School committee tackles school vacation issues
The School Committee last week reexamined The Block Island School vacation schedule but decided to table any decision until a later meeting.
After a detailed discussion, the committee found itself once again at an impasse that seems headed for the status quo — that is, to retain the traditional February and April breaks.
School Superintendent Robert Hicks offered two options: retaining the current plan or taking a full two weeks during Christmas break; or retaining the February and April breaks and dropping the day before the February holiday that was added last year. When the discussion turned to eliminating both February and April weeks of vacation and substituting a two-week holiday in March, the reaction from the committee was mixed.
Committee member Elizabeth Connor was willing to give the latter version a try, but wanted to retain the Friday before February break for travel. Chair Bill Padien cautioned against scheduling two weeks of vacation in March, noting that faculty had objected to it as academically unsound.
Parent Molly O’Neill said two weeks in March wouldn’t work “for people who can’t afford to go away.” She felt that these families deserved consideration from the committee. Committee member Chris Willi, who supported that option, said a number of parents had asked him to suggest it. Members Pat Doyle and Sean McGarry agreed the long holiday in March should be given some consideration.
Padien, however, insisted that the group not make a quick decision and wait for school faculty to weigh in again. He thought the item should go onto the next school committee agenda. He also wanted to consult the staff about how the new weekly schedule affected their thinking on the school calendar.
The next school committee meeting is scheduled for April 23.
In examining the standing of financial accounts, Superintendent Hicks expected to see some end-of-season savings if there were no unexpected expenses. Committee Chair Padien asked if electricity usage was down toward the end of the school year and Finance Director Renee Meyer said the average electric bill ran between $11,000 and $12,000 a month, though the school was actually using six percent less than last year.
“Usage trends down, but prices [of oil] continue to go up,” Meyer said.
Committee member Pat Doyle explained that national news reports indicated that Rhode Island had done poorly in teacher absence and asked how the island school fared. Hicks said that “our teachers miss more than those on the mainland because of professional development, which often requires more time away from school.”
When the state recently mandated a meeting for new teachers, because of the ferry schedule, they lost two days away from school. However, Hicks said the state was making an effort to accommodate the island by scheduling meetings for Mondays and Thursdays — days on which the ferry has three trips scheduled.
Reappointment of coaches
Superintendent Hicks announced the reappointments of the following coaches for the 2013 baseball/softball season: John Tarbox as varsity baseball head coach; Doug Michel as varsity baseball assistant head coach; Mathew Moran as varsity baseball assistant head coach; Mark Mollicone as junior high baseball head coach, Kirk Littlefield as varsity softball head coach and Nathaniel Shaw to be junior high softball head coach and assistant.
Two policies were also adopted: one affirming the protocol to be established in the proposal and adoption of policies; the second establishing a policy on physical restraints and crisis intervention, which provides guidelines on training and sets parameters on intervention in attempts to de-escalate “problematic behaviors.” Hicks explained that the “bulk of the training is about avoiding” the need for restraints.
On the issue of housing for school administrators, Hicks said the current home-owner, John Leone, “offered to extend the current arrangement for the next three years,” which the school will continue.
There was consensus that Heinz Field should be shared and maintained through efforts of both the school and the town.
Hicks also announced that the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) and the Partnership for Assessment Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests will both be given in academic year 2014-2015, which will be the last year for the NECAPs. These tests are administered as the means for determining a student’s eligibility for graduation.
Concerned about the potential for student injuries, School Committee member Annie Hall asked Hicks if funding could be found for padding on the walls of the gym — by summer if possible. Hicks said he would look into it.