asked if both years of the plan are not approved today, would anything from FY 11 be shifted to FY 10. Ms. Kaiser said that even if both years are approved, the committee could still come back and amend FY 11.
Mrs. Kallfelz said that, at Lawn, there is a computer lab. The district is replacing the mobile lab this year and increasing the number computers in classrooms in 2011. Mrs. Almanzor explained that she is trying to have at least three computers per classroom. She added that the ideal is to have each room include a pod of computers so that teachers do not have to take students to the lab. The present computers are not reliable. Mrs. Kallfelz asked whether the idea was to have three computers per classroom plus the mobile lab plus a stationary lab. Mrs. Almanzor said yes, but the technology is not there yet. Dr. Lukon explained that computers have three different purposes: 1) computers are used in the classroom by individuals; 2) the whole class can come to the stationary computer lab; and 3) if the class has a need for sustained computer use, the mobile lab can be scheduled and left in the classroom for a week. Deb Barone explained that students often have to double up on computers. If students have questions, they can use computers in the classroom. If the classroom computers are not working, students have to run to the computer lab alone; she added that this is not a good idea for a number of reasons. Mr. Whitehouse asked how the mobile computer lab is used. Mrs. Barone explained that if a 7 th Grade teacher signs up for the mobile lab for a week, the rest of the school is shut out of using it. The mobile lab gives a second option for computer use. Mrs. Almanzor added that having the mobile lab gives the option for two full classes using computers simultaneously. She said that as she goes through the data, she sees a lot of computer use. The technology lab is also used. Mrs. Almanzor said that her dream is to work toward computer pods in classrooms. Cynthia Cherney said she has one computer in her classroom. Her students bring in their work or email it from home; however, her classroom computer can’t open the files. Mrs. Barone added that staff members work together; if someone signs up for the mobile lab for four days and another teacher needs it, the teachers work together to share computers.
School Committee members discussed and tallied the final figures for the school budget.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Mr. Whitehouse seconded a motion to approve the FY 2010 budget in the amount of $12,262,118 to include an operating budget of $11,919,033 (a 2.42% increase over FY 09), a capital budget of $199,600 in capital reserve improvements, technology expenses of $74,597, and school food service account of $68,888. All approved. So moved. Ms. Kaiser commented that this budget assumes level funding of state aid; however, the district has no idea about the level of funding for state aid and impact aid. The general fund contribution is expected to be $11,415,499 or 2.26% over the FY 09 budget.
Discussion of Budget Presentation to Town:
Dr. Lukon explained that the presentation of the school budget to the Town Council will take place on March 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Hall. She suggested that School Committee members be there at 6:15 p.m. for introductions. The Chinese visitor will be attending the meeting.
Dr. Lukon referred to copies of her PowerPoint budget presentation and asked for comments. She added that Mr. Keiser suggested a full budget presentation for the Town Council. Ms. Kaiser commented that Dr. Lukon’s original presentation was excellent, and she wouldn’t change it. Dr. Lukon said changes would be done to reflect current enrollment and special education figures.
Mr. Whitehouse asked about changes to the budget this evening. Dr. Lukon explained that she will make sure that all numbers and percentages are accurate. Mr. Whitehouse asked whether the staffing number should reflect pink slips. Dr. Lukon replied that, if the budget passes, the net staffing would be a decrease in one Teacher Assistant.
1 st Reading, Policy on Scholarship Fund: Ms. Davis read the proposed policy. Ms. Held questioned why Rhode Island School of Design was mentioned in the policy. Ms. Kaiser explained that this was specified in Ms. Stone’s will. Mrs. Kallfelz said that she wanted the scholarship panel to have a tremendous amount of flexibility regarding the needs of the applicants. She added that particular applicants will want to know the amount of the scholarship before they apply. Members discussed appropriate wording.
Mrs. Kallfelz asked whether the fund was only for college freshmen. Ms. Kaiser said that the will specified that funding should be for graduating high school seniors. Members made additional revisions.
Mrs. Kallfelz suggested that the application include something about Elizabeth Stone. This is a very unusual bequest, and Mrs. Kallfelz thought applicants should know about the person who bequeathed funds. Mrs. Kallfelz will draft a couple of sentences about Ms. Stone. Ms. Kaiser will make corrections to the policy and send it to Janette prior to the second reading of the policy at the next meeting.
