JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Lawn Avenue School
March 19, 2009
Present: Catherine Kaiser, Chairperson
Present: Dr. Marcia Lukon, Superintendent
Dr. Robert Fricklas, Director of Pupil Services
Jane Littlefield, Business Manager
Kathleen Almanzor, Principal at Lawn School
Carole Melucci, Principal at Melrose School
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the general meeting to order at 7:09 p.m. and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ms. Kaiser called the Roll Call.
Members present: All present.
Public Forum: None.
Consent Agenda: Mr. Whitehouse asked to exclude Payment of Bills from the Consent Agenda vote.
Mr. Brennan moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to approve the Consent Agenda: Minutes of January 8 and February 26, 2009; and Personnel - Extension of unpaid parental leave for Tara Toolan. All approved. So moved.
Mr. Whitehouse asked about costs for smart board training, tutoring fees, heating oil, and professional development; Mrs. Littlefield explained the figures. Mr. Brennan asked about the special education due process hearing figures. Dr. Fricklas explained that this was for unilateral placement of a student in an out-of-district school and said he could give more detailed information in an Executive Session.
Mr. Whitehouse moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to approve Payment of Bills of March 6, 2009. All approved. So moved.
Correspondence: Mr. Whitehouse said he has been receiving many notices about the RIASC meeting on Saturday morning. Ms. Kaiser said she will attend.
Mr. Whitehouse commended administration for reducing paperwork by sending School Committee packets by email.
Food Service Update: Ms. Kaiser explained that food service figures are holding the same pattern, with fewer sales at Lawn and more sales at Melrose. She said that she thought Sodexho’s letter from Solange Morrissette was impressive. Solange continues to meet with a student board to help plan future menu themes and choices. Dr. Lukon added that Sodexho is aware that the district is sending Jamestown’s RFP for food service for the coming year to the state for their approval.
FY 2010 Budget: Ms. Kaiser explained that the School Committee has public clarification that the Town Council want $100,000 decreased from the town’s contribution to the school budget. Dr. Lukon said that she and Mrs. Littlefield talked with Mr. Keiser today. The Town Council has not voted for the School Committee to reduce the budget. Ms. Kaiser said she feels comfortable directing school administration to know from which places $100,000 would be reduced; however, the specifics will not be discussed until there is a request. Dr. Lukon added that the district is getting more accurate figures on the budget, so it may be possible to reduce the amount of the budget because of these new numbers. She gave lower fuel costs as an example.
Mrs. Kallfelz asked if there are other budget amounts that could be reduced and not hurt children. Mrs. Almanzor said she is waiting for word about students who may attend private schools. Dr. Lukon said she has a revised plan that is lower because Jamestown is applying to get West Bay Collaborative health insurance rates. Mrs. Almanzor said that some students will attend the MET school.
Ms. McGuirl explained why it is important to wait before making a budget decision. Mr. Whitehouse questioned whether the Town Council would perceive that the district has prepared for cuts even though it has not been directed to do anything in particular; therefore, why not cut the budget. Ms. Kaiser explained that some members of the Town Council espouse the goal of no tax increase, and the town has bought into it. She said she thinks the school’s $100,000 decrease is going to come anyway.
Mr. Whitehouse said that he thinks Mr. Keiser, who is not elected officially, is dictating policy. He thinks that when the Town Council dictates, then the school must be prepared to cut the budget. He added that the budget that the district prepared is very responsible, and he objects to the cloud over it. Dr. Lukon said that Mr. Keiser said that the Town Council hasn’t reviewed the town budget; they will do so on March 31, but they won’t vote on that date. Ms. Kaiser reiterated that the town brought the idea of no tax increase before they had looked at the town departments’ budgets. She added that she will be attending the meeting on March 31 to discuss what the Town Council expects of the school district. She added that the district has to have a strategy to deal with a possible decrease in state funding. Mr. Brennan said he hoped that the school budget could be massaged so that cuts will not affect children. Ms. Kaiser added that the School Committee has the bar set to cut $100,000. Dr. Lukon said that, by the last day in March, the district will know whether the contract for health insurance with the West Bay Collaborative will result in lower costs.
