JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Lawn Avenue School
September 18, 2008
Present: Catherine Kaiser, Chairperson
Present: Dr. Marcia Lukon, Superintendent
Dr. Robert Fricklas, Director of Pupil Services
Maria Alfred, Business Manager
Kathleen Alamanzor, Principal
Carole Melucci, Principal
Michael White, Town Council Liaison
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the general meeting to order at 7:08 p.m. and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ms. Kaiser called the Roll Call.
Members present: All present.
Christiana Matley gave a detailed account of her observations about late and crowded buses. She added that she does not think that having three students sitting in a seat or standing in the aisles are safe practices. She said there are lots more students on the afternoon buses. The bus driver does not stop if the children are running to catch it.
Roberta Fagan explained that her children have come home saying that the bus is overcrowded and children are standing in the aisles. She said she was surprised that Miss Sherrie and Monty aren’t driving.
Diana Archibald, a bus driver, said that buses are rated for 71 students at maximum capacity, and that means each student sits in 13" of space, and this is way to small for high school students. Students could be thrown in the aisles if they cannot sit all the way on the seat, and this is not safe.
Sherrie Messenger explained that she was relieved of her duties as bus driver, was given no explanation and cannot get a straight answer from either the bus company or the district. She said she expressed safety concerns regarding the bus, and she feels she was discriminated against for doing so. She sent home papers with the students to explain why the bus was unsafe. She didn’t understand why she was dismissed for looking after the safety of the students.
Ms. Kaiser commented that because she received a written from Mrs. Matley before tonight’s meeting, the issue of bus safety may be placed on the agenda this evening.
Ms. Held requested that Minutes of August 21, 2008 be excluded from the Consent Agenda vote.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Mr. Brennan seconded a motion to approve the Consent Agenda: Payment of Bills of July 2, August 22, and September 3 (2); and Personnel - Retirement of Maria Alfred. All approved. So moved. Ms. Kaiser explained that the district accepted, with regret, Mrs. Alfred’s retirement.
Ms. Held corrected Minutes of August 21, 2008 information about the cooks assistant’s hours.
Mr. Brennan moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to approve the minutes of August 21, 2008 with changes. All approved. So moved.
Ms. Kaiser reported that she received an invitation to the RIPEC Annual Dinner on October 22, 2008.
Mr. Whitehouse reported that he received a letter from a Lawn Avenue neighbor concerning buses idling. Dr. Lukon explained that she talked with Cheryl about idling, and Cheryl was going to discuss the policy with the drivers. Mr. Whitehouse added that the neighbor was not very impressed with the way the district handled this issue in the past few years. Please let Dr. Lukon know if there are any more problems.
Discussion of Bussing Issues:
Dr. Fricklas called attention to his transportation report on Bus #2 and gave a summary of events leading to the issues. Data are based on input from Mr. Baton and Mr. Murgo, who assured Dr. Fricklas that Bus #2 has a capacity of 71 students, with a maximum carrying weight of 415.49 pounds, and this is safe. Last year, the maximum capacity was set at 60 students. Based on Cheryl Henselder’s data, morning and afternoon bus runs average 49 students, with a high of 62 and low of 32 students. Dr. Fricklas said that, based on his assessment of riding the bus, 71 students is not optimal for high school students. Most students had to lean into or straddle the aisle, and book bags were placed in the aisle. Dr. Fricklas recommended that a number of students could be accommodated more safely by placing them on Bus #3. Ms. Henselder also recommended that another stop be added on Highland Avenue.
A parent explained that four exchange students will also be riding the bus starting next week. Dr. Lukon said this was the first she had heard about it, but these students could be accommodated. She added that there has been much variation in bus counts, and there have been more riders than were expected.
Mr. Whitehouse said his figures indicated that the bus maximum carrying weight is incorrect. He asked whether switching students to another bus would handle the safety issue. Dr. Fricklas explained that the bus company says there is no safety issue. If the stops identified by Ms. Henselder were to be placed on another bus route, students could be accommodated at two per seat.
