JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Lawn Avenue School
May 8, 2008
Present: Catherine Kaiser, Chairperson
Present: Dr. Marcia Lukon, Superintendent
Dr. Robert Fricklas, Director of Pupil Services
Kathleen Alamanzor, Principal
Carole Melucci, Aspiring Principal
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 2, Litigation regarding Retirement Benefits. Ms. Kaiser announced that a vote had been taken to deny the request, and a letter is being sent to the Retirement Board. Roll Call vote was taken: Mr. Brennan, yes; Ms. Kaiser, Yes; Ms. Held, Yes; Mr. Whitehouse, Yes. All approved. So moved.
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the open work session to order at 7:04 p.m. and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ms. Kaiser called the Roll Call.
Members present: Kaiser, Brennan, Held, Whitehouse.
Members absent: Kallfelz.
Public Forum: None.
Consent Agenda: Mr. Brennan asked to exempt Personnel from the Consent Agenda vote.
Ms. Held moved and Mr. Brennan seconded a motion to approve the bid award. All approved. So moved.
Ms. Kaiser referred to a letter from Mr. Capaldi. Dr. Lukon recommended approval of a 2-year Leave of Absence for Mr. Capaldi as a Teacher-in-Residence for GemsNet. Ms. Held questioned whether every leave was granted on an individual basis and not based past precedence or on past practice. Dr. Lukon explained past practice is specifically covered in the contract and interpreted in a certain way. She added that there is currently .5 FTE teacher working for GemsNet. Mr. Brennan said that, while he valued Dr. Lukon’s recommendation and Mr. Capaldi’s service, his philosophical position relative to Leave of Absence is “one year and done”. Mr. Brennan explained his concern that Jamestown would lose more than it would gain by having a teacher gone for two years. He added that GemsNet is a self-guiding package so it doesn’t need to be updated every year. He said he couldn’t support having another teacher working with GemsNet for two years, especially if another teacher is already doing it.
Ms. Held said she had the same concerns as Mr. Brennan regarding having a teacher gone for two years. She added that science is important, teachers have to have understanding, skill, and a comfort level in order to teach the subject. She thought the program is valuable, and the skill comes back to the school. She said she was happy that there would be no budget impact.
Mr. Capaldi said that GemsNet is designed as a 2-year commitment, and he explained the reason that there is a .5 teacher working with GemsNet now. Mr. Whitehouse said that he would like to see a one-year commitment and asked if it is possible to re-up after the first year. Mr. Capaldi said he did not think the program was designed that way. Mr. Whitehouse said he would like to know if the program is mandatory for two years. Mrs. Alamanzor said the program is a two-year commitment. Ms. Held asked whether there are any specifications about what a returning teacher does. Mrs. Alamzanzor explained that there is nothing in writing, but this could be done. Mr. Whitehouse asked Mr. Capaldi if he was willing to bring his knowledge back to Jamestown, and Mr. Capaldi said yes. Ms. Kaiser asked whether there is any training in GemsNet regarding how to integrate the information back into the school. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that Teachers-in-Residence give training in all seven districts. She noted that Charlene Tuttle teaches at different grade levels in Jamestown. She added that GemsNet provides for two weeks of training at the Institute for Inquiry in San Francisco.
Dr. Lukon said she spoke with Dr. Betty Young regarding science assessment, and she asked what would happen if schools did not do well on science assessment tests. Dr. Young will be looking at the data. Mr. Brennan asked how Jamestown buys GemsNet kits. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that Jamestown owns some kits and borrows some through the East Bay Collaborative in Warren, RI. She explained that the original National Science Foundation grant had to be connected to higher education. Jamestown does not have its own Material Resource Center because it would cost more.
Mr. Whitehouse moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to accept Dr. Lukon’s recommendation for continuing the Leave of Absence for Mr. Capaldi. Vote was 3 Yes and 1 No. Motion carried. So moved.
Workshop Discussion Topic: NKHS Update on Programming and Anticipated Changes for 2008-09:
Ms. Kaiser introduced Gerry Foley, Principal of North Kingstown High School and explained that he is here to answer questions about North Kingstown’s program and changes to it. Ms. Held referred to information sent to her by Timothy Chace and added that SELAC shared a letter of concern regarding the North Kingstown program. She added that she is concerned about whether the Success Academy for underachievers is a good one. She questioned what is in place for students that are not in this program and what is being done for college prep students to ensure that their programs do not suffer.
Mr. Foley explained the process by which North Kingstown looked at NEASC and NECAP test scores in the last few years. They found that students did not do well at the general level. Although students may be at average for tests, there are behavior problems. He added that, if one looked at 8th Grade, some college prep students should not be there, and some general level students shouldn’t be in those classes. He explained the process of projects: 9th Grade science fair, 10th Grade history fair, and Junior and Senior projects. Mr. Foley said that, with some extra assistance, 15-20 general education students could be raised to the level of college prep, and they should be challenged to do so. He added that North Kingstown is asking teachers what they need in order for students to be successful; if it means more professional development, then this will be done. Mr. Foley explained that teachers will have students for two years in the Success Academy; after that time, students will be in the full college prep program. He added that, philosophically, he does not see much difference between the Success Academy and what the school is doing now.
Mr. Foley said that the district is looking to raise expectations for all students who attend. He added that the district wants to look at freshmen next year regarding proficiency in science in the Success Academy versus college prep. He said that the Success Academy team will also have a literacy coach and special a education teacher. He added that, if the program is successful in relation to college prep, then they may see that there should be some common planning time and common forms of assessment so that students can receive what they need. Mr. Foley said he thinks the school will do a better job by grouping students. He discussed briefly North Kingstown’s versus statewide NECAP test scores in math and said the school has a long way to go. He said he has many questions about the new program, and he is saying that the school has to do a better job in educating all students.
