November 21, 2014
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Panel calls for consolidation of schools
Jennifer Rodrigues

The day after school starts, the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee expects to see a number of possible scenarios from the administration as to how to consolidate secondary school buildings in the coming years.

The committee was tasked with coming up with a five-year plan for the junior and senior high school buildings in the city, and at Tuesday’s meeting a motion was made by committee member Mark Carruolo that consolidation at the secondary level is “feasible and necessary” and requested that the administration provide a number of possible configurations for discussion at future meetings. The motion passed unanimously.

“There was at that time, and there is currently, plenty of room for consolidation and within that consolidation, looking at all kinds of configurations,” said Carruolo, speaking of last spring when the proposal to close Gorton Junior High was brought before the School Committee.

The committee is required to present a plan by January 2014 and the motion was made to help move the process along.

“We’re looking at September, October, November, December,” said Patti Nazareth. “These months fly by.”

While it appears the future proposal will include consolidation of schools, there was no timeline for closures or suggested buildings to close during Tuesday’s meeting. Carruolo suggested the committee move in increments without pinpointing specific details, decide consolidation is the path and continue discussions as to timelines and buildings at future meetings.

“We can recommend what we think is doable,” said Robert Bushell, director of elementary education, who has experience with a consolidation process at the elementary level.

Bushell, along with Superintendent Dr. Richard D’Agostino and Secondary Education Director Dennis Mullen, said there are a number of ways consolidation could be implemented and it could take a number of years to phase out one or more schools.

Although the official plan as of Tuesday was to consolidate in general, it appeared during the meeting that the committee was leaning towards moving the district to a two-high school, two-junior high school model.

“Say it came to the point where you closed a high school, you close the two junior high schools and move the kids into that [high school] facility, you would have future expansion if you did decide to move sixth graders out of the elementary schools and make a true middle school,” said D’Agostino. “You still have the room to do that.”

“I personally like that idea because it doesn’t stop if there is a long-term vision,” said Committee member Amie Galipeau.

Much of the discussion stemmed off of a review of the data on student population from secondary schools, presented by Mullen. Using data from the 2012-2013 school year gathered on Oct. 1, 2012 and the current enrollment for the 2013-2014 school year as of Aug. 2, Mullen showed a population decline is happening.

Using the weighted enrollment, which consists of the number of students plus 1.5 for special education students who are resource students and 2.0 for special education students who are of an intensive education type, enrollment last year at the junior highs was 605 at Aldrich, 463 at Gorton and 607 at Winman. The weighted enrollments at junior highs for 2013-2014 are currently 508 at Aldrich, 463 at Gorton and 507 at Winman.

At the high school level, last year’s weighted enrollments were 1,203 at Pilgrim High School, 1,101 at Toll Gate High School and 1,087 at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School. The weighted enrollment for 2013-2014 is 1,021 at Pilgrim, 977 at Toll Gate and 925 at Vets.

“You’ll notice the decline exists throughout,” said Mullen

Mullen also pointed out that this decline is in agreement with a projection created by NESDEC a number of years ago. During the meeting, Mullen presented that population projection.

“For our purposes, you can see down the line, 14-15, 15-16, etc., there’s really no year, at least NESDEC is projecting, that it goes up. It’s a steady decline,” said Mullen.

Bushell also pointed out that NESDEC has been within one percent of their anticipated population projection for the past 10 years. This year, the secondary population of 4,400 is only 14 students different from NESDEC’s projection of 4,386.

Nazareth attempted to get a general picture of the population during the discussion.

“You’re looking at probably 3,000 in 9th to 12th grade. If you went to two schools, it’s 1,500. There is still less than 400 per class,” she said.

The administrations said in the general sense that would be correct.

“Based on the projections, and those can go either way, but if you look at the projections, I don’t see any of our high schools, with the exception of Pilgrim for quite a few more years, being over 1,000. The other two will not be over 1,000,” said Mullen.

The discussion also briefly turned towards the reasons for a declining student population in the city. Bushell cited the airport expansion, population changes and the cost to live in the Northeast with a lack of jobs as just a few contributing factors. Committee member Ed Racca also said the live birth rate in Warwick has been on the decline since 2000. Bushell agreed.

“We used to have 11-change. Now we’re down in the high nines,” said Bushell on the live birth rate, which was also included in the reviewed data.

The discussion also turned to an increase in students attending public schools.