Ms. Kaiser suggested that the topic of the April 2 workshop concern a subcommittee to visit high schools. Ms. Held explained the history of high schools reviews and said that, at that time, it was decided that reviews should be done every five years. In 2004, the subcommittee looked at five high schools. She suggested that a review be done at this time, but perhaps only North Kingstown and Narragansett should be compared. Mrs. Kallfelz added that the subcommittee found deficits in Narragansett in 2004, but those have been addressed. She added that she has a booklet of Narragansett’s programs of study, and this information is also available on their web site. Th issue of high school review will be addressed at the meeting on April 2.
Strategic Planning Progress: Mrs. Kallfelz reported that the first strategic planning meeting was last night. A facilitator brought focus to the committee in looking at data and objectives. A total of twenty committee members were selected from both SITs, SELAC, teachers, community, Jamestown Education Foundation, Town Council, and administration. All attendees shared their desire to achieve excellence, but the district is not there yet. Ms. Held added that the focus was to plan for the next five years. Dr. Lukon said that facilitator Eileen Mosher summarized the data packets and presented a starting point for the group. There was very good discussion. The group also looked at data from other cities and towns in Rhode Island and in nearby Massachusetts and thought that Jamestown could have higher standards for its students. The group discussed district vision, the process of how to get there, and goals. Dr. Lukon added that the group will meet for two full days on April 3 and 4 to complete the process. There will be a plan in place by April 4. Mrs. Kallfelz added that it was very positive to look beyond Rhode Island’s borders and to look at other things that cannot be measured. She added that she was pleased at the proportion of teachers that are participating in the strategic planning process this time.
Proposed School Calendar: Dr. Lukon explained that the last day of school for the coming year had to be changed to June 18. She sent a draft of the proposed school calendar to the unions. She added that the district has to add four makeup days at the end of the school year.
Mr. Whitehouse asked whether Jamestown’s calendar matches North Kingstown’s. Dr. Lukon explained that holidays and vacations match, but North Kingstown begins school earlier. She added that she talked with JTA about doing professional development before Labor Day. She explained the process by which students come to school gradually over the first couple of weeks so that they can transition from summer vacation more easily. Mrs. Almanzor said she is okay with the schedule. Dr. Lukon explained that she did not put Open Houses on the schedule because there have been conflicts with North Kingstown’s events; they have not yet scheduled their Open Houses. Mrs. Kallfelz asked whether there has been any indication about a longer school day. Dr. Lukon said not yet; at this time, there are 183 days for teachers and 180 days for students.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to approve the School Calendar with the change of the June 18 date. All approved. So moved.
Information & Proposals:
Superintendent’s Report: Dr. Lukon reported on a number of items. 1) Dr. Lukon and Mrs. Kallfelz will attend the Sixth New England World Language Department Chair’s Seminar on Teaching Chinese Language in K-12 Schools. They hope to learn about successful elementary level language programs and possible funding sources. 2) RIDE is refining its work and thinking about how to build a cohesive system of curriculum, instruction, and assessment in math and science. RIDE is partnering with the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Lukon and Ms. Held will attend a RIDE-sponsored discussion for Superintendents and School Committee members on March 25 to discuss this program. 3) Chinese participants in the China Exchange Initiative met to debrief and to share their observations about their visit. Dr. Lukon pointed to the document and shared some of the highlights of the Chinese visitors’ observations.
4) Rhode Island Superintendents met with Dave Abbott and Carolyn Diaz today to discuss several issues. a) The Graduation Rate Report is being released tomorrow. It includes not only 4-year graduation rates but also percentages of students who completed a GED or graduated in five years. b) The group discussed attempts to adopt a funding formula and were presented with the Guiding Principles for Education Aid Foundation Formula adopted by the Board of Regents. Ms. Kaiser explained that the funding formula provides weights for different demographic groups. It will be expensive for the state to pay for a funding formula because education is primarily funded by cities and towns. Rhode Island is third from the bottom in state funding for education. c) Superintendents heard an update on progress made in developing the Basic Education Program Regulations. d) The longest discussion concerned funding and state/federal stimulus monies. There are three parts to stimulus for schools. One part is for stabilization money over which the Governor has control. The second part is IDEA and Title I money, which will go directly to districts, minus 5%. Superintendents were advised to follow IDEA and Title I regulations with respect to expenditures. Recommended expenditures are for professional development, technology, and infrastructure. The third part comes from municipal aid. For this year, $55 million was cut from municipal aid. $31 million will be returned to municipalities, and at least $12.6 million (25%) will go to schools. Jamestown will receive about $17,000, which will help to make up the $30,000 that was cut from professional development funding. About $4.35 billion will be granted to 6-12 states; criteria for selection will include how wisely the stabilization funding was spent.