Home School Request: Dr. Lukon referred to a home school request. Ms. Held asked what VLA means, and Dr. Fricklas said that it means Virtual Learning Academy. Mr. Whitehouse inquired about the use of a 5 th Grade teacher for a home schooled student. Dr. Fricklas explained that one Grade 5 teacher is providing individualized instruction, and he recommends this for the student.
Ms. Held moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded for discussion the home schooling request. Mrs. Kallfelz said she is concerned that the home schooling request is coming at mid-year. She added that often this is because a parent is unhappy with the program at school. Dr. Fricklas said he is not at liberty to discuss this, but the decision is not based on the parents’ feeling that the school and the program are failing. All approved. So moved.
East Providence Resolution: Ms. Kaiser said that she got an email from RIASC stating that they have a resolution for East Providence, but she does not yet have a copy of it. She explained that she has a resolution from the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition. The hearings before the Labor Board will be in March and April. Ms. Kaiser suggested that a vote on this issue be tabled until the meeting on March 12 in order to see what the RIASC resolution says; committee members concurred.
Report on Fall 2008 NECAP Results: Mrs. Almanzor and Ms. Melucci gave a presentation on Fall 2008 NECAP results. Mrs. Almanzor said that this is the fourth year of NECAP grade level expectations and programs in reading, writing and math for Grades 3-8. She discussed student reports and reading levels. Reading proficiency scores for Grades 3-8 were 79-84%, and teachers are looking at how to raise student scores. Math proficiency scores for Grades 3-8 were 69-83%. Writing is assessed only at Grades 5 and 8. Grade 5 had proficiency of 71% and Grade 8 had proficiency of 81%. Mrs. Almanzor explained that Grade 5 does narrative writing and Grade 8 learns expository writing. Jamestown now has data to compare in Grade 8 those students who took NECAP tests in Grade 5. Mrs. Almanzor showed 3-year trends by grade level in reading and math and said teachers are looking for those students that are not proficient in reading and math. She added that scores do not take into account those military students who attended last year. Mrs. Barone commented that 4 th Grade students have only been in 5 th Grade for one month before NECAP testing begins.
School Committee members asked a number of questions. Ms. Held asked whether individual student scores are tracked in order to follow their progression. Mrs. Almanzor said yes, the district looks at scaled scores to see if student scores go down; this is a red flag. Mrs. Barone commented that teachers can look at scores for a lower grade to see how they should change their teaching concentration for the coming year. Dr. Lukon said that students made remarkable progress in writing. Students are good at multiple choice questions but do not do as well with fill-in-the-blank questions. Mrs. Almanzor said that writing is the key. The focus is on writing as a group. There are quarterly writing assessments for each student at each grade level, and teachers discuss them. Ms. Cherney added that sometimes teachers see that a student does well on NECAP tests but classwork does not reflect it. This is another red flag.
Dr. Lukon explained that the terminology is now “high-performing” and “commended” rather than “improving”. She added that this is the second year since the scores were bumped up; there will be one more year of using the present scoring system, and then the scores will be increased. Ms. Held asked what was the biggest area of concern. Mrs. Almanzor answered that it is to increase the top scores and decrease the low scores.
Dr. Lukon said that the district wants to keep digging down and dis-aggregating data. A teacher added that most students try to do their best, but some could do better. Mrs. Almanzor said that she thinks students are taking the tests more seriously this year. She added that she would love to know how Jamestown students did on the NAEP test. Mrs. Almanzor said that data will be presented at School Report Night. Parents have already come to discuss test scores with her.
Ms. Held said that she appreciates that teachers came to talk about the test scores this evening. Mrs. Petrocelli commented that, in her class, students look at writing pieces, learn how to evaluate them, and then grade them. This process helps them to understand what is missing in their own writing, and it is a very powerful learning experience. Mrs. Barone added that, as teachers understand the scoring, they can explain it to students.
Information & Proposals:
Superintendent’s Report: Dr. Lukon reported on a number of items. 1) The program for the Chinese visitor is just about finalized. Mr. Xu Yonghui is a Principal of a foreign language high school specializing in English in Longfang near Beijing; he speaks no English. Bryant University is providing an interpreter. Mr. Xu Yonghui is coming to the Town Council meeting on March 3; Helen Li will translate. Wednesday’s events will include visits to Coventry High School, Bryant University, the Statehouse, Johnson and Wales, and the Culinary Arts Museum. The teachers in Jamestown are planning a welcoming assembly which will include the Chinese National Anthem. Mr. Xu Yonghui will speak to the 6 th Grade about what it is like to be that age in China.
