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School Committee Action Notes

" SCAN ," issued by the Superintendent's Office in conjunction with the School Committee, is designed to inform staff members and interested others of matters discussed and actions taken by the Jamestown School Committee at its most recent meeting. SCAN does not represent meeting minutes.

Jamestown School Committee Work Session: Feb. 2, 2006

Information and Proposals

Audit Report : Paul Dansereau of Parmelee, Poirier & Associates presented the annual auditor's report and responded to questions from the school committee.

Restructuring of the Administrative Tier--Clarification and Discussion : In response to an earlier question from a representative of the teachers union, Ms. Kaiser read a prepared statement relating the school committee's view that a restructuring of administrative roles would provide essential instructional leadership (a principal) at Lawn School while generating cost savings. The school committee unanimously endorsed the statement, which will be submitted to the Jamestown Press for publication. The text of the statement is included below as an addendum to SCAN. Superintendent Katherine Sipala reviewed the constraints of the superintendent-principal role, highlighting strengths (management) and weaknesses (inability to focus on instructional leadership, teacher evaluation, governance of school improvement teams, state reporting, pubic relations, curriculum and program implementation). She supported and clarified the need for a principal to address these needs and allow teachers to focus on students. She also noted that she makes her recommendation knowing that a restructuring of administrative roles will likely reduce the superintendency to a part-time position.

Superintendent's Presentation of 2006/2007 Budget : Special Education Director Beth Pinto presented the special education budget and responded to questions from the school committee.

Budget hearings of the Jamestown School Committee will be at 7 p.m. on February 9 and 16 (business meeting/budget vote) in the Melrose Avenue Multi-purpose Room. A brief meeting will be held on Monday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. in Lawn Library for the purpose of approving teacher reduction-in-force notification. The next monthly work session will be at 7 p.m. on March 2 in the Lawn Library


Statement by the School Committee:

At our Jan. 19 school committee meeting, a representative of the teachers union raised the question of how the superintendent can recommend adding an administrator when the school committee's response to declining enrollment has been to close classrooms and reduce staff. The question is reasonable and thoughtful and begs an answer to the question: What IS the school committee thinking ?

First, the blame (or credit) for this recommendation belongs with the school committee, not the superintendent. The superintendent's proposal is an outgrowth of school committee discussions that began last spring and it is consistent with the committee's goal of making the best use of our resources.

The current model of a superintendent-Lawn principal does not meet the daily needs of our schools. Combining the two jobs seriously short-changes our students and teachers and presents an impossible challenge for any individual striving to perform both roles effectively. While the superintendent of a district our size can be a part-time position, a school principal cannot. To provide the instructional leadership needed at the building level requires clear articulation of vision, a visible presence, consistent oversight and site-based authority. A building principal guides curriculum, evaluates teachers and implements programs crucial functions that cannot be adequately performed given the demands of the combined position.

Currently, we have a Melrose School principal and at Lawn School a combination superintendent-principal, assisted by a dean of students (a position filled by a teacher). Although we are considering several different options for reorganizing administrative roles, all involve the elimination of the dean of students position, meaning there would be no net addition of administrators. With a full-time principal at Lawn, the superintendency could then be reduced to a part-time position. These changes would generate cost savings as well as provide essential instructional leadership at the building level.

For the coming year, the school committee has tabled the consideration of a Lawn principal, but not because of a lack of conviction that this restructuring of roles is needed. Rather, we recognize that it is premature to make this move before we have determined whether our middle-grade students' needs can be fully met on-island. This spring, we will survey members of the extended school community to gather feedback and insights on our middle grades where we are and where we should be going.

The school committee has closed six classrooms, grades 1-6, during the past five years. Reduction has been and continues to be gradual and purposeful to ensure continued support for quality instruction. However, addressing lower enrollment in the 7 th and 8 th grades is complicated by the state and federal requirement that these teachers be certified to teach a specific subject area (versus general elementary ed certification). Subject specialization limits the superintendent's ability to reconfigure the middle grades. The overarching question is how declining enrollment might affect our ability to provide a full complement of programming in these grades.


The demands on school districts and teachers increased with the passage of No Child Left Behind legislation, underscoring the need for professional development and support. As we consolidate and regroup in our middle grades, our continued commitment to providing professional development is critically important. Equally important is the instructional leadership that will ensure optimal use of our human resources and alignment with the district vision.

Jamestown Schools' strategic plan endorses fiscal responsibility as one of the district's core values. The plan recognizes the dual objective of meeting the needs of all students while being responsive to those of the community. The school committee's longer term strategy -- to provide an instructional leader at Lawn and at the same time realize a savings for the taxpayer does both.