“Well here’s some reasons for that,” said D’Agostino. “What happens is if you put them in private schools for high school, they’re not subjected to senior project, they’re not subjected to the NECAP assessment portfolio.”

There was also mention of the effect of charter schools, which are championed by Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, on public schools.

“What you have now is not only Providence, but you also have those Providence schools accepting from North Providence, Cranston and Warwick,” said Mullen.

Chief Budget Officer Anthony Ferrucci was present at the meeting and took a few minutes to explain the financial circumstances associated with charter schools. When Ferrucci came into his position two and a half years ago, he estimates there were 30 students in charter schools; now he says there are over 105.

“It costs us per pupil, sending a check, $9,000,” said Ferrucci. “We also lose $3,000 in state aid. So that’s $12,000 per pupil times 100 pupils, that’s about $1 million that’s going out the door.”

D’Agostino pointed out again that Gorton and Aldrich are the two buildings in the district rated a three and in need of close to $18 million in repairs and renovations each to reach a rating of one according to the Department of Education’s building assessment.

“Even if we say ‘OK, we don’t need to bring them up to a one, we bring them up to a two,’ that could still cost $10 million apiece,” said the superintendent. “I’d rather take $10 million, $20 million and put it into instruction, technology, do those types of things.”

D’Agostino said the “drain” on finances needs to be removed so programs such as all-day kindergarten or advances in the Career Center can jumpstart a population return.

The next Long Term Facilities Planning Committee meeting will be on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 4 p.m. at the Administration Building.


Comments
9 comments on this item

This just in, Mr. D'Agostino: No one, and I repeat, No One is attending a Catholic or private high school in order to avoid "senior project" or the NECAP. If you truly believe that, your head is buried far deeper in the sand than many realized.

Mr. Ferucci, the money is going out the door, as it should, because students are going out the door. Money follows the students. Make Warwick schools attractive, and both the students and the money will stay.

How do we make Warwick Schools more attractive? We keep programs other cities have cut due to budget constraints, we celebrate the success of our students and we promote the fact that we not only have the best special education in RI, we challenge the average students but also provide accelerated instruction for our students that need more.

I would like to explain further the problem Warwick Schools have with the

educational gap between Warwick's highest performing students and our lowest

performing students. Warwick schools have received deficiencies by the

Department of Education for multiple years and are in a "Warning" status. I have

talked with several administrators in the last 6 months and they have confirmed this

for me. I first became aware of it while I was on the School Committee. A Jr high

school was placed on warning and if the Jr High school did not close the gap

between these 2 groups the Dept of Ed would take corrective action just as action

was taken in Central Falls. It was explained to me by an administrator that in the

last 2 years not only was the gap not closed but the gap increased because the

lowest performing students did not increase performance, and the highest

performing students (ALAP and Honors students) did increase performance.

Warwick Schools have been under a warning status and according to the

administrator I spoke with, if the gap is not closed by the end of the year, the State

will take corrective action. The schools have the money to keep ALAP. They are

choosing not to keep ALAP.

I find no reasonable explanation why they would not want to keep it. I have heard

that principals have complained that ALAP creates a scheduling issue as they must

use a classroom and there might not be room so they have to work to find a room

for them. This is a complaint that has been forwarded to the Director of Elementary

Ed. I have heard that teachers don't like students being taken out of the classroom.

Karen Bachus is doing interviews with students? She should be talking with the

parents not the students. If you ask any student a question the right way, you can

get the answer you want. Her solution, after school program with stipends for

teachers. More money for teachers? I'm not surprised. There is no reason NOT to

keep this program until a real solution is found. This program has existed for 30+

years.

I believe that Warwick schools has given up on trying to close the gap by

increasing the performance of the lowest performing students and they are

attempting to slow the learning of the highest performing students to correct the

gap. Why would they want to do this? It is simple. According to the administrator

that I spoke with, the Department of Ed will come into the schools that have not

closed the gap and they will relieve all administrators at the school from their job.

The principal will be relieved of their job and will lose their certification in the State

of RI. The teachers can be let go and only 50% will be able to be rehired. It will be

just like Central Falls right here in Warwick.

This is a very real problem for the Warwick Schools. If the lowest performing

students can not increase their scores at the elementary level, then the

Superintendent should be let go. The director of Elementary Education should be

let go, the Principals at those schools should be let go, the teachers should be let

go and the School Committee should take action to NOT renew all of the people I

have listed. Instead, they will attempt to correct the problem by cutting the program

that benefits the highest performing students. It is immoral, and I will not stand for it.

I am surprised that we have not seen a full story on this in the Beacon. It would

take a simple call to the Dept of Ed to ask which schools are under warning and

what the consequences are if they do not improve performance.

It should be noted that all students by RI policy are to be provided a free AND

APPROPRIATE education. This means students at each level of the learning

spectrum. I fought for every special education student while on the committee, I

fought for every accelerated student while on the committee and I will fight for every

student even if I am not on the committee. It is appropriate that these students

receive this instruction. If they do not receive this instruction, I expect each parent

of an ALAP student to go to the school immediately and ask for an IEP for their

student. Request... demand an IEP for your student. The Warwick Schools must

provide a response by law as to why they will not provide an appropriate education

for your student. It will certainly cost much less to provide ALAP to every student

who qualifies than to create an IEP for each student.

I know this seems like a drastic course of action to preserve the program but

administration does not care about the program, finds no benefit to keeping the

program and the program will be lost forever. Switching to an after school program

is a temporary solution as the after school program will immediately be cut.

Finally, Warwick administration insists that the program costs $325,000. The fact is

that outside of the 2.5 Teachers assigned to the program only $2650 is spent on

the program. If the 2.5 Teachers are returned to the regular classroom which is the

plan, only $2650 will be saved. $2650 plus the salaries of the 3 teachers that do

not need to be recalled from the lay off list. Ten of the lowest paid teachers have

been laid off and of these 10, 3 will stay laid off if the ALAP program in not

reinstated. The salaries and benefits of these 3 teachers is approximately

$165,000 at a maximum. So, if the 3 ALAP teachers return to the classroom, the

schools save $165K plus the $2650, a total of $167,650. The school committee

currently has a $170K surplus that must be placed somewhere. They can easily

reinstate the program. In fact, if they take the 2.5 ALAP teachers and place them in

the classroom, they increase costs because the .5 teacher becomes a full time

teacher so they have a net loss because the ALAP teacher is a higher step than the

teacher that would be recalled from the lay off list.

The argument to take the ALAP budget, $2650 for supplies and disperse it among

all the Warwick students is a joke as well. If you take $2650 and divide it amongst

9500 students, that is 28 Cents per student. I believe 28 cents buys a pencil today.

So, we can provide a pencil to each student on the first day of class, let

administrators keep their jobs by closing the gap between our highest performing

students and our lowest performing students by lowering the bar rather than

working harder to prepare our low performing students or we can keep a program

that has served the Students of Warwick for decades. What do you think is the right

thing to do. Please contact your School committee member and let them know

what you think. Jennifer Ahearn and Eugene Nadeau have already voted to keep

ALAP. Contact BEth Furtado, Karen Bachus and Teri Mederios. Contact the

Superintendent too. Let him know you are want this program in the Warwick

Schools.

Great schools are the back bone of a Great city and many people relocating look at

schools as a primary reason for choosing where to live. When we have a school

system that people can be proud of then people will move here and this will

stabilize our finances by broadening our tax base. I want people to move here and

I don't want people to leave. Cutting this program is a terrible choice and once it is

cut people will chose not to come here and more will chose to leave. Saving this

program is a step in the right direction to making this city stronger.

Former School Committee Vice Chair,

Patrick Maloney Jr.

mr Maloney,

if a scholl is in warning status from RIDE that's public information and sthe info shuold be on RIDE's website. RIDE doesn't keep those statuses a secret. You're speaking cryptically about a Warning status but a Warning stauts can be earned by a numner of things, not just a gap between IEP kids and the rest of the students. In the '10-11 year, warwick met 28 of 29 targets in their AYP at elemtary level, 20 of 21 in junior high, and 12 of 17 in high school. as a District, they did not meet AYP at any level, neither did Cranston and other districts. That Warning staus from RIDE is not that great of a measure because for example, you can not meet the targets for minority students (which Warwick has very few of) and still be put on Warning. Youre a psssionat defender of ALAP and that's good but I don;t think your theory hold that much water.

I want to be clear. I sat in a meeting with a building administrator for 2 hours and discussed this topic at the end of 2011. I went to a central administrator at the beginning of 2012 and made sure they were aware of this and they confirmed they were aware and were trying to come up with a solution. I have heard they have not resolved the issue to raise the performance of the lower scoring students. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I saw decisions from the inside.

http://www.eride.ri.gov/eride40/reportcards/13/documents/Quick%20Guide%20to%20the%202013%20School%20Report%20Cards.pdf

Warning according to the RIDE chart for Aldrich: A combination of low achievement in reading and math, unacceptable gaps, little or no improvement in achievement or graduation rates, and/or failure to test enough students

http://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Information-and-Accountability-User-Friendly-Data/Accountability/2013-Middle-School-Classification-Summary.pdf

Aldrich: 2013- 8 targets passed out of 12 targets (4 failures to meet objectives). A warning school 2 years in a row, not meeting AYP at Aldrich.

The 2012 Report card shows Aldrich at 7 Passed targets out of 12. http://www.eride.ri.gov/eride40/reportcards/12/documents/2012SchoolClassificationsMiddle.pdf

Aldrich is on RIDE's radar as shown by the number of targets looked at last year compared to this year. Last year 8 targets were evaluated. Aldrich was placed on Warning. This year 12 targets are reviewed and not only did they not improve in the one area, they failed in 4 areas in 2013. Repeating a failure for the goal of closing the gap.

From RIDE: http://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Students-and-Families-Great-Schools/RI-Public-Schools/accountability-system-fact-sheet-060112.pdf

Gap-closing: Is the school serving all students, including those with disabilities and English Learners? This measure indicates whether student groups in each school are closing achievement gaps. This measure compares the scores of a high-performing group of students within the district against the performance of other student groups within the school.

RIDE:How We Intervene in and Support Schools

On identification as a Priority School, the school and RIDE begin a three- to five-year intervention process:

Diagnosis and planning: The school will undergo a diagnostic screening and develop a plan for improvement that includes a comprehensive package of interventions, including at least nine strategies that respond to the diagnosis findings and are subject to the Commissioner’s approval; the district may also opt to close the school or to reopen the school under new education management.

Implementation and monitoring: The district and school will put the improvement plan into action. District leadership will oversee this process, through quarterly performance reviews with RIDE.

Warning Schools will implement a plan for improvement, but on a limited scale and without intensive RIDE oversight. RIDE expects all other schools to focus on meeting all Annual Measurable Objectives and to strive for continued improvement of student achievement.

Winman 2012 Warning 5 of 8 targets met. 2013 Winman Typical 8 of 8 targets met. Gorton: 2013 Typical. 8of 8 met.

AYP, Academic Yearly progress is not the Academic Gap.

http://www.eride.ri.gov/reportcard/11/documents/ListofDistrictsNotMeetingAYP2010-11.pdf

School Districts Not Meeting AYP School Year 2010-11

B. InterventionStatus

First Year 2010-2011: Warwick

Next year, Aldrich, potentially in its 3rd year of Warning status, could move from a Warning School to a Focus school. And RIDE could change from a plan for improvement to intensive Oversight. Do you think Administrators want this. What should their solution be to improve things for lower scoring students within one year to prevent RIDE from intruding? If they can't improve the lowest performing students, what should they do. I requested at the last school committee meeting that the school committee follow the progress of the ALAP students to see if their progress improved, stayed the same or fell if ALAP was cancelled. We will wait to see what the results are or if they actually decide to track results of their decision.

Finally, if a Jr high school closes this year, it forces a reboot of the RIDE data. Gorton was the only jr high school that met AYP and met all goals for the last 3 years.

http://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/RI-School-Accountability-Handbook-2113.pdf

so winman or aldrich should be closed your saying?

I am saying that not everything is being reported. A school needs to close because we do not need the number of buildings for the number of students we have, many things must be taken into account. We currently have a $700K surplus, we would have had a $1.5 Million surplus if a school had already been closed and there would be no need to cut this program... in fact, we could have bought computers or upgraded technology for the students. Please read the information in the links and make a decision for yourself. I didn't sit on the Long term planning committee so the decision isn't mine to make but has ANYONE at the facilities planning committee been given this information? The answer is no. I know because I asked members if they knew this is they did not. Why has administration not told people about this or given us a plan to fix it? They were required to present the plan to RIDE, why don't we know what the plan is to fix it?

Dirty pool, you know who I am. Who are you? I would be happy to sit with you and answer anything in person.

D'agostino complains about the money being lost to charter schools. Does anyone complain of the money spent on kids with behavioural problems? A few years ago, a kid was sent to a private school due to his/her behavioural issues and disruptions of class. Parent couldn't handle her/him. Cost to Warwick: Over $100,000.00. And this is not uncommon. Someone should get the school department to disclose these 'deals' that place problem kids out of city at six figures just to get rid of the problem.

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