2) Dr. Lukon explained that SORICO meetings are the same night as Jamestown School Committee meetings. SORICO has started a search for an Executive Director. The position description has been advertised in the Providence Journal, and there will probably be a national search.
3) Dr. Lukon said she received an email from Commissioner McWalters about a meeting to explain the Reinvestment Recovery Act. Secretary Duncan briefed people about the use of these funds. The chiefs were questioning supplementing versus supplanting programs. RIDE and the Governor are negotiating. Dr. Lukon said she attended the news conference. Rhode Island will use funds to create jobs for economic development, and schools may not see any money. Preliminary investigations indicate that Rhode Island will get additional funding in several areas this year, but schools may not be one of them.
4) Lots of people in the school are sick with flu.
Principals’ Report: Mrs. Almanzor and Ms. Melucci explained that their report was presented earlier in the meeting. Ms. Almanzor added that John Ragland, an 8 th Grade student, composed a piece of music and won for the region. He has been asked by the Rhode Island Music Educators Association to present his piece at an annual conference. Sam Hollister, an 8 th Grade student, will play the piece at the conference. John is now working on a new piece. Dr. Lukon suggested that the 8 th Grade could go as a field trip to hear his piece presented at the conference. Mr. Whitehouse added that he knows people who are doing the program. He will find out times and places and determine whether the 8 th Grade can attend.
Director of Student Services’ Report: Dr. Fricklas explained that he will report on an as-needed basis.
SIT/Lawn: Mrs. Kallfelz reported that the group met on February 12. They discussed several issues: 1) the grading system and educating parents about it; 2) report cards; 3) Island Treasures, which will be held on May 29; and 4) the technology report. A subcommittee is trying to develop Questions and Answers about the grading system and report cards.
SIT/Melrose: Mr. Whitehouse said he was not able to attend. Ms. Melucci reported that the group discussed several topics: 1) the grading system; 2) creating a document to explain grading; 3) portfolios and what entries need to be in them; and 4) Reading Week and other activities.
SELAC: Ms. Held reported that SELAC met on February 10. Dr. Fricklas updated the group on the School Support System. The final report will be available in March. There were several other topics. 1) Participants were concerned about the half-time school psychologist’s hours were working. 2) There will be a meeting in East Greenwich about post-high school options for special education students. 3) Jamestown is hosting a meeting on May 12 about planning for future needs of special education students. Jamestown SELAC wants to invite North Kingstown special education parents to attend. 4) Parent forums at the library are not well attended, and SELAC members discussed different meeting options. 5) North Kingstown’s Special Education Director will speak at the SELAC meeting on March 10.
Facilities Committee: No report.
North Kingstown School Committee: Ms. Held reported that the Fire Marshal cancelled the last meeting because there was a very large gathering. Most comments were related to the Athletic Department budget. Many students attended. The meeting has been rescheduled for this coming Saturday at Davisville Middle School. Mr. Whitehouse commented that it is incumbent upon Jamestown’s School Committee to weigh in on how the island’s students are affected by cuts in athletics at the high school. Ms. Held explained that the most controversial proposal was to decrease the number of days for the Athletic Director. Mr. Whitehouse reiterated that he wants Jamestown to acknowledge as a school committee that there is a problem.
SORICO: Covered previously.
Legislative: Covered previously.
Policy: Ms. Held announced that the subcommittee will meet on March 12.
Wellness: Ms. Held reported that the group met on February 8 and discussed a proposal to eliminate food-based birthday celebrations. She added that these affairs are problematic for a number of reasons. The policy subcommittee will develop a policy. The Wellness Committee also discussed pickup and drop-off issues and parents who are not obeying the rules. Ms. Held commented that parental convenience has to come distant second to student safety. Mrs. Kallfelz said that bids have gone out for construction of sidewalks and work is to begin in the spring. She added that perhaps the School Committee will have to revisit the parking policy in order to respond to the present safety issues.
Public Forum: None.
Ms. Kaiser announced that because of the meeting with the Town Council on March 3, the normally scheduled School Committee meeting of March 5 will be held on March 12.
Adjourned: Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 9:08 p.m. All approved. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date