Mr. Whitehouse asked whether the Success Academy was modeled after another program. Mr. Foley said that they took pieces from different places and adapted them. He added that not all faculty want to work with this program, but some do. He said they are looking for something that can be sustained. Mr. Brennan added that Jamestown needs to do its homework about what its students need.
Mrs. Alamanzor asked whether the criteria for acceptance in the Success Academy was being three years behind in reading. Mr. Foley said not necessarily. Mrs. Alamanzor said she thinks there need to be further meetings to describe the program. Mr. Foley said that the school has off June 6, and this might be a good day to have conversations with parents. Mrs. Alamanzor said that Maureen McGuirl, the High School Liaison, was told not to put students in general education but in college prep. She added that she would like the opportunity to go to the high school to learn about this program. Michaela Kennedy asked whether the Success Academy is similar to or different from an alternative learning program. Mr. Foley explained that an alternative learning program generally occurs at a different location, and North Kingstown would approach this differently. He explained the issue of what the school would do with vocational technical students. Mr. Foley will send literature to Jamestown regarding how students are selected for the Success Academy.
Mr. Foley invited the School Committee to Senior Exhibition Day on May 21 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. He explained that students will present their findings, and all of the teachers in the district have been invited to attend and to give feedback on the program There will be some training in rubrics and on judging. He added that this is a very good day for the public to see what North Kingstown has done with its students. Mr. Foley talked about the process of student presentations and questions. He added that performance-based projects have been done in the past, and now this process will give feedback on what the school has done.
Mr. Brennan said he heard about some issues regarding grading papers for Senior Projects, and he asked Mr. Foley’s perspective on this issue. Mr. Foley explained the process of grading the papers and said that each teacher was given three papers to read, and two teachers graded each paper. He said that, in general, the students did well, but some teachers thought some papers needed rewrites. He thanked the teachers for their participation in reading the papers. Mr. Foley said that the students are going to show their projects to younger students, and this will be a valuable part of the program. He added that the school did not want only high-stakes tests to be used, but they also wanted to develop other models. He said that, when students do problem-based learning projects and have to talk about them, it is a good thing. Mr. Foley said that many students did not suffer regarding proficiency. He added that some students had plagiarized; they had to fix this problem and they also had to help Mr. Foley with 10 hours of service. Mr. Foley said that only Seniors will be at school on May 21st. If they are not proficient, they will have another opportunity. He said he did not know if students would have to come to summer school if they were not proficient, and he would not know about Senior Project students until May 21. Students are practicing their presentations now.
Mr. Brennan said his daughter had asked why she had to do a Senior Project if she is in honors class. Mr. Foley explained that this is performance-based graduation, and students have to show that they have done the project. He added that some students are not comfortable with public speaking. They would rather do their presentation before a panel instead of in front of their fellow students; however, they need to be able to talk about what they have done. Mr. Foley said there are also some reflective pieces about what the students learned and why. He added that this program has affected the high school curriculum overall: graduation papers are read by all, because it is a graduation requirement. He said that a group of educators meet to discuss the Senior Project and electronic portfolio, and they make recommendations.
Dr. Lukon said she thought that the only way get to higher standards for the high school is to raise expectations beginning in Kindergarten. Jamestown is disappointed with grades in Earth Science. She asked whether it would be possible to plan ahead to get 8th and 9th Grade teachers together to discuss background knowledge needs. Mr. Foley said yes. The biggest problem is with algebra, and he explained this briefly in terms of courses and testing. If students do not quite have the information in 8th Grade, they can still get to take calculus by graduation by doubling up on their math courses; however, the school has to be more realistic about what students can do. Mrs. Alamanzor asked whether Jamestown is using the same algebra program in 8th Grade as North Kingstown uses. She said she thinks a lot of 8th graders are ready for algebra. Mr. Foley said he thinks both districts need to have a conversation about math again and also need to discuss earth science.
Ms. Held asked whether North Kingstown’s ongoing budget issues would have an impact on the high school. Mr. Foley explained that there will be 50-75 more students in the high school next year, with 415-420 freshmen. He added that there has been an influx of students since the new high school was built. Enrollment is up, but there is no new staff. Mr. Foley explained that, by contract, there can be no more than 25 students per class; however, if there are more than 25 students, teachers will have to be paid more, and the district may have to do this. Teachers may burn out faster. Mr. Foley said that there are no cutbacks in technology this year, but he didn’t know about next year. He added that if they keep cutting resources and programs, the school cannot continue providing programs.
Mr. Whitehouse questioned whether, when people ask him questions, he could say that there will be different programs and class size may be a little higher. Mr. Foley said yes. He added that there will be some cuts. There will be a job fair in June. There may be some bumping, and he won’t know the results until the end of June. Mr. Foley said the district is not in a good cycle right now. He added that the district is down one middle school Principal now, and he doesn’t know what this means for the high school. He said that the high school as two Assistant Principals and one Director of Assessment; one of these Principals may be needed at the middle school, but he hopes this does not happen. He said the high school will deal with whatever happens.
Ms. Held said that, in a previous year, the district raised the minimum number of students from 15 to 18 for Advanced Placement classes. Mr. Foley explained that this change was for Advanced Placement classes but also for elective programs. They could not offer the classes if there weren’t enough students.
Mr. Foley announced that Jamestown Seniors are #1 and #2 this year. Graduation is June 14 at the Ryan Center at 11:00 a.m. He invited School Committee members to graduation and to breakfast at 9:30 a.m. Mr. Foley will send a letter of invitation. He added that Honors Night is the same week. Jamestown has been very helpful with scholarships.
Public Forum: None.
Adjourned: Mr. Brennan moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:15 p.m. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date