5) The statewide health insurance copay is off the table. The Governor’s state supplemental budget should be passed by June 30. Mr. Brennan asked how technology would be used for special education. Dr. Fricklas explained that he heard at a special education administration meeting that stimulus funding will be tied to IDEA, and there is a requirement for Early Intervention Services to combat disproportionality. The first wave of stimulus funding will be coming around the end of March. Dr. Lukon added that the district needs to discuss how to spend this money wisely since the funding is only for two years.
6) The district has a proposal to build a playground at Lawn. There was a potential issue with digging nine holes. The Heritage Foundation sent a letter to Lisa Bryer. There are areas that will not require an archaeological dig. Dr. Lukon suggested that the project be started soon. She will put this topic on the agenda for the meeting on April 2; Lisa Carlisle will create a presentation board for the meeting. Mrs. Carlisle explained that the sandy area of the old playground and the climbing boulders are okay; however, there must be someone there for excavating the nine holes in the asphalt area. Mr. Whitehouse commented that he assured one of the Narragansetts that they would be kept apprised. Mrs. Kallfelz said that the town has to go out to bid for the project. Mrs. Carlisle added that everyone is on board regarding the archaeological dig. Mrs. Kallfelz asked whether the town is looking for funding to support this project, and Mrs. Carlisle said yes.
Principals’ Report: Mrs. Almanzor and Ms. Melucci reported on a number of items. 1) Charlene Tuttle received that Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence in Rhode Island. She received an unrestricted grant of $5,000, and Melrose received a restricted grant for $5,000; both grants will be used to expand and enhance the science program and professional development. Ms. Tuttle is attending the National Science Teachers Association convention in New Orleans for two days. Congratulations to Ms. Tuttle! 2) Sam Hollister performed John Ragland’s original composition, Spring Forth, at the Young Composer’s Concert for the Music Educators National Conference - Eastern Division. Congratulations to both of Jamestown’s talented 8 th graders, Sam and John! 3) Musician and storyteller Skip Gorman performed at Melrose last week. 4) Students at Lawn are completing their Individual Learning Plans during Advisory periods. The plans for Grades 6-8 are mandatory in the Rhode Island Regulations for Secondary Schools. 5) Grade 4 demonstrated their learning about electricity during a show for the school community. 6) Grade 3 students will present their Native American village scenes and reports on March 20. 7) Kindergarten students celebrated Chinese New Year with masks and traditional foods.
8) 7 th and 8 th Grade students participated in a week-long integrated unit based on the Volvo Challenge, an around-the-world boat race. Mrs. Almanzor described their work. 9) Teachers from Grades 4 and 5 spent a professional development day looking at student writing and grading the work together. 10) Student art will be displayed at the Jamestown Philomenian Library during March, which is Youth Art Month. Mr. Whitehouse added that the opening was well attended. 11) Winter term after-school enrichment activities end tomorrow, and the spring term will begin after April vacation. 12) The 6 th Grade showcase will take place on March 27 and will feature student projects in social studies, math, science, and language arts. 13) Progress reports went home yesterday. 14) Dr. Lukon explained that many of Jamestown teachers’ Gold Seal or Quadrant D lesson plans have been accepted and are being shared nationally throughout the Model Schools Network. Ms. Held asked whether some of these programs could be shared at the next meeting, and Dr. Lukon said that teachers will be coming to share information about their programs.
SIT/Lawn: Mrs. Kallfelz said that she could not attend. Mrs. Almanzor reported that the group talked about report cards and grading; they are finalizing a list of questions and answers about this. The group is getting ready for Island Treasures. They also discussed differentiating instruction and will look at bringing back National Junior Honor Society. Mr. Whitehouse asked whether the group discussed simplification of the report card system, and Mrs. Almanzor said yes. Ms. Kaiser commented that it was nice to see SIT make a statement at the Town Council meeting and said that Mrs. Carlisle made eloquent comments.
SIT/Melrose: Mr. Whitehouse reported that the group discussed Reading Week. The biggest discussion concerned the behavior plan. They talked about the need for staff notification of the outcome of RTI meetings. There needs to be more communication between teachers in order to create consistency. The group also discussed differentiated learning, for which Mr. Whitehouse said he thought there should be more consistency.
SELAC: Ms. Held reported that SELAC met on March 10. Carol West (Special Education Coordinator) and Rachel Santos (Director of Pupil Services) gave overviews of options for special education students at North Kingstown High School. Parents asked lots of questions.
Facilities Committee: No report.
North Kingstown School Committee: Ms. Kaiser reported that she attended a meeting on March 10. The first hour of the meeting was spent on strategic planning, for which she said there was no knowledge base. The committee discussed no high school issues. Ms. Kaiser added that Dr. Lukon and Ms. Littlefield will meet with North Kingstown administration next Thursday to discuss the tuition formula.
SORICO: Mrs. Kallfelz reported that there has been no meeting. The only news is that a subcommittee convened for the Executive Director search, and screening will begin on March 31. Mrs. Kallfelz is a member of the search committee. Dr. Lukon added that a new DOE Commissioner has been selected, but nobody knows yet who it is.
Legislative: No report.
Policy: Ms. Held reported that the committee met last week and looked at a draft of the special education staffing policy. Mr. Whitehouse explained that the group will combine the dating violence policy with the student sexual harassment policy, and the subcommittee is working on the adult portion of the plan. Mr. Whitehouse explained the rationale for combining these policies. The “cupcake policy” may be ready for the next meeting. The DOE can make exceptions to the rules, but the district doesn’t know what they are. He has contacted the DOE, but they have not responded. Ms. Kaiser recommended that Mr. Whitehouse email Dave Abbott. Dr. Fricklas explained the rationale for the special education staffing policy, which is required by the state. RIDE has sent an model policy. Dr. Fricklas said the district has to have a staffing policy and a staffing plan for each school year. Ms. Kaiser will place the following policies on the agenda for the next meeting: special education hiring policy; sexual harassment and dating violence policy; and cupcake policy.
Wellness: No report.
Public Forum: Maureen McGuirl said that, at the Town Council meeting, Mr. Keiser brought up the 20% teachers’ health insurance copay. She explained that there are quite a few differences between the town and school health insurance plans. She added that she was confused by Mr. Keiser’s comments. Ms. Kaiser explained that school health insurance copay is set by contract and is not within Mr. Keiser’s purview. Ms. McGuirl said she is more concerned about proper information about health insurance being presented to the public. She added that she is also concerned that no credit was given for what the school has done for the budget already. Mr. Whitehouse said that Ms. McGuirl has every right to point out inequities to the Town Council. He added that information is supposed to be transparent for the School Committee and for the Town Council, and he said that Ms. McGuirl’s questions are legitimate.
Mr. Brennan commented that the Town Council has the ability to pay down the debt by using surplus funds. He thought it was better to pay off the debt now.
Mr. Whitehouse said the he wants to add the topic of teacher evaluations to the next meeting’s business.
Mrs. Kallfelz commented that a number of students are attending a concert in Middletown. Mr. Brown, a substitute teacher from last year, is performing.
Ms. McGuirl explained that Jamestown’s student board placed in the top tier of recognition when the students went to Louisiana.
A mother commented that her children have enjoyed lunch this year. She suggested that it may be the economy that is causing a drop in school lunch purchases this year. She said it is $8.00 per day for school lunch for her children, and she can send lunches with them more economically.
Ms. Kaiser reported that Theresa Paiva-Weed’s husband is very ill.
Adjourned: Ms. Held moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 9:07 p.m. All approved. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date