Mr. Whitehouse asked about the bus getting to school late. Dr. Fricklas explained that the bus he rode was the last to arrive; as the bus was pulling away, the late bell rang. Ms. Held commented that her children ride that bus and have told her that one of the reasons the bus is late is that the driver is trying to get a count of riders. Between the noise of the bus, inaccurate names, and the bus driver’s accent, the students do not know that their names have been called. She added that the scheduled time should get the students to school on time. Ms. Archibald suggested that, if the route of Bus #2 were changed, it would save several minutes. Dr. Lukon said that administration is assessing the schedule now. She said she wants to monitor the situation a little longer to figure out who is riding the bus. Ms. Held commented that she is unsympathetic about bus overcrowding issues, but safety issues are different. Dr. Lukon explained that she put a request for information about buses on the superintendents’ listserv. Chariho has 71 students on a 71-seat bus, and many other districts have three students per seat.
Mr. Whitehouse commented that the School Committee cannot discuss Ms. Messenger’s question at this meeting because she is employed by the bus company. Ms. Messenger explained what she had been told by the bus company and the school.
Ms. Kaiser asked whether there is a law regarding use of special education mini-buses. Dr. Fricklas said there is no law prohibiting general education buses from riding a special education bus.
Consensus of the Committee was that bus routes be changed as administration recommended and after parents have been notified of the change. Dr. Fricklas added that he is responsible for transportation, so complaints should be addressed to him. Mr. Brennan commented that, when the afternoon bus was eliminated on Monday, the district said it would monitor the situation. Mr. Whitehouse added that these are new economic times, but safety will not be compromised. He asked administration to keep the School Committee apprised of bus issues.
Food Service Update: Ms. Kaiser explained that Solange has reiterated a question for the School Committee regarding their willingness to add healthy a la carte items to the menu. Ms. Kaiser added that snacks include healthy ice cream. She explained that the School Committee’s rationale is that snack sales take away from meals. Consensus of the Committee was that no snacks be added to the menu.
Business Office Transition Plan: Dr. Lukon explained that she is recommending the business office transition plan as presented by Mrs. Alfred and Mrs. Littlefield at the last work session. She said she surveyed various other district to determine their salaries for Business Manager and for Personnel. She added that the duties of Narragansett’s positions are closest to Jamestown’s. Narragansett’s Business Manager’s salary is $83,000 this year. What the present plan proposes is below what the town Finance Director is making, and it is $7,000 less than the present school Business Manager’s salary. Dr. Lukon added that the plan is proposing $21/hour as salary for the Assistant to the Business Manager. She noted that the time line of the transition plan will allow the district to meet all of its obligations.
Ms. Held asked whether the Assistant’s position would be an administrative one, and Dr. Lukon said no. Mr. Brennan asked, if it were necessary to advertise the position, whether it would be at the same salary; Dr. Lukon said the position would have to be advertised at a higher salary. She added that business managers in school districts are different because of RIDE, chart of accounts, etc.
Ms. Held moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded motion to approve the Business Manager Transition Plan as presented. Al approved. So moved.
Town-School Cost-Saving Review: Ms. Kaiser reported that she attended the Town Council meeting when Bruce Keiser gave his version of the meeting between Dr. Lukon and himself. She questioned whether all of the counselors realized that both town and school positions would be looked at as part of this review; Mr. White said they understood. Ms. Kaiser explained that RIPEC will be doing the assessment. Dr. Lukon said she asked Mr. Keiser about writing a joint letter about their conversation. Mr. Keiser did not think a letter was necessary because both he and Dr. Lukon had already discussed this meeting with their respective committees. Dr. Keiser suggested that the issue of town/school cost savings be discussed at the joint budget meeting.
Ms. Kaiser asked about possible dates for the joint town/school meeting. Dr. Lukon said Mr. Keiser suggested two Thursdays but would recommend to Town Council the date of October 9. Ms. Kaiser asked about receiving a list of Town Council questions; Dr. Lukon said the district would get them on October 1.
Draft Revisions of Bullying Policy:
Ms. Held pointed out that revisions in the proposed policy include 1) bullying/cyberbullying and 2) reporting and response. Ms. Davis read the proposed policy.
Mr. Whitehouse suggested that there be a section at the beginning of the policy that gave definitions so that the wording of the policy could be reduced. Mrs. Kallfelz said she thought the policy was very thorough. Mr. Brennan questioned the meaning of “personal restitution”. Mr. Whitehouse thought it was good to have a statement of personal restitution in the policy because it provided district administration with recourse and actions.
Michaela Kennedy commented about the mixed message that was sent by having community service be a “positive” as part of a graduation requirement, while at the same time, be a “negative” as part of the consequence of the bullying policy. Ms. Kaiser said she thought this was different in that “community service” was meant in the context of the school community rather than the greater community. Dr. Lukon noted that Rhode Island is lowest in the country in volunteerism. Mr. Whitehouse added that positive community service was discussed at SIT. He said the bullying policy is purposefully vague and thought it should be left as it is. Ms. Kennedy suggested that service learning be tied to the policy. Ms. Melucci added that, if students are under age, community service is a consistent part of their consequences.
Ms. Held will edit the proposed policy and bring it to the next meeting for a second reading.
Policy Committee Recommendations of Policy Review/Creation:
Ms. Held explained that the list of policies to review includes sexual harassment, search and seizure, substance abuse, hiring, suspension, and weapons. Consensus of the committee was that policies be discussed in the following order of importance: 1) hiring, 2) substance abuse, and 3) sexual harassment. Ms. Held commented that the district also needs to adopt a policy on allergies.
Home Schooling Requests: Dr. Fricklas cautioned that information on one of the students may need to be kept confidential. Mr. Brennan asked what “continue monitoring” meant. Dr. Fricklas explained that consultation/monitoring is an indirect service. The situation will be monitored and, if there are problems, the case will be reviewed.
Mr. Whitehouse moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to approve the Home Schooling requests. All approved. So moved.
Information & Proposals:
Superintendent’s Report: Dr. Lukon reported on a number of items. 1) Dr. Lukon explained that she had already discussed her conversation with Bruce Keiser. 2) Dr. Lukon said she has been talking with North Kingstown’s Superintendent, Phil Thornton, about having their students come to school in Jamestown. She added that he has been tasked by their school committee to look into closing a school. He asked whether Jamestown could accommodate 210 students. Dr. Lukon and Mrs. Alamanzor do not think the district could absorb so many students. Mr. Thornton asked whether the school could takes students in grades K-5. Dr. Lukon explained that there are lots of things to consider: space, cost of hiring a teacher for each grade level, and tuition. She said Mr. Thornton emphasized that their discussion is theoretical.
Ms. Kaiser said she hoped that the district would not close the door on having North Kingstown students at Lawn School. She said decisions should be based on space and not cost. Mr. Brennan added that he made a presentation to the North Kingstown School Committee regarding adding about 150 students. Ms. Kaiser said Jamestown needs to be as creative as possible, and serious time should be spent on looking at the issues. It would help the district if a strong, tuitioned base could be established. Dr. Lukon asked what members would consider the maximum class size. She added that North Kingstown’s Superintendent needs an answer by mid-October.
Dr. Fricklas said that he is just beginning to look at special education for any students in North Kingstown that might come to Jamestown. Mr. Brennan commented that is important to think outside the box; anything the district can do for revenue is good. Mr. Whitehouse added that the Committee needs to watch out for students in Jamestown; he would not want to see 30 students in a classroom. Dr. Lukon said this issue will be discussed at a workshop. Ms. Kaiser will give to Dr. Lukon some numbers on past calculations of student enrollment.
Principal’s Report: Mrs. Alamanzor and Ms. Melucci reported on a number of items. 1) Staff orientation day included Dr. Lukon’s presentation of Rigor Relevance and Relationships Framework. The ICLE DVD was shown. Bill Kelly spoke about the importance of recycling and initiatives to increase it. Mr. Kelly suggested that the ICLE DVD be shown in the town’s library so that Town Council and community members could see it. 2) Emergency drill procedures have been reviewed with the faculty. Mr. Kitts is making keys for each faculty member to use during lockdowns. Mr. Whitehouse asked to be apprised of the time when this is in place. 3) Preschool and Kindergarten orientation was held on September 3. This event helps ease student transition to school. 4) Professional development day was held on September 9. Faculty heard a speaker from the Successful Practices Network. 5) Faculty will be participating in monthly professional development activities. 6) Aldo Bianchi is providing professional development in mathematics for faculty in Grades 3-8 at Lawn and Melrose. Nancy Dorsky will give professional development for Grades K-2. 7) The Degrees of Reading Power test will be given to students in Grades 3-8. Advanced tests will be given to upper-level students. 8) Open House at Lawn was held on September 17. Open House at Melrose will be held on September 24. 9) Students did the morning announcements on Cat Country. 10) Channel 10 News ran a story today about Jamestown’s respecting self/respecting others program. As part of this program, School Committee members were asked to stay after the meeting in order to make hand prints for display on the walls.
Director of Student Services Report: Dr. Fricklas reported on a number of items. 1) The beginning of school went smoothly. 2) The nine members of ARIASE South County met to develop a Special Education Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual that all nine districts will adopt and use. 3) Dr. Fricklas described the timetable for the RIDE School Support System Review. Dates include times for record review on October 22, orientation on October 28, data analysis on November 19, and school visits on January 14-16, 2009. Discussion of the final draft of the report will occur late in January 2009. 4) The Community Based Learning Program has begun.
5) The Teacher Evaluation Committee had its first meeting. The team is charged with recommending a draft teacher appraisal system to administration and to the School Committee. The new system will a) be more formative, b) include competency and professional development for tenured teachers, c) allow teachers to set goals for where they want to be and allow the district to help them get there. Dr. Fricklas added that the team has access to information about several teacher evaluation systems to use as models. Mr. Whitehouse said that the evaluation system is of extraordinarily high importance to him, because the process directs the education of Jamestown’s children. He said he wants to see excellent work done on this process by December. Dr. Lukon added that there is more evaluation of teachers done in Jamestown than before. 6) Three families elected not to home school their children this year. 7) Dr. Fricklas referred to his report on bus transportation, which was discussed earlier in the meeting.
SIT/Lawn: Mrs. Kallfelz reported on several issues that were discussed at the meeting: 1) the ICLE DVD, which they viewed; 2) ways to keep students engaged; and 3) technology.
SIT/Melrose: Mr. Whitehouse reported on several issues that were discussed at the meeting this afternoon: 1) self-selected reading in Pre-K through Grade 4, which the group thought should also be discussed with Lawn parents; 2) behavior policy; 3) viewing the ICLE DVD; and 4) Michaela Onosko’s information about the foreign language program.
SELAC: Ms. Held reported that the committee met on Tuesday and discussed several issues; 1) Dr. Fricklas’ report on RIDE issues as well as the ARIASE South County Special Education Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual; 2) reorganization of administrative offices; 3) the ESY program; 4) the Trailblazer program in Warwick; 5) difficulties with the summer program; 6) why peer models are not being used as much as in the past; and 7) the ICLE DVD, which will be viewed at the next meeting.
Facilities Committee: None.
North Kingstown School Committee: Mr. Brennan reported that he attended the meeting on August 26. Phil Thornton presented NECAP results and a new tool to target improvement. North Kingstown will be assisted by the company that developed the tool. Mr. Brennan added that the committee had a significant debate about the purchase of athletic uniforms.
SORICO: Mrs. Kallfelz reported she did not go to the meeting in August; however, Dr. Lukon attended and met the new Interim Executive Director. SORICO has a financial deficit because there are fewer children being served. They also discussed the process of looking for a new Director.
Policy: Discussed previously.
Public Forum: None.
Adjourned: Ms. Held moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 9:25 p.m. All